“My immune system is not strong enough” or “I need something to boost my immune system“- everyone seems talks about his or her immune system. But do you know what it’s made of? And how it actually works? In my new blog series “Do you know your immune system” I want to talk about how our immune system works, what body parts are playing which role and what we can do in order to boost our immune system in a natural way. Part 1 is all about how our immune system actually works and what a castle has to do with it.
The specific and unspecific defense system
In order to understand how our immune system works, you can think of a castle. A castle has so many security precautions that a conquest is rarely successful. First, there is a moat, a drawbridge, and a high wall to deter intruders. These are unspecific measures, as they also occur in our bodies. If these non-specific measures do not help, more specific defense systems will be used. Warriors use e. g. slings or archers. It’s the same with our body. If the unspecific defense system does not work and the intruders still manage to enter our body, the specific defense system is used.
The unspecific defense system
This is your general defense – mainly your body surfaces and secretions. It is your skin, nasal hair or cilia of the bronchial mucosa and your mucous membranes. They protect your body mechanically from unwanted intruders that could harm you.
This can be shown by the example of food intake: You are taking in food and it is possible that there are still bacteria in/on this food. Your saliva is the first defense barrier. In a first step, this disinfects your food pulp before you swallow it (besides other tasks). As a second barrier, your stomach acid becomes active. The acid pH-value already kills many pathogens. Your intestinal flora is also part of the general defense with “good” bacteria. Where your intestines are populated with good and beneficial bacteria, there is no room for harmful germs.
Further, you have the so-called scavenger (Monocytes), which devour intruders and foreign substances.
The specific defense system
The specific defense system needs some training in order to be successful – in order to raise antibodies.
The specific defense system includes, for example, lymphocytes (memory cells) – which, if they have already been in contact with the pathogen, have developed special mechanisms to combat it more effectively. These can form so-called antibodies (immunoglobulins). Antibodies are specialized in certain antigens (protein structures of the pathogen) and can bind to them (antigen-antibody complex) and thus render the pathogen harmless.
The journey of a virus
First, the unspecific immune system starts. As soon as the viruses have been sighted, the first phagocytes appear and eat as many viruses as possible. Unfortunately, some of them remain. The defense cells of the specific immune system rush to the forefront. They take a look at the seized material (so-called antigens) and then use it as a template for the formation of antibodies.
Until the antibodies are formed, the viruses can overwhelm the immune system and we become ill.
As soon as the specific immune system has created an antibody prototype, the countdown starts. The B-lymphocytes take their prototype and run all over the body to find the virus. If they find the antigen (the virus) that matches their antibody, it is rendered harmless and later eaten by the phagocytes.
Once a suitable antigen has been found, the production of further antibodies begins. This means that the B-lymphocytes begin to clone and millions of them develop. They know exactly how the antibodies to this virus are produced and get started. This is the moment when the virus has no chance and is defeated by our immune system. We are starting to feel better and can recover.