Many people are sick in the autumn and winter months. A persistent cold, a nasty flu, we all get sick and nobody likes it. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to strengthen your immune system.
How does your immune system work?
Your immune system kicks into action as soon as pathogens such as viruses or bacteria invade your body. The immune system consists of several types of cells and tissues, each with its own function. An important part of the immune system is the skin, which has a barrier function. If the skin is healthy and intact, it is difficult for pathogens to invade the body. In addition, your intestines are an important part of the immune system. The good bacteria in your intestines ensure that pathogens entering your body through food intake are disabled. We also have immune cells and antibodies in the body that attack pathogens and render them harmless. Usually, the immune system manages to neutralize the intruders and cleans up without you even noticing. But sometimes that does not work and you become ill.
Strengthening your immune system
The stronger your immune system, the less likely you are to get sick. For the proper functioning of your immune system, it is important that there is a balance. Much research is being done on how to strengthen your immune system. For example, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and all sorts of supplements and medications. Everything indicates that a healthy lifestyle is important if you want to strengthen your immune system. Your body – and therefore your immune system – works better if it is in optimal condition. By following these tips you can strengthen your immune system:
- Do not smoke
- Eat plenty of fruits/vegetables & whole grains and not a lot of saturated fat
- Exercise regularly
- Make sure you have a healthy weight
- Keep your blood pressure under control
- Do not drink too much alcohol
- Get enough sleep
- Ensure proper hygiene; wash your hands regularly & prepare food carefully
The influence of your diet on your immune system
Because the intestines play such an important role in the defense against pathogens, it is logical that your diet plays an important role in the strengthening of your immune system. People who have unhealthy eating habits are more susceptible to infections than people who have a healthy and balanced diet. If your diet provides too little of a particular nutrient – for example because you do not like vegetables or rather eat white bread instead of whole wheat bread – then you can supplement the deficiency with a vitamin supplement. This is not only good for your immune system, but also for all other processes in your body.
Support from herbs and supplements
Although there is no conclusive scientific evidence, some herbs appear to boost the immune system. Aloe vera for example, seems to help against wounds and skin infections. Also garlic appears to have anti-infective properties. In laboratory tests, researchers found that garlic protects against bacteria, viruses and fungi. However, it is still too early to say whether this effect applies also in people and if so, how much garlic you should eat to notice a positive effect. There has been much to do in recent years about probiotics. There are countless drinks, yoghurts and other products with this good bacteria available. Probiotics should support the good bacteria in the intestinal flora in the fight against pathogens. However, there is no research that proves conclusively.