The disease caused by the coronavirus is acute during this period. Given that health systems around the world have not yet found an effective vaccine or treatment for this disease, the only thing left is to rely on our immunity.
The immune system is our defense mechanism against all unwanted infectious diseases (caused by various microorganisms), but also a little more general. It is our defense system that should keep the organism in a so-called state of balance.
Immunity is not only important in the fight against viral infections and other diseases for which we have not yet found a suitable treatment. It is quite important and general, for what is called quality of life. How often will we be sick, how will we feel, what consequences will we have after the illnesses, etc.
The question arises, can we with our actions, ie with our lifestyle, “help” the immunity in its proper functioning.
What can we do about it?
Science has not yet fully confirmed that we can in any way influence the improvement of the immune system through lifestyle. We say system, immunity is a complex system, not a single entity. It is still very difficult to prove the direct impact of lifestyle on the immune system.
However, there are appropriate indications that encourage scientists to make studies, ie to research in that direction. Therefore, just as practicing a healthy lifestyle is a proven way to improve general health, so it is a good way to provide a “foundation” for the proper functioning of the immune system.
“Healthy ways” to boost immunity
The first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. By following the good tips for leading a healthy life, proper nutrition, physical activity, and stress management, we can help maintain a strong and healthy immune system. Every part of the body, including the immune system, functions better when it is protected from external attacks and is stimulated by healthy living habits, such as:
- – Non-smoking
- – What is meant by a healthy, balanced diet
- – Regular physical activity
- – Maintaining a normal body weight
- – Poor alcohol consumption
- – Good, quality sleep
- – Avoiding infections through hand washing and proper heat treatment of risky foods
- – Minimize stress
Magic products that “boost immunity”
Many manufacturers in the market claim that consuming a certain product can “boost” immunity. These claims are without much scientific support. Why?
Immunity, as we have said, is a system that is composed of a huge number of cells of different species that function in different ways and in different situations (in the fight against different types of microorganisms that cause infections of different types).
Also, the number of these cells is constantly changing, some die, others are synthesized. Hence the question: which cells should be synthesized and to what number? Science does not have the answer. No one can say how many immune cells are needed and in what combination for immunity to work best.
On the other hand, it is known that beta-glucans can have a positive effect, and they are most often present in mushrooms.
Immunity and age
As we age, the capacities of the immune system decrease, which further leads to greater susceptibility to infections and the spread of cancer. As life expectancy increases, so do age-related diseases.
Several studies conclude that, compared to younger people, older people are more likely to get infections of different types, also have increased chances of death from them. Such infections are, for example, influenza, various respiratory diseases of bacterial type, pneumonia, etc. The increased danger of the coronavirus is now relevant. The elderly are a particularly risky category.
These are the main causes of death for people over 65 years.
There is still no completely relevant information on why this happens, but the main reason why this is the case with older people is the reduction in the number of so-called Immune T cells due to atrophy of the thymus over the years, resulting in reduced synthesis of such cells.
Several studies have suggested an association between immunity and diet in the elderly. Forms of malnutrition are surprisingly common in these individuals. This is usually expressed as a lack of micronutrients, ie vitamins, and minerals. Older people eat less varied foods and generally less in quantities. The question is whether taking supplements (micronutrients via tablets) could help. Also, it is certain that depending on the individual and the frequency of use, some supplements may be harmful.
However, a diet rich in fresh and whole grains is a much better solution. Physical activity is also helpful.
Diet and immunity
Like all cells, the immune system needs adequate nutrients to function properly. Scientists confirm that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable and more susceptible to infections. Although the direct effect of diet on immunity has not been fully established, there is evidence that a lack of certain micronutrients can cause problems for the body.
These micronutrients can be zinc, copper, iron, selenium, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, and E. Supplements can be helpful, but can also cause a variety of problems if overused. That is why it is important to include in the diet fresh and whole-grain products that are rich in essential micronutrients.
The effect of stress on the immune system
Modern medicine is increasingly interested in the effects of stress, on the human body in general, and the immune system. The connection between the mind and the body.
Many unpleasant health conditions such as stomach aches, allergies, and even heart disease are associated with the effect of emotional stress. Despite the complexity, scientists are actively trying to determine the relationship between stress and the immune system.
Stress is difficult to define – for example, what is a stressful situation for one is not for another. When people are exposed to stressful situations, it is difficult to define “quantitatively” how much stress they are dealing with. The only way scientists can “measure” stress is by the number of heartbeats per minute, but it can also be the result of other factors. However, scientists are more interested in the impact of immunity on chronic stress, that is, stress caused by bad relationships with family, partners, friends, co-workers, or the challenges we constantly face in an environment.
It is especially difficult to conduct such research due to many factors, but despite that, scientists are trying to come up with results and make progress in those experiments. The results will be visible in the coming years.
It is from a scientific point of view, experientially, it can generally be said that chronic stress affects our mental health, which significantly affects the quality of life. But, as we mentioned, some physically noticeable conditions such as allergies, stomach aches, and headaches are often observed. That is why we need to pay attention to our mental health. Regular physical activity can also help.
How does physical activity affect immunity?
Regular exercise is one of the basics of what a healthy lifestyle means. Proven to improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, help regulate body weight and protect us from various other diseases.
But does it help boost immunity?
Like a healthy diet, exercise can help the general health of the body, and thus the immune system. It can also help more directly by increasing circulation, allowing immune cells and other immune substances to move more easily throughout the body and thus do their job more easily. Hence it can be concluded that regular physical activity should be practiced.
What is the perspective of research on the impact of lifestyle on immune function?
A recently used approach may help researchers more easily determine the impact of lifestyle on immune function. It is the examination of genes, ie the sequencing of the human genome. This is already being worked on and will be even more in the future.