When it comes to understanding more about your body and the many complex processes that take place in it, the immune system is often something that people feel overwhelmed by. This is all with good reason, as aside from protecting you against illnesses, many people don’t realise just how much the immune system actually does! To help clear things up, we’re here to take you through nine facts about your incredible immune system.
What Is The Immune System?
The immune system is an incredibly complex network of organs, proteins and cells. It works tirelessly, day and night, to protect your body from bad intruders like bacteria and viruses. Without an immune system, these intruders would make their way into your body and cause havoc, leading to potentially severe illnesses.
Facts About The Immune System
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some remarkable facts about the immune system. You might be surprised to learn just how much it can really do!
- Germs Keep It Healthy
Germs are often spoken about in a very negative light, which is not surprising considering they are what can cause a whole range of different illnesses. There are, however, such things as “good” germs.
Interacting with germs is actually really important for the health of your immune system. Whenever they come into contact with your immune system, it “learns” what to protect you from. This means that, the next time the germ makes an appearance, your immune system can fight it off straight away. Essentially, the more germs your immune system comes into contact with, the stronger it will get.
- Some Sunlight Is Good For It
Did you know that there’s a relationship between your immune system and the sun? This all comes down to vitamin D.
When exposed to strong enough sunlight, a reaction takes place in your skin, resulting in it generating vitamin D. This is really important for your immune system, as vitamin D supports its normal function (EFSA, 2015). While this is really interesting to know, it also stresses the importance of obtaining enough sunlight. This is easier said than done, however, particularly in the UK. For this reason, it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements all year round to safeguard your intake.
- Fevers Are Sometimes Positive
When you get a fever, the initial reaction is to go into a panic. After all, no one enjoys getting a fever, and they usually cause a huge disruption to everyday life. For your immune system, however, getting a fever isn’t all bad news.
There’s no denying that fevers are horrible to experience, but to shine a positive light on the situation, it means your immune system is doing its job. When you have a fever, it releases white blood cells, which can actually increase your metabolism. This stops bad organisms from multiplying and making things worse. As a result, your body is able to limit the effects of the irritant and potentially prevent it from coming back.
- It Might Suffer From Poor Sleep
We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. We’re about to give you another reason as to why. Recent research has suggested that sleep deprivation might decrease the strength of your immune system. Your body needs sleep to repair and recoup!
- Vaccines Are Important For It
Have you ever wondered how vaccines work? If so, you’re in the right place. Vaccines work by “triggering” your immune system with a foreign invader. This is done in a controlled manner, but the dose of the invader is enough to teach your immune system that it is bad. This means that, if exposed to the invader in the future, your immune system will know to fight it off. Clever!
- Autoimmune Diseases Mainly Affect Women
Autoimmune diseases occur when your defense system becomes hyperactive. This results in it attacking your normal tissues due to thinking it’s a foreign invader. Autoimmune diseases include the likes of arthritis, psoriasis and celiac disease.
Studies have shown that women are far more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases. While there’s no set in stone evidence as to why this is the case, it has been found that 78% of people with autoimmune diseases in the U.S. are women.
- Stress Might Damage It
Your immune system might be tough but this doesn’t mean it’s invincible. Studies have shown that stress might impact your immune system in more ways than one.
When you are really stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. In normal amounts, cortisol is beneficial for your body as it decreases inflammation. Too much cortisol, however, might send your body into overdrive and affect the performance of your immune system.
- Too Much Cleanliness Might Be A Problem
Did you know that cleanliness isn’t always a good thing? When it comes to protecting your immune system, too much sanitisation might cause more harm than good.
When you spend too much time in super clean environments, you aren’t giving your body the chance to expose itself to invaders. Without this exposure, your immune system won’t be able to learn what it needs to fight off. This can cause problems further down the line, as it won’t be strong enough to fight off things that shouldn’t enter your body.
- It Has A Great Memory
If you haven’t guessed already, your immune system is incredibly clever. When exposed to “good” and “bad” substances, it remembers how to react accordingly. It’s almost like it uses a “stored record” to protect itself. All it takes is one interaction with a substance to know if it will be allowed entrance or not. This further loops back to our previous point – it’s important to expose yourself to these substances so that your immune system knows how to react!
How many of these facts did you already know? It’s safe to say that the immune system is a very clever part of your body that can’t be lived without!