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How Your Immune System Works, Even During a Pandemic - Nerd Up!

Warning, it's about to get nerdy. BUT. I was sent an interesting, detailed article by one of my brothers yesterday, and it came with a message of "fancy words - make it easier".

For those that are interested in reading the full article, click HERE.

For those that want a better understanding as to how your actual immune system works, just keep reading. We're going to focus on T-Cells today. Your immune system is made up of all kinds of interesting little details, but most of us already know our white blood cells are what come to our defense when we get sick, scrap our knees, etc.

Now, there are a few different types of White Blood Cells (WBC). As an oncology student, I look at CBC with Diff (a Complete Blood Count lab analysis) regularly. A CBC will break down all the different WBC types. They are: Neutrophils, Lymphocytes, Monocytes, Eosinophils, and Basophils. They all serve a slightly different function, and we're going to dive deeper real quick into Lymphocytes. (Don't worry, there's no exam at the end of this post)

Lymphocytes are made up of T-Cells, B-Cells, and Natural Killer (NK) cells. And as mentioned, we're going to narrow in on T-Cells, since it's the predominate focus of the article referenced above. T-Cells actually stands for THYMUS cells. Your thymus is a small lymph node/immune system organ located right in that spot where a caveman would pound his chest. (This can actually help stimulate your thymus and further support your immune system too! It's called "thymus thumping").

Now, while T-Cells DO certainly continue to diversify and get more and more complicated, we're going to keep it simple and just stick with "T-Cells". T-Cells start in the thymus where they receive special training. Think of T-Cells like little soliders in your body. Some get trained in the navy, some in the air force, some in the marines, some are coast guard, etc. Point is, your T-Cells are TRAINED to recognize specific bacteria, viruses, etc.

Some T-cells learn to fight specific bacteria, like h.pylori. Some learn to fight cancerous cells. Some learn to fight specific viruses. Because viral infection (and bacteria) can often have a similar appearance, T-cells have receptors that allow them to recognize something as foreign, and essentially attack.

<SO. Think about probiotics. You have all these different strains of bacteria, and most companies take them and mix them into a pill and tell you to take it for gut health.

The problem is, if the strains are cultured in a single, separate environment (strain 1 grown in beaker 1, strain 2 grown in beaker 2, etc) once they get into the gut, they're ALL foreigners, so they just attack each other.

There are currently TWO probiotics on the market that bypass this issue. They take two different methods, but the one I like actually does a spore-based extract so the strains are essentially all grown together. Aka they're already friends and don't attack each other as foreign.>

Back to T-cells.

Just like foreign bacteria attacking different strains, your T-cells go thru training to look for exact or VERY similar red flags. Maybe one set of T-cells is for the flu. Once your T-cells encounter the flu, they ALWAYS know what it looks like.

The problem comes in that certain cells can LOOK very similar to foreign cells. That's essentially what happens in Autoimmune Conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Hashimotos, etc.

So. When it's suggested that the virus is similar to the common cold, the flu, etc, it's explaining that individuals with prior exposure to similar strains have a better immune system (better trained T-cells) than those that DON'T. if you don't expose yourself to bad bacteria because you use Lysol like a crazy person, your T-cells can't receive the proper training.

Excerpted from article referenced above:

That explains that the MORE strains of SARS you have (typically unknown) exposure to, the better your immune system is equipped (aka your T-cells are trained) to fight a new (but foreign) substance.

So, while people have stayed at home for 2 or 3 months and wiped down every single door handle and sprayed Lysol on their countertops 5 times per day, they have weakened their immune system by destroying exposure to "normal" amounts of bacteria and viral matter, leaving the immune system more like a leg with an open gash prone to infection.

Now, I've simplified this ALOT to break it down into a higher level of understanding, so all you other super sciency nerds out there, I'm not asking you to pick it apart. Just imagine explaining all this to your 13 year old. The above is close enough to encourage the main idea!

Hopefully this is helpful - if you're concerned about all the damage that's potentially been done to your immune system, go ahead and go stick your feet and hands in the dirt for a bit. Drink some kombucha (but watch the sugar), eat some sauerkraut or whole fat greek yogurt, some kimchi, etc. There's ALOT more you can do for your immune system, but I don't typically make recommendations without understanding the bioindividual system!

Feel free to reach out with questions via my Contact Page!

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