In the last post we discussed the importance of a healthy diet and gut microbiota in maintaining a strong immune system, but what else can we do to boost our immunity? Here are a few more tips for you, as promised:
3. Don’t forget about WATER
Proper hydration is just as important as a healthy diet.
How does water affect immune system?
The oral and nasal cavities contain mucous membranes that are responsible for the retention of pathogenic microorganisms. If they aren’t sufficiently hydrated, they are less effective. As a result, bacteria and viruses get into the body more easily.
Moreover, it shouldn’t be forgotten that water is a solvent – it dissolves B vitamins and vitamin C – yes, it is that vitamin which is contained i.a. in lemons and is crucial for immunity! Therefore, if we consume products rich in these vitamins, but do not care about hydration, there’s a risk that our body won’t absorb them properly.
4. Get enough sleep
Sleep is the key not only to well-being but also to the proper functioning of the immune system. It plays a crucial role in the immune system.
Too little and poor quality sleep results in less production of lymphocytes, which are necessary to fight pathogens. In addition, sleep also affects the production of GH (growth hormone), which has a stimulating effect on the immune system.
In a nutshell, sleep deprivation significantly weakens our body’s defences, and an overtired body is much more susceptible to infections.
5. Remember about regular physical activity
Studies clearly show that regular moderate activity reduces the risk of upper respiratory tract infections by up to 1/3.
Physical activity affects the immune system in several ways.
Firstly, physical activity increases the number and activity of macrophages (cells that are part of the first line of defence against antigens), thus improving their effectiveness in fighting bacteria and viruses.
In addition, regular activity of moderate intensity also contributes to an increase in the activity of the body’s second line of defence cells, formed by highly specialised white blood cells, especially Th lymphocytes, thus reducing the risk of developing infections and autoimmune diseases.
Moreover, according to some studies, the increase in body temperature during physical activity alone inhibits the development of bacteria. Of course, an elevated temperature is a transition state, so in the context of the immune system it’s important that physical activity is undertaken regularly.
However, we should keep in mind that the above positive effects apply to regular activity of MODERATE intensity. According to research, physical activity of high intensity or volume may reduce the body’s immunity.
6. Don’t forget about supplementation supporting immunity
- Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with a number of diseases – cancer, autoimmune and infectious. Vitamin D3 affects the cells of the immune system, which include i.a. macrophages, B and T lymphocytes, eosinophils and neutrophils. Moreover, this vitamin enhances the production of cathelicidin, a protein with antibacterial properties.
Its best source is skin synthesis influenced by sunlight. Unfortunately, due to lifestyle changes – longer stays indoors and the use of creams with filters – skin synthesis doesn’t provide adequate amounts of this vitamin.
It’s advisable to supplement this vitamin.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
The immune system is very sensitive to the intake of essential fatty acids. It’s worth emphasizing once again the role of EFAs in the response of the immune system – they take part in the production of eicosanoids, which can act pro- or anti-inflammatory, i.e. stimulate the development or suppression of inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids also affect the expression of genes responsible for regulating the immune system.
Unfortunately, in fact, hardly anyone consumes adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids with their diet, so in most cases their supplementation is advisable.
- Vitamin C
Recent studies show that chronic supplementation with vitamin C at a dose of >200 mg a day doesn’t reduce the risk of infection, but once the disease occurs, it reduces the duration of the cold by about 8%.
As stated in the studies, the use of vitamin C may also alleviate the symptoms of a cold.
Vitamin C helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells (including B and T lymphocytes), which help protect the body from infection.
Vitamin C can increase the activity of white blood cells and even inhibit the multiplication of viruses. This is particularly noticeable in smokers. As we have already mentioned, it’s one of the factors that weaken immunity and increase susceptibility to viral infections, and vitamin C can play an important protective role in these people. It’s been shown that vitamin C reduces the risk of viral infections in smokers and people exposed to smoke.
Interestingly, it has a stronger effect on people who work physically or do intensive daily training. The prophylactic intake of ascorbic acid by these people reduces the risk of colds by 50%.
In addition, vitamin C is a very strong antioxidant that strengthens the body’s natural defence mechanisms, so it’s worth considering its supplementation during periods of increased morbidity and/or weakened immunity.
You may also consider supplementing:
Probiotics have a very positive effect on the human immune system.
They act by stimulating natural immune mechanisms, activate NK cells (Natural Killer – cytotoxic immune cells responsible for elimination of cancer cells or those infected by viruses and bacteria), increase their number and activity. Moreover, they modulate the activity of cytokines – proteins that stimulate or inhibit the immune system.
Zinc has a noticeable effect on the immune system. It acts antivirally by activating immune cells to fight (T lymphocytes and NK cells), while zinc deficiency promotes inflammation. It’s been shown that the deficiency of this micronutrient deregulates the inflammatory cytokine: IL-6. Thus, low zinc levels can also indirectly lead to increased inflammation and easier development of infections. Studies have confirmed that people who received zinc at the first symptoms of a cold recovered up to 3 times faster than people who received placebo.