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  • Raghav Sand

The Necessity of Immunity

Immunity is a biological term and having it means there are sufficient defences to avoid infections and other unwanted biological invasion. We live in a microbial world. People in the modern era tend to believe that immunity is a recent phenomenon and the advancements in medical science is the reason behind it.

Immunity is like a military system. It categorises outside organisms either as a friend or enemy. Whenever an unfriendly foreign element tries to enter our body, the immune system mobilizes resources to create a defensive shield.

Types of Immune System

Broadly, there are two types of immune systems: innate and adaptive. Innate, or nonspecific, immune system is the defence system with which you were born. It protects you against all antigens. Innate immunity involves barriers that keep harmful materials from entering your body. These barriers form the first line of defence in the immune response.

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 eliminate pathogens or prevent their growth. Unlike innate immune responses, the adaptive responses are highly specific to the particular pathogen that induced them. They can also provide long-lasting protection. A person who recovers from measles, for example, is protected for life against measles by the adaptive immune system.

Some bacteria have had a disproportionate impact on human evolution. Viruses are diverse and almost never beneficial. From the point of view of a microbe, the multi-cellular organism is like a bag of goodies (nutrients). Humans and few other vertebrates are a moving ecosystem within themselves. The ambient temperature of the human body acts like a thermostat for pathogens.

The world is currently in the grips of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has mutated to allow human-to-human spread. Infection can cause fever, dry cough, fatigue, severe pneumonia, respiratory distress syndrome and in some instances death. Covid-19 affects the immune system by producing a systemic inflammatory response.

The history of adaptive immunity has shown that repeat and breakthrough infections are extremely rare. In the past twelve months such precedents have been rewritten. For a world which thought it had conquered nature, the mystery of origin and unending transformation of the Covid-19 virus is puzzling and frustrating at the same time.

Role of Receptors

Receptors are proteins, usually cell surface receptors, which bind to ligands and cause responses in the immune system. Receptors can be found in various immune cells like B cells, T cells, NK cells, monocytes and stem cells. In biochemistry and pharmacology, a ligand is a substance that forms a complex with a biomolecule to serve a biological purpose. Receptors are bound up with functions such as cell activation, cell adhesion and signalling pathways. These functions play a role with the help of receptors.

The binding of pathogens by these receptors gives rise to very rapid responses, which are put into effect without the delay imposed by the clonal expansion of cells needed in the adaptive immune response. Cells interact with each other, and their substrate (surface on which an organism lives), throughout their lifetime. These interactions can be transient, such as at the immunological synapse (the site of transmission of electric nerve impulses between two nerve cells), or they can be long-lived, such as at a neuromuscular junction. These complex cellular structures involve many proteins; from receptor molecules to structural scaffolding proteins.

Ways to Improve 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.

Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and in humans. In the meantime, general healthy-living strategies make sense since they likely help immune function and they come with other proven health benefits. As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, which in turn contributes to more infections and more cancer. As life expectancy in the world has increased, so too has the incidence of age-related conditions.

While some people age healthily, the conclusion of many studies is that, compared with younger people, the elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases. While browsing the internet you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to “support immunity”. Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease.

Demonstrating whether a herb — or any substance, for that matter — can enhance immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter. Scientists don’t know, for example, whether a herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.

Simplicity is Underrated

Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. But does it help to boost your immune system naturally and keep it healthy? Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system.

Ayurveda, being the science of life, propagates the gifts of nature in maintaining healthy and happy living. Ayurveda’s extensive knowledge base on preventive care, derives from the concepts of “Dinacharya” – daily regimes and “Ritucharya” – seasonal regimes to maintain healthy life. It is a plant-based science. The simplicity of awareness about oneself and the harmony each individual can achieve by uplifting and maintaining his or her immunity is emphasized across Ayurveda’s classical scriptures.

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