Jun 09, 2022
What Is Immunity?
Immunity is the body's defense system. It allows the immune system to defend against disease and illness-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Our body must be able to determine what cells are our own and which are invaders. Year-round, we come in contact with many pathogens throughout the day, but usually, only a few pathogens get past our defenses or immune system and end up sick. 
We have four types of immunity present in our bodies. The two major types, which are discussed more often, are called Innate and Adaptive.
- Innate Immunity or Natural or Non-specific Immunity - This is the immunity we are born with. It protects against pathogens and antigens and includes natural barriers such as salivary enzymes, skin, and killer cells that protect our body from harmful organisms. When pathogens attack, innate immunity is activated right away. Our body produces antibodies and creates long-term immunity 
- Acquired Immunity or Adaptive Immunity - This type of immunity is acquired over time but is not present when we are born. Our immune system can adapt to diseases and create pathogen-specific immunity, which is handled by antibodies or lymphocytes. Its primary function is to rid the body of the infectious disease and prevent it from future invasions 
- Passive Immunity - Immunity created by something other than our own immune system. It's short-lived because the antibodies are not replenished, like when your own immunity responds to a pathogen. Maternal antibodies are shared from the mother to her unborn or newborn baby. They are transferred first through the placenta and then through breast milk, specifically the 'first-milk' or colostrum .
- Active Immunity - Once our body comes in contact with harmful pathogens, active immunity is created. We are exposed to pathogens daily in the air, our foods or objects we touch. Most won't end up as an illness or disease if our immune system does its job. This is where immunological memory exists. It allows for a fast response to an invasion and it is pathogen-specific. Often, active immunity is created through vaccines allowing the immune system to react as it would to any exposure and then creating an immunological memory. This prepares the immune system if our body comes in contact with harmful pathogens such as those that cause chickenpox, influenza, measles or COVID-19 .
Our immunity is a complex system that works together to maintain your body’s health or ‘status quo.’ Our immune system is also vital for our survival. When you think of critically ill people such as those going through chemotherapy, we know that their immune system is compromised, meaning the defense system is down. That defense system isn’t made up of a single component. It's made up of barriers and systems that include white blood cells, bone marrow, lymph nodes, tonsils, adenoids, thymus gland, skin, spleen, digestive system, and mucous membranes in the respiratory and digestive urinary and reproductive tracts .
What Can Cause a Weak Immune System?
Many factors can weaken immunity. Immune disorders can range from mild to severe. Some people are immunocompromised from birth, while others result from diseases, environmental factors, and even medicines. Common causes of low immunity:
- Drinking alcohol
- Poor nutrition
- Medication (chemo & other cancer treatments)
- Some types of cancer
- Viral hepatitis
- Infections (influenza, mono & measles)
- Autoimmune disorders
- HIV or AIDS 
When you are immunocompromised, your immune system doesn't work correctly. It's referred to as an "immune system disorder," which means you may have one or more of the conditions listed below:
Immune deficiency - Genetic disorders that are present at birth and can damage the immune system or cause a malfunction .
Acquired immune deficiency - HIV is an acquired viral infection that destroys white blood cells and lowers immunity making it challenging to fight off illness or disease [3.]
Overactive immune system - Hyperactive immune system is triggered by allergens like mold, dust or pollen. These are conditions such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergies .
Autoimmune disease - Your body can't distinguish between your cells and harmful cells. The immune system attacks itself .
Symptoms Of Low Immunity
A person who has a weakened immune system may get sick more often. Some causes of a weak immune system can be controlled, such as your diet, stress and sleep. People with a compromised immune system have much less control over their immunity. These are some signs and symptoms that indicate a weakened immunity.
- Getting sick often (common cold)
- Frequent infections (pneumonia, bronchitis and meningitis)
- Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
- Increased stress levels
- Digestive problems 
- Skin infections
- Blood disorders (anemia) 
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a compromised immune system, your doctor can run bloodwork to check your antibody levels.
Natural Ways To Improve Immunity
You can give your body's natural defenses a healthy boost to help avoid getting sick or feeling rundown. But what can you do on your own to improve your immunity and fight off disease? Here are some tips to strengthen your immune system naturally:
- Stay hydrated
- Increase your Vitamin C (foods & supplements)
- Add zinc to your diet
- Eat garlic
- Stay active (daily exercise)
- Spend some time in a sauna
- Get a healthy amount of sleep
- Manage your stress
- Enjoy sex
- Take probiotics
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods
- Avoid smoking & nicotine products
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Wash your hands often
- Boost your Vitamin D (sunshine, foods and supplements)
- Eat foods high in B12
- Eat your veggies
- Cut back on sugar
- Socialize (virtually & in-person)
- Steer clear of processed foods
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Get outside in the fresh air
- Maintain electrolyte levels
- Eat more mushrooms (try turkey tail or shiitake)
- Increase your proteins 
Making dietary and lifestyle changes can help strengthen your immune system making it better prepared to fight off disease-causing pathogens. Immunocompromised people may have greater difficulty improving their immunity. While these suggestions and supplements may support improved health, in some cases a weak immune system is a permanent condition.
Supplements That Can Help Improve Immunity
Research confirms that certain herbs, vitamins and minerals possess immunity-enhancing properties. These will help support a healthy immune system along with eating well, sleeping well, staying hydrated and managing stress. Below are some of the supplements that support an immune system that is able to fight off germs successfully:
- Slippery Elm
- Reishi mushrooms
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Vitamin C
- Green tea extract
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
- Vitamin D
- Baicalin (phytonutrient)
- Echinacea 
Clear Probiotics Products For Immunity
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- BYJU'S. (n.d.) Biology Article - Immunity [Internet] Accessed April 11, 2022: https://byjus.com/biology/immunity/
- Sapre, Omkar. (2020). Explore the Different Types of Immunity. [Internet] Accessed April 11, 2022: https://www.bvglife.com/explore-the-different-types-of-immunity/
- Britt, Tabitha. (2021). Frequent colds, infections, and fatigue are signs you may have a low immune system — here's when to see a doctor. Insider. [Internet] Accessed April 11, 2022: https://www.insider.com/low-immune-system
- Fletcher, Jenna. (2020). How to stay healthy with a weak immune system. Medical News Today. [Internet]. Accessed April 11, 2022: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324930
- Richman, Peter and Wegrzyn, Kristen. (2021). 25 natural ways to boost your immune system. Stacker. [Internet] Accessed April 12, 2022: https://stacker.com/stories/4029/25-natural-ways-boost-your-immune-system
- GilbertLab. (n.d.) Top 10 Antiviral Supplements to Boost Immunity. [Internet] Accessed April 12, 2022: https://gilbertlab.com/immune-system/supplements-to-boost-immunity/