What does your immune system do when it comes across a virus?
Your immune system is composed of various types of cells and molecules, like antibodies. The innate immune system is the body’s first line of defence against bacteria, viruses, infections and other forms of illnesses.
Every cell in your body is prepared and ready to make antiviral molecules when they come across an unknown intruder. Professor Pellegrini, a professor at Walter+Eliza Institute of Medical Research, talks about how cells in your body will be ready to make their own innate antiviral molecules that will do their best to inhibit, for example, viruses from multiplying and taking over your body. This immediate response produces substances called cytokines, and will cause fever and inflammation of the tissues as the cells start to die.
The next line of defence takes place when white blood cells try to identify the infection and release immune hormones in the body to help prepare other cells for the likely event that they might become infected.
Lastly, the third line of defence is the body’s adaptive system, which takes a number of days to set in. White blood cells, called T-cells, try to eliminate and kill off infected cells. Next, is the B-cells that construct and produce antibodies that will neutralise the infection or coat them with a substance for the T-cells to recognise.
What does this mean?
Right now, the issue with the new Covid-19 virus is that our immune systems do not know how to adapt to it, causing worldwide panic. If the immune system fails to stop the virus, it goes into panic mode and drives up the inflammation, mainly in the lungs. Hence, causing viral pneumonia. This is where our body needs to prepare and give our immune system some armour, to be able to fight against viral infections like this.
How do we boost our immune system?
One way to boost our immune system is by changing our diet and by eating healthily. Although there is no particular diet, it is best to avoid foods that are highly processed with sugar.
Most of the cells in our bodies belong to microbes, like bacteria and yeasts, as well as microbiomes. Microbiomes program and create protective shields around our immune systems. The elderly, along with people who have diseases that have symptoms of inflammation such as, allergies, asthma, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are inclined to have lesser microbiomes in their gut.
To amplify your gut health, Sheena Cruickshank, professor of immunology at the University of Manchester, suggests to have a diet with plenty of high-fibre foods. The more plant foods you have in your diet, the better for your body. Microbiomes love fibre, pulses and fermented foods.
Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut pickles, and kefir yogurt are one of the more popular commodities among the health community. Kefir is a fermented milk that contains healthy bacteria, yeasts, and enzymes. It also contains 3 times more probiotics than yogurt, making it a probiotic powerhouse. Probiotics are vital as they help to stop the growth of bacteria and give our immune system a good boost.
Of course, besides eating healthily, one must always be aware of one’s surroundings and practice good hygiene. No one can completely avoid getting sick, however, we must give our bodies the necessary tools for it to combat any bacteria and viruses headed our way.