A weak immune system can leave you vulnerable to a wide variety of infectious diseases, ranging from the common cold to serious viral and bacterial infections. Certain people are at higher risk for a weakened immune system, such as those who are older or who have underlying medical conditions or are under treatment for these conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, alcoholism, liver or kidney disease, and HIV or AIDS . Specific lifestyle choices, such as traveling or working in healthcare, can also put you at higher risk for a weakened immune system.
Recognizing the signs your immune system is weak is an important first step towards better health. Learning what vitamins are good for your immune system, and making sure you get adequate amounts, is another step toward healthier living. In this article we'll uncover
- What your immune system is
- Parts of your immune system
- How your immune system works
- The 3 types of immunity
- Signs your immune system is weak
What Is Your Immune System?
Your immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to fight infections and other diseases.
Bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens can enter your body through your mouth, eyes, nose, or urogenital openings; they can also enter through bites or wounds that breach your skin barrier. Once inside your body, these germs can attack body cells and tissue to cause infection. They can also multiply to spread the infection throughout your body. Infection with pathogens causes diseases that can make you very ill. Your immune system fights off these germs to protect your body from disease.
What Are the Parts Of Your Immune System?
Your immune system has many different components that work independently and in concert to protect you from infectious diseases. The parts of the immune system include:
- Skin: acts like a barrier to help prevent germs from getting inside your body.
- Mucous membranes: the moist inner linings of some organs and body cavities. produce mucus and other substances that can trap and kill pathogens
- White blood cells: a special group of blood cells that fight germs.
- Lymphatic system: Specific organs and tissues, such as the spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes and lymph vessels, belong to the lymphatic (or lymph) system and work together to produce, store, and carry white blood cells.
How Does Your Immune System Work?
Your immune system protects your body from antigens, which are harmful or foreign substances that may include bacteria, viruses, chemicals or other toxins. Cells damaged from cancer or sunburn may also be antigens.
When under attack from an antigen, your immune system launches an immune response to attack the antigen. Your immune system makes antibodies, which are proteins that attack, weaken, and potentially destroy the antigens. Other cells produced by the immune system can also fight the antigen.
In addition to fighting off pathogens, your immune system is capable of remembering antigens. This allows your immune system to recognize antigens it has seen in the past, and to send out the right antibodies to fight it. Medical professionals refer to this protection against certain diseases as immunity.
3 Types of Immunity
Humans have three basic types of immunity: innate, active, and passive . Each type of immunity works in a different way to protect you.
You were born with innate immunity, also known as natural immunity. Innate immunity is your body's first line of defense and offers general protection from the outside world. Several tissues, organs, cells and chemicals work to provide innate immunity. Your skin and mucous membranes offer innate immunity by preventing harmful pathogens from entering your body, for example, while specific cells and chemicals you were born with can attack foreign substances.
Also known as adaptive immunity, active immunity develops after an infection or vaccination against a pathogen. Active immunity typically lasts a long time – in fact, active immunity against many diseases can last your entire life.
While your body can make its own antibodies to a disease, you can also receive antibodies from sources outside your own body. For example, you received antibodies from your mother while you were still in the womb. You can also receive passive immunity through products that contain antibodies. Passive immunity provides immediate protection, but this protection typically lasts only a few weeks or months.
Signs Your Immune System is Weak
A weakened immune system does not always produce warning signs, but when it does, it can produce a wide variety of signs and symptoms.
What Are Signs of a Weak Immune System?
- Frequent colds and flu-like symptoms
- Always tired and lethargic
- Skin issues
- Cold sores
- Weight fluctuations
- Constantly feeling stressed
- Stomach & gastrointestinal issues
- Wounds are slow to heal
Frequent colds and flu-like symptoms
Many different viruses can cause colds and flu-like symptoms. Colds usually develop as the result of exposure to rhinoviruses, for example, which flu develops after infection from an influenza virus . It is often difficult to tell the difference between a cold and flu based solely on symptoms, but the flu generally produces more severe symptoms compared with colds.
