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Immune System 101: From T-Cells to Herd Immunity to the Gut-Immune Connection
You come in contact with more than 60,000 germs every day.
They linger on every surface you – and everyone else – touch, from doorknobs to elevator buttons to shopping carts to restaurant menus.
Some microbes spread through the air, like after someone sneezes, coughs, or shouts. Others sneak by in food and water.
All of these germs make you vulnerable to infection.
But, with an optimized immune system, most of them won’t make you sick.
To keep your immune system in the fighting form, it helps to understand how it works and how you can support healthy immune function.
Two Types of Immunity
Innate immunity is your natural immunity, the immune system you’re born with – kind of like a built-in default system. It offers general protection against infectious microbes like bacteria and viruses. This section of your immune system can identify invaders as “foreign” (not self) and figure out whether they’re dangerous.
Adaptive immunity is the process through which your immune system learns based on the germs you encounter, either through infections or vaccinations. Your adaptive immune system collects information about those microbes and how it was able to defeat them. It builds a sort of catalog that it can refer back to when a germ shows up. Then it uses targeted defense strategies that have worked in the past to take those microbes down.
Your Immune System Has Many Soldiers
To keep you safe against the thousands of threats you face very day, your immune system has an enormous team in place to protect you.
Example: Your spleen, bone marrow, and thymus work to create the cells your immune system needs to fight germs.
There are several different types of immune cells, and they all bring unique germ-fighting skills to the bodily battle for your health:
>> Phagocytes are white blood cells that chew up infectious microbes
>> Lymphocytes help your immune system remember invaders it’s faced and how it destroyed them
>> B-cells (B lymphocytes) patrol for germs, identify them, and tag them with antibodies
>> Antibodies, also called immunoglobulins, lock on to and tag specific bacteria and viruses
>> T-cells (T lymphocytes) lock on to and destroy the germs tagged by the antibodies
>> NK-cells, or natural killer cells, offer first line defense and general protection (as part of innate immunity) against viruses and cancer cells
Sometimes, though, our immune systems face a new infectious microbe, one that our body hasn’t had a chance to develop defenses against. In times like these, we can gain some protection from herd immunity.
When a big enough percentage of the population becomes immune to an infection, it reduces the risk of person-to-person spread for that infection. That’s called herd immunity… and it protects the majority of the community, including people who aren’t immune to that germ.
So what percentage of people needs to become immune for herd immunity to kick in? It depends.
Community immunity varies among different diseases. Highly contagious diseases (like measles, for example) call for a higher percentage of people to be immune in order to stop their spread. They may require 85% to 95% of the population to be immune to achieve herd immunity. For less infectious diseases, that percentage may be lower and still offer community protection.
We can achieve herd immunity for any disease by two paths: infection and vaccination.
Path number one – infection – works when enough people have gotten sick, fought off the disease, and developed antibodies so they can’t get re-infected. This path takes time to work, and it doesn’t work well for germs – like cold and flu viruses – that constantly change. (That’s why you can get sick from the flu or colds many times.)
Path number two – vaccination – can deliver herd immunity without as many people getting sick, but it comes with its own drawbacks. As and example, the protection gained from a vaccine can decrease over time, often requiring additional vaccinations against the same disease to work at full power. Moreover, most vaccines are not 100% effective, meaning people can get vaccinated and still get sick from that disease. Also, many people may be unable to, or choose not to get vaccinated, which can leave them vulnerable until full herd immunity is achieved.
On top of all that, recent research tells us that we need healthy gut microbiomes to get maximum protection from vaccines… and to maintain a healthy immune system.
The Gut-Immune Connection
Your immune system depends on your gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria in your gut – to develop and function optimally
In a healthy gut microbiome, beneficial bacteria (probiotics) outnumber harmful bacteria (pathogens). When your gut is in healthy balance, it supports, trains, and directs your immune system, making sure it doesn't under-react or overreact.
But when your gut is out of balance, and pathogens outnumber probiotics (a condition called dysbiosis), it interferes with proper immune function. With dysbiosis, the immune system gets overworked and confused. It reacts at the wrong times in the wrong ways – and that makes you much more vulnerable to infection.
Your gut microbiome also plays a big part in vaccine effectiveness. Studies show that dysbiosis reduces the effectiveness of vaccines, and that a healthy gut microbiome can improve the vaccine response.
Bottom line: For a healthy immune system, you need a healthy, well-balanced gut microbiome.
A Healthy Gut = A Healthy Immune System
A well-balanced gut microbiome can have a profound impact on your overall immune function. To keep your gut healthy, you need to replenish beneficial bacteria and nourish them with targeted prebiotics.
Just Thrive Probiotics contain four strains of clinically studied spore probiotics shown to quickly rebalance gut bacteria and support healthy immune responses.
Just Thrive PREcision Prebiotics nourish and sustain beneficial gut bacteria by supplying the specific fiber they need to survive and flourish.
Support a balanced and optimized gut microbiome with Just Thrive Probiotics and Precision PREbiotics, and give your immune system support it can counts on.