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The immune system is a network of special cells, tissues, proteins, and organs that work together to protect the body from potentially damaging foreign invaders and disease.
When our immune system functions properly it detects threats, such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses, and it triggers an immune response to destroy them. Our immune system can broadly be divided into two parts: innate and adaptive. Innate immunity is the natural protection that we are born with and our first line of defense to combat infection. Upon detecting an infection, our innate response acts quickly to try and flush out the invader by producing extra mucus or cranking up the thermostat to blast it with a fever.
Adaptive immunity is protection that we gain throughout life as we are exposed to diseases or protected against them from vaccinations. The adaptive system spots an enemy and produces the specific weapons — or antibodies — that are required to destroy and eliminate the invader from the body.
The adaptive system can take between 5 and 10 days to identify the antibodies that are needed and produce them in the numbers required to attack an invader successfully. In that time, the innate system keeps the pathogen at bay and prevents it from multiplying.
The Importance of Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins A, C, and D, as well as Zinc, play a role in the functioning of the immune system. If you eat a balanced diet, you will have no need to take supplements of these vitamins and minerals and taking extra will not particularly help your immune system. A Zinc deficiency has been demonstrated to negatively impact how the immune system responds to inflammation in older adults. Research has also suggested that Vitamin D activates T cells that can identify and attack cancer cells and protect against colorectal cancer in some people. In older adults, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce respiratory infections.
Hannah Nichols. Medical News Today. Tips for a healthy immune system.