While it is normal for an adult to catch two or three colds every year and bounce back in seven to 10 days, sneezing or sniffling more often or for longer can indicate a weakened immune system . Symptoms of colds and flu include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Headaches and body aches
Always feeling tired and lethargic
Feeling tired and lethargic is normal after a hard day or long night, but these symptoms usually disappear with rest. Fatigue and lethargy that develops for no apparent reason, or that continues despite adequate rest and proper nutrition, can prevent you from working, going to school, taking care of your family, getting enough exercise, and engaging in your favorite hobbies. Unexplained and prolonged fatigue and lethargy may also be signs of a weakened immune system.
As your body's largest organ, your skin serves as a protective barrier between you and the rest of the world . It is also an active immune organ that can produce secretions that can kill bacteria . Your skin can also reflect the health of your immune system. Immune system reactions often involve the skin in ways that cause painful rashes and other skin problems. Rashes that are particularly painful or that do not clear up may also be signs of a weakened immune system. Some skin problems, such as eczema, may be a sign of an overactive immune system .
Cold sores develop as the result of viral infections of the nerve cells in your lips . The immune system usually keeps these viruses in check, but a weakened immune system may allow the viruses to infect the cells to cause cold sores.
An elevated temperature is an important immune response to the presence of pathogens. A fever triggers specific cellular mechanisms that ensure your immune system takes appropriate action against the invader . In many cases, a fever is your friend because it helps your immune system work. However, getting fevers too often may be a sign that your immune system is letting some pathogens in and allowing them to multiply inside your body, instead of stopping infections early.
Diet and exercise greatly influence your weight, of course, but it appears your immune system health can also affect how much you weigh. In fact, your immune system could be responsible for as much as 40 percent of your body's ability to regulate your weight . A weakened immune system can actually work against your best efforts to eat right and exercise regularly, causing you to carry around more weight than you'd like.
Constantly feeling stressed
A strong association exists between stress and your immune system. Stress can trigger the production of the "fight or flight" hormone cortisol, for example, which can suppress your immune system's response to invaders and leave you vulnerable to infectious illness. Feeling ill all the time can increase stress levels, creating a vicious circle of stress and weakened immune response.
Stomach and gastrointestinal issues
A large portion of your immune system is in your gut, believe it or not. Most bacteria and viruses live outside your body, while most of your immune system is inside your body – but your gastrointestinal (GI) tract provides plenty of opportunity for pathogens to enter your body through the food you eat. Certain cells in your GI tract spend their entire lives excreting massive amounts of antibodies into your digestive system in an effort to hold the infectious agents at bay.
However, some bacteria in your gut can help support your immune system. About 100 trillion bacteria live inside your GI tract, known collectively as your gut microbiota . Some of these bacteria are unhealthy, of course, but some are actually beneficial because they keep the unhealthy bacteria under control by taking up valuable space inside your gut and by gobbling up resources.
A weakened immune system allows the bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and toxins to enter your body through your GI tract to cause stomach and gastrointestinal infections and other ailments. A faltering immune system can also allow imbalances in your gut microbiota, which can leave you vulnerable to GI issues .
Wounds that are slow to heal
A robust immune system helps wounds heal, reducing the risk of further infection. When all goes well, a wound heals rather quickly. However, when bacteria infect a wound because you have a weakened immune system, the infection can drastically slow down the healing process. Harmful bacteria can multiply and take over the wound, which prolongs inflammation and interrupts healthy clotting mechanisms. The white blood cells have trouble doing their job, and the body struggles to develop new tissue and blood vessels that help the wound heal.
Best Supplement to Strengthen Your Immune System
Fortunately, you can take several lifestyle steps to strengthen your immune system and reduce the risk of infection. One of the easiest and most convenient ways to get a stronger immune system is to take supplements.
Immune Super Boost by Healthycell helps your immune system stay strong and resilient.† It contains a special blend of phytonutrients including echinacea and elderberry, which can increase the quantity and efficiency of your body's immune cells. Immune Super Boost also contains vitamins and minerals that support a healthy white blood cell count, activate important immune cells, promote a quick and healthy immune response, and support immune regulation.† This precise blend of nutrients helps boost immune function in older adults, travelers, healthcare workers, and people who are immune compromised because of an illness.† Combining the immune-strengthening nutrients of Immune Super Boost with an immune-boosting lifestyle can help you keep your immune system functioning at its best, so you can stay at your healthiest.
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