How Immune System Works

Aug 27, 2021Christian Iriotakis

Meet Daniel Clark, our in-house expert on propolis and the human immune system. Danny’s currently attending the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine where he’s studying to be a Naturopathic Doctor. And today, Daniel’s helping us with a little Immune System 101. 

Q&A With Daniel Clark

What is the immune system?

You can think of your immune system as a collection of cells, tissues, and organs throughout your body that help fight foreign invaders and infections. They're constantly monitoring your body to ensure everything that's in your body belongs there. You can think of it as a policing system throughout your body that's constantly monitoring to make sure that everything there is supposed to be there. 

Where is the immune system? 

It's all over the body, but there are a few places that are specific to the immune system and how the immune system functions. There's your bone marrow, your thymus gland, your spleen, and then your gut tissue—which are the big ones if you were to point to specific areas. But ultimately, you have little surveillance cells that are constantly circulating throughout your body and taking tissue samples. We have little antennas of sorts that stick out of our cells and say to our immune system, “Hey, I'm myself, don't attack me.” And then there are other things, like bacteria, that have signals that are unique to them. Your immune cells will take a sample of them to your thymus gland, your spleen or other circulating immune cells and say, "Hey, this is something that we don't like." Then they will mount an immune response accordingly.

How do we feel when our immune system is launching a response? 

Your immune system has two parts. You have what's called your innate immune system and you have what's called your adaptive immune system. So your innate immune system is a collection of cells that mount an attack when your body identifies a foreign invader, and that's when you’ll get a fever, the chills, the aches. Your innate immune system is kind of like the first responders at the scene.

While your innate immune system is mounting that general immune response to whatever's going on, there are some specialized cells—kind of like detectives—that are going in and grabbing those invading cells and presenting them to other specialized cells that hang around in your lymph nodes, thymus, spleen and other organs. This is your adaptive immune response, and it’s job is to build antibodies to guard your body against the foreign invader. 

Antibodies essentially create a memory of that foreign invader, so if it does come back, your body will be able to attack faster and more efficiently. So you won't get as strong of a fever or muscle aches. You won’t necessarily feel as bad as you would without the antibodies.

What are the best ways to protect your immune system on a daily basis?

It's going to sound super simple, but sleep is definitely the most important thing for maintaining a strong immune system. We've seen in research that there's a direct link between sleep deprivation and the function and quality of our immune system. Sleep is your body's way to reset your immune system. When we sleep, we produce a lot of immune cells. We start recycling toxic material that has built up throughout the day. That's why you get so tired when you're sick. It's your body trying to tell you to sleep and let the immune system have everything it needs to fight off the foreign invader.

The other thing that’s vital for immune health is stress management. We know that chronic levels of stress and cortisol can depress the immune system and make it less effective. When you're stressed, you're more likely to get sick. 

About Daniel Clark

Daniel has always had a passion for medicine and scientific research. He graduated from Laurentian University with a Bachelors in Science with a specialization in Kinesiology. During his undergraduate degree he was involved in numerous research projects and eventually published his own research in the journal, Frontiers in Nutrition. Currently, Daniel is a 3rd year medical student at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine where he is actively involved in researching the effects of propolis against antibiotic resistant bacteria. In his free time he enjoys hiking in the beautiful state of Arizona and is currently training for his first triathlon. 

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