Ever wondered how the immune system works, but the moment you started your wiki reading, realized you needed to research half the terms just to form a basic understanding of how to navigate what you actually wanted to know in the first place?
Yeah, me neither…
That’s the problem that comes with reading scholarly articles, though. They’re written by scholars, who tend to think the rest of us have the same amount of education and crippling college debt. Lucky for you, I’m not a scholar. (no comment on the student loans thing, though)
For reasons that would surprise literally no one, I recently gained a vested interest in how to improve my immune system. I took a deep dive down the rabbit hole. Three days and Twelve Bucked Up Energy Drinks later, I came out the other end with the knowledge I’ll share with you in this article.
Expectations of Immunity
Here’s what you can expect to learn from this article:
- How the immune system works
- How oxidative stress and free radicals work
- The role of antioxidants in healthy immune function
- Antioxidant and free radical balance
- Ways to ensure your immune system is optimized
Here’s what you should not expect from this article: technical jargon that does more damage to your intellectual ego than it does expand your knowledge. I don’t have a degree in human biology, linguistics, or whatever. I have a Ph.D in obsessive googling — and almost an associates in English, but fine arts degrees don’t matter anyway so…
In other words, no translation necessary. We speak the same language. You know, smart people who don’t feel they need to prove their intelligence or live in a world where every paragraph is about to go into the thesis they screwed up years prior.
What Is The Immune System?
One of the reasons the immune system may be difficult to fully understand is that few systems in nature are as complicated as the human immune system. It exists apart from every other system in the body, and yet still in concert with them. When it works, people stay healthy. When it malfunctions, well…
The immune system is what protects us from diseases caused by invaders (called pathogens) such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It is made up of specialized organs, cells, and tissues to seek, track, and destroy these invaders.
Like with any “system,” the immune system is actually a collection of various subsections. The two most important for fighting pathogens are the Innate Immune System and the Adaptive Immune System.
Innate Immune System:
The body’s first line of defense against pathogens. It’s activated immediately upon infection and consists of a multi-pronged attack, consisting of physical barriers, immune cells (white blood cells), etc.
Think of your body as a city set within an epic fantasy, we’ll say Helm’s Deep in Tolkien’s Two Towers. You have your massive wall, your soldiers, as well as a dwarf and an elf still counting kills. All present to try and defend your body from ugly Uruk-hai.
Adaptive Immune System:
This is the body’s second line of defense. It’s more intelligent in how it attacks but takes time to build. One of the things that makes the adaptive immune system so valuable is that it learns from its opponents (pathogens). It’s the equivalent of a super AI playing the same opponent in chess.
The adaptive immune system is called upon when the innate one becomes overwhelmed by pathogenic onslaught. To continue with Tolkien, remember that moment in the end where Gandalf conveniently shows up with Eomer’s horsemen to save the day? It’s like that.
White Blood Cells: The Immune System’s Ammo
In 1978, the first fixed shooter arcade game ever was created. It was called Space Invaders — if you haven’t heard of it, I’m sorry for your childhood. Space Invaders (almost) effectively summed up how our immune system tries to deal with pathogens.
That is, so long as you were granted the option to use a variety of ammunition as opposed to one single pixelated laser thing. The Immune System, however, does have a variety of “cells” to perform specific functions in the war against invaders.
Enter White Blood Cells: The immune system has cells that perform specific functions. They’re often referred to as immunity cells.
- B cells: also called B lymphocytes, these cells produce antibodies that bind to antigens and neutralize them. Think, Star Trek: “Set phasers to stun.” Each B cell makes one specific type of antibody. For example, there is a specific B cell that helps to fight off the flu.
- T cells: also called T lymphocytes, these cells help to get rid of good cells that have already been infected. Imagine a zombie apocalypse. I know you love your roommate and all, but if they’re infected, you gotta go T cell on their skull.
- Killer T cells: Killer T cells destroy cells that have been infected by the invader. They’re basically the “double-tap” cell.
- Helper T cells: The Director of Pathogenic Invasion Operations, helper T cells command B cells to start making antibodies and/or instruct killer T cells to attack.
- Memory cells: Memory cells remember antigens that have already attacked the body. They help the body to fight off any new attacks by a specific antigen. Kinda like when you meet someone that reminds you of your toxic ex and that red flag goes up. (The difference being that memory cells actually do something useful with the previous knowledge.)
Antigen is a toxin or other foreign substance which induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies. Antibody is blood protein produced in response to and counteracting a specific antigen. Antibodies work sort of like a tracking device, binding to antigenic invaders.
Antioxidants, Oxidation, & Free Radicals
Here are some terms that get thrown around a lot, but rarely get defined. Maybe you already know them, that’s cool — skip ahead.
Or maybe you’ve heard other people say them so many times you feel you should know, so now you just nod your head anytime they’re used so people (who also don’t know the definitions) won’t think you’re ignorant. Yup. Been there. Guilty. But really, interrobang? How was I supposed to know that one?! (hint; that question mark followed by an exclamation point I just used is an interrobang.)
