We hear a new suggestion every day about strengthening the immune system, which keeps our body healthy by fighting diseases. But do these recommendations have any scientific truth? What is the way to strengthen the immune system? Do the products and foods presented in the form of miracles really heal us? How to know that the immune system is weak? What is the immune system and how is it strengthened? What organs does the immune system consist of? What are the immune system functions? The answer to all these questions is in the details of the news ...
What is the Immune System or Immune System
The immune system is the sum of the processes that protect against diseases in a living thing, recognize pathogens and tumor cells and destroy them. The system scans a wide variety in the living body, from viruses to parasitic worms, every foreign substance that enters or comes into contact with the body, and distinguishes them from the living body's healthy body cells and tissues. The immune system can distinguish even very similar substances from each other. It has the ability to distinguish even proteins with different amino acids from each other. This distinction is complex enough to cause pathogens to find new ways to infect, despite the defense system in the host, and to adopt some adaptations. In this struggle, some mechanisms that recognize pathogens and inactivate them have been developed in order to survive. All living things in nature have defense systems against tissues, cells and molecules that are not themselves. Even simple single-celled creatures such as bacteria have enzyme systems that protect them against viral infections.
Which Organs Does the Immune System Consist?
Organs of the immune system lymphoid are textured organs. Although these organs are examined in two groups as primary lymphoid organs and secondary lymphoid organs, they are in constant contact with each other. In primary lymphoid organs, while lymphocyte production works; In secondary organs, lymphocytes confront antigens for the first time.
- Lymph nodes: Lymphoid tissue parts, also known as adenoid, located in the upper part of the pharynx, behind the nasal cavity. They catch infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses and the antibodies they produce.
- Tonsils: These are small structures that form the first barrier in the mouth, an opening in the throat where lymphocytes are collected and opened to the outside. Lymph fluid flows from the lymph vessels in the tonsils to the neck and sub-chin nodes. In the meantime, lymphocytes are secreted from the walls of lymph vessels. Microbes that can enter the body are cleared by lymphocytes secreted from here.
- Thymus: It is the body organ in the upper part of the chest, under the thyroid gland, where immature lymphocytes come out of the bone marrow and undergo the maturation process.
- Lymph nodes: These are the centers where B and T cells are spread throughout the body. They are abundant in the armpits, groin, under the chin, neck, elbow and chest areas.
- Liver: Contains immunologically active cells, especially in the fetus; T-cells are first produced by the fetal liver.
- Spleen: It is an organ located in the upper left side of the abdominal cavity and responsible for the destruction of old red blood cells. It is one of the centers of the mononuclear phagocytic system. It helps in fighting infections.
- Peyer's plaques: These are the regions where lymphoid tissues in the ileum area of the small intestine are concentrated. It ensures that pathogens in the intestinal lumen are kept under control.
- Bone marrow: It is a center where stem cells are the origin of all cells of the immune system.
- Lymph: It is a type of circulatory system fluid, also known as “akkan”, that carries cells and proteins of the immune system from one part of the body to another.
Where Is The Immune System In Our Body?
There are small cells in our blood vessels that cannot be seen with the naked eye, most of them are red blood cells, namely erythrocytes, which give our blood the red color, there are fewer white blood cells, namely white blood cells (leukocytes). These cells are made in the bone marrow. The main organs of the immune system are bone marrow and thymus. Bone marrow has a fatty, porous structure located in the middle of the bones and produces stem cells that enable the production of red blood cells and white blood cells. B and T lymphocytes, mononuclear white blood cells, are the basic cells that function in the immune system. B lymphocytes complete their development in the bone marrow and T lymphocytes in the tissue called thymus located in the upper part of the breast. After these cells mature in the bone marrow and thymus, they pass into the blood, are concentrated in the blood channel and lymph (white blood) channels, spleen and lymph nodes, but also distribute to the mucosal lymphoid structures surrounding the mouth, nose, lungs and gastrointestinal system. The white blood cells on the skin prevent foreign pests from entering. Our blood contains a wide variety of white blood cells or leukocytes. These are neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, monocytes, lymphocytes, dendritic cells and natural killer (NK) cells. These cells are constantly circulating in our bodies, clearing dangerous microbes that enter our bodies.
What is the Importance of the Immune System?
There are two systems in our body that are capable of learning, thinking and storing in memory. One of them is the brain and the other is the immune system. The immune system uses our genetically existing knowledge transferred from our ancestors, processes this information against a microbe, then fights only by focusing on the area where the microbe is, struggling tirelessly until it destroys it and keeps this experience without forgetting it, using this experience for each new situation. It is a system that can produce a response. We have some reflex responses as a hidden form of information from the past. The immune system, like the brain, evaluates and synthesizes this information against the existing situation, and produces micro-specific responses or specific responses to cancer, disease and organ transplantation. This is a feature that does not exist in any organ, in any system other than the brain and immune system.
