David Vetter was born in 1971 with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), essentially without an immune system. He became known as “the boy in the bubble”. He survived for 12 years unfortunately passing in 1984. Stories like David’s help us understand how important the immune system is and that it’s always running in the background like an app on your phone.
The immune system keeps us alive. Without it, a scrape of our skin, a breath of fresh air or even an unwashed apple could kill us. So thanks to a well functioning immune system, we can enjoy these things without fear.
So let’s consider the immune system facing a virus, which is a microscopic strand of genetic material.
From the statistics: “A total of 1081 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Canada as of March 21, 2020. Based on case reports received to date, 9% of cases have been hospitalized; 6% of cases have been admitted to hospital but did not require ICU admission and 3% of cases have been admitted to the ICU. Note that the Public Health Agency of Canada does not receive updates on case hospitalization status. Thirteen people have died of COVID-19 to date in Canada.” (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html)
The immune system is complex and it includes physical barriers like the skin and mucous membranes. The immune system responds in two ways. One of them is Innate Immunity (a general response) and the other is Acquired Immunity (a specific response).
Acquired Immunity takes longer to respond to invaders. Acquired Immunity needs to meet the invader in the body in order to respond to it and create antibodies. The antibodies circulate through the system marking the invader so that the other parts of the immune system can come and clean house.
Acquired Immune system is so smart that once it has created antibodies for the particular invader, you become immune to that invader for life.
Unfortunately certain invaders can mutate and then the immune system has to go through the process of finding the invader, marking the invader with antibodies and cleaning house all over again.
The following infographic is taken from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
There you’ll find a summary of the human immune system, a list of nutrients that help to optimize it, and a list of specific foods that support it.
Because our immune system is impacted by many factors, next week we will continue exploring the relationship between the immune system and our emotions and the nervous system.