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Understanding the Immune System

As Human beings our most effective line of defence against illness and disease is within us.

See also Winter Virus Help our favourite supplements for the immune system are Olive Leaf Extract and Zell Oxygen.  Also see the Foods for Calcium article - with lots of calcium and vitamin K in your system, it is hard for a virus to take hold.

The Immune system is comprised of a whole series of defence mechanisms that all work synergistically to protect us, and to prevent diseases spreading and compromising our health and indeed sometimes our very survival
They include (not limited to):

  • The complement system
  • Neutrophil
  • Macrophage
  • B cells
  • T cells (T lymphocytes)
  • Natural Killer (NK) cells


Innate/passive immunity

Innate immunity is the immunity we are born with. This immunity is instinctive and responds naturally to a sequence of events.  The initial line of defence the body has is the skin. The skin acts as a barrier preventing pathogens around us from entering our bodies. However, when we are wounded and the skin is cut, we are more susceptible to infection at the site of the wound precisely because the germs and bacteria now have an entry point straight into the live cells beneath the dead outer skin layer.
 
However, the immune system reacts to cuts with immediate effect to prevent any foreign invader; initially our blood creates a clotting system protecting the wound and the surrounding area. This clotting of the red blood cells is assisted by tiny structures within the blood cells called platelets and also a protein called fibrin which when in action together create a clotting factor over the wound which eventually forms what we call a scab, which protects the wound whilst it heals and repairs
 
In addition to our skin and the clotting factor our immune system also creates ‘on guard’ agents in the rest of the most vulnerable entry points of our bodies, some of which are as follows.
 
The Ears: ear wax, although sometimes unsightly and rather irritating it is in fact essential to trap dust and bacteria particles from entering.  The ear also has a back up plan in place, the ear drum which provides a complete barrier to the ear canal itself
 
The Nose: Throughout the nasal passages tiny hairs and a mucous lining trap any germs carried in dust particles and the like. These particles then cause irritation resulting in sneezing at which time the particles are expelled from the body almost instantaneously before any further threat is imposed
 
The Throat: If particles are successful at evading rejection from the nose, there are secretions formed in the salivary glands which can also kill and destroy bacteria
 
The Stomach: Some bacteria are carried into our bodies transported on the food we eat, via our fingers or eating utensils. If food poisoning causing bacteria such as E coli are introduced to the stomach, hydrochloric acid is present there and will kill most unfriendly bacteria on entry
 
The large Intestine: Some very stubborn bacteria make it all the way to the large intestine where they are met by friendly bacteria which have the ability to stop harmful bacteria from taking hold, we often expel these bacterium by the need to vomit and / or loose bowels (often indicative that harmful bacteria are being tackled in the large intestine
 
Active Immunity
 
‘Identifying the enemy within’
 
White blood cells are constantly on the look our for pathogens within us that have made it past all the previously mentioned defences, when identified the complement system is the first mechanism used to signal activation to the immune system
 
The complement system itself is made up of a number of proteins, of which there are about ten. They have each been given the prefix ‘c’ followed by an identifying number
 
At the moment the complement system is activated by the identification of pathogens one of the first things to occur is that the protein C3 is split into three new proteins C3a, C3b and C3c
 
The presence of C3a then activates ‘mast cells’ which release chemicals improving our chances of defence. The chemicals released promote the dilation of the blood vessels surrounding the compromised area, the blood vessels are then much more permeable allowing the cells designed to fight the invader a much more direct and easy access, furthermore, some of these chemicals can break down connective tissue if entry to the affected area cannot be gained through the dilated blood vessels as previously discussed
 
C3b: This protein has a significant number of vital roles to play once activated. The C3b protein attaches itself to any cell that it identifies as foreign, the target cell then becomes much more visible for the neutrophils to detect (neutrophils are attracted initially by the release of C3a but then seek out the cells with C3b attached) Once detected the neutrophils then act to neutralise the threat
 
The sheer presence of C3b induces then another splitting of C3 into C5, which then splits in two creating C5a and C5b. C5a attracts phagocytes and then activates them only when they have reached the infection site, C5b allies itself with C6, C7, C8 and C9 to create holes in the infected cell walls without causing harm to the original healthy cell, hence breaking down the pathogens strength
 
Neutrophils destroy bacteria by simply ingesting it and injecting chemicals to assist in breaking it down. Neutrophils are the cells within us that trap and destroy most of the bacteria that live outside the cells, the bone marrow is the largest manufacturer of neutrophils producing it is said, 150,000,000,000 a day
 
However, neutrophils can be so rampant that they often require direction from the complement system and antibodies are required to prevent lasting damage to the bodies own healthy cells if a misguided attack is levied on a healthy cell by a neutrophil
 
Neutrophils themselves actually have a very small capacity to kill, each killing approximately 20 bacterium before they die. As a neutrophil begins the process of dying it creates signalling proteins which it displays on its surface walls. These new formations of protein attract an entirely different type of cell called Macrophage, they then eat the remaining neutrophil and any surviving pathogen within
 
‘The one that got away!’
 