The immune system's task is to protect the essence of the individual. For this reason, it primarily knows itself and does not harm the essence. In this context, it can be said that the immune system makes the effort to know itself as much as the effort required to fight the enemy. By the way, it doesn't care about every microbe. For example, at least 30, and according to some studies, even 100 times more microbes live in our body than the total number of our immune system cells. However, they are not answered, and even we live together with them in a mutually beneficial balance. Just like the brain, our immune system is capable of learning. It stores some of what it has learned as an experience in its memory and uses it when necessary. In other words, just as a social being hides personal experiences, the immune system stores the information of its own experiences. For example, the memory feature of the immune system is used in vaccines. But not only with vaccines; The immune system also has more cellular, more molecular memory mechanisms. In other words, it can be said that it has the capacity of multi-dimensional thinking and storage. This is another feature that is similar to the brain.
Tolerance means tolerance for both self and some foreigners. For example, whatever members of their own family do, they are part of the person and many of their characteristics and behaviors are tolerated to reasonable limits. The immune system is likewise tolerant of what belongs to it, the essence. This has the following benefit: Being tolerant of the essence means that the system continues its existence. Actually, immunology is the science of the self. That 'I' knowledge enables us to fight our own cells, any organs within us and not harm ourselves. The purpose of this system is to protect itself by fighting against harmful strangers. While fighting this war, it is programmed to end the war with the least harm or completely harmless to itself.
When Does This System Occur?
The immune system consists of cells that have spread to all organs throughout the body, as well as organs such as the spleen, liver, thymus, lymph gland, and bone marrow. There are studies showing that the first immune system cells are in our largest artery, which we call the aorta. In other words, it can be said that our immune system starts to form with the formation of blood. Later, the earliest precursors were shown within the liver. It is not easy to show the pre-liver method methodically. The most interesting point here is how a semi-foreign baby can stay in the mother's womb in a system based on distinguishing between the essence and the non-essential, and more importantly, how the mother with a full immune system can hide and grow this semi-stranger for nine months without rejecting it. It is the most fascinating, mysterious subject of immunology and has many questions waiting to be answered. Newborns are born underdeveloped in terms of immunity. Protective factors pass from the mother to the baby during intrauterine life. A number of cellular and humoral mechanisms related to the immune system in the newborn exist in a few ways but are not sufficient. During this period, some immune components from the mother protect the baby.
It takes 3 years of age to fully produce protective antibodies called immunoglobulin. Interestingly, it has been scientifically demonstrated that in children up to 2 years of age who are breastfed, immunoglobulins from the mother protect the baby until the age of 3, that is, the baby can fully handle them. The full maturation of the immune system with its cells is around 6-7 years of age and never ends after that. He always wants to know and learn, to gain new experiences. But sometimes they make mistakes.
Why does the immune system remain weak?
Primary (primary) immune deficiencies arise as a result of a congenital genetic disorder that leads to the numerical or functional failure of the organs or cells involved in the immune system.
There are also secondary immune deficiencies that develop due to other diseases. Viral infections (CMV, EBV, HIV, Measles, Chickenpox), leukemias, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, alcohol addiction, kidney and liver failure, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, immunosuppressive medical treatments (monoclonal antibody therapy, irradiation The immune system is naturally insufficient in prematurity, infancy and old age.
What happens if the immune system makes a mistake?
For example, the immune system can sometimes be less tolerant of itself. This inability to bear oneself can damage one's own cells and autoimmune diseases occur. In simple terms, it can be said that autoimmune diseases occur as the tolerance of the immune system is destroyed. Sometimes it cannot adjust the dose of tolerance and behave as if it is itself against the cancer or tumor that grows within us as too tolerant. In other words, this mechanism, which is obliged to protect us, can unfortunately sometimes work at our own expense. Allergic conditions may occur or they may not accept the organ implanted in organ transplantation. These are all undesirable situations that cannot be said to be 'everyone can make mistakes'.
Are There Specific Reasons to Trigger These Situations?
Although a genetically intact immune system makes occasional mistakes, it does not repeat them. However, if there is a genetic predisposition, which includes many genes and their complex relationships, environmental factors may cause the disease to occur. If it is necessary to give an example of 'normal' errors; After a very noisy infectious disease, it activates all of its cells and components while attacking the enemy in multiple directions. This active aggressive state must be extinguished after a while to avoid damage to the essence. Autoimmune conditions may occur if he cannot get up to speed and continue to fight for a long time. There are many reasons for immune system errors, even for each disease. A system with such different mechanisms for defense and protection naturally has too many parts to break down. There is a lot of research on this subject.
What is the Immune System Affected by Children?
