Your immune system is a security network working 24/7 to keep your body healthy. It protects you from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even your own cells if they become dangerously damaged or mutated. This incredible defense system includes 'security specialists' like macrophages, t-cells, neutrophils, other specialized white blood cells and their antibodies, your lymphatic system, and memory B cells.
Like any other system in your body, however, your immune system can be damaged or weakened. When your 'security guards' are understaffed or weak, it can be easy for disease-causing pathogens to break in. So how can you tell if your immune system is in good condition?
Signs of a Problem
Probably the most obvious sign of an immune system that's not working properly is getting sick a lot. If you're ill often, severely, or for long periods of time, it's time to make a doctor's appointment. Serious illnesses and slow recoveries can damage your body over time.
Excessive allergies and inflammation also potential symptoms of immune system issues. Although many people sneeze at pollen and pet dander, more chronic and intense allergic reactions can leave you feeling sick and tired all the time. Allergies and autoimmune diseases happen when your immune system attacks harmless substances (such as plant pollen or foods), or even your own healthy cells.
Testing Your Immune System
Since most of your immune 'security guards' live in your blood and bone marrow, a blood test is the primary way to check if your immune system is deficient. A Complete Blood Count (CBC) Lab Draw evaluates your numbers of white blood cells and antibodies to determine if your levels are cause for concern. Abnormally high or low blood counts help doctors narrow down the source of immune problems.
What Can Go Wrong?
Knowing the risk factors for immune deficiency makes it easier to diagnose an issue. A variety of factors contribute to a weakened defense system. Let's take a look at some of the common ones.
Simply not getting enough sleep can hurt your immune system, along with too much stress. Like any other body system, your immune system needs nutrients too. Poor nutrition from eating disorders, poor nutrient absorption, or an unhealthy diet can make you more susceptible to getting sick.
Other underlying medical conditions can compromise your body's 'security system' as well. Diseases like HIV/AIDS or leukemia can destroy your body's defenses against normally easy-to-defeat germs. Medical procedures such as organ transplant can even require actively suppressing your immune system to prevent an organ rejection.
What Can You Do to Help?
The easiest thing you can do to boost your immune system is to take good care of your body. If your overall health is good, you will be less vulnerable to infections. Exercise, eat well, take care of your body's 'good' bacteria, and get enough uninterrupted sleep each night.
Getting vaccinated against preventable diseases like polio and whooping cough also helps you and the people around you stay healthy. On a more day-to-day basis, wash wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you have concerns about your immune system, talk to a doctor about what you can do to stay healthy, or learn more about CBC blood tests. Your immune system takes care of you, so make sure you take care of it!