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What is the Immune System?

Our immune system is what fights off diseases and infections. But do you know how it does that?

The immune system is essentially a network system within the body that protects us against disease. Not only does it fight off viruses and bacteria that can make us ill, but it also helps us recover when we become sick or injured. If our immunity is working well, it will protect us  against bacteria or virus by producing antibodies in our blood [1].

Antibodies are very small molecules made by our white blood cells. When viruses or bacteria enter our body, antibodies bind to their receptors to destroy whatever foreign object our bodies encounter. Each type of antibody recognises a specific virus or bacteria and will only bind to that specific object to protect our immunity. [2]

When a person becomes immune to a disease, they must have already been exposed to that virus or bacteria. This can happen through many ways, but the most common are through vaccine or having been exposed to a specific illness which allows our immune system to remember how to offer the body recovery.

The Immune Response

The process by which antibodies attempt to destroy a foreign object is typically described as ‘the immune response’. Our body reacts in different ways. These physiological responses are there to ultimately remove and destroy the foreign object [3].

The body’s typical immune responses:

  • Coughing to release phlegm
  • Sweating to cool down our skin to help bring down our temperature
  • Sneezing to clear any foreign bodies from bacteria or bugs
  • Inflammation is the bodies way to protect a specific area
  • Scabbing is the body’s way to protect blood loss and the healing process

Although we are all aware that these physiological processes happen, it is important to be aware, that our immune system is not perfect and can sometimes leave you without any natural protection against illness. Our immune system typically detects the difference between the body’s own cells and harmful bacteria or viruses. However, sometimes an immune response can be less than ideal and potentially even attack our own body cells. [4]

Examples of when our body’s immune system can act in a sub-optimal way.

  • Allergies

Allergies are very common and affect more than 1 in 4 people in the UK. [5]. The way allergies work is that our body perceives certain things as ‘foreign invaders’. When these invaders enter our body, our immune system essentially goes into overdrive and produces an immune response. Commonly, our body perceives things like dust, mould, and pollen as foreign invaders and in response the body’s reaction is to sneeze, itch and causes our eyes and nose to water.

It is not clear why allergies happen but most people who suffer from allergies have a family history of allergies or have some sort of autoimmune condition, such as asthma or eczema. [5]

Autoimmune disease

An autoimmune disease is when our immune system starts to treat our own cells as foreign objects and attacks them. [6] There are more than 80 types of autoimmune conditions that affect a wide range of body parts. Some examples include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, alopecia, and psoriasis.


Toxins (toxic chemicals) are substances created by plants and animals that are poisonous to humans. Interestingly, toxins can include some medicines that are beneficial in small doses, but harmful and extremely poisonous in large amounts [7]. There are toxins that disrupt our immune system,  like plastic drinking bottles to which the human population is widely and continuously to BPA (Bisphenol A), foods wrapped up in plastic,  and others that are found in non-organic food as pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and the constant exposure of antibiotics that are feed to animals, which eventually affect us. Toxin exposure can be found in the air and in our homes through our cleaning products. There are other categories such as mould, air pollutant and cigarette smoke.

Toxic chemicals, such as hormone-mimicking chemicals harm the immune system. These include plastics and phthalates, which can be found in cosmetics and other consumer products. Toxins can interfere with hormone production/function.  They can induce, mimic block, and inhibit hormones. [8]. such as food containers and water bottles. These chemicals have been associated with allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, infertility, and obesity. [9].

How to avoid or minimise toxins

It can be difficult to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals as they are typically found in everyday products. However, there are ways to lower or minimise exposure of toxic chemicals, such as:

  • Drink filtered water to stop or minimise hormonal disruptions
  • Stop using or drinking out of plastic bottles
  • Wash your hands before eating
  • Dental amalgams which are made of mercury, consider changing them to white composite
  • Taking supplements that are helpful for cleansing the body of toxins (e.g., Caprylic and Probiotics)
  • Take a good Antioxidant as toxins can damage cell membranes and DNA.