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Human immune system has many weapons

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

The overall function of our human immune system is to prevent or limit infection. The primary job of our immune system is to distinguish between our normal, healthy cells and possible other dangerous cells, such as viruses and bacteria that may come into our blood stream. Our immune system is always on duty to look for and recognize these possible infectious viruses and bacteria.

The immune system looks closely at these potentially infectious cells to do all it can to prevent us from getting an infection.

Know that we rely on our immune system every day to help us fight off infections and keep us healthy. Our immune system contains numerous cell types that either circulate throughout the body or reside in our particular body tissues. Each cell type plays a unique role, with different ways of performing their function to fight off infections. Further, our great medical and scientific researchers continuously work to optimize our immune responses to confront specific potential infectious issues, such as is being done at this time with regard to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Let us now take a look at the many components of our human immune system and how our body works to fight off infections. All of our numerous immune cells come from basic immune cells in our bone marrow and develop into mature cells through a series of changes that can occur in different parts of the body. Following is a brief look at our various body components that make up our immune system.

Skin: Our skin is usually the first line of defense against infectious organisms. Skin cells produce and secrete important antimicrobial proteins, and immune cells can be found in specific layers of our skin.

Bone marrow: Our bone marrow contains stem cells that can develop into a variety of cell types. These stem cells in our bone marrow develop our many various types of immune cells that are very important first-line responders to infection. These stem cells create our essential infection-fighting cells, called B cells and T cells. These B cells and T cells are responsible for mounting a response to specific microbes that may cause infections. We also have natural niller (NK) immune cells that also provide defenses to fight off infections. These immune system B cells, T cells, and NK cells are also called lymphocytes.

Bloodstream: Immune cells constantly circulate throughout the bloodstream, patrolling for problems. When blood tests are used to monitor white blood cells, another term for immune cells, a snapshot of the immune system is taken. If our white blood cells are too few, or overabundant in the bloodstream, this may reflect a problem that should be addressed by a professional health care provider.

Thymus Gland: Immune system T cells mature in our small thymus gland, located in the upper chest.

Lymphatic system: The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and tissues composed of lymph, an extracellular fluid, and our lymph nodes. The lymphatic system is the essential part of our immune system that provides communication between our various body tissues and our bloodstream. Immune cells are carried through the lymphatic system and converge in lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are a communication hub where immune cells sample information brought in from the body. Thus, doctors may check patients for swollen lymph nodes, which may indicate an active immune response.

Spleen: The spleen is an organ located behind the stomach. Immune cells are found in the spleen and if there are any blood-borne infectious organisms, these immune cells activate and respond accordingly.

Lastly, be aware that our human immune system regenerates and repairs itself every night when we sleep. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to an infectious virus or bacteria. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. To keep you and your immune system healthy, get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each and every night. And yes, these are Doctor’s Orders!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.

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