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6 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Immune System

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Did you know most of your immune system is in your gut?

woman touching her belly

No one really gives the human body—and its immune system—the credit both deserve until they’re stuck in bed, coughing up a lung and drinking tubs of chicken soup. But it’s important to take care of your immune system every day, even when you’re feeling perfectly healthy; after all, you have it to thank for feeling that way! The immune system, which serves as the body’s armor against harmful bacteria, viruses, and beyond, is much more elaborate and weird than you might think. Here, fun facts about the immune system that you can share at your next school trivia night.

It’s made up of two parts.

Your immune system is made up of two subsystems. The innate immune system provides general defense, mostly against bacterial infections. The adaptive immune system contains antibodies, which target specific pathogens you’ve come into contact with before.

It contains germ-fighting filters called lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes, which serve as a filter for germs, are located all over the body—including behind your knees. Lymph node contain white blood cells, especially lymphocytes, that help fight and track which germs go in and out the body.

The majority of your immune system is actually in your gut.

You may exclusively associate your gut with the digestive system, but the gut microbiome that helps break down nutrients in your body also supports immune function. Now, how much of your immune system is your gut: almost 70 percent of it to be exact. Your gut can be thrown off by a lot of things, including stress, which subsequently can impact your immune system. You may help support the gut microbiome by including food that contains probiotics, such as yogurt or kombucha, in your diet.

Don’t believe the five-second rule.

The five-second rule—i.e. you can eat something that’s fallen onto the floor so long as you pick it up within five seconds—is a myth, since bacteria can hitch a ride on food instantly. Dry floors that look clean can still have bacteria on them.

Allergies come from your immune system.

Allergic reactions happen when your immune system overreacts to something normal and totally harmless, like a peanut or shellfish, and treats it as harmful. The immune system produces antibodies, which activate allergy cells and release histamine into the bloodstream. Then, you’re left with allergy symptoms that may range from sneezing and an itchy throat to more severe like throat swelling, depending on what you were exposed to.

Exercise may help improve it.

In a scientific review published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, authors looked into key research studies and found that working out may benefit immune health. Among their findings, researchers noted that regular exercise may improve immune competency across the lifespan.

Get more great health and wellness stories at Parents.com/Strive.