However, it is through the macrophage that some of the most resistant strains of disease causing bacteria surivive and ‘make it’. Bacteria such as that which cause tuberculosis and malaria release their own chemicals that interfere with the whole killing process previously discussed, and the bactria can remain inside the macrophage, the now subversive macrophage transport around the body via the lymphatic system thus spreading the disease / infection throughout the body and indeed the vital organs
 
In addition to all of this, we also create our own errant cells which can turn on us.
 
Conferred Immunity
 
Successful macrophage that have not been hijacked by a pathogen, eventually break down the protein it collected whilst digesting the dying neutrophil after which it then displays a special type of protein on the cells surface

This protein is identified as MHC11. Eventually a T-helper cell will identify the foreign protein having identified the MHC11, and so begins another immune response this time involving the T-cells.
 
T-cells reach maturation in the thymus, there are two main types of T-cells they are T – Lymphocytes also known as T helper cells. The other is T Killer cells; Natural killer cells (also form part of the innate immunity)
They each have a receptor that has a unique ability to recognise one specific antigen.
 
B cells are produced in the bone and are activated by the T helper cells (having identified the’ ‘antigen containing macrophage’ by virtue of it carrying the same receptor as its own) T cells then seek out the relevant B cell with the same receptor as the antigen.
 
Once activate the B cell then splits again and again creating more and more B cells with the required receptor, the B cells eventually become plasma cells that then produce the valuable antibody that will finally tackle the antigen in a head to head battle
 
Antibodies are also used to attach themselves to the part of the virus / disease / infection that were intended to make entry into our healthy cells, therefore continuing the battle
 
Some virus have the ability the attempt to bypass the whole of the procedure hereby discussed by stopping the macrophage cell from displaying proteins on its surface and therefore remaining undetected or opposed, thus creating an abnormal immune response resulting sometimes in an auto immune response, whereby the body begins attacking itself and the immune systems protocol is broken down
 
Long term Immunity
 
‘I remember you’
 
When the immune system has not been compromised by any of the subversive methods discussed, a normal immune response has taken place.  The immune system has identified and destroyed the pathogen / bacteria / virus. To create an enforced protection should the same be reintroduced at some later stage, some B cells and T helper cells with the correct receptor remain at the infected site often for  quite some time after the initial infection has taken place. They are at the ready should the antigen reappear, this is the memory of the immune system and how it works to keep us healthy, this is often referred to as Long term immunity
 
We can support our immune system by promoting a healthy environment within our bodies, hence drinking water, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet and last but not least keeping our food preparing surfaces and utensils hygienic
 
Supplements for the Immune System
 
Whether you are looking to enhance overall immunity, or your immune system has been compromised; Zell Oxygen is a primary supplement to consider.  In times of compromise, other products of interest are Propolis and Olive Leaf Extract
 
Glossary
 
Pathogen: An agent that causes disease, especially a living microorganism such as a bacterium or fungus.
 
Mast cells: A normal mast cell is part of our immunologic defence systems against invading
organisms.
 
Neutrophil: A neutrophil cell, especially an abundant type of granular white blood cell that is highly destructive of microorganisms.
 
Phagocytes:  A cell, such as a white blood cell, that engulfs and absorbs waste material, harmful microorganisms, or other foreign bodies in the bloodstream and tissues.
 
Macrophage: any of the large, mononuclear, highly phagocytic cells derived from monocytes that occur in the walls of blood vessels (adventitial cells) and in loose connective tissue (histiocytes, phagocytic reticular cells). They are components of the reticuloendothelial system. Macrophages are usually immobile but become actively mobile when stimulated by inflammation; they also interact with lymphocytes to facilitate antibody production.
 
T-Lymphocytes: T cells, thymus-dependent lymphocytes; those that pass through or are influenced by the thymus before migrating to tissues; they are responsible for cell-mediated immunity and delayed hypersensitivity
NK cells: are part of innate immunity that kill foreign substances and abnormal tissues. Decreased number or activi-ty has been linked to a number of diseases, including AIDS, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, immuno-deficiencies, and viral infections
 
Antigen: any substance capable of inducing a specific immune response and of reacting with the products of that response, i.e., with specific antibody or specifically sensitized T lymphocytes, or both.
 
B-Cells: Type of white blood cell that produces antibodies.
 
Plasma cells: A type of white blood cell.
 
Antibody: an immunoglobulin molecule that reacts with a specific antigen that induced its synthesis and with similar molecules; classified according to mode of action as agglutinin, bacteriolysin, hemolysin, opsonin, or precipitin. Antibodies are synthesized by B lymphocytes that have been activated by the binding of an antigen to a cell-surface receptor

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