The immune system is the body's line of defence against infectious organisms. It protects the body from substances that pose a threat to its physical health. An individual with a healthy immune system stands a better chance of fighting off infections (bacteria, fungus, virus, parasites), cancer and foreign substances.
The immune system is highly complex and involves several organs and cells. The first line of defence consists of physical barriers such as the skin and the mucous membranes. Another key component is the bone marrow where immune cells, known as leukocytes (or white blood cells), are produced.
When the body fights certain viruses and microbes, it has the ability to "remember" invading foreign substances. This remarkable feature allows the body to mount a better immune response the next time any of these substances enter the body. It is the white blood cells, also known as B lymphocytes, that produce antibodies and have the ability to recognize and remember invading substances it has fought in the past. The action of these cells occurs mainly in the spleen and lymph nodes.
The mechanism of action in vaccinations uses immune memory: a small amount of weak or dead virus or bacteria is administered so the body can build up immunity in preparation for any future encounter.
Malnutrition is the most common cause of immunodeficiency. The elderly and people with certain medical conditions such as chronic and severe diseases (diabetes, lung disease, cardiovascular or kidney disease, cancer, HIV, etc.) also have weakened immune systems.
Certain medications, such as chemotherapy, for example, can also weaken the immune system.
Certain symptoms may be indicative of a weakened immune system:
Although several natural health products claim to boost the immune system, studies have not yet produced any concrete and conclusive findings.
For more information, do not hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.