When I studied nutrition I often forced myself to explain complex matters to my girls, because I knew that if I could get my 5-year old to understand, I’d really mastered the topic.
So here’s how I explain the immune system in simple words:
Our immune system protects us against the bad guys that make us sick, like bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
When one of these gets into our body, for instance through our mouth or nose, our immunity squad team works together to destroy these invaders.
Here’s what happens (note: what’s written between brackets is for your information):
The first to arrive on the battlefield are called “big eaters” (macrophages). They literally envelop the intruder while calling some friends (the cytokines) for help. These make it very hot around the intruder which is why you feel pain, and your skin can become red and swollen.
In the meantime, the elite force is getting ready for the battle (natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells). These are our warriors who do the actual fighting and are trained to destroy the intruder.
Another team (T-regulator cells) is following the scene from the control tower. If they see the good guys are losing the battle, they send more warriors. If we’ve won the battle, they send another team (T-suppressors) to tell the warriors to stop fighting.
At last, our antibodies (B-cell antibodies) tag the intruders with a little label that will make it easier for our soldiers to recognize the invaders next time, and be much quicker at destroying them. That’s why we usually don’t get the same illness twice in a row.
It’s our task to make sure our soldiers are super strong. The healthier we eat and live, the stronger our little fighters are, and the shorter the battles will be.
Now, how can you give your soldiers superpowers?
- Eat your greens
- Drink lots of water
- Sleep a lot
- Move, play, jump
- And don't eat too much sugar, because it makes our fighters fat and lazy!
My kids are totally fascinated by this story and I often tell it when they’re sick.
It has amazing effects on them and makes them far more compliant. They realize they’re in control and can actively help their little warriors win the battle and get themselves feeling better again. Giving them that power over their body is a great part of the healing process.
Related post: 6 ways to boost your family's immunity