I honestly thought that with Type 1 diabetes, my immune system was shot to hell. But my husband and oldest daughter always get sick faster and longer than I do. Somehow I seem to fight off "bugs" better than they do. How can this be?

Immunesystem_2 Curious as ever, I spent a little time looking into the human immune system and found some pretty intriguing trivia, compiled here for your reading pleasure:

1) Type 1 diabetes doesn't hamper the day-to-day activity of your immune system if you have good blood glucose control.

"The autoimmune part of type 1 is very particular, as only the beta cells in the islets are targeted; not the other cells in the islet, and not the other cells in the pancreas. In all of the usual ways, the immune system is just fine," my co-author Dr. Jackson tells me.

"There are a few other autoimmune endocrine disorders that are slightly more likely if you have type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common, resulting in either an overactive or underactive thyroid."

2) Autoimmune (AI) disease is primarily a women's issue.

This according to Rosalind Joffe in her new book, "Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease" (due out in May '08). The ratios of AI diseases vary from 2:1 to 50:1 in favor of women, she says.

3) Allergies are also an "immune system mistake."

"For some reason, in people with allergies, the immune system strongly reacts to an allergen that should be ignored. The allergen might be a certain food, or a certain type of pollen, or a certain type of animal fur. For example, a person allergic to a certain pollen will get a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, etc."

See How Stuff Works. Gotta love that site!

4) Your immune system is a three-layer deal.

Backing up for a moment, did you know that the immune system is composed of these three "layers" or mechanisms? (info from Bio-Medicine)

i) the first layer is the skin and mucous membranes, which acts as a physical barrier.

ii) The second layer is the "innate immune system," a broad-acting, short-term, non-specific immune response to pathogens such as bacteria or viruses. Microbes that evade the innate system encounter a third layer of protection;

iii) A powerful mechanism called the adaptive immune response. Here populations of white blood cells known as lymphocytes — B cells and T cells — mount a powerful, highly specific attack on specific pathogens. "The adaptive immune responses to virus and bacterial infections, for example, are quite different."

Cleverly designed, that human body, ay?



5) A weakened immune system is NOT a cause of the common cold.

Read all about it. By one theory even, people with active immune systems may be more prone to developing cold symptoms than people with less active immune systems. Wow! That might explain my hubby's recurrent sniffles...


6) The No. 1 way to boost your immune system is reducing stress, according to WebMD.

"There is overwhelming evidence that stress -- and the substances secreted by the body during stress -- negatively impacts your ability to remain healthy," says neurophysiologist Carl J. Charnetski.

Apparently there are dozens, if not hundreds, of studies attesting to how stress affects the body's ability to respond to infection."


7) Vitamin C helps, too, if you don't pee it out.

According to Ask Dr. Sears: "You don't have to take in massive amounts of vitamin C to boost your immune system. Around 200 milligrams a day seems to be a generally agreed-upon amount and one that can be automatically obtained by eating at least six servings of fruits and vegetables a day. See Top Seven Vitamin C-Containing Fruits. If you take vitamin C supplements, it's best to space them throughout the day rather than take one large dose, most of which may end up being excreted in the urine."

8) The immune system might be trainable!

Science Daily reports on cancer research at the Mayo Clinic.


9) Your immune system genes are core to the "chemistry" that makes you sexy.

I am not making this up. See Scientific Match, for one.

10) Some people find the whole immune response scary violent.

To some folks (with their tongues in their cheeks, we hope), the "billions of innocent microbes slaughtered by human immune systems" every day are a cause to rally behind. No kidding. Get the T-shirt!

Actually, I'd like a T-shirt that says: "Other than my islets, everything works great!"