Immune system and colds

The immune system
Did you know that male 16 to 20-year-olds in Germany are the only population group that gets all nutrients in sufficient quantities through food? This is because adolescents eat such large quantities of food every day that this alone covers their needs.

This does not mean that serious deficiency symptoms are common in all other people: Deficiency diseases such as scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) or beriberi (vitamin B1 deficiency), which were feared in the 19th century, have become very rare in industrialised countries today.

However, studies on the nutritional behaviour of Germans show some significant vital substance deficiencies, which can be traced back to imbalanced or insufficient nutrition. The Robert Koch Institute in Berlin warns: At least 80 percent of the population is deficient in vitamin D and folic acid, for example, and half are lacking in vitamin E. Calcium is also a critical nutrient, especially for older women and men.

Day in, day out, our bodies are threatened by millions of attackers! This sounds dramatic, but in the vast majority of cases it turns out well for us: Bacteria, viruses and fungi are constantly attacking our bodies, but fortunately we have a highly effective defence against these attacks in the form of our immune system. Normally, we don’t even notice how our immune system works and yet it is constantly working.

It needs the right foundations for this mammoth task, though: Like all other physiological processes, the complex processes in the immune system are only possible if we consume enough of the vital substances necessary for this.

In addition, we can support our defence against viruses and bacteria by bringing enough fruits and vegetables with a high content of polyphenols, anthocyanins, glucosinolates and flavonoids to the table. Antioxidant effects and the ability to combat unwanted invaders are currently being discussed with regard to these secondary plant products.

Vitamins and the immune system

Vitamin C is certainly the vitamin we think of first when it comes to the immune system. In fact, it supports the T-cells, i.e. white blood cells, which play an important role in fighting pathogens. Ascorbic acid, as vitamin C is also called, is also known as a radical scavenger or antioxidant because it protects the cells from oxidative stress. These properties play an essential role in immune defence.

Something which is less well known, however, is that vitamin D is also indispensable for fighting pathogens: It activates the killer cells of the body’s defence system. Folic acid, just like vitamin B₆, is important for the formation of antibodies and the activity of various defence cells and thus supports the immune system. Of the minerals, iron and zinc in particular are responsible for a working immune system: The former supports the T-cells and the latter stimulates the phagocytes and promotes the formation of antibodies. Copper is also likely to have an influence on antibody formation.

Tips for warding off infections

Keep the intestinal flora healthy

More than 70% of our immune cells are located in the intestinal mucosa. And 500 or so different types of bacteria that live in the intestine are also supposed to be able to drive out unwelcome intruders. Thinking about the intestine as the key to our health is justified because it makes a significant contribution to an immune system that is ready to ward off attackers!

A healthy intestinal flora is mainly based on a healthy and balanced diet: Natural yoghurt or kefir in particular are considered beneficial as probiotic foods, as the lactic acid bacteria they contain are among the most desirable microorganisms. Foods high in plant fibre (such as fresh fruit and vegetables or whole grain products) also support the intestinal flora, as they can serve as food for the beneficial types of bacteria.

Get enough sleep

The immune system works most effectively at night. It is also exposed to the fewest attacks from outside during this time and can concentrate entirely on destroying unwanted intruders. Studies at the University of Pennsylvania have even shown that one night’s sleep being reduced to four hours can impair the immune system after only 12 days: In the experiment, there was an increase in inflammatory markers that are associated with diabetes, arteriosclerosis and ultimately cardiovascular disease. So getting enough sleep is not only important for memory and concentration, but also for physical health.

Get active regularly

The immune system is more closely linked to the central nervous system than previously thought. Regular exercise and sport can stimulate the immune system and promote stress resistance. Experts recommend moderate endurance training to activate phagocytes and killer cells. Just three hours of jogging per week is enough to improve the function of the immune cells. Too much, on the other hand, is rather harmful: After physical overload, our susceptibility to infections is even increased within a certain period of time. If are already suffering from an infection, you should not never keep exercising to avoid any further risks to your health!

Increasing your resilience in the sauna

Cold showers or contrast baths are certainly not to everyone’s taste, but regular visits to the sauna can also be beneficial and are a relaxing wellness activity for the body and mind. The extreme temperature stimuli train the body to adapt more quickly to heat or cold and thus promote its resistance, even if they have no direct influence on the immune cells.

Protect mucous membranes

The mucous membranes are particularly vulnerable to attacks by viruses and bacteria: The cold and the heating air in winter dry them out and weaken them even more. Products such as seawater spray or inhalations can be useful tools for this.

Our tip: sanotact® Cistus Infekt pastilles contain plant substances (polyphenols from cistus and echinacea extracts) which act like a protective shield over the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, warding off viruses and bacteria.

Don’t forget to wash your hands

The solution can also be really simple: Regular and thorough hand washing is the best preventive measure against colds! Not only the palms, but also the backs of the hands, the fingertips and the spaces between the fingers should be soaped up thoroughly and rinsed. If a family member is ill, you should keep your distance from them if possible and household objects as well as surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.