Strong immune system – good health

Strong immune system - good health

A well-functioning immune system is the basis for our health and performance. However, more and more people suffer from infections unusually often – and not only during the typical cold season in the winter months. This makes it clear that immune deficiencies are more common than commonly assumed. The body’s defences protect it from harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. An unbalanced diet, stimulants and environmental toxins, as stress and mental conflicts weaken our immune system.

Innate and adaptive immune systems

Everyone has innate defence mechanisms against infections. These non-specific defence mechanisms are operational from birth. They attack any intruder first and also eliminate dead body cells. However, the non-specific immune defence does not have what is known as an immunological memory and, therefore, cannot take targeted action against specific pathogens.

The specific immune response of the acquired immune system performs this task. The focus here is on B and T lymphocytes, immune cells found in the blood and the lymphatic vessels. The specific defence mechanisms develop throughout life when the immune system is confronted with pathogens and can then develop specific antibodies against them.

The child’s immune system needs diseases.

Colds and childhood illnesses such as chickenpox or rubella are essential to train the immature child’s immune system. Small children have the highest infection rate. The reason for the numerous viral respiratory diseases (caused mainly by rhinoviruses) is the immature immune system.

From birth to age 4, children suffer from an average of 5 virus-related respiratory infections per year without an immune deficiency. Paediatricians consider up to 12 superficial respiratory infections in small children and up to 8 in school children to be expected. However, if the offspring catch cold more often, the individual phases of the disease last longer than four days, or if the infections are unusually severe and are often accompanied by complications such as middle ear infections, one speaks of susceptibility to infections.

Adults have to deal with the annoying symptoms two to three times a year. Older people are usually more susceptible to infections because the immune system is just as susceptible to natural ageing as other organs. The immune system works particularly effectively between the ages of 10 and 50.

Immune status – external influences and own behaviour

Almost all of us come into contact with the same pathogens, yet our immune systems react exceptionally differently. Whether and how the individual’s defence system reacts to an invading pathogen depends, among other things:

  • From the basic genetic makeup and the general state of health of the individual to the performance of the immune system.
  • From the diet –  plenty of carbohydrates, sufficient protein and little fat. Vitamins A, C, E, B12, folic acid and the minerals ironzinc and selenium are particularly important for the activity and function of our immune cells. A healthy, varied diet also includes whole grain and dairy products, fish twice a week, little meat and, above all, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • From pre-existing conditions/diseases of civilization, such as vascular diseases, hypertension, obesity and diabetes. These diseases can negatively affect the immune system. In diabetics, for example, the resistance to bacterial infections is reduced.
  • The consumption of alcohol, sweets and nicotine –  stimulants can also lead to a weakening of the immune system.
  • From psychological well-being –  in the correct dose, stress (eustress) increases our performance, mobilizes our metabolism and stimulates our immune system. However, if stress factors get the upper hand – be it due to overload at work or in everyday life, on vacation or during leisure sports – or if it lasts for a long time, the immune system also suffers. Conflicts or fears also reduce the immune system’s ability to defend itself. Satisfied, positive people are often less susceptible to illness than people currently in a negative phase of life.
  • From environmental pollutants –  soot particles from the air impair defences. In the summer months, ozone, mainly formed by car exhaust fumes and UV radiation, can reduce the performance of immune cells.

 

Tips for strengthening the immune system

  • With relaxation against stress, recharge your batteries while you sleep.
  • Immune-healthy diet (lots of fruits and vegetables).
  • Prevention by hardening, endurance sports (swimming, jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing).

 There are several precautionary measures to avoid coughing, runny nose and hoarseness, especially during the cold season. Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors in the winter months (even in bad weather !) avoids overheated rooms with dry air and avoids crowds has the best chance of staying healthy during this time. Raw food days, a wholesome diet, enough sleep, sleeping with the window open, regular sauna sessions, and moderate physical activity all strengthen the immune system.

Water treatments, such as alternating hot and cold showers, have proven particularly useful for children prone to infections. If you fear water, rub it off with a hot, damp towel. In addition, children need a regular daily routine and between 8 and 12 hours of sleep for mental balance. Sensory overload, e.g., from television or video games, should be avoided as much as possible.

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