6 Fun Facts About The Immune System & How It Works
Many people know that the immune system is a vital component to overall health. After all, it is the first line of defense against illnesses and does a lot to protect you from getting sick. What many people don’t know is exactly how the immune system works and all the cool things it does for them while they go on about their business!
Learning about the glorious things the immune system can do doesn’t have to equate to a boring science lesson. It’s actually pretty exciting to think about. But what makes the immune system so awesome, besides the fact that it’s your own personal army against sickness?
How does the immune system work?
There are two specific parts of the immune system that each have their respective jobs: innate immunity and acquired immunity. As the name suggests, the innate part of immunity is something you’re born with. It acts as a rapid response to any old pathogen, no matter what it is. The cells within the innate response system sense pathogens in the body and get them surrounded. Then, the invader is attacked and destroyed immediately using cells known as phagocytes.
The acquired immune system is a little more complex. It builds on the innate system and produces cells known as antibodies that can actually remember specific pathogens. That means if you catch a particular strain of the flu, your immune system will create targeted antibodies that will be ready to go to war with that strain if it ever enters your body again. Essentially, acquired immunity is akin to you hiring highly trained bodyguards to protect you against one particularly tenacious stalker.
The innate and acquired immune systems work together to help alert the cell army, directing it to hunt down and surround the invader, and destroy it so you don’t get ill.
What are some interesting facts about the immune system?
Aside from the interesting way the immune system functions, there are also some other tidbits of information that just go to show how complex and amazing the system truly is.
1. Happiness helps immunity
Positive thinking isn’t just some new age way of life. It can actually help your health in a big way. When it comes to your immune system, research has found that positivity and being more optimistic can actually lead to a better-functioning immune system. Although the reason for the connection isn’t exactly clear, it’s thought that happier people eat more nutrient-rich food and experience less stress – both of which are factors that can greatly affect immunity.
2. Germs aren’t always bad
When people hear words like germs or bacteria, they often assume the worst. While this may be a good thing in some cases, it is not entirely a good thing to avoid germs altogether. Personal hygiene is important, but the body needs certain germs to function. Bacteria, for example, is found in large amounts inside and even on your body, and serves a number of useful functions!
3. It can turn on you
Unfortunately, not all the things the immune system does are good for you. In fact, sometimes it can actually turn on you. This is what is referred to as autoimmunity, and it describes the immune system’s ability to mistake healthy cells in the body as foreign invaders, attacking them accordingly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are more likely to develop autoimmune conditions, although it’s not quite clear why that’s the case.
4. A fever is a message from your immune system
When you get a fever, it’s likely that you’re not feeling too great. Although having a fever is an obvious sign that something isn’t right, it’s what the body needs to do to fight off the pesky invaders that are trying to cause infection. When the body gets a fever, it leads to the release of white bloods cells, a sped-up metabolism, and the hindrance of organism multiplication. Basically, having a fever is your body’s way of telling you that it’s working as hard as it possibly can to make sure you’re safe from whatever pathogen has found its way in.
5. White blood cells are your best friends
White blood cells are basically like your knight in shining armor when it comes to pathogens. They move throughout the body, carrying antibodies that are designed to help attack and secure certain pathogens. And they only live for a mere few weeks before dying off! So white blood cells will literally die for you, all in the name of infection protection.
6. It takes five liters of blood for your immune system to work
Transporting all the cells in the immune system to where they need to be to help you fight off pathogens takes a lot of blood – five liters, to be exact. That might not seem like a lot (especially if you aren’t familiar with the metric system!), but a gallon jug of water wouldn’t be able to hold it all.
A lot of immune system myths are circulating out there, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic. But the immune system is a fascinating thing without having to embellish or spread myths about it, as evidenced by all the fun facts just mentioned. Now that you know just how hard your awesome immune system works for you, maybe say thank you by treating it right. After all, you and your immune system must work together to stay healthy.