By Joan Ebsworth, guest writer for sense* and mother of sense* Founder, Jonathan explains what her latest study project is – the immune system.  

How I Became Fixed on Learning

I am a life long learner. I decided to follow that path 40 years ago when I was given the task of exploring “learning” at the school where I was deputy headmistress.

That meant all staff (not just the teaching staff) and all students too.

I needed to find out how learning actually happens in the brain and how we could improve it —across the whole organisation?

What a task! It changed my life.

So, now I try to learn something new every day—for many reasons which I may explore another time.

Studying the Immune System

A few weeks ago, during this home imprisonment, I decided to explore my immune system. I am a biologist, so I knew a bit.

What I discovered was that I knew very little.

Why on earth did I start this project I wondered? However, it has opened up for me, even more, the amazing complexities of the human body.

It is truly mind blowing.

My knowledge was minimal and the books that I have been studying from were actually attempting to simplify it for me.

That says a lot about its complexity –as I was having problems processing the simplified version. What have I learned so far?

Where Can you find the immune system?

The Gut or Digestive System

We have five places in the body where immune cells are created and the most mind boggling one was the fact that 70% of our immune system resides in our gut.

How much care or thought do most of us give to our gut?

Do we ever think that what we are imbibing day by day might just be detrimental to out gut microbiome ? Until we get an “ upset” tummy or gut!

Do we actually know if we have good or bad bugs in our gut? How often do the medical profession test for that? Only when we have a serious problem usually.
There is such scope for preventative medicine there. Last year I asked my GP to do such tests during my annual check up and she wouldn’t do it!

Did you know that there are 10 microbe cells to every one human cell? That means that we are mostly microbial. Now that’s a thought or a whole philosophical study!

The gut is a vital defence mechanism and we generally ignore it and just hope for the best.
That must change if we are to reduce chronic health conditions.

Blood and Lymphatic System and other places

The other important parts of the immune system reside in your blood and lymphatic system (think tonsils and lymph glands) , bone marrow, spleen and thymus (a gland behind your breast bone). More about these another time.

Innate Immune System

Then I learned that we have what is called an Innate Immune System. It is the rapid responder but it is a blunt instrument.

It is non-selective, short lived (2 to 5 days) and can become a problem if it stays around for too long.

So if the skin is damaged or if we breathe in stuff that the body doesn’t like such as viruses, bacteria, pollen, dust . cat hairs – what ever – it will respond (think hay fever and asthma)

All sorts of cells are suddenly brought to the site to protect us. There are:

mast cells
dendritic cells
helper T-cells
cytotoxic T-cells
suppressor T-cells
-to name a few .

They are the troops and we are the fortress or the body that they are defending. There can be swelling, pain, inflammation, redness, sneezing, difficulty breathing etc which is called acute inflammation.

It is probably this system that is causing all of the problems in the lungs of Covid19 patients – when the cytokine cells are over produced to protect against the virus and damage the lungs as well.

If the troops are not strong enough or there are not enough of them then the invaders will take over the fortress-and we do not want that-if can be fatal!

Also this state of affairs should not be prolonged as it can be damaging. Leading to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has become a big health issue which we can explore another time.

Adaptive or Acquired Immune System

Then there is what is called the Adaptive or Acquired Immune System.

This is the slow responder – it is smarter, more sophisticated, and choosy about what it attacks. It learns and it remembers (I wish that I did).

It has a collection of troops that are highly disciplined and dedicated to maintaining peace in the body. There are masses of different cell names to remember.

Although I don’t find that difficult I do find it extremely difficult to imagine it all happening at a cellular level and that is what I would really like to be able to do.

So, we don’t want these “troops” to be weak and allow the invaders to take over the “castle”.  We don’t want the troops to be too strong either because that is when they turn against the body and autoimmune conditions can happen, causing havoc within us.

Top 3 immune system vitamins

We want a balanced immune system. However, most of us need to be boosting our immune systems to achieve that state of balance.

Sense* has suggested and written about the top 3 ingredients to help the immune system, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc. All needed in decent doses as a starting point.   All 3 contained in sense* for busy lives and sense* for joint & bone together with much more.  One of the reasons that sense* for busy lives is in my smoothie every morning.  Get the recipe here.

We can achieve that through lifestyle choices which most people can find difficult or just do not want to follow.

If you wanted to get some great immune assisting recipes, see these 3 recipes which my son, Neil used as part of his diet to overcome his recent bout of cancer: Chocolate Brownie Cake; Chickpea & Red Lentil Lasagna with homemade chick pea pasta and Spring Vegetable Stew with Lentils. Read about his story too here.

Focus on COVID may help long-term health

However, at this time of lock down and Covid-19 more people have suddenly become aware and are wanting to help their body to ward off this particular virus.

Long may that attitude continue as it will enable them to have a better quality of life at every level for the rest of their lives. Hopefully increasing their health span and their lifespan too! Both critical to having an enjoyable old age.

Back to my learning—I have already made 5 pages of brain storming notes (some of which I have written up for this article) —which I go over and over before moving on to the next phase so it all goes in.

This could go on for many weeks –but I do know more now than when I started a week ago.  I hope you do too!

This is not a sense* article.  The views expressed in this article are those of the author so there may be opinions or statements in this article that are not approved by sense* and do not represent the views and opinions of the company.