3,600 seconds an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – it is in action around the clock for a lifetime and performs at its best every day – your immune system. Your silent companion in all your doings! It is your protective shield against bacteria, viruses and harmful cells.
How important is the immune system really, how does it work and how can YOU do something good for it and keep its back free so that it can work optimally?
Your immune system is a fascinating body’s own system – composed of different, efficiently working organs and body cells.
May we introduce? Your superheroes:
Together they are strong in the fight against viruses, bacteria and other invaders that want to harm your body: They render pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi harmless and remove them from your body. On top of that, they detect all pollutants from the environment and neutralize them so that they do not pose a threat to your body. And – last but definitely not least – they fight pathological changes such as cancer cells.
Did you know that the immune system can be divided into an innate and an acquired part? Both are closely connected and support each other and are responsible for a well-functioning immune defense.
Innate defenses, as the name suggests, are present from your birth and are the first line of defense. Special components of the blood, called phagocytes, recognize viruses or bacteria as soon as they enter the body. They then absorb the foreign cells and destroy them.
Sometimes, however, the phagocytes fail to unmask or completely eliminate the pathogens. That’s when acquired defenses come into play, which are specialized defense cells that your immune system has acquired over a lifetime of confronting various pathogens. Acquired defense cells include, for example, white blood cells. They are able to mark certain pathogens with so-called antibodies and identify them as dangerous for the phagocytes.
As long as your body’s defenses are working smoothly, they won’t make themselves known. However, if it fails because it is weakened or cannot do anything against aggressive pathogens, you get sick.
The good news is that in most cases we can influence how vigorously our immune system fights viruses and bacteria – because if we take good care of it, it works well.
How you can help him?
With regular outdoor exercise! Even a walk in the forest strengthens the immune system, as it is gently stimulated by the exertion and thus trained at the same time. In addition, Japanese scientists have found that tree communication, that is, communication between plants with the help of chemical compounds called terpenes, strengthens our immune system. This is because the body absorbs these bioactive substances through breathing or the skin, which stimulate our immune system and significantly increase the production of natural killer cells that fight bacteria and viruses.
Also important: sufficient sleep, because fatigue reduces the immune cells in the body and your immune system can no longer perform at its best.
Relaxation time is also essential for a healthy immune system. If the body is not allowed to rest, states of exhaustion occur, which provide the ideal condition for pathogens to multiply.
Another very important point is the supply of sufficient micronutrients and secondary plant substances, – because without these your immune system would fail within a very short time.
A few exemplary immune system heroes are:
Vitamin C – the immune booster par excellence! Vitamin C has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, protecting cells from nasty invaders like bacteria or viruses. The German Society for Nutrition therefore recommends a daily dose of 95-110 mg/day. However, if cold symptoms occur, taking up to 2 g of vitamin C a day can relieve symptoms! A 2013 study confirmed that cold duration in adults was reduced by an average of 8% when more than 0.2 grams of vitamin C were taken daily during the cold. In children, the average duration of colds was even reduced by up to 18% when the daily dose of vitamin C was one to two grams.
Fill up with enough sunlight, because this promotes the body’s own production of vitamin D and this in turn supports & regulates the immune system. If your body has too little vitamin D available, bacteria and viruses have an easy time of it and cause annoying infections – especially respiratory infections. Some studies have shown that taking 2 – 4 µg of vitamin D helps prevent respiratory infections – like the common cold! However, because sunlight levels are very low, especially over the winter months, the sunshine vitamin – which is actually a hormone – should be supplemented, especially during this time. Studies show that vitamin D levels in this country are at their lowest for most people, especially in March.
Zinc is also essential for the immune system: without zinc – no immune system! Certain immune defense cells cannot be formed without zinc. On top, zinc promotes the body’s defense against viruses and bacteria and is responsible for the “memory” of our immune defenses by reminding the immune system of previous contacts with pathogens!
Selenium is also important for your immune system, because: One of the main causes of a weak immune system are free radicals, which – among other things – also damage our immune cells and are responsible for many chronic diseases and inflammations. Selenium is an essential indirect antioxidant that protects your body cells from free radical attack. Indirectly means that it does not act against free radicals itself, but is responsible for the functioning of almost all enzyme systems that fight free radicals.
B vitamins – the detectives of our immune system.
Over the years, our defense system learns to unmask hostile viruses, bacteria and other unwanted intruders as pathogens. B vitamins support this recognition.
In addition, vitamin B2 guards against oxidative stress and, together with vitamin B3, helps maintain healthy mucous membranes – important in the fight against sniffles.
Secondary plant compounds were underestimated for a long time – but today at the latest it is known that they also fulfill important protective functions in humans! Meanwhile, many positive effects of fruits and vegetables are even attributed to the secondary plant compounds. Thus, scientists have found that they have, among other things, antimicrobial and antioxidant effect. This means that on the one hand they prevent the growth and spread of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria or fungi, and on the other hand the secondary plant compounds are able to scavenge free radicals and thus have a health-promoting effect.
It’s amazing what the immune system can do – at any moment! You have it in your hands – support it actively with enough exercise, sleep, relaxation as well as nutrients and listen to your body when it sends you signals!
In this sense: Stay healthy!