Immunity of a body is not just an element that builds up a human, rather it’s a full defense mechanism that acts when your body is at risk. Humans are not bound to a certain environment and neither do we come with limitations to live in a certain condition.
The recent events of the pandemic have given us the perfect picture of immunity and its necessity.
Humans with a weak immune system have a higher risk of experiencing frequent infections and severe symptoms. Thus, staying in the pink of the health, with an immunity system booster, is more important to them than their peers with a strong immune system. A healthy immune system can recognize and remember thousands of different harmful microorganisms and produce fighter cells to wipe out each one of them. In this comprehensive guide, we look at every aspect of an immune system - understanding its working, the signs and symptoms of a weak immune system, and some tips & treatment that can help a person stay healthy.
What is an immune system?
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, molecules, and organs that spread throughout the human body. Each element has a significant role to play.
As a whole, it defends the body against foreign or dangerous invaders such as:
â— Microorganisms (such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other invading foreign bodies)
â— Transplanted tissues and organs
â— Cancer cells
â— Parasites (such as protozoa, helminths, ectoparasites, etc.)
Exposing a human body to bacteria and viruses (in layman language we call it germs) will result into two conditions:
â— Either they would cause no harm.
â— Or they would attack the host's body.
To get the positive result, a human body would need to have a strong immunity. The absence of it would result in the latter condition.
To protect your body against such intruders, your immune system must be able to identify what belongs in your body and what doesn't. A wholesome immune system booster will keep your immunity more active and healthy.
Location of the immune system
Your skin is the first line of defense against microorganisms. Your skin cells generate and release essential immune cells and antimicrobial proteins that can be located in different layers of your skin.
Immune cells frequently travel throughout the bloodstream, patrolling for harmful foreign invaders.
Bone marrow is a spongy tissue located inside your bones that produces the white blood cells (WBC) to fight against infection, the platelets to assist blood clots, and the red blood cells to transport oxygen.
All common myeloid progenitor stem cells come from your precursors in the bone marrow that develops into mature cells through a series of changes to innate immune cells—macrophages, dendritic cells, monocytes, mast cells, basophils, eosinophils, and neutrophils—that are essential first-line responders to various infections.
It is a fine network of tissues and vessels composed of nodes, ducts, and lymph. It is a channel that interacts between the bloodstream and tissues.
Antibodies support the body to fight against the microbes or the toxins substances they produce. Antibodies perform their function by recognizing antigens on the surface of the microbe which identifies it as a foreign object.
Along with antibodies, there are also many cells, chemicals, and proteins involved in destroying these antigens.
Components - It consists of several cells, tissues, and other parts that work together to protect your body against foreign invaders. The cells originate in the bone marrow, mature in the thymus gland, and move to secure the peripheral tissues while circulating in the blood.
Antigens are various substances that can stimulate an immune response including pollen, viruses, chemicals, toxins, bacteria, etc.
Antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins (Ig), are special proteins that are created by WBCs to kill or neutralize infection-causing microbes. The body produces different types of antibodies that travel via the bloodstream scanning your body for specific parasites.
3. B lymphocyte
It is also a kind of WBC that makes antibodies and originates in the bone marrow.
Basophils are phagocytic cells with granules. They are WBCs that discharge histamine in case of allergic reactions and produce various substances to attract other white blood cells such as eosinophils and neutrophils to the trouble spot.
5. Dendritic Cells
They represent antigen cells derived from white blood cells. They reside in tissues to activate both T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes that recognize foreign antigens.
Cytokine is a protein that is secreted by the immune and other cells. It helps to regulate the body’s immune system by slowing it down or escalating it up accordingly. It can be produced artificially in a lab. For example, Interferon-alpha 2b (Cytokine) is developed in a lab to treat malignant melanoma.
Granulocytes such as basophils, neutrophils, and eosinophils are a type of WBC that discharges toxic substances—nitrogen oxides, enzymes, proteins, and antimicrobial agents—during a pathogen attack.
It is the body's immune cell (WBC or leukocyte) that kills microbes and other unrelated invaders. They help destroy cancer cells, fight infection, immobilize, kill parasites, and also participate in allergic reactions.