It is not appropriate to say that a nutritional or behavioral recommendation on the immune system of children will directly affect the immune system positively or negatively. The most important thing to pay attention to in children is the duration and quality of sleep. Because growth hormone is secreted during sleep. Some liquid body components such as that growth hormone enable the immune system to respond well. Stress (by the way, we should not take stress only as psychological stress. An infectious disease is the stress of the immune system), factors such as frequent infections and nutritional disorders at young ages affect the correct functioning of the immune system, but if there is no error in the genetic code, that situation can be compensated. But if a disorder is already present, when one or more adverse environmental conditions come together, it can affect the immune system. The most important point to note here is that it is not true that consuming a food will improve the immune system. This rule does not only apply to babies of nursing age. Breast milk is an indispensable point for the immune system to develop intact. If there is no genetically significant disorder or a condition called immunodeficiency, breast milk is sufficient for babies for a healthy immune system.
Listen to your doctor, not your neighbor
Since the immune system is a multi-variable system with many different pathways, it is not easy to measure its real power numerically. This can lead many people to make unfounded or less-based constructions on this subject. Unfortunately, these methods can also provide commercial gain and it is extremely important to prevent them. However, in order to be able to say the scientifically correct, a product should be tested on the selected and numerically matched human who uses and does not use the product in order to claim that it strengthens the immune system, the number of subjects should be sufficient and it should be proven that this effect really makes a significant difference in the two groups. Otherwise, this is not a scientific discourse, it can be defined as a situation that does not go beyond being a 'neighbor' proposition. It can also be seen as a commercial gain door. In addition, such products are not under the control of the Ministry of Health as they are not drugs and are permitted as food supplements.
The way the microbe enters the body in the immune system is very important. Where the microbe enters determines how the immune system will respond to it. In other words, a bacterium that affects the immune system enough to cause microbial shock if it enters through the skin, blood or respiratory system may not cause any problems when taken orally and even be tolerant to them. If it is said that some parts of such bacteria that will affect the immune system are powdered and put into capsules and it is said to strengthen the immune system, a very wrong direction is made. Because when that bacterial membrane extract is ingested, tolerance is gained.
For example, powders that support breast milk, which are recommended to women who have just given birth, are put on the market. There are also some products for babies. It is claimed to strengthen the immune system, but attention should be paid to the reality and scientific aspects of this.
Products claimed to strengthen the immune system can sometimes cause very bad results during the treatment of an ongoing disease. For example, a person with kidney disease may drink a herb that is good for his neighbor, and cause liver failure on the kidney and lead to the failure of kidney transplantation. Physicians, of course, follow the researches about the effects of plants on diseases. However, even if it is advertised as a miracle, it should never be used without consulting a doctor. On the contrary, the word miracle must be questioned even more carefully.
For example, it is a proven fact that green tea should not be consumed in certain types of cancer. These types of products are said to be very good for some, while others are said to have an effect on increasing the division of cells. The accuracy of this type of information should be followed scientifically. Apart from being inspected, it is important that these products do not cause harm at least, even if they do not benefit.
How to Strengthen the Immune System?
Every person needs air, water, sun, sleep, all kinds of balanced nutrients, and it is important to avoid stress.
The most important requirement for the immune system is oxygen. Hypoxia (reduction of oxygen in tissues) is harmful to all our systems. In other words, living in the city is a factor that disrupts the immune system. An important example of oxygen is related to arteriosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is also an immune system disease. It starts with a germ-free inflammation in the vessel wall. An oxygen-free environment causes bad fats to enter and store incorrectly into the cell. Being in oxygen-rich environments as much as possible decreases the frequency of encountering microbes and provides a robust immune system.
Another important factor is good sleep. Because while sleeping, serotonin is secreted and this hormone makes one of our special cells, which we call T lymphocytes, respond better. Just as the speed of a release is directly proportional to its stretching, serotonin has such an effect on the immune system, responding faster to an infection it encounters.
Sun rays and vitamin D are also essential for a healthy and strong immune system. In other words, adequate and healthy nutrition, oxygen and sunny environment and a good sleep… All these strengthen the immune system. Exercise is also good for immunity when done in an oxygen rich environment.
How Is The Relation Between Immune System And Psychology?
Some hormones secreted during the stress period or all the liquid substances that provide signal transmission in the brain also affect the immune system. In case of stress, the immune system is in alarm. It is fully and strongly responsive. Considering the behavior in the stress situation; You are much stronger when you face a situation that you cannot handle normally. Even the person himself can be surprised at your strength. But the moment the stressor is gone, there may be a temporary depression. The immune system also gets weaker after stress, and after a while it recovers. That period is the period of getting sick. If it encounters a microbe in that space, infectious diseases can occur. For example, many students who finish their exams may get sick or even pneumonia after this process. This situation can be seen in daily life.