A well-functioning immune system is the basis for our health and performance. More and more people, however, often suffer from infections - and not only during the typical cold period in the winter months. This makes it clear that defensive weaknesses are more common than commonly thought. The body's own defenses protect the body from harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Unilateral diet, pleasure and environmental toxins, but also stress and mental conflicts weaken our immune system.
Innate and acquired immune system
Everyone has innate defense mechanisms against infections. These non-specific defense mechanisms are already operational from birth. They attack any intruder first and also eliminate dead body cells. However, the non-specific immune defense has no so-called immunological memory and therefore can not specifically target certain pathogens.
This task assumes the specific immune response of the acquired immune system. The focus here is on B and T lymphocytes, which are immune cells that are found in the blood and in the lymphatics. The specific defense mechanisms develop over the course of life when the immune system is confronted with pathogens and subsequently can develop specific antibodies against it.
The child's immune system needs diseases
Colds and teething troubles such as chickenpox or rubella are important for training the immature, child-like immune system. Infants have the highest infection rate. The cause of the numerous viral respiratory diseases (usually caused by rhinoviruses) is the immature immune system.
Children from birth to 4 years of age suffer from an average of 5 virus-related respiratory infections per year without any immunodeficiency. Pediatricians still rate up to 12 simple respiratory infections in infants and up to 8 in schoolchildren as normal. However, if the offspring have a cold more often, the individual disease phases last longer than 4 days, or the infections are unusually difficult and are often accompanied by complications such as otitis media, one speaks of susceptibility to infection.
Adults have to deal with the annoying symptoms on average two to three times a year. Older people are also more susceptible to infection because the immune system is just as subject to the natural aging process as other organs. The immune defense works particularly effectively between 10 and 50 years.
Immune status - external influences and own behavior
Almost all of us are in contact with the same pathogens and yet the immune systems react very differently. Whether and how the individual's immune system responds to an invading pathogen depends, among other things:
- From the genetic basic equipment and the general state of health of the individual as well as the efficiency of the immune system.
- From the diet - plenty of carbohydrates, enough protein and low fat. Important for the activity and function of our defense cells are in particular the vitamins A, C, E, B12, folic acid and the minerals iron, zinc and selenium. Whole grain and dairy products, twice a week fish, low meat and above all a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy, versatile diet.
- Of pre-existing diseases / civilization diseases such as vascular diseases, hypertension, obesity and diabetes. These diseases can negatively affect the immune system. In diabetics, for example, the defense against bacterial infections is reduced.
- From the consumption of alcohol, sweets and nicotine - even stimulants can lead to a weakening of the immune system.
- Mental health - in the right dosage, stress (Eustress) increases our performance, mobilizes our metabolism and stimulates our immune system. But if stress factors get out of hand - be it overloading at work or in everyday life, on vacation or during recreational sports - or if it lasts for a long time, the immune system also suffers. Conflicts or fears also reduce the immune system's readiness to defend itself. Satisfied, positive people are often less susceptible to disease than people who are currently in a negative phase of life.
- Of environmental pollutants - soot particles from the air affect the defense. In the summer months, ozone, mainly produced by car exhaust and UV radiation, can reduce the efficiency of defense cells.
Tips for strengthening the immune system
- Relax with stress and recharge your batteries while you sleep.
- Immune nutrition (many fruits and vegetables).
- Prevention through toughening, endurance sports (swimming, jogging cycling, cross-country skiing).
In order to avoid coughing, runny nose and hoarseness, especially in the cold season, several precautionary measures are available. Those who spend a lot of time in the winter months (even in bad weather!), Avoid overheated rooms with dry air and avoid crowds, have the best chance of staying healthy during this time. But also raw food days, proper nutrition, sufficient sleep and sleep with an open window as well as regular sauna sessions and moderate physical activity contribute to the strengthening of the immune system.
Especially for children susceptible to infection, water applications have to be hardened, such as warm-cold alternating showers. For water-shy also rubbing off with a damp-hot towel is suitable. In addition, children need a balanced daily routine for mental balance and between 8 - 12 hours of sleep. Over-stimulation, eg by television or video games should be avoided as far as possible.