The immune system protects you from foreign bodies and environmental influences. He needs your support to carry out this task without problems: a proper diet, restful sleep, little stress and careful hygiene.
The immune system works like a car: it needs the right fuel and sufficient quantity. Following a healthy diet, avoiding stress, getting adequate sleep and maintaining proper hygiene will create the conditions for a healthy immune defence.
Reinforcement of the defences
Your immune system needs strength to fight pathogens properly; You get it through a healthy diet, enough exercise, and rest.
If you are missing important nutrients or are stressed in your daily life, the function of your immune system decreases. Especially in children and the elderly, care must be taken to maintain a strong immune system.
You can learn how your immune system works through the cerascreen® Immune System Test, which measures the number of lymphocytes in the blood. You will receive several recommendations to strengthen your immune system in the results report.
How can I strengthen my immune system?
For the immune system to perform its defensive function optimally, the following elements should be optimized in daily life [3, 4] :
- balanced diet (enough fruit and vegetables), avoiding nutrient deficiencies (vitamins, minerals) and having a healthy body weight ;
- exercise regularly;
- stop smoking and moderate or not consume alcohol ;
- low stress and healthy sleep habits ;
- preventive measures: hygiene, disinfection, vaccination.
- Nutrition and the immune system
Nothing works in the body if there is a lack of nutrients, which naturally applies to the immune system. Carbohydrates and fats provide energy. Vitamins act as catalysts and improve immune function.
In addition, vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances are antioxidants. Together, they prevent free radicals from causing cell damage.
Your body can also make antioxidants on its own. However, they need minerals such as zinc, manganese, iron, selenium, and copper to provide cell protection.
What nutrients are important for a strong immune system?
You must always ensure your nutrition meets your needs to maintain your immune function. When the immune system is weakened, and an infection occurs, a vicious cycle can be set in motion: lack of nutrients leads to infection. This, in turn, can lead to further loss of nutrients through symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, or diarrhoea.
According to studies, the following nutrients have the greatest influence on the immune system  :
- vitamina A, C, D y E;
- zinc and selenium
- omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- prebiotics and probiotics
From birth, vitamin A influences the development of the innate immune system. If the body lacks vitamin A, the immune system suffers: phagocytes and killer T cells lose effectiveness. Furthermore, animal studies have shown that the protective function of the intestinal mucosa may be decreased.
For a long time, it was thought that vitamin D only regulates bone formation. However, researchers have shown that vitamin D increases the activity of immune cells, particularly macrophages. Recent research suggests that adequate vitamin D intake reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Vitamin C and vitamin E
When it comes to immune defence, vitamin C and vitamin E make a well-coordinated team. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from free radicals: cells remain stable and can perform their functions. After scavenging the free radicals, vitamin E becomes a free radical and vitamin C comes into play. It recycles the vitamin E radical into a normal vitamin E molecule.
Zinc, selenium and iron
M minerals such as iron and zinc are involved in forming immune cells, while zinc and selenium also have antioxidant effects. Both zinc and selenium deficiency affects macrophage and T cell functions. In iron deficiency, the thymus gland cannot provide enough immune cells.
Zinc and selenium are found in high amounts in whole grains and nuts. Iron is found, for example, in meat, nuts, whole grains, broccoli, and cabbage.
pro and prebiotics
70 % of the immune system is found in the intestine: the intestinal bacteria that reside there fight pathogens and prevent their spread.
Infections, taking antibiotics, an unhealthy diet and chronic stress favour the imbalance of the intestinal flora. Thus, harmful bacteria can reach the intestine, cross the intestinal mucosa more easily and enter the bloodstream.
To stop the effects of antibiotics, it is recommended to take probiotics: food supplements that contain intestinal bacteria to strengthen the intestinal flora. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi, and cheeses like mozzarella and cheddar contain probiotic bacteria.
Probiotics support the growth of intestinal bacteria that fight pathogens and strengthen the intestinal lining. Prebiotics are fibres found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 regulate blood circulation, among other things: while omega 3 fatty acids promote blood circulation, omega 6 contributes to blood coagulation. For heart health, the body should have an optimal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 5 to 1. According to studies, higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids may increase not only the risk of heart disease and immunological disorders [8, 9].
To increase your omega 3 levels, you can consume a tablespoon of cold-pressed virgin flax oil each day, a handful of walnuts, and eat cold-water fish, such as mackerel or herring, once a week. Omega-3 supplements made with fish oil or, for vegans, algal oil are also an option.
Obesity and the immune system
A series of inflammatory processes accompany obesity: fat cells secrete adipokines and pro-inflammatory proteins. They interfere with the transmission of signals from white blood cells and the immune system, so inflammation cannot be detected early.
In Summary: Immune System and Nutrition
Adequate consumption of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids is good for your immune system. A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and fish will give you the most nutrients. You can check your supply of minerals and vitamins with our mineral test. You can support your intestinal flora with pro- and prebiotics and thus further support the immune defence in your intestine.
Stress and the immune system
Stress describes the feeling of situations that overwhelm you emotionally: your body reacts by releasing stress hormones like cortisol.
How does stress affect the immune system?
Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels prevent immune cells from fighting pathogens promptly and effectively. In addition, chronic stress impairs lymphocyte production and the humoral immune response: the body produces fewer antibodies to fight pathogens.
Well-being and the immune system
Making everyday life less stressful improves mood and boosts the immune response: the body produces more and more active T cells. Natural killer cells also work more effectively. Wellness is also believed to reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases and the presence of free radicals.
To make your daily life less stressful, you can take into account the following points
- Getting enough restful sleep reduces your stress levels.
