Meet your Immune System
For the immune system, life is hard. It
is a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 52-
weeks-a-year battle against a well-
equipped and persistent army trying to
harm your health. The immune system never
rests and must always be on red alert. It
takes no furloughs.
The soldiers who make up the immune
system come from and are found in a
diverse collection of organs. Although
the components, when taken together,
weigh only about two pounds (900 g),
these two pounds are integral in keeping
the scale of good health balanced.
The largest and most easily seen
component of the immune system is the
skin. The skin is a physical barrier
against pathogens-harmful bacteria,
viruses, and fungi-and also a chemical
barrier: the skin's natural acidity is a
poor environment for invaders.
The mucous membranes are the sentries at
the gates of our body: the openings of
the eyes, sinuses, mouth, and so on. They
secrete mucus, which both cleans away and
traps pathogens. If bacteria should
progress through the mouth or nose and
into the stomach, it is still difficult
for them to get into the blood. They must
survive the stomach, which to them is a
poisonous torture chamber of acids and
Within the gates
When a pathogen breaches a gate and
enters the body, other components of the
immune system-white blood cells-go to
work. One type of white blood cell, a
phagocyte, is like the skin in that it
counters all invaders. Other types of
white blood cells, in the class known as
lymphocytes, are programmed to go after
only certain pathogens. The various types
of white blood cells all work in
different ways, but they all need each
other to complete the job of protecting
Phagocytes ("cell eaters") are large
white blood cells that engulf and digest
pathogens. An important type of phagocyte
is monocytes, which circulate throughout
the body looking for trouble-looking for
pathogens. When monocytes get into
tissue, they develop into macrophages
("big eaters"). Macrophages are
positioned throughout body tissue and are
often specialized: you might say some
have an appetite for pathogens found in
the lungs, while others prefer the taste
of those found in the kidneys.
Macrophages also are the "sweepers" of
the body, as they dispose of worn out
Other phagocytes are granulocytes. Of
these, mast cells are found in the
tissue, and neutrophils, eosinophils, and
basophils are found in the blood.
Bone marrow: The soft tissue in the
center of bones produces all blood cells,
including white blood cells.
Thymus:The thymus fosters development of
Lymphatic vessels: The lymphatic vessels
are arteries that carry white blood cells
throughout the body.
Lymphatic nodes and the spleen: The nodes
and spleen are both "stopping points" for
white blood cells.
Lymphocytes are small white blood cells
that travel through the lymph system.
They are not able to attack just any
pathogen, as phagocytes are. They are
programmed to go after specific
pathogens. They also bear the major
responsibility for the actions of the
The two major classes of lymphocytes are
B cells, which reach maturity in the
bone, and T cells, which reach maturity
in the thymus. Both of these recognize
B cells work by producing, transporting,
and secreting antibodies. Upon meeting a
pathogen, B cells begin dividing and
releasing antibodies, which seek out and
destroy the pathogen. Immune system
components known as "complements" also
aid the antibodies in destroying
Each B cell makes one specific antibody
for one specific pathogen. If a B cell
meets another pathogen, nothing can be
done. One type of T cell, a helper T
cell, must be involved for a B cell to
T cells can help B cells or other T
cells, or directly attack pathogens. When
they directly attack the pathogen, they
are known as cytotoxic T cells. Another
important T cell is the natural killer
(NK). These T cells are similar to
phagocytes in that they do not need to
recognize a pathogen to swing into
action. They are important in targeting
There are also suppressor T cells, which
act as the referee in the battle. When
the immune system has won a battle, the
suppressor T cells call off the troops.
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- Barleygreen provides a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals, including those important to the immune system.
- Just Carrots provides up to 360% of the Food & Drug Administration's Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin A as beta carotene.
- RediBeets provides small quantities of folic acid, another important maintenance vitamin.
- Bear Paw Garlic provides you the immune-enhancing properties of garlic.
- EarthWise (formally Silver Plus) brings you colloidal silver, another substance that gets attention as an immune booster.
- Proancynol and SuperZymes/WheatZymes are powerful antioxidants.
The article "Meet Your Immune System" is reproduced with the permission of AIM International
© 1998, 1999 by AIM International.
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