Why do we need an immune system?
Our bodies are constantly under attack from potentially harmful invaders. Whether it be bacteria, viruses, fungi, or even our own cells gone rogue, we need a robust system to deal with these threats. And it turns out we actually have two, which combined, are commonly referred to as the immune system.
A formidable fortress
But why do we need two? Well, think of our body as a mighty armed fortress surrounded by a wide moat. Under attack, this moat, so to speak, becomes the first line of defense which only a few can cross. This is called “Innate Immunity”.
However, our invading forces can be highly creative, and some are able to cross the moat. To deal with them, we have developed a more fine-tuned system, just like our fortress's armament. This armament consists of a variety of defensive weapons that can do more than just shoot indiscriminately. This part of the immune system, called “Adaptive Immunity”, learns how to recognize invaders many years afterwards and can therefore mount a faster and more effective response if faced with the same enemy again. But it has yet another trick up its sleeve.
Should the threat to the fortress come from within, the weapons of the adaptive immune system can turn inwards and quickly neutralize that risk, too. Internal threats are common and, if left unchecked, can develop into a range of diseases, but most commonly, cancer.
Most importantly, innate and adaptive immunity work closely together. Let’s have a look at both systems in a little more detail.
Innate or non-specific immunity is our first line of defense and consists of:
- Skin and mucous membranes
- Scavenger cells, Natural Killer cells, and Enzymes
These work together to protect us from:
- Foreign bodies
- Infection due to injury
Our skin and mucous membranes form a closed surface, or physical barrier, which stops germs from entering our body. In addition to that, there are chemical substances and enzymes that prevent bacteria and viruses from gaining a foothold. Sweat and tears are perfect examples of these substances. Our lungs and bowel have developed very delicate hair-like structures that serve to deter invaders as well.
Should these defenses fail, the innate immune system can activate scavenger cells that quickly move to the site of an infection. These special type of white blood cells literally engulf germs and digest them. Enzymes facilitate this process by “marking” foreign cells for destruction and alerting other immune system cells.
The third and final key component of the innate immune system is Natural Killer cells and they identify cells infected by a virus. These killer cells also help the adaptive immune system identify and destroy cancerous cells by detecting abnormalities on a cell’s surface.
If the innate immune system fails to deter an invader, the adaptive immune system springs into action. Whereas the innate immune system does not target anything specific, the adaptive immune system can directly identify germs and provide a more targeted response. In addition, it can also remember invaders and respond much faster next time it encounters them. This explains why we only get sick with certain illnesses once and how vaccines “teach” the adaptive immune system how to recognize bacteria or viruses without previously having encountered them.
Adaptive immunity has three lines of defense:
B-cells and T-cells are also called lymphocytes because they are part of our bodies' complex lymphatic system. B-cells are produced in our bone marrow, whereas T-cells are made in the thymus, a small gland situated between your lungs.
Interestingly, the thymus is at its most active early in life and slowly shrinks after puberty becoming virtually non-existent after age 75. This explains why we get more susceptible to infections, cancer and autoimmune diseases as we get older.
T-cells come in two forms called “helper” and “killer” T-cells. Helper T-cells use a form of chemical messaging that activates both B-cells and Killer T-cells. These Killer T-cells directly attack already infected cells, whereas B-cells activate antibodies.
Antibodies are proteins produced for a specific invading bacteria or virus which they lock onto, marking it for destruction by other immune cells. They are made in large quantities quickly and circulate in our bloodstream seeking out the specific intruder they were produced for.
The brilliant part of this system lies in its ability to form a memory of invading bacteria and viruses. During an attack, some Helper T-cells, as well as B-cells, transform into “Memory Cells”. When the same invader is encountered again, even many years afterwards, these memory cells remember the specific configuration of the attacking cells and are able to produce a much faster and targeted response.
Like a complex dance, the adaptive immune system uses its formidable defenses to not only seek out and destroy specific invaders, but also recognize and neutralize our body’s own cells that have begun to transform into cancer cells.
But the actions of our immune system also has consequences.
Glutathione – the great detoxifier
As incredibly complex and powerful our immune system responses are, they perform their bacterial, viral and cancer cell killing functions by generating large amounts of free radicals. And they are highly toxic. Glutathione, in its role as the master antioxidant, serves as an effective control of free radicals. It is therefore crucial in keeping our immune system functioning optimally.
However, the pace of free radical generation can often outstrip the cellular production of glutathione leading to a cascade of oxidative stress, inflammation, and tissue damage. Especially in the aged and those enduring chronic disease, glutathione production can suffer.
But even in healthy and younger individuals, there are situations where the optimal concentration of cellular glutathione is compromised. These can include stress, exercise, toxins from the environment as well as smoking and alcohol.
Keeping cellular glutathione optimal
Maintaining our cellular glutathione at optimal levels is vital for our general health and immune system function. But doing so can be a challenge as glutathione enhancing supplements do little to support glutathione production in our cells where it is needed. But there is one ingredient that has been clinically proven to do so safely and fast.
The Glyteine® in Continual-G® enters our cells and is immediately converted to glutathione. This ensures optimal cellular glutathione levels in all individuals. Glyteine® is unique in this ability of all the supplements on the market claiming to do so and is therefore essential for a trouble-free immune system.