Your immune system and how it works
Your immune system function is truly amazing – it has the ability to fight off new infections, and remember all the microbes it has ever fought before. It does so with some very specialized organs, cell and proteins. Here are the basic components of this sophisticated defense system.
White blood cells
These hunt around your body looking for microbes and attacking any that they find.1
These are proteins that help white blood cells find and attack microbes.1
This is a series of proteins that assist white blood cells and antibodies in their defense duties.1
This is a set of tubes, a bit like veins and arteries. Its roles include being a battleground for fighting microbes and cancer cells, plus managing our fluid levels.1
This is an organ that filters your blood, removing microbes and damaged blood cells.1
This is where your white and red blood cells originate from.1
This is another place where blood is filtered, and another source of white blood cells.1
What can cause differences in immune system function?
Being so complex, it’s not surprising that your immune system function can play up from time to time, or even on a regular basis. The reasons for this can involve too much or too little defense.
Overactive immune system function
Too much defense can range from causing common allergies like hayfever, more serious conditions like peanut allergy, and some potentially lifelong autoimmune diseases where the body attacks itself (eg, psoriasis).1
Underactive immune system function
Too little defense, sometimes called immunodeficiency, can result from some inherited diseases, infectious diseases, and treatments that affect the immune system such as chemotherapy.1
What helps you maintain a strong immune system?
If you’re just plain sick of always being sick, getting into some good immunity habits might be just what you need. These are some great ways to boost and strengthen your immune system:
Start with the basics of a healthy lifestyle – a good diet and regular exercise2
Maintain good hygiene – including taking care of your teeth3,4
Get enough sleep – lack of sleep makes you more likely to get sick4
Manage stress – a little stress is okay, but too much can lower your natural defenses, so don’t forget to make time to relax4
Avoid people who appear sick – look out for runny red noses!2
Talk to your doctor about making sure your vaccines are up to date – prevention is better than cure2
- Better Health Channel. Immune system. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/immune-system Accessed August 2018.
- Mayo Clinic. Primary immunodeficiency. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/primary-immunodeficiency/symptoms-causes/syc-20376905 Accessed August 2018.
- Harvard Medical School. How to boost your immune system. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system Accessed August 2018.
- Healthline. Why am I always sick? Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/always-sick#sleep Accessed August 2018.