BY JEAN LAMANTIA Today I want to give you an overview of the immune system and what it is. This is an important foundational piece that should be understood first because I think our immune systems are a really important defense against cancer. The immune system is comprised of two parts – the innate and the acquired. The innate immune system is what we are born with and it includes our skin and mucus membranes, which help protect us from the outside world. Our innate immune system also includes certain cellular soldiers such as neutrophils, macrophages, eosinophils , dendritic cells and the natural killer cells (these are my favorite—they have such a great name!). Here is a good video that explains the innate immune system. The other part of our immune system—the acquired immune system—designs a specific attacker for each bacteria, virus or other pathogen that invades our body. This is a great explanation of the acquired immune system. Cells of the acquired immune system include the T cells (made in the Thymus) and B cells (made in the Bone marrow). Once you are exposed to a virus like the flu virus or rhino virus (cold virus) your acquired immune system creates an antigen against that specific invader. And you will have this antigen in your body for the rest of your life. You might ask “Why do I get the flu more than once then?” This is because there are different viruses that cause the flu. You will only get a specific virus only once. The bad news is, you have to suffer through the effects of the flu to acquire this protection. If you want to learn more on the immune system, there is another video I recommend you watch. You can find it here.
Your Immune System and Cancer
Your immune system doesn’t just protect you against the flu and colds. There are parts of the immune system that also protect you from cancer. Unlike invading bacteria and viruses though, cancer cells (with a couple of exceptions) are your own body’s cells, but with a defect. The exceptions are H. pylori bacteria, which are thought to be responsible for some stomach cancers and human papilloma virus (HPV), which is responsible for cervical cancer. Have you ever heard that we all have cancer cells in our body but only some of us develop cancer? This is thought to be because the immune system keeps rogue cancer cells under control so that their numbers never get large enough to actually form a mass. However, when our immune system is overwhelmed, cancer cells can grow very rapidly and form into tumors. If this goes unchecked, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. So, keeping the immune system strong is a very good strategy for keeping cancer at bay. There are several ways to do this. I explore this topic in much greater detail in a webinar that I frequently offer to my community. You can sign up to be part of my community and you receive your own complimentary copy of my Thriving After Cancer Immune Boosting Quick Start Guide, as well as emails about my upcoming webinar presentations, blog post notifications and other updates. Sign up right here on my website or click here to sign up. Until then, focus on eating a healthy plant-based diet. Other articles on Myeloma Crowd about immunity: 5 Immune Boosting Habits For the Cancer Survivor 7 Immune Boosting Habits For A Healthier Life Immune Boosting Superfoods To Keep You Healthy During Flu Season Jean LaMantia is a registered dietician, cancer survivor, and best selling author of The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook. She can be found at www.jeanlamantia.com.
about the author
Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.