It is the human variant of the MHC that is a group of more than 200 genes that further classified into 3 classes:
â— Class-1 produces proteins usually found on the outer surface of several cells.
â— Class-2 is found on the immune cells’ outer layer.
â— Class-3 is involved with inflammation and the body’s immune system.
10. T lymphocyte (T cell)
T lymphocyte cells are involved in acquired immunity. The thymus gland helps them to grow and modify into helper, memory, and cytotoxic (killer).
11. Natural Killer Cell
Also known as NK, it is the primary responders of the body’s immune system called a primary effector cell of innate immunity that interacts with signals coming from other immune cells.
They are immune cells responsible for acquired immunity. They kill cancer-causing cells and other infected cells with the help of killer T cells and produce antibodies with the help of B cells.
13. White Blood Cells
White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, exist in multiple forms—basophils, eosinophils, neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes—each individual has different functions in the body’s immune system.
Neutrophils are a type of phagocyte, granulocyte, and white blood cell, that aids in fighting infection by killing microbes and other harmful cells.
15. Helper T cell
Helper T cells activate macrophages and cytokines T cells that help B cells to transform into plasma cells.
They are the large WBC that focus on digesting bacteria, pathogens, cellular debris, and help T cells recognize other harmful cells in the human body. They are usually present in the liver, skin, lungs, and other tissues.
17. Memory T cell
Memory T cells come from cytotoxic T cells (activated) that are antigen-experienced and long-lived. A single memory T cell can create different cytotoxic T cells that attack the pathogen.
Phagocytes include macrophages and neutrophils that eat up invading microorganisms, cell fragments, and other cells. It wraps around the pathogen and merges with a granule or lysosome to develop a phagolysosome to kill the pathogen by toxic substances, such as nitrogen oxides, enzymes, or antimicrobial agents.
A weak immune system is not able to respond purposely leaving individuals more susceptible to illness. Luckily, by identifying the below-mentioned symptoms you can take some precautionary steps that'll act as an immune system booster to improve your weakened immune system.
It’s quite normal to get a cough or a cold infection 2–3 times a year. People with a healthy immune system can easily recover from the common cold and other similar infections within a week.
The problem arises when you are frequently showing cold symptoms. Easily catching a cold and taking more than 10 days to recover is a clear sign of weak immunity.
Recurring episodes of sinusitis—a common infection of the paranasal sinuses symbolizes a decreased immunity.
Some common blood disorders—blood clots, anemia, hemophilia, and blood cancers like myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma—indicate a weak immune system that requires a powerful immune system booster.
We all burn the candle at both ends to achieve our goals. So, it is normal to feel tired and exhausted after working so hard. But when you continuously wake up feeling tired even after taking proper rest, it could mean your immune system is weak and requires extra immune system booster.
Even if your immune system is weak it is still working hard and protecting you from harmful microbes as a result, your body wears out faster than usual and you feel fatigued all day long.
Your skin acts as the first line of defense against foreign bodies. Any unusual changes such as dry skin or frequent skin rashes causing lupus are a sign of inflammation that may indicate that you have a weak immune system.
Being overweight is associated with various health problems, the weak immune system is one of them.
According to a report from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), in the past two decades, the prevalence of obesity in adults increased from 30.5% to 42.4%, and critical obesity reached 9.2% from 4.7%.
More weight means extra adipose tissues. It means your fat cells release more cytokines resulting in low-grade, chronic inflammation. that adds extra workload on your immune system and hinders its natural ability to fight against harmful viruses and bacteria.
Frequent Digestive System Issues
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine believes the root of all diseases is a weak digestion system. It is the gateway to health that works as the second brain.
The beneficial microorganisms living in our gut work as an immune system booster to protect our body from infections. Frequent bloating, constipation, or diarrhea is an indication of a weak immune system.
A weak immune system may hinder the growth of your kids. Consult a pediatrician if your kids are not growing at a normal rate like other kids with the same age group.
Your pediatrician will suggest the protein-rich diet for your child that includes Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and other essential micro and macronutrients.
