Your Immune System — Two Ways It Protects You

They’re two basic aspects to your immune system:

1. Innate Immunity, natural or cell-mediated immunity

2. Acquired or humoral immunity

Innate or natural immunity refers to the ability of your body’s defenses to protect you from new types of infectious organisms — bacteria and viruses.

Acquired immunity refers to the ability of your body’s defenses to protect you from infectious organisms it has already defeated in the past.

immunesystem-defenseDuring the bird flu scare, the media kept telling people that they had “no” immunity to that virus (officially — H5N1). That’s because people have no acquired immunity to that particular influenza virus. It is new to human beings.

However, if people were totally helpless against new pathogens, the human race would have been wiped out when we were babies. Fortunately, people do have an innate immunity that defends them against all enemies.

However, this innate immunity is better at protecting people from hostile bacteria than from viruses.

Your immune systems does have weapons to fight viruses, but it takes time for them to learn and develop what biochemicals will destroy any particular kind of virus. Therefore, protection against virtual threats has to be learned — or acquired.

This is how vaccines work. You get a shot of deadly virus (in a form that’s harmless, but your immune system doesn’t know that). Your immune system learns how to destroy it. If such a virus ever does invade your body, your immune remembers — and immediately unleashes the biochemicals that are effective in killing the virus.

What if a deadly virus invades your body — and you’ve never been vaccinated against it?

The acquired immune system still works, but it takes time. Your immune system can produce millions of biochemicals weapons to destroy the pathogenic virus, but it doesn’t automatically know which one is effective.

So it keeps trying one after another. When one type of biochemical doesn’t defeat the virus, it tries another one. And another. And another . . .

Until it discovers the exact biochemical formula that defeats the virus.

Once the virus is defeated, your immune system remembers. So if the same type of virus invades you again, it immediately hauls out the effective weaponry and destroys that virus.

That’s why people who survived smallpox never caught the disease again.

Time is the weakness of this approach. Because the viruses in your body are not standing still waiting for your immune system to learn how to destroy them. They’re busy infecting your cells, multiplying and spreading as far as they can through your body.

If your immune system is too weak, it won’t learn how to defeat the virus before there’re simply too many viruses in your body.

Then you are overwhelmed — and could die if the disease is severe enough. Such as with Ebola, bird flu and some types of pneumonia.

It’s typical for your immune system to take a week or so to learn how to defeat a viral infection that’s new to it. That’s why when you get the flu or a bad cold you often feel sick for a week or so — then get better.

Vaccines do protect us against many viral diseases — but there’re many more harmful viruses than there are vaccines. And the stronger your acquired immune system is, the faster is can learn how to defeat any viral infection.

And if you’re ever reinfected, the faster it can unleash its biochemical firepower on the invaders to destroy them.

Keeping your immune system healthy and strong is the best way to prevent yourself from getting ill. And if you do become ill, having a strong immune system makes recovering from an illness much faster.  And with the advent of new strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria— building up your immunity just may be your best defense.