In this crisis of world pandemic all we are hearing is “boost your immunity to stay safe”, “eat healthy diets it will help boost your immunity” or “if you have weak immunity you might get affected by COVID-19”. But what exactly is immunity? And how can it prevent us with such viral diseases/ disorders?
Firstly, one must know what happens if our body is encountered with any disease/ disorder. When our body is attacked by any disease our body’s first reaction is to try and tackle it on its own without inclusion of any outer input or medications. This is where your immunity comes in. Your immune system or immunity helps your body fight against any illness and disease.
In biology, immunity is the capability of multicellular organisms to resist harmful microorganisms. Immunity involves both specific and nonspecific components. The nonspecific components act as barriers or eliminators of a wide range of pathogens irrespective of their antigenic make-up. Other components of the immune system adapt themselves to each new disease encountered and can generate pathogen-specific immunity.
Without an immune system, we would have no way to fight harmful things that enter our body from the outside or harmful changes that occur inside our body. The main tasks of the body’s immune system are:
- To fight disease-causing germs (pathogens) like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, and to remove them from the body,
- To recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment,
- To fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells.
What are the types of immunity?
The immune system’s job is to help identify and eliminate dangerous germs that enter the body before they can cause disease or damage. There are two types of immunity: Innate Immune System and Adaptive Immune System.
Innate Immune System
We are all born with some level of immunity to invaders. Human immune systems, similarly to those of many animals, will attack foreign invaders from day one. This innate immunity includes the external barriers of our body — the first line of defense against pathogens — such as the skin and mucous membranes of the throat and gut. If the pathogen manages to dodge the innate immune system, adaptive or acquired immunity kicks in.
The innate immune system is the first line of defense against invading pathogens. They are also required to initiate specific adaptive immune responses. Innate immune systems rely on the body’s ability to recognize conserved features of pathogens that are not present in the uninfected host. The innate immune system is an older evolutionary defense strategy, and is the dominant immune system response found in plants, fungi, insects, and primitive multicellular organisms.
The major functions of the vertebrate innate immune system include:
- Recruiting immune cells to sites of infection through the production of chemical factors, including specialized chemical mediators called cytokines.
- Activation of the complement cascade to identify bacteria, activates cells, and promotes clearance of antibody complexes or dead cells.
- Identification and removal of foreign substances present in organs, tissues, blood and lymph, by specialized white blood cells.
- Activation of the adaptive immune system through a process known as antigen presentation.
- Acting as a physical and chemical barrier to infectious agents; via physical measures like skin or tree bark and chemical measures like clotting factors in blood or sap from a tree, which are released following a contusion or other injury that breaks through the first-line physical barrier?
Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive immune system, also referred as the acquired immune system, is a subsystem of the immune system that is composed of specialized, systemic cells and processes that eliminates pathogens by preventing their growth. Acquired immunity creates immunological memory after an initial response to a specific pathogen, and leads to an enhanced response to subsequent encounters with that pathogen. This process of acquired immunity is the basis of vaccination. Like the innate system, the acquired system includes both humeral immunity components and cell-mediated immunity components.
Acquired immunity is triggered in vertebrates when a pathogen evades the innate immune system and generates a threshold level of antigen and generates “stranger” or “danger” signals activating dendritic cells.
The major functions of the acquired immune system include:
- Recognition of specific “non-self” antigens in the presence of “self”, during the process of antigen presentation.
- Generation of responses that are tailored to maximally eliminate specific pathogens or pathogen-infected cells.
- Development of immunological memory, in which pathogens are “remembered” through memory B cells and memory T cells.
- In humans, it takes 4-7 days for the adaptive immune system to mount a significant response.
There are two types of adaptive immunity: active and passive.
- Active Immunity –antibodies that develop in a person’s own immune system after the body is exposed to an antigen through a disease or when you get an immunization. This type of immunity lasts for a long time.
- Passive Immunity – antibodies given to a person to prevent disease or to treat disease after the body is exposed to an antigen. Passive immunity is given from mother to child through the placenta before birth and through breast milk after birth. It can also be given medically through blood products that contain antibodies, such as immune globulin. This type of immunity is fast acting but lasts only a few weeks or months.
Adaptive immunity can also be divided by the type of immune mediators involved; humoral immunity is the aspect of immunity that is mediated by secreted antibodies, whereas cell-mediated immunity involves T-lymphocytes alone.
How does immune response work?
The immune system needs to be able to tell self from non-self. It does this by detecting proteins that are found on the surface of all cells. It learns to ignore its own or self proteins at an early stage.