Anytime I hear (or read) this term, my head automatically jumps to some sort of cyberpunk science fiction novel where a faction of DIY punk heroes who call themselves the Free Radicals are waging war on the Establishment. Sadly, the only sort of establishment biology-related free radicals attack is one that we kind of need in place.
Often called an “oxidant, ” a free radical is an oxygen molecule that has lost an electron. This throws it into an unstable state. Since it is now in an unstable state it tries to steal an electron from another molecule. By doing so the radical may cause damage or even destroy the surrounding cells.
That being said, free radicals are normal and necessary. But only to some degree. They do cause some damage, but they also stimulate repair. It’s only when the amount of free radicals produced overwhelms the repair processes that we run into issues. That is what we call oxidative stress.
We’ve all seen a rusted over car, rusted metal, or even a spoiled apple. No? Here.
Okay. Now we’ve all seen a rusted car. This commonly occurs due to oxidation. And, while it might not seem like it’s as noticeable on humans as it is on a car, it absolutely is. Turns out, when we were told “It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside” we weren’t being lied to.
Don’t mistake me, I’m not disavowing my own vanity. What I’m saying is that what’s on the inside largely dictates what’s on the outside. Not in some weird Dorian Gray (tarnished soul) sort of way. Biologically.
Although inconvenient — aging kinda sucks — oxidation isn’t bad. It’s simply a process. It happens as our bodies process the oxygen we breathe and our cells produce energy from it. Some circumstances where oxidation occurs are:
- When our cells uses glucose for energy
- When the immune system fights off bacteria — creating inflammation
- When our bodies detoxify pollutants, and what not
This process also produces the aforementioned free radicals (oxidants). Like adding in a “Karen” to the group, they poorly interact with our cells, resulting in stress to DNA, mitochondria, and of course, nearby cells (who were just gathered together to catch up with old friends, thanks for ruining the party, Karen).
Like all stress, some can be good (for example, acute stress vs chronic stress), but too much is suboptimal, to say the least. Oxidation increases when we’re physically and/or emotionally stressed. This is where antioxidants come into play.
The Role of Antioxidants
One significant role: Antioxidants, or anti-oxidation agents, reduce the effect of free radicals (oxidants) by binding together with them, decreasing their destructive power. Let’s revisit our good friend Karen for a second. She just got a (non-gender specific) romantic partner who’s balanced her out and made her surprisingly tolerable. That romantic partner prefers to go by Antioxidant. This is how antioxidants interact with free radicals. As long as you have enough antioxidants, a careful balance is maintained and the damage is prevented.
Oxidative stress when the amount of free radicals exceeds the amount of antioxidants — when there are way too many single karens at the dinner party. That’s when oxidation does its damage.
If you are a ‘karen’ and you’re reading this, please don’t be offended. I don’t want you to call my supervisor and complain to them for hours about my usage of a trending social term. They have better things to do than listen to that, Karen.
To put it in fantasy football terminology, having an immune system stocked with antioxidants would be the equivalent of somehow drafting the perfect (2019) team:
- QB1: Patrick Mahomes
- Backup being:
- RB1: Christian McCaffrey
- RB2: Aaron Jones
- WR1: Michael Thomas
- WR2: Chris Godwin
I won’t go on. You get the idea. For those of you who don’t because you don’t play fantasy, count your blessings and stay away. Trust me, fantasy football will unleash more free radicals into your system than your white blood cells could possibly handle. That is, unless you’re optimizing with the right supplementation.
The Perfect Immune Support
Bucked Up Immune Support is like getting
- Fortify Helm’s Deep: innate immune system, killer T cells, and B cells
- Call in Gandalf and help your immune system’s AI: Adaptive immune system, and the smart cells
- Level up your Space Invaders game: stimulate your immune cells
- Get the karens some partners: antioxidants for the free radicals
Bucked Up Immune Support delivers anti-inflammatory properties, stimulates a healthy respiratory system, and promotes overall health and wellness with these key ingredients:
- Turmeric Extract (curcuma longa) (rhizome) (95% curcuminoids): anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties. Also provides a boost to white blood cells.
- Oregano Powder: Rich in thymol and rosmarinic acid — powerful antioxidants shown to reduce oxidative damage.
- Astragalus Root Powder: With over 100 scientific studies to its name, Astragalus has proven itself to be a key player in healthy immune function.
- Lemon Juice Extract: Lemons are high in vitamin C (187% of the daily value per serving).
- Eucalyptus Oil Powder: Aside from ice cream, Eucalyptus is the most well-known remedy for sore throats out there and for good reason. It stimulates the immune system and improves cardiorespiratory blood circulation — a vital part of immune function.
- Cat’s Claw Extract 4:1: No, not the claws of a cat, but Cat’s Claw. It’s a woody vine native to the Amazon forest. Given its antiviral, anti-mutagenic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, it’s hailed as a stalwart warrior in the fight for immune health. Bonus: studies have also shown it can stimulate DNA repair.
Bolster The Defenses
Time to bolster the defenses. Go to buckedup.com and get yourself some now. While you’re at it, you can support small businesses. We’re currently doing an offer where when you spend $100, we’ll send you a $20 gift card to DoorDash, UberEats, or Grubhub.
Because community, like your immune system, matters.