Organ inflammation happens due to infected or damaged cells and tissues by trauma, heat, bacteria, or other conditions that can slow down the immune system of your body.
Your Wounds are Slow to Heal
Whenever an injury occurs, the immune system is specially designed to immediately seal the injury and produce antibodies that help the wounds to heal quickly and reduce the risk of infection.
If you do notice an insect bite, scrape, or a small cut takes longer than usual time to heal, it is a sign of a weak immune system and you must consider taking an immune system booster.
Stress is designed to trigger a fight or flight response in certain circumstances. During a dangerous or unwanted situation, our body releases a complex blend of chemicals such as norepinephrine, cortisol, adrenaline, etc., to take appropriate actions to tackle such situations.
However, releasing frequent stress hormones over trivial things can hinder the natural functioning of the immune system.
A weak immunity makes everyone susceptible to many infections as your immune system is not producing enough antibodies to fight against harmful bacteria and viruses.
Jonas Salk, an American physician and medical researcher who developed the first successful polio vaccines, once stated that you have two fundamental ways to treat sick people. One is to provide therapeutic techniques that treat particular symptoms, and the other is to excite the natural immune system of the body.
Today, conventional medical treatments focus on direct treating or controlling symptoms. It shows immediate effects but has a short term effect.
Such medical treatments only treat the infection without developing its immunity in the person. In such a situation the immune system can not prevent the recurrence of the same infection.
On the other hand, treatments that increase the immunity of a person can prevent the infection’s recurrence.
According to a respected pharmacology journal, it has been confirmed that some homeopathic medicines strengthen the natural immune system of the body.
Homeopathy is one of the best immune system boosters that restore the body's natural defense against harmful microbes. Though homeopathic medicines are considered safer, they are more personalized to the body it is being used to treat.
Homeopathy works on the basic principle of similarity. It suggests that a small dose of any substance will treat whatever pattern of symptoms it produces in a large dose. The same principle is observed in the working of allergy treatments and vaccinations.
Although homeopathic medicines strengthen the immune system, how they do it is still a mystery. According to a study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, Silicea, a common homeopathic medicine, that stimulates macrophages that kill bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances. But why and how Silicea is working in extremely small doses is still unknown.
Ideal Homeopathy Medicines
There are no particular homeopathic medicines that show more effectiveness than others in boosting a person’s immunity. Different homeopathic medicine works differently, the trick is to find the right combination that suits a person's pattern of symptoms.
For example, an Arsenicum album also known as white arsenic is a popular homeopathic immune system booster medicine that is effective in treating fatigue, digestive disorders, food poisoning, and various anxiety states such as insomnia and asthma.
It is effective not because it has stimulating or antibiotic properties but because it works according to the basic homeopathic principles. It heals specific patterns of symptoms that match the symptoms known to arsenic.
How to boost your immunity?
According to the report of NIH (National Institutes of Health), there’s no such evidence to support the fact that the use of supplements can prevent or treat Coronavirus.
However, some researches show that the below-mentioned supplements may stimulate the immune response of your body.
1. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced by your skin in the presence of sunlight. It helps to improve your natural immune response that protects us against germs.
2. It is advised to take a vitamin D supplement to make sure you are receiving enough of this essential nutrient for immune health.
3. Vitamin C is a powerful immune system booster with antioxidant properties that creates a physical barrier to pathogens and foreign bodies and promotes the cellular function of both branches (innate and adaptive) of the immune system.
4. Elderberries have antiviral and antibacterial properties that help fight influenza and cold. They are rich in nutrients such as vitamins like vitamin A, B, and C, minerals like copper, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and dietary fiber that help minimize the symptoms of upper respiratory infections.
5. A 12-week study among 146 people suggests that garlic decreased the rate of getting common cold by about 30%.
To live your best lives, it’s essential to look after your immune health. A strong immune system increases the chances of living a healthy life free from ailment. Taking care of your immune system is as important as taking care of your general health.