The immune system can be activated by a lot of different things that the body doesn’t recognize as its own. These are called antigens. Examples of antigens include the proteins on the surfaces of bacteria, fungi and viruses. When these antigens attach to special receptors on the immune cells (immune system cells), a whole series of processes is triggered in the body. Once the body has come into contact with a disease-causing germ for the first time, it usually stores information about the germ and how to fight it. Then, if it comes into contact with the germ again, it recognizes the germ straight away and can start fighting it faster.
The body’s own cells have proteins on their surface, too. But those proteins don’t usually trigger the immune system to fight the cells. Sometimes the immune system mistakenly thinks that the body’s own cells are foreign cells. It then attacks healthy, harmless cells in the body. This is known as an autoimmune response.
There are two types of immune responses:
- Humoral immunity -is the aspect of immunity that is mediated by macromolecules found in extracellular fluids such as secreted antibodies, complement proteins, and certain antimicrobial peptides. Humoral immunity is so named because it involves substances found in the humors, or body fluids.
- Cell-mediated immunity-is an immune response that does not involve antibodies. Rather, cell-mediated immunity is the activation of phagocytes, antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, and the release of various cytokines in response to an antigen.
What are immune related disorders/diseases?
Sometimes a person may have an immune response even though there is no real threat. This can lead to problems such as allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.
Other immune system problems happen when your immune system does not work correctly. These problems include immunodeficiency diseases. If you have an immunodeficiency disease, you get sick more often. Your infections may last longer and can be more serious and harder to treat. They are often genetic disorders.
Types of immune disorder fall into three categories:
Immunodeficiency or immunocompromise is a state in which the immune system’s ability to fight infectious disease and cancer is compromised or entirely absent. Most cases of immunodeficiency are acquired (“secondary”) due to extrinsic factors that affect the patient’s immune system.
Immunodeficiencies can be caused in a number of ways, including age, obesity, and alcoholism. In developing countries, malnutrition is a common cause. AIDS is an example of an acquired immunodeficiency.
Examples of primary immunodeficiency disorders include:
- X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA)
- Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID)
- Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), which is known as alymphocytosis or “boy in a bubble” disease
The following can cause a secondary immunodeficiency disorder:
- Severe burns
Examples of secondary immunodeficiency disorders include:
- Cancers of the immune system, like leukemia
- Immune-complex diseases, like viral hepatitis
- Multiple myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells, which produce antibodies)
In some cases, immunodeficiencies can be inherited, for instance, in chronic granulomatous disease where phagocytes do not function properly.
Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an “autoimmune disease”. In autoimmune conditions, the immune system mistakenly targets healthy cells, rather than foreign pathogens or faulty cells. In this scenario, they cannot distinguish self from non-self cells.
Autoimmune diseases include celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Graves’ disease.
Autoimmune diseases can be broadly divided into systemic and organ-specific or localized autoimmune disorders, depending on the principal clinico-pathologic features of each disease.
Systemic autoimmune diseases-include celiac disease, lupus erythematosus, Sjögren syndrome, sarcoidosis, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, cryoglobulinemic vasculitis, and dermatomyositis. These conditions tend to be associated with autoantibodies to antigens which are not tissue specific. Thus although polymyositis is more or less tissue specific in presentation, it may be included in this group because the auto antigens are often ubiquitous t-RNA synthetics.
Local syndromeswhich affect a specific organ or tissue:
- Endocrinologicdiabetes mellitus type 1, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Addison’s disease
- GastrointestinalCrohn’s disease, pernicious anemia
- Dermatologic: pemphigus vulgaris, vitiligo
- Haematologic: autoimmune hemolytic anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
- Neurological:multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, autoimmune encephalitis, gluten ataxia
Hypersensitivity (also called hypersensitivity reaction or intolerance) refers to undesirable reactions produced by the normal immune system, including allergies and autoimmunity. They are usually referred to as an overreaction of the immune system and these reactions may be damaging, uncomfortable, or occasionally fatal. Hypersensitivity reactions require a pre-sensitized (immune) state of the host.
The Gell and Coombs classification of hypersensitivity is the most widely used, and distinguishes four types of immune response which result in bystander tissue damage. The four types of The Gell and Coombs classification of hypersensitivity are :
- Type I: Alternatively known as allergy, immediate or anaphylactic response. These are fast responses which occur in minutes, rather than multiple hours or days. Free antigens cross link the IgE on mast cells and basophils which causes a release of vasoactive biomolecules. Testing can be done via skin test for specific IgE.
- Type II: Alternatively known as cytotoxic or antibody-dependent. Here antibody (IgM or IgG) binds to antigen on a target cell, which is actually a host cell that is perceived by the immune system as foreign, leading to cellular destruction via the MAC. Testing includes both the direct and indirect Coombs test.
- Type III:Alternatively known as immune complex. Here antibody (IgG) binds to soluble antigen, forming a circulating immune complex. This is often deposited in the vessel walls of the joints and kidney, initiating a local inflammatory reaction.
