Nutrition & Diets : How Does the Immune System Work?
My name is Christine Marquette and I’m a registered
and licensed dietitian with the Austin Regional Clinic and I’m going to talk to you about
how the immune system works. Our immune system is actually a very complicated system. There
is a lot of detail in the immune system so I’m going to give you a real basic overview.
There is something called innate immunity and that’s basically the immunity that we
are born with. It means that we won’t get sick with things that affect other animals.
So for example, cats develop a certain type of leukemia. We are immune to that type of
leukemia, we don’t have to have a vaccine to become immune to it. It just doesn’t effect
us so that’s innate immunity. Another type of immunity is called passive immunity. And
this is immunity that is actually passed on to us. So for example when babies are being
breast fed. The anti bodies in their mother’s milk passes on to them and it actually helps
them develop immunities to other viruses and bacteria. So that’s a form of passive immunity.
Now the other third type of immunity is immunity that we generally have on a day to day basis
and it involves our bodies immune system’s capability to actually learn and recognize
different antigens. Antigens are basically what you can think of as foreign invaders,
they can be bacteria, they can be viruses. And in people who have allergies it actually
is a substance that would normally be thought of as benign something that you wouldn’t think
would cause an allergic or an immune system response but for some reason it does. So that
can be things like dander, various types of pollen even some food and it can be very healthy
food, it’s just that person’s immune system for whatever reason thinks of that particular
item as an invader, as something that needs to be destroyed. So inside of our bodies the
main areas that are involved in the immune system are our lymph nodes, our thymus, our
spleen and our entire lymph system. Those are the major areas where white blood cells
are formed, our bone marrow is actually another area where white blood cells are formed. And
the white blood cells are the major part of our immune system that actually attacks and
destroys invaders or antigens. And it also has the ability to make various types of white
blood cells that can recognize different antigens and different other actual substances in our
body. It can recognize whether they are part of the body or whether they are foreign invader.
So they will tell the immune system whether it should attack that particular antigen or
whether it’s actually a part of our body that doesn’t need to be attacked. So there’s a
lot of different aspects that are involved in our immune system. They are effected by
many different things, they are effected by the foods that we eat, the air that we breath
also different medications can effect our immune system. So a lot of different aspects
are involved in immunity.