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Understanding our immune system

A natural firewall

Computers and networks have a firewall to protect themselves against harmful influences and abuse (hackers, viruses, etc.) from the outside. That idea was taken from nature. After all, every living being has such a mechanism. And nature is our best teacher. The immune system is the natural firewall of our bodies.

How does it work?

The immune system is a biological defence system. It consists of a complicated network of cells and processes that protects our body against invading bacteria, viruses and other infectious organisms. In addition, it fights our own altered cells (cancer) and foreign matter (dirt, poison, but also organ transplants). A defence response to an intruder comes about through the collaboration of two main systems:

  1. Congenital or nonspecific immunity (a series of pre-programmed responses to pathogens that do not change)
  2. The adaptive or specific immunity (the immune response is adapted to the pathogen)

The innate or non-specific immune system gets to work first. The adaptive or acquired immune system only takes effect if the innate immune system is unable to suppress an infection within a short time. The adaptive immune system works with the B and T memory cells, which also ensure that the immune response starts much faster during a second attack by the same intruder.

Eliminating pathogens costs energy

For example, a powerful immune system gives little chance of flu and cold viruses. However, thousands of people will visit their GP every season with flu symptoms. Add to that the number of people who do not consult a doctor. How can you avoid being one of these people? Disabling pathogens takes a lot of energy. Stress, fatigue, as well as poor eating habits can undermine the immune system.

The importance of nutrition

Decades ago it was established that nutrition, or the lack thereof, is of great importance for a well-functioning immune system. Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies adversely affect adaptive, innate and cellular immune responses and suppress immune functions. The body’s response to infections is disrupted, making it easier for pathogens to work. Infections, in turn, increase nutrient deficiencies by decreasing nutrient intake, increasing consumption and disrupting utilisation by altering metabolic pathways. A healthy, balanced diet in combination with supplementation can keep the immune system in good condition. Additional resistance-supporting properties have been established for supplementing certain herbs and nutrients, such as Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc.

Wolfgang Diekstra, Product specialist VitOrtho, Netherlands