God’s Natural Defense System

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The global Covid-19 pandemic has among many things, heightened the principle of health consciousness. The crisis has also sparked many conversations around how the human body works, how it fights disease or how it succumbs to it. In this post I endeavor to explore God’s natural defense system, the human immune system with a view to simplify it while putting a lense on how the masterpiece of human anatomy declares the wondrous glory of our Maker.

When David proclaimed,” I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, Psalms 139:14, He probably wasn’t talking about his lavish looks and outstanding physique, although we cannot totally exclude that. He was probably talking about something deeper.

It is evident from the multiple psalms that he wrote that he was an intelligent man who liked to apply his mind to great lengths on God’s Creative work. Could it be that when he penned this very scripture his mind was amused by the wonders of human anatomy and physiology? Could it be that he considered the wonder of a healing wound, the mystery of how a thought is created and how your tongue knows how to control the food to make sure it doesn’t go down your windpipe? The possibilities are endless really, but I know this is the very scripture that comes to mind when I look at the systems of the human body.

I want us to consider the most exquisite yet underrated systems of the human body – The Immune system. I will try to keep this as simple and informative as I possibly can. Do leave questions and comments and let’s expand our knowledge together. 

What is The Immune System?

(IMMUNOPEDIA.ORG)

You probably know about the respiratory system(your lungs) that enables you to get oxygen into your body and the cardiac system– your heart and all the arteries. The Immune system is different. It is not a single organ; it comprises of multiple organs and tissues. These includes your bone marrow, tonsils, spleen, thymus and lymph nodes.  The organs make and keep cells, proteins and chemicals that work together to keep your body from disease causing pathogens (also known as germs which include bacteria, viruses etc.). 

The first line of defense is made up of structures we can see; the skin, tears, the hair in your nose and ears. These are known as physical barriers and prevent pathogens from entering the body. When these barriers are compromised due to dysfunction or because the pathogen is too aggressive, the internal systems then take over.

The main role players of the internal system are cytokines and Immune cells.

Cytokines are chemicals produced by most immune cells; they are the main line of communication in the immune system. They are responsible for the recruitment, activation and growth of immune cells.

The bone marrow makes millions of immune cells and releases them into the blood. These cells then travel into lymph nodes, tonsils and other Immune organs through the blood and await to be summoned by an infection.

Phagocytes and lymphocytes

There are several types of immune cells, the two groups we will focus on are phagocytes and lymphocytes. 

Phagocytes are fast acting, non-specific cells. They detect a foreign object in the body and try to get rid of it as fast as possible before it can cause an illness. They do this by either engulfing the object, producing toxic substances to terminate it or chemicals that will make the pathogen immobile. They also take a sample of the foreign object and present it to the Lymphocytes.

Lymphocytes are more sophisticated, are specific and take a long time to act. They study the sample presented by the phagocytes and tailor make the attack mechanisms for the invading pathogen. They are responsible for keeping a memory of past infections—the reason why vaccines work and the reason why you can only get Chicken Pox once in your lifetime. There are two types of lymphocytes, T-cell and B-cells. T-cells are responsible for sending signals, in the form of cytokines, to other cells on what exactly to do. They also kill our own cells that have been infected. B-cells make substances called antibodies that flag the pathogens and help other cells of the immune system to know who the bad guy is.  

These cells work together, constantly sending signals back and forth, optimizing the action of clearing an infection. More like the CSI trying to catch a hard-core criminal.

How does all this work?

Imagine you are running for the taxi and then you trip and fall hard. You scratch your knee, It starts bleeding and reddening, it’s a really bad wound. The first signal your body sends is pain, telling you that there is something wrong and you need to do something about it.

So, pain isn’t a very bad thing after all.

Remember that your skin is the first line of defense, so in this case your front-line soldier is down, now the internal systems need to take over.

(Immunopedia.org)

Damaged skin sends signals to the phagocytes which come rushing to clear whatever infection might be starting to build up. That is why after some time you see a yellowish substance on the wound, those are dead immune cells that sacrificed their lives to save your knee.

 Let’s say a really bad pathogen manages to overcome your phagocytes and infects your cells.  The B and T-cells then come to the scene. These guys are aggressive and have every bit of information about the pathogen. They know exactly how to attack; remember they are very specific. They also keep bits and pieces of the pathogen, so the body remembers in case of a future infection.

All this happens in our own bodies and we can’t even see any of it.  

Now that we have an idea of what the immune system is and how it works, we can explore ways to strengthen it.

The nutritional needs of our immune system

There are Vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the optimum performance of your immune system and of course other systems of your body.

Vitamin A

This is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory (i.e. it makes sure your immune system does not get over activated which is very dangerous)

You can get it from foods like Carrots, Pumpkin, squash and Sweet potatoes. Try to eat the vegetables with the skin on because that is where all the goodness is. These foods contain compounds known as carotenoids that give them their color and this is the very compound that is turned into Vitamin A. So, cooking your food until it loses color isn’t a very good idea.

Vitamin C

The exact mechanism of how this vitamin boosts your immune system is unknown. What we know is that it keeps respiratory infections away and may keep you cold free through the winter months (Coincidence that citrus fruits grow in winter? I think not)

Now Vitamin C in not only found in citrus fruits, you can also get a good portion in leafy green vegetables like spinach and Broccoli. 

Vitamin D

Yes, basking in the sun boosts your immune system but what about the seasons when the sun doesn’t shine so bright.?  What if you leave your home at dawn and return at dusk? Worry not, you can get Vitamin D from fatty fish and fortified foods such as milk, cereals and orange juice.

Vitamin E

Again, this is a very potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Eating your leafy greens, GRAINS and nuts will ensure you get sufficient supply.

  (Pickuplimes.com)

Folate

I was under the impression that this mineral is only necessary for expecting mothers until I became vegetarian and learnt the enormous role it plays in the health of red blood cells and the nervous system. Folate is very important and accessible. With adequate consumption of beans, leafy green vegetables, peas and whole grain foods you’ll be good to go.

Zinc

This is a very important element. Research has shown that it prevents and aids in the treatment of Diarrhea. Foods like chickpeas and yogurt contain enough zinc to keep your immune cells in good shape.

I purposefully made a list of vitamins and minerals and not food items. What is important is that you get the essential nutrition and not only obsesses about certain foods. So, go ahead, research, find out which other fruits and vegetables have the above-mentioned vitamins and play around with your plate!

Good blood circulation is important for the function of your immune system as the Immune cells travel to the site of infection through the blood. Exercise and proper hydration must be your best friends to optimize the quality of your circulatory system. Turmeric and Cayenne pepper are also potent blood cleansers. Be careful, Turmeric consumed in high quantities can thin your blood and cause bleeding disorders.

Regular and healthy sleeping patterns also improve the functioning of your immune system. Your body gets time to replenish itself and we know that healing takes place while we’re resting.

The insights shared above are not only helpful in this Covid-19 dispensation where our health consciousness has become central, but are universal and timeliness. Take care of your body and your body well take care of you. Let me sign off with 3 John 1:2
“Beloved,I wish above all things that thou may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.”

References

  • Immunopedia.org
  • Health.havard.edu
  • Healthline.com
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