The Power of Self-Defense: How Your Immune System Protects You
Every day, your amazing immune system fights to help protect you. And since it does such a terrific job, you probably never even think about it! Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes:
How Does It Work?
Your immune system is a miraculously intricate network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to identify, eliminate or neutralize attacks by “foreign” invaders. There are three primary lines of defense: physical barriers such as your skin and mucous membranes; non-specific immune responses, in which your blood transports generic fighters throughout the body; and specific immune responses, which occur when your body learns to recognize invaders and eliminate them if they return.
Thanks to elaborate and dynamic communications among the immune, nervous and endocrine systems, your body “knows” which cells are yours and which are enemies. Millions of cells pass information back and forth, gathering like a swarm of bees in response to an invasion. When immune defenders identify cells or organisms as “outsiders”, they begin to produce powerful chemicals. These substances alert cells to enlist other immune cells and direct the “troops” to trouble spots.
Immune System Organs
Let’s start with the skin. It’s your body’s largest organ, protecting your internal organs from harmful substances. When you get a cut, that line of defense is temporarily breached.
Next are the lymphoid organs. They produce lymphocytes (B-cells and T-cells), the small white blood cells that are key players in immune function. They’re found throughout your body:
• Lymph Nodes: Located in your neck, groin, underarms and abdomen, these small, bean-shaped glands produce and store infection-fighting cells as well as lymph, the clear fluid that carries cells where they’re needed.
• Thymus: Located behind your breastbone, this small organ produces T-cells (“t” for “thymus”). When activated, T-cells transform from harmless immune cells into killer cells that seek out and destroy invaders.
• Spleen: Located in the upper-left part of your abdomen, it filters the blood and stores red and white blood cells.
• Bone Marrow: This yellow tissue in the center of your bones produces immune cells including B-cells, white blood cells that produce antibodies.
Did You Know?
More than 2/3 of your total immune system cells are found in your Digestive Tract. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) interacts with friendly bacteria to optimize immune function. Keeping your digestive system healthy is just one of the things you can do to support your awesome immune system. And the more you do for your army of defenders, the more it can do for you!