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How the Immune System Works

Updated on March 12, 2011

The human immune system is an essential component of keeping us healthy, protecting against disease and infection, and preventing infection of bodily organs. Daily factors such as stress, sunlight, processed foods, and air pollution take an added toll on immune system functioning. The results of a compromised immune system can include illness, infection, and even chronic disease such as cancer. In order to prevent these types of conditions, it is important to keep our immune system in peak shape.

There are a number of disorders that can affect the human immune system. Autoimmune conditions are disease in which the white blood cells of the immune system begin attacking normal cells of the body. There are several hundred different types of autoimmune diseases which plague people today. On the other hand, there are a number of conditions that can lead to a compromised or weakened immune system, opening the door to opportunistic infections and a host of other illnesses. These diseases include HIV or AIDS, as well as cancer, asthma, and many other types of conditions.

Aside from disease that can cause a weakened immune system, the human immune system can become weakened by improper nutrition, excessive amounts of stress, and a lack of routine physical exercise. This can lead to colds, the flu, and a number of other common recurring conditions in otherwise healthy people. In order to gain a better understanding of immune system disorders, it is necessary to first understand how human immune response works. There are two main components of the immune system. The first involves direct attacks of invaders such as bacteria and viruses that threaten our health. The second part involves recording and keeping track of these invaders for future protection.

White blood cells, also known as T lymphocytes, are the most vital element of the immune system. These white blood cells are what fight off bacterial and infectious agents that can make us sick. When white blood cell counts are elevated, it could indicate that there is an infection or other type of condition. Elevated white blood cell counts occur when T lymphocytes are busy fighting off invaders. Also, these counts can be routinely elevated in people with certain types of autoimmune conditions.

On the other hand, low white blood cell counts can indicate an impaired immune system. When white blood cell counts are within normal range, the body is armed and prepared to fight off any potential germ or illness. 

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