About 4% of the world’s population has some sort of autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes or lupus. When you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system erroneously attacks healthy tissues and organs in your body.
More than 100 million people in the United States alone suffer from allergies. Allergies are another example of a dysfunctional immune system. Instead of reserving its resources to attack pathogens that threaten the body’s health, your immune system fights substances it should consider benign.
When your immune system works well, it protects you from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens to keep you healthy. When it’s underactive, you lack that protection and are therefore susceptible to infections and illness. When it’s overactive, your body is constantly stressed by fighting substances it should ignore.
At the Allergy and Asthma Institute, our specialist, Lakshmi Reddy, MD, diagnoses and treats immune system disorders at our office in North Atlanta, Georgia. Whether you suffer from some sort of immune deficiency or an overactive immune system, she helps you find relief.
Is your immune system out of whack? Below are some of the most common reasons why it might be, and what you can do to help it function properly.
Ideally, your immune system has two basic functions: identify foreign pathogens and then mount a defense against them. The organs of your immune system work together to keep you healthy.
A major part of your immune system is the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of bean-shaped lymph nodes that trap pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, and can even trap cancer cells. Also in the system are your spleen and your thymus.
The lymph nodes are connected to each other by lymphatic vessels, which are thin tubes that carry a fluid called lymph, similar to the way that blood vessels carry blood. Lymph flushes away toxins and waste. It also transports immune system cells throughout your body.
Another lymph organ is the marrow in your bones. Marrow produces white blood cells, which attack invaders such as bacteria. When you encounter a pathogen, your lymphatic system works to attack it with white blood cells and then excrete the waste and toxins from that fight. However, when your immune system doesn’t work, one or more of those steps goes awry.
If your immune system overreacts to substances that don’t actually cause illness or disease, then you have allergies. Allergies are often transmitted through the genes. However, you can also develop allergies over time. An overactive immune system causes conditions such as:
To help calm down your immune system, we may recommend allergy shots. Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy that trains your immune system to gradually tolerate substances that trigger an attack.
For instance, if you’re allergic to pet dander, we’d give you shots that contain small amounts of pet dander. Over time, as your body learns to tolerate the dose, we raise the dose. Eventually, you stop reacting to dander.
When you have an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, your immune system attacks your own healthy tissue. Genes are usually at least partly responsible for autoimmune diseases, but environmental influences may also be at play. The most common autoimmune diseases are:
You may get relief from your autoimmune disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a whole-foods diet, plenty of exercise, and stress-reduction techniques. In addition, we may recommend medications that help alleviate symptoms.
When your immune system is underactive, you may find that you’re constantly ill. Instead of the normal 2-3 colds per year, you suffer from multiple colds, or never fully recover from any of them.
Other signs that your immune system is weak are problems with digestion. Your immune system and your gut are intricately linked. In fact, 70% of your immune system is in your gut, where it’s aided by beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms.
You may also develop frequent infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or feel tired all the time. A key sign of an underactive immune system are wounds that are slow to heal.
To give your immune system a boost, we may recommend lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep and exercise. We may also recommend that you keep up with your vaccines to help your immune system fight off viruses.
Has your immune system got you down? Contact Allergy and Asthma Institute today for help by phoning our friendly staff at 678-615-7878. Or, at your convenience, book an appointment online.