You don't need to take extraordinary precautions to achieve good immunity. Some simple lifestyle changes can act as an immune system booster and strengthen your body’s natural defense.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods—natto, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt—are rich in probiotics (healthy bacteria) that help your immune cells to differentiate between harmful invader microbes, healthy cells, and normal cells.
According to a study, among 126 children, those who drank daily fermented milk (70ml) had around a 20% decrease in childhood infectious diseases than those who didn't.
Your immune system is strongly interconnected with gut health. Probiotics and other fermented foods and no less than a natural immune system booster.
Eat More Healthy Fats
There are two types of fats—good/healthy fats (Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) or bad fats (saturated and trans). Eating good fats may boost your natural immune response to pathogens by reducing inflammation.
Good source of healthy fats are:
â— Extra virgin olive oil
â— Whole eggs
â— Dark chocolate
â— Chia seeds
Extra virgin olive oil and omega-3s fatty acids (present in chia seeds and salmon) have high anti-inflammatory properties that minimize the risk of various chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It also helps your immune system to kill bad bacteria and viruses.
Engage in Moderate-Intensity Workout
While prolonged intense workout can overcome your body's natural immune system, moderate exercise can act as a slow but effective immune system booster.
Studies indicate that indulging in any kind of moderate exercise helps your immune cells regenerate and may reduce inflammation. You should spend 20 to 40 minutes exercising daily.
Moderate exercise includes:
â— Light hiking
â— Brisk walking
Limit your Added Sugars
Many research suggests that refined carbs and added sugars may contribute to obesity, overweight, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes that weakens the immune system.
Controlling your sugar intake is a vital part of a healthy immune-boosting diet. It can aid weight loss and reduce inflammation, thus minimizing the risk of chronic health conditions.
You should try to restrict your added sugar intake to less than 5% of your normal calories. This means for a 2,000-calorie diet, you can take about 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Dehydration can hinder your physical performance, digestion, mood, focus, and affect your kidney and heart function. Taking plenty of fluids will protect you against germs and viruses, flush out toxin substances from your body, and prevent dehydration which is critical to your overall health.
Different types of people have different types of immune systems. It becomes more powerful during adulthood since you have been exposed to various kinds of pathogens that help you develop stronger immunity.
That is why children need more immunity system boosters than adults.
Once your body has prepared an antibody, its copy resides in your body so that if it appears again, your immune system can handle it more quickly. For example, you get many diseases like chickenpox only once. This is known as immunity.
INNATE IMMUNITY - Innate immunity is your body's first line of defense against microorganisms invading your body. It is the essential protection that you are born with which means your immune system has been fighting against foreign intruders from day one.
Also known as natural immunity that does not require prior exposure to an antigen. It makes sure that germs that have entered your body are instantly identified and eradicated within a few hours. If any microbe manages to evade the innate immune system, acquired(adaptive) immunity kicks in.
ADAPTIVE IMMUNITY - Adaptive immunity, also known as active or acquired immunity, develops when you are exposed to diseases or get vaccinated against a foreign invader. It is slower to respond against germs than the innate immune system as it requires prior exposure to pathogens to develop immunity against the new invaders.
Adaptive immunity has immunological memory that remembers and recognizes different germs and builds up a library of antibodies for different antigens. So the next time a known antigen enters your body, the adaptive immune system can react faster.
PASSIVE IMMUNITY - Passive immunity is borrowed immunity from another source and it lasts only for a few days. It usually appears when you take an external immune system booster for a disease instead of producing through your immune system.
For instance, a newborn baby receives natural antibodies from the mother through breast milk. The baby also gets it before birth through the placenta. This passive immunity acts as a barrier for the baby against many diseases during the initial years of their life.
Also, antibodies present in the blood products give you instant protection but it lasts only for a few days.
IMMUNIZATION - Immunization is the immune system booster that works by mimicking the natural immune response of your body.
It is the process of introducing a small amount of specially treated weakened pathogens or antigens to a person in a safe and controlled environment (also known as vaccination) so that the person does not get sick and produces natural antibodies.
As the immune system saves copies of the known antibodies, it can easily act when the threat reappears later in life. There are various kinds of vaccinations available against many diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, etc.