- Exercise helps counteract stress, especially if you like sports;
- Drink black tea, which should counteract the release of stress hormones;
- Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants into your diet;
- Daily relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or Qi Gong have been shown to decrease cortisol release.
Sleep and the immune system
A third of Spaniards have insomnia. A sleepless night not only makes you feel tired in the morning or chilly during the day, but it can also make you feel bad; it also increases the risk of getting sick more often. This is because the body needs adequate sleep for optimal immune function.
How does insufficient sleep affect the immune system?
During sleep, the production of immune cells, such as T cells and natural killer cells, takes place. During this period, lymphocytes are especially active. Their task is to recognize potential threats early during recovery and repair.
Sports and the immune system
Exercise boosts the immune system: When you exercise regularly, your blood flow improves. When blood flows better, immune cells can more quickly detect pathogens.
Researchers have observed that physical activity can increase the activity of natural killer cells and granulocytes. Additionally, exercise is thought to curb age-related weakening of the immune system. Try to plan five < strong > 30-minute exercise sessions a week. But don’t overdo it; too intense workouts can weaken your immune system.
Supplements for the immune system
In recent years, people have been advanced multi-strain formula buying more and more supplements to boost the immune system’s performance, especially < strong > vitamin C supplements.
Often these dietary supplements are marketed as a miracle weapon in the fight against infections. However, studies show that most of them don’t necessarily work: neither zinc nor vitamin C supplements prevent a cold. For example – they probably shorten the duration of the illness.
What foods strengthen the immune system?
Ginseng, ginger and garlic strengthen the immune system. They increase the activity of immune cells, such as natural killer cells, macrophages, and granulocytes.
Spicy foods such as chillies or bell peppers contain a secondary plant compound called “capsaicin”; this favours the initiation of programmed cell death, helping to eliminate defective or harmful cells and pathogens.
Curcumin from < strong > turmeric can increase the production of B, T, and natural killer cells. The phytochemical may also increase the response rate of the immune system.
The amino acid theanine from green or black tea and the medicinal plant echinacea could fundamentally improve immune function in rats.
Alcohol, tobacco and the immune system
It is sometimes said, albeit jokingly, that alcohol and cigarettes could even kill viruses and bacteria with their toxins. Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a myth.
Studies suggest that alcohol abuse inhibits certain defence cells, weakens the immune system and increases the risk of infections.
This also applies quite directly: if you spend the night in a crowded bar or pub, your body is less able to fight off whatever pathogens are hanging around.
One study showed that just 20 minutes after subjects drank a large amount of vodka, levels of inflammation and defence processes in the body briefly increased. However, after two hours, the immune system had weakened, and the number of defence cells, such as monocytes (phagocytes) and natural killer cells, was significantly reduced. According to the researchers, a single poisoning increases the risk of getting sick.
On the other hand, some studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption could strengthen the immune system in the long term. However, these results are controversial among researchers, and recent studies suggest that even small amounts of alcohol are generally unhealthy and may even increase the risk of developing cancer.
Smoking mainly affects the outer protective walls of the immune system: the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and the lungs’ cilia. This fact facilitates the entry of pathogens into the respiratory tract, which can increase, among other things, the risk of pneumonia.
Immune cells also seem to suffer from nicotine. Scientists have observed contradictory effects on the defence system concerning smoking. However, in general, tobacco use impairs the immune system. It has also been shown that smokers are, on average, more prone to infections such as colds and flu .
You can strengthen your immune system in the long term and ensure that you come into contact with fewer pathogens in your daily life. The steps to do so may seem small and trivial initially, but they greatly impact your immune system in the long run.
How to protect yourself from infectious diseases?
Pay attention to your hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly if you have been in contact with potential sources of pathogens, whether in the bathroom, kitchen or public toilets.
Cover your mouth with your elbow when you sneeze or cough to avoid infecting others.
Open wounds should be washed immediately with lukewarm water and covered with a bandage or gauze.
Condoms can protect against sexually transmitted infections like HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhoea.
It must first be thoroughly washed to remove as many pathogens as possible from food. Raw animal products should be heated and cut on a separate cutting board. If you are travelling abroad, it is best to find out in advance if the water is drinkable or contaminated with bacteria.
Tip: Before you travel, always find out about the risk of infectious diseases in the respective country so that you can take the necessary precautions.
Vaccines are used to protect against various diseases. It is injected with small amounts of a certain pathogen so that the body produces its antibodies from that moment on. If this pathogen is infected, your body can react with the appropriate antibodies. You can be vaccinated against the following diseases and pathogens  :
- whooping cough, flu
- hepatitis B
- shingles, pneumococcus, rotavirus, meningococcus, HPV
- measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio
- In short: it strengthens the immune system.
How can I strengthen my immune system?
For your immune system to provide long-lasting protection against infection, you must ensure that you eat a varied diet that meets your needs to get enough nutrients to strengthen your immune system. Among them are vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc, selenium and iron. Also, you need to get plenty of sleep, get enough exercise, and keep stress levels low in your daily life. Vaccines and proper personal hygiene also prevent the risk of infections.
What foods strengthen my immune system?
Foods that are believed to boost the immune system are ginger, garlic, and medicinal plants such as ginseng or echinacea. Spicy foods are also believed to have immune-boosting effects. Theanine from green and black tea and curcumin from turmeric has similar positive effects on the immune system.
How do I protect myself from pathogens?
When there are viruses or other pathogens, you can do things to avoid them, like washing your hands thoroughly, sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand, and always washing fresh food. During flu season, preventive vaccination can also better protect you.