An Elegant Defense

24 Jul 2021

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives

It is an ever-vigilant, omnipresent peacekeeping force in the Festival of Life.

I picked up this book as I came across it on Bill Gate’s blog post and thought it would be interesting to learn about the wonders of the immune system through four characters - intertwining stories with science.

There has been a lot of talk about our immune system during this pandemic and what intrigued me most over the last year is why covid19 affects some people and have little or apparent no effect on others of similar age. This book answers that question!

Besides, this is what we always knew about our immune system - we get an infection and our body sends white blood cells to fight it. However, the immune system is more complex and magical than this!

The immune system is our defense network - fighting illnesses, healing wounds, maintaining order and balance and keeping us alive. The system’s foot soldiers patrol our bodies with the worlds most sophisticated communication system. There is an entire purpose of the immune system than just fighting off infection. The immune system is tuned to find a balance “between attacking and neutralising real dangers and showing sufficient restraint such that its potency didn’t destroy the body,” Richtel writes. “This is what makes our defence so elegant.”

Your immune system isn’t a war machine. It’s a peacekeeping force that more than anything else seeks to create harmony. The job of the immune system is to circulate through this wild party, keeping an eye out for troublemakers and then—this is key—tossing out bad guys while doing as little damage to other cells as possible. This is not just because we don’t want to hurt our tissue. It is also because we need many of the alien organisms that live on and in us, including the billions of bacteria that live in our guts. A convincing argument is now being made that some of these microbes, far from threatening us, are welcome as essential allies. Our health depends on our harmonious interaction with a multitude of bacteria.

This book discusses the following…

History of the immune system.
What are retroviruses?
Cancer - something that is made by the body!
What is Immunotherapy?
Why are vaccines important and what do they do?
Why sleep, reducing stress, being active, and good nutrition is important to the well-being of our immune system?
Why should we avoid overuse of antibiotics?
Why incest is not good for our survival?
There is nothing like an immunity booster!
What causes allergies?
What is the purpose of inflammation and fever when we get sick?
How does auto-immunity come about?
What is a microbiome and what part does it play in keeping us healthy?
Death is inevitable. Our immune system has a role to play!

The reason is that the immune system hasn’t evolved to defend us as individuals. It has evolved to defend our genetic material and the species as a whole. It does an extraordinary job of keeping us alive until we reproduce and then rear our offspring. After that, it does an even better job of moving us out of the way.

An informative, good read and by understanding the inner workings of our immune system we can make better decisions to live better and healthier. The most important takeaway for me is that the immune system is constantly seeking to maintain harmony and cooperation for our survival - and if we step back, zoom out - this is the answer to what evolution is for all life on this planet!


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