Keep illness at bay with a strong immune system

Human body has an amazingly complicated immune system. It is actually a well versed network of cells and organs that work together day and night to protect the body from infections. Immune system has a well equipped army of macrophages, T cells and B cells to carry out its function efficiently and effectively.

Key players

The immune cells are produced by the thymus gland, the spleen and other organs. The major organs of the immune system are bone marrow, thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. The lymphocytes are housed at these nodes, who are the key players of this system. The two major groups of lymphocytes are T cells and B cells.

T cells mature in the thymus, high in the chest behind the breastbone and B cells grow into maturity in the bone marrow. Phagocytes are white cells, which become macrophages after they migrate to the tissues.

All these immune cells are carried through the body from its site of production via lymph vessels to the lymph nodes.

T cells are responsible for the cellular immunity, while B cells produce antibodies that circulate in the blood stream and attach to foreign bodies to mark them for destruction.

Macrophages act as scavengers, getting rid of the worn out cells and debris. They are also responsible for producing the cytokines, which are vital to the immune system.

Once in a while the system fails to identify a signal of attack or an invader to the body, which may leads to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes or lumps.

Less commonly, harmless foreign bodies are mistaken for an enemy by the immune system and triggers an allergic reaction.

Immune deficiency can be either due to external causes or due to internal causes.

Poor diet, toxins in food, lack of personal and environmental hygiene, stress, abnormal or cancerous cell growth and other diseased conditions.

Dietary management

Nutrition plays very crucial role in the formation of a healthy immune system. No supplements are necessary to boost up the system except in some therapeutic conditions. Right diet is the key factor to have a strong defensive mechanism.

Among the various nutrients proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants have more specific role in building and maintaining the body's immune power. The amino acids present in protein rich foods are used to make antibodies and other immune compounds.

Animal sources of protein are ideal and you can include variety in selecting protein sources like milk, meat, fish, egg, pulses and legumes. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids helps in controlling inflammation and harmful effects of autoimmune disorders. Cold water fishes, flax seeds etc are rich sources of omegas. Vitamin present in nuts, seeds, margarine and oils may enhance T cells activity and assist in the production of antibodies. Vitamin C found in citrus fruits and vegetables assist in the formation and upkeep of mucous membrane and collagen as well as strengthening the blood vessel. Vitamin A found in liver, fish milk, cheese and eggs also keeps mucous membrane healthy and intact and also increases the antibody response.

Zinc and selenium

Zinc deficiency has been associated with slow wound healing. All foods of animal origin, beans, nuts and whole grains are rich sources of zinc. But do remember that excess of supplementary zinc can actually depress the immune system. Selenium is essential for a strong and healthy immune system. Selenium food sources are seafood, meat, nuts, wheat germ, bran, brown rice and oats. Iron is needed for the manufacture of T cells and B cells of immune system. It also ensures the oxygen availability of cells for proper functioning and resist diseases. Some of the best sources of iron are red meat, dried fruits, egg, fortified grains, liver, cereals and legumes. Antioxidants are vital to protect the immune system from free radicals. Lycopene present in tomatoes, beta-carotene found in oranges, red and yellow fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants. It is your responsibility to keep your immune weapon strong and alert.