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Your Immune System and the Pursuit of Your Health

The amazing thing about the immune system is that everyone has one, everyone knows it's a good thing to have a healthy one and yet few people can tell you the specifics of why it's good, what it looks like when it's good and how you can help it become that way. Our immune system plays a gigantic role in our health and yet we seem to know so little about it. If it's a healthy system, we are healthy; if it goes awry, diseases such as infections, autoimmune conditions or cancer can pop up unexpectedly. Instead of wondering about it, let's see if we can understand how this complex system works.

Your immune system can be divided into a number of ways. One way is to make the distinction between the cellular part of your immune system (also called cell-mediated immunity) and the non-cellular part (also called humoral immunity). We rely on both aspects of our immune system to find invaders, whether they are viruses, bacteria or other foreign material, and to destroy the offending agents. This works fairly well most of the time but if it were perfect, we wouldn't ever get sick-not even a cold or the flu. Even in its imperfect form, the body's immune system is a fascinating process that is worth looking into.

Immune System Response

Your immune system exists everywhere in your body, however, the bulk of it originates in your bone marrow. Your bone marrow contains millions of cells that are too early in their growth process to be called any particular kind of cell. They are called precursor cells or sometimes stem cells. When the body sends a signal to the bone marrow in times of need, those precursor cells "grow up" into the kind of cell the body needs in that particular situation. The bone marrow eventually puts out several different types of phagocytes (or "eating cells") such as neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, basophils and macrophages (also known as "big eater" cells). The bone marrow also makes erythrocytes (our regular red blood cells) and lymphocytes which are cells extremely important to the immune system, as we will see later.

How does the immune system even know what to do? Quite simply, the entire immune system is based on recognition or non-recognition. If the right component of the immune system finds something it doesn't recognize, whether it's a virus, bacterium or other foreign substance, it sounds the alarm so that many antibodies are made that bind onto the foreign agent and "tag" it for later destruction by phagocytes. Antibodies also poke holes in offending cells that cause it to become leaky and die. To continue to part 2 click here.