The immune system has become very popular.
The role of the immune system is to protect your body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that may make you ill.
The major organs of the immune system are
mucous membranes and skin
Organs that function as barrier are skin and mucus membranes. Mucus (saliva, tears), stomach acid, and normal bacteria all act as part of the immune system.
Lymph nodes act to filter to trap germs and antibodies that form in response to the offending agent.
The spleen stores cells that are activated when needed to fight germs that enter the bloodstream.
Tonsils stop germs entering through the mouth or nose.
Mucus membranes especially the small bowel produce antibodies against foreign substances. Other mucous membranes that support immunity are respiratory and urinary tract as well as the lining of the vagina.
The thymus behind the breastbone matures in childhood and transform to fatty tissue over time.
The thymus produces t-lymphocytes that monitor for surface cell changes throughout the body.
Most immune cells are produced and multiplied in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is sponge-like tissue in the bone. As we age red bone marrow turns to fatty tissue in many bones; ribs, breastbone, and pelvis bones continue to contain red bone marrow in adulthood.
Whew, so now we know what it is and what it does, can we influence it? There have been many commercials, products and people encouraging us to improve our immunity.
Lets consider myths about improving our immunity.
Many believe the more active your immune system the healthier you are. However, a hyperactive immune system leads to diseases. Common diseases due to hyperactive immunity are diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Another fallacy, super doses of vitamins are beneficial. It has not been proven to help unless you actually have a deficiency to a vitamin. Older people are more prone to deficiencies, so knowing if you have a deficiency is important. Also you can overdose on fat soluble vitamins, A,D,E, and K. Which are stored in fat cells. The body does not maintain or utilize excessive water soluble vitamins, they are simply excreted in your urine. Talk about money down the drain! Vitamins are only beneficial if you are severely malnourished which is not common in the US, we may make poor choices but we usually have access to a variety of foods.
Enter the world of probiotics. While it is true our natural bacteria influences our immune system science does not yet know how to manipulate/modify our natural flora to improve our health status.
The most controversial myth is vaccines provide health risks. Everything in life has a risk, we assess and take risks all the time. Just a few numbers for you to ponder: 1/6,700 motor vehicle accidents end in death, 1/840,000 drown in bathtubs, 1/1,000,000 children have serious reaction to vaccine.
So what can we do!?
General recommendations for a strong and healthy immune system (Harvard Health Publishing)
There is no evidence that adopting a healthy lifestyle will suddenly boost immune system but healthy habits do contribute to overall health and support ability to fight infections. There is evidence supporting sustained increased levels of stress does decrease our immune system.
1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 NIV Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 9: 25-27 NIV Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.