The immune system is wonderful system of cells and signaling cytokines that fight infections and keep us healthy. We come in contact with countless microorganisms daily. These include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. To protect us, we’ve got an immune system. The immune system is a fascinating group of disease fighting white blood cells and their spouses the complement system and cytokines.
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The complement system comprises small proteins that circulate through the blood system. Their job would be to recognize foreign substances (antigens), bind to them, and then trigger the rest of the system. They adhere to the bad cells and indicate them so that another immune cells can recognize cells. Another part of the complement system is to kill germs. The following group is phagocytes.
These cells may eat bacteria a process called phagocytosis. The phagocytes include granulocytes, macrophages that are converted monocytes, and dendritic cells. This system of cells would be the first line of defense against infections. Lymphocytes make up another set. There are various sorts of lymphocytes and each has a particular function. T-helper cells are the key regulators of the immune system. When they are in contact with an antigen presenting cell such as a macrophage which has just consumed a bacteria, the helper cell is triggered and it then can help turn on the remainder of the immune system.
Another sort of T-cell is a killer T-cell. These cells circulate in the body searching for diseases or infected normal cells, or even cancer cells. Their job is quite easy, when they find a bad cell, they kill it. B-lymphocytes help the immune system kill bacteria by producing immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins behave as tags that indicate bacteria for elimination by the phagocytes.
These are produced each time you get and disease or an immunization. When the identical bug invades your body, the B-lymphocytes recall and then create more immunoglobulins through the plasma cells to help kill the disease. Finally, there are substances called cytokines. These materials are used for many different purposes. They assist the cells signal to each other, they can act as growth factors, they recruit immune cells, they trigger immune cells, they turn off immune cells, and a few even act as hormones.
These are extremely important to keep the system running and they should maintain a balance. There are cytokines to turn on the machine and to switch off the system. When there’s an imbalance, the final result is an immune deficiency or an overactive immune system. The overactive immune system is involved in chronic inflammation and this isn’t a good thing due to the diseases chronic inflammation triggers. In actuality, chronic inflammation has been implicated in cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer.
We’ve known about cancer and inflammation since 1863 when Rudolph Virchow found white blood cells in tumor cells. Today, the link between chronic inflammation and cancer is often accepted. Some common examples of cancers caused by chronic inflammation include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease resulting in bowel cancers. Barrett’s esophagus leads to cancer of the esophagus. Celiac disease may result in small bowel lymphomas. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may result in lymphoma of the thyroidgland.
It stimulates tumor growth at all stages; initiation, progression, and metastasis. Tumor initiation is the procedure when a normal cell becomes cancerous. Tumor progression is the procedure by which the cancer cell develops, and metastasis is the procedure by which the cancer cell spreads to remote sites either via the lymphatics into the lymph nodes or through the blood to distant organs. The role inflammation plays in tumor cell initiation is very clear but the mechanism isn’t worked out yet. It’s believed to be a two part procedure.
The inflammatory cells are responsible for secreting reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). These generally are used to kill germs or virus-infected normal cells. In a chronic state, these ROS and RNS can damage the DNA of cells causing mutations. A mutation in an oncogene may be the initial process which eventually contributes to a cancer. The next step is that the inflammatory cells secrete cytokines that increase cell growth, so not only are the cells stimulated to grow but they are doing so in an environment filled with ROS and RNS establishing an ideal situation to create mutated oncogenes.
The way chronic inflammation promotes tumor cell development isn’t well described. It’s believed that the inflammatory cytokines create many effects especially growth degradation and promotion of the cells surrounding the tumor (stromal matrix) that helps tumor cells disperse and migrate. Finally, the milieu of cytokines also promotes metastasis. Some of them function as growth factors for blood vessel formation. This is called angiogenesis and it’s essential for tumor cells to metastasize.
Additionally, since the blood vessels are being formed around the tumor cell, additional cytokines have protease activity that divide the stromal matrix and allow the cancer cells to migrate into the blood vessel and metastasize. When the immune system is in good working order, we stay in the best of health protected from infections and cancers. A healthy immune is our best defense, but what foods are best for your immune system?
Here’s a list, and as always, it’s ideal to get these nutrients directly from foods as opposed to a pill.
- Vitamin C: Increases the production of white blood cells, cells, and the production of interferon. Only 200 mg/day is essential. Mega doses wind up in the bathroom. It’s ideal to get your vitamin C from citrus fruits, green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, and sweet and white potatoes.
- Vitamin E: Improves natural killer cell and B cell function. It may be found in seeds, grains and oils.
- Carotenoids: Vitamin A and beta-carotene increase infection fighting cells and are strong anti-oxidants. They also have been proven to have anti-cancer activity and can be found in green leafy vegetables, intensely colored veggies, fish, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
- Bioflavenoids: Are anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. They enhance cell walls and are important to absorb vitamin C. Bioflavenoids are available along side vitamin C in citrus fruits.
- Zinc: Improves production of white blood cells especially T cells. Zinc has been shown in clinical trials to duration of common cold. You may find zinc in peas, peanuts, lentils, and lima beans.
- Garlic: Boosts white blood cells, natural killer cells, and production of antibodies. Additionally, it has direct anti-bacterial consequences. Try to include garlic whenever possible to your daily diet.
- Selenium: Increases natural killer cells and cancer fighting cells. There’s some promising signs of its cancer prevention skills.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Is a really beneficial fat. It’s anti inflammatory, related to good heart health, boosts immune system particularly the phagocytes, and contains anti-cancer consequences.
- Mushrooms: Known for centuries to have immune boosting qualities from the Orient. Maitake, Reishi, and Shiitake fortify the immune system and combat diseases like cancer.