Our first line of defense. Innate Immunity keeps us alive until we develop specific antibodies and we become immune to foreign invaders - a process which takes weeks to develop
Immunity can be thought of as a two-stage process. Innate immunity, the first stage, is the immunity that we inherit and that were born with. Not everyone has the same degree of natural immunity. Some people have stronger natural immunity, likely by virtue of their parentage and nutritional factors during pregnancy. But it can also be built up. That's what the goal of this site is all about.
Immune protection begins by us first recognizing potentially harmful invading organisms (pathogens). The identity of pathogens is revealed by signature elements on their outer cell surface. These elements may be proteins or carbohydrates.
Our health depends on our ability to distinguish friendly signature surface elements, (those that belong to our own body and the signatures of food), from foreign signatures (from viruses, bacteria and yeasts).This recognition is a critically important step. If our immune system gets confused and starts to identify our cells as foreign, it will then attack us. This situation is what happens in autoimmune illness (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, most thyroid disease etc). Once this type of illness is established, it is hard to clear up. It is so much easier to avoid these types of problems than to heal them. However, in my practice I have seen many examples of people who, by applying the information here, have become symptom free after having had a confirmed diagnosis of an autoimmune illness.
Once the foreign substance from a harmful pathogen has been recognized, the cells of the innate immune system go to work to begin the process of eliminating it.
Organisms like bacteria and viruses, usually must either get through a breach in the skin or most commonly, breathed in or swallowed. They first land on the lining of the respiratory tract (throat, trachea or lung), or the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach or intestine). In order for them to infect us, they need to attach themselves to the cells in those tracts. Once attached, they make their way into, or between the cells. If they encounter weak resistance, they multiply and we become ill.
When the invading organism has entered our tissues, pac man-like white blood cells called monocyte / macrophages spring into action. These multi-function cells then busily recruit a number of other cells including more local macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells etc. and go to work to defeat the invader.
If our innate immunity is strong enough, we easily overcome the pathogens and do not get ill. If our innate immunity is not strong enough, or the pathogen we encounter is virulent, we will get ill. During this illness our immune system fights with the pathogen. In our body's defense, we develop a fever. The increased temperature is part of the body's method of more effectively dealing with the invader.
Later, during our recovery, lymphocytes become active and create antibodies which will help us deal with that particular pathogen, should we encounter it in the future. These activated lymphocytes and the antibodies they create become part of our acquired immunity.
In order for us to improve our immunity, it is not necessary to understand completely the complex details. To learn how to improve immunity, please skip to strengthen your Immunity. and to Viral Immunity.
It may however be of interest to learn more about the following types of cells which make up the immune system. Please click on each one in order to find out more about them. These cells include natural killer cells, lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes/macrophages, basophils, eosinophils, tissue mast cells, epithelial cells, and immature cell precursors.