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What is the function of the immune system?

30 June 2022
2-minute read

The immune system is the human body’s superhero. It protects you from harmful substances and allows your cells and organs to function correctly. It is so efficient that you don’t even know it’s there when it’s running smoothly. However, if your immune system does stop working at its full potential, you will feel the effects. Below, we explore the primary functions of the immune system and explain why you need to keep it healthy. 

The main roles of the immune system 

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the immune system. Without it, human beings wouldn’t be able to survive. Your immune system does a whole range of impressive things that you may even take for granted:

  • Your immune system is the body’s primary defence against infection-causing pathogens. This includes viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi. Your immune system detects pathogens and removes them from the human body. 

  • The human body is also at risk from harmful environmental substances known as free radicals. Your immune system recognises and neutralises such substances, protecting you from infection and disease. 

  • As well as looking outward, your immune system springs to life to protect you from internal changes in the body. It fights off disease-causing changes in the human body, such as the formation of cancer cells.

The importance of white blood cells 

White blood cells (leukocytes) are arguably the most important component of all the elements that make up your immune system. They efficiently monitor the entirety of your body and are constantly on the lookout for pathogens to neutralise. When they identify a target, white blood cells multiply and send signals to other cells to do the same. If your body becomes immunodeficient, which can be caused by age, obesity, alcoholism, or a viral infection like HIV, your white blood cells are compromised. 

There are also several autoimmune diseases that your body may contract, including Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. These all affect the white blood cell count in the human body and can severely impact the immune system's functionality. 

How to keep your immune system healthy 

Some viruses and diseases are so dangerous that vaccines have been developed to supplement our natural resistance to infection. From Covid-19 to Polio, vaccines have been proven to support your immune system against deadly diseases. You can’t vaccinate against every pathogen. You need to do other things to keep your immune system healthy, including: 

  • Eat more whole foods that are rich in antioxidants. Fruits and veggies offer additional protection against harmful pathogens. 

  • Moderate exercise has been proven to reduce inflammation and support the regeneration of immune cells. 

  • Relieving stress and anxiety reduces your long-term exposure to inflammation and means you’re less likely to suffer from an imbalance in immune cell function. 


All of our blog articles are reviewed by our Medical Director before publication.