- Type IV:Alternatively known as delayed response, cell-mediated immune memory response or antibody- independent response. T helper cells (specifically Th1 cells) are activated by an antigen presenting cell. When the antigen is presented again in the future, the memory Th1 cells will activate macrophages and cause an inflammatory response. This ultimately can lead to tissue damage.
How to boost immunity?
The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response.
To best protect your body from harm, every component of your immune system needs to perform exactly according to plan. The best way you can ensure that happens is to practice the good-for-you behaviors every day that your immune system runs on.
While bolstering your immunity is easier said than done, several dietary and lifestyle changes may strengthen your body’s natural defenses and help you fight harmful pathogens, or disease-causing organisms.
Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:
- Don’t smoke:Like alcohol, smoking can also affect immune health. Anything that’s a toxin can compromise your immune system. The chemicals released by smoking — carbon monoxide, nicotine, nitrogen oxides, and cadmium — can interfere with growth and function of immune cells, like cytokines, T cells, and B cells.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables:Several whole plant foods contain antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, all of which may lower your susceptibility to illness.
- Exercise regularly: Moderate exercise can reduce inflammation and promote the healthy turnover of immune cells. Jogging, biking, walking, swimming, and hiking are great options.
- Maintain a healthy weight, cut on added sugars: Added sugars contribute significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, all of which can suppress your immune system. Lowering your sugar intake may decrease inflammation and your risk of these conditions.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation: Drinking high amounts of alcohol is associated with a range of negative health effects, including lowered immune function. When you drink high amounts of alcohol, your body is too busy trying to detoxify your system to bother with normal immune system function.
- Get adequate sleep:Inadequate sleep may increase your risk of getting sick. Most adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Try to minimize stress:Lowering your stress levels through meditation, yoga, exercise, and other practices can help keep your immune system functioning properly.
- Take steps to avoid infection :such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
How does nano curcumin and ginger extract help boost immunity?
Turmeric or Haldi has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal component. Also, sometimes referred to the Indian Saffron or Ayurvedic Gold dust, is beneficial in ways that scientists are still working on. It has been used in Ayurveda from a very long time. Turmeric main components, Curcumin (turmeric extract) has been long used in treatment of many major diseases. Curcumin has been researched and used for its medicinal, immunity booster, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties for a very long time and has the petential of being a natural alternative supplement for the same.
Since its discovery roughly two centuries ago, curcumin has become one of the well-researched natural therapeutic ingredients. Many researchers believe that curcumin has more therapeutic potential than turmeric. Curcumin, extract of turmeric, is widely known to have anti-inflammatory properties that helps boost immunity. Researchers found that curcumin stops recruitment of specific immune cells that, when overactive, are linked to such problems as heart disease and obesity. Studies also found that nano-emulsified curcumin or nano curcumin halted the recruitment of immune cells called macrophages that “eat” invading pathogens but also contribute to inflammation by secreting pro-inflammatory chemicals.
As discussed, our bodies react to a variety of factors that can cause innate immune cells to excessively activate. Unfortunately, hyperactivation of these innate cell types results in the excessive production of acute-phase proteins, which can be damaging to our health. Additionally, chronic activation of these proteins may result in the suppression of antiviral defenses. Fortunately, several human studies have found that curcumin supplementation lowers blood levels of various acute-phase proteins. This research suggests that curcumin helps normalize certain parts of the immune system that tend to become overactive
Curcumin have immune-balancing properties that may be particularly helpful for those with chronic stress. Additionally, curcumin help promote optimal immune responses through its prebiotic-like properties, omega-3 boosting ability, and cortisol-lowering effects.
An aromatic spice that is indispensable in Indian kitchens, ginger has many medicinal and herbal values as well. It is often used as a home remedy for stomach aches, vomiting, flu and common cold. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in ginger extract can improve the immunity of the body. Ginger has staring potential for treating a number of ailments including degenerative disorders (arthritis and rheumatism), digestive health (indigestion, constipation and ulcer), cardiovascular disorders (atherosclerosis and hypertension), vomiting, diabetes mellitus, and cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties for controlling the process of aging. Furthermore, it has antimicrobial potential as well which can help in treating infectious diseases.
Consuming ginger extract keeps away many diseases and strengthens the immune system. Ginger extract not only can improve the antioxidant capacity, enhance immune function, but also has a potential of reducing inflammatory response. These beneficial effects of ginger extract may induce a better productivity in improving one’s immune response. Also, ginger extract has antibacterial properties, which help in keeping several ailments at bay and helps fighting infections and it can help to prevent nausea and soothe an upset stomach. It is also a natural blood thinner and contains a phenolic anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol that may be responsible for relaxing blood vessels.