Most of us are aware of the protective function of the immune system, but it isnt some sort of invisible barrier or protective force field against infection, straight out of a science fiction movie. So, what exactly is the immune system? The immune system comprises of a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that collectively work to protect the body against infections from foreign organism, primarily microbes. These organisms may include bacteria, parasites and fungi, as well as viruses, although viruses are not really classified as living organisms because of their primitive structure. The human body plays perfect host to many such organisms and it is your immune system that protects against these threats by keeping them out. If an infection does manage to take hold then the immune system again plays the vital role of defender, finding and eliminating these threats.
The immune system may be compared to a modern military force with a varied arsenal, comprising of individual units, each with their specific functions, but all interdependent and working together against a common enemy. The white blood cells and leukocytes, which include T cells and B cells are just some of the components of this complex defense network. The process by which the immune system attacks and expels invading threats (antigens) is referred to as the immune response. Part of this response involve the production of antibodies that lock on to specific antigens. Once produced these antibodies will remain present throughout, which is why, if you suffer from an infection like chickenpox, you will not succumb to infection again, as chickenpox antigens are already present and ready.
A state of low immunity implies a weakening of the immune system and poor immune response. The medical term for a compromised immune system because it does not function perfectly or because a part of it is missing is immunodeficiency. An individual may be born with such a compromised immune system known as primary immunodeficiencies, but the symptoms may not become evident till much later. Immunodeficiencies may also develop because of some sort of infection or as a side effect of certain medications and this type of low immunity is referred to as secondary immunodeficiency.
A condition of low immunity puts you at grave risk of contracting a variety of infections and ailments, and it can also make recovery a lot tougher.
The symptoms of low immune function include:There are certain warning signs that could give your doctor reason to believe that you may be afflicted with an immunodeficiency disorder. These include:
In addition, there may also be other warning signs like:
If your health care provider has reason to suspect an immunodeficiency disorder there are some tests that can help with diagnosis like:
Blood tests for complement levels, or other tests to check the levels of other substances produced by the immune system
A temporary drop in immunity levels although worrying is not as serious full-blown immunodeficiency disorders. Immunity levels may drop on account of various possible factors that could include:
Secondary immunodeficiencies typically involve conditions like AIDS that attack the immune system. In primary autoimmune deficiency disease, the causes however have more to do with heredity, although some like Common Variable Immunodeficiency have no known cause.
In cases where the condition of low or weakened immunity results from some underlying condition you would need medical treatment to address both the underlying cause and the condition of lowered immunity. In other situations however, if you find that your immunity is low and you tend fall victim to frequent infections it may be a good idea to take steps to boost your immunity. In addition, make it a point to consult with your doctor and a nutritionist. This will help to either identify or rule out specific lifestyle factors or dietary deficiencies that could be causing the problem. In the meantime you can try to boost your immune function by following these simple steps:
There is a direct correlation between the health of your immune system and your dietary intake. A healthy balanced diet that provides you with all the nutritional requirements is absolutely essential to boost immune function. Make it a point to incorporate these basic principles when planning your regular diet:
Diet and exercise are unavoidable and its absolutely essential that you exercise regularly and follow healthy eating habits to maintain high levels of immunity. In addition try to make changes to your lifestyle, with an aim to cutting back on stress and increasing time for relaxation and socialization. In addition to regimented fitness activities and meditative practices, also try and dedicate time to activities that give you pleasure and offer you an opportunity to socialize with friends and family.