Author: Leonie Kraus ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎|‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎Published on: 14. October 2021‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎|‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎Updated on: 14. October 2021‎‎‏‏‎‎‎‏‏‎

Immune system

Our immune system performs vital tasks every day: It protects our body from invaders such as bacteria, viruses or fungi. When it is working properly, we hardly notice its work.

However, if the invaders cannot be successfully warded off by the natural defence reactions of a healthy immune system, which can be shown, for example, by feeling listless for a short time, fever, cold and cough, we become susceptible to infections and it takes a very long time until we are fit again. However, the disease could also take a chronic course.

How our immune system is built, how it is linked to our intestine and which micronutrients our immune system really needs, you will learn in this blog post.

Immune system

Structure and function

The task of the immune system is to recognise and ward off foreign substances and invaders. No matter whether it is a bacterial infection, a highly infectious virus or spoiled food: A strong, active immune system can protect us from all these stresses and is thus responsible for our health and for a high quality of life and optimal performance.

The immune system can be activated by so-called antigens - substances foreign to the body. These include proteins found on the surface of bacteria, fungi and viruses. When these antigens dock onto special receptors of immune cells, a series of cellular processes are set in motion. After the first contact with a pathogen, the corresponding information is usually stored. Upon renewed contact, the information can be retrieved immediately and the body can fight off the pathogen more quickly.

The body's cells also have such surface proteins. However, the immune system can normally distinguish between them and does not usually act on them. If it wrongly classifies the body's cells as foreign bodies, this is called an autoimmune reaction. This defence then fights against the body's own and healthy cells.

Where is the immune system located and what does the intestine have to do with our immune defence?

Unlike the heart, lungs or liver, the immune system is not a closed organ. Rather, it is an interplay of different components in the body. These include the skin and mucous membranes as well as the spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes. The latter in particular quickly become noticeable as swelling.

However, the most important organ of the body's immune defence is the intestine. Up to 80% of our immune cells are located there. The intestinal flora also plays an important role when it comes to our immune protection.

There are many factors that can influence our immune system and especially our intestine. Nutrition plays a very large role in this. Because various nutrients, vitamins or trace elements take on different tasks in our body and contribute to a healthy immune system, for example. These include vitamin C, which is particularly abundant in sea buckthorn berries, peppers, black currants and parsley, and zinc, which is particularly found in beef, eggs, pecans and rye sprouts. Soluble dietary fibres also support the intestinal environment and digestion as "food" for the good intestinal bacteria. In this way, we can specifically adapt our diet and positively influence the immune system via our intestines.

Since a healthy intestine contributes significantly to an intact immune system, a dysfunctional intestine can also weaken the body's own defences. For example, the intestine reacts very sensitively to psychological stress. To enable this short-term increase in our performance, energy is extracted from the gastrointestinal tract and used where it is needed. As a result, normal intestinal activities are reduced and the movement of the intestine slows down. The intestinal cells also provide less oxygen and nutrients, which can also affect the function of the immune system.

Conversely, a weak immune system can also cause intestinal problems. This means that when our immune system is weakened, pathogens can multiply more quickly in the intestine, which leads to a deterioration of our intestinal environment, making it easier for us to fall ill.

4 tips on how to strengthen
our immune system:

Add variety to your plate, especially with seasonal foods. Things that do not require long-term storage and transport are more nutritious.

Exercise is especially important for a healthy immune system. Preferably several times a week and in the fresh air.

Sufficient sleep is also important for a healthy immune system. On average, six to eight hours are ideal. However, this is individual for everyone. With healthy sleep, cells and processes in our body have time to recover. Those who have a lot of stress can also balance it out with yoga or autogenic training.

A healthy lifestyle means keeping things away from your body that are not good for it. Nicotine, for example, reduces the number of our antibodies, which contributes to a weakening of the body's own defences. Also, under the influence of alcohol, the immune cells become slower and cannot react as quickly to invaders. Therefore, nicotine and alcohol should be avoided as much as possible.

What weakens our immune system?

A weak immune system can have various causes, for example underlying diseases, but an unhealthy lifestyle also impairs its performance. Other factors that can weaken our immune system are:
• Lack of sleep
• Nutrient-poor diet
• Stress
• Lack of exercise
• Frequent consumption of alcohol and nicotine
• Certain medicines

Which micronutrients does my immune system need?

In addition to the tips mentioned above, you can also strengthen your immune system by taking in micronutrients.
A sufficient supply of all important vitamins, trace elements and minerals is always important for a healthy life. Here we have summarised what is particularly important for our immune system:

Vitamin C
contributes to a normal function of the immune system and helps to protect the cells from oxidative stress. This is particularly important in the cold season. It also supports a normal energy metabolism and helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue.

Vitamin D
is important for the immune system and the body needs vitamin D all year round. Especially in autumn and winter, it is important to ensure a sufficient supply, because vitamin D plays an important role for a healthy immune system.

not only contributes to the normal functioning of our immune system, but also acts as an antioxidant to protect the body from oxidative stress. The body cannot produce zinc itself, which is why a regular supply from outside is particularly important.

promotes not only a healthy function of the immune system but also the protection of the cells against oxidative stress as well as a healthy function of our thyroid gland.

support a strong immune system all around: they are important for a healthy energy metabolism - the immune system needs a lot of energy - and can help reduce tiredness and fatigue. In addition, vitamin B2 protects the body from oxidative stress, which can weaken the immune system.

Vitamin A
contributes to the maintenance of healthy skin and mucous membranes. This is important because our defence system consists of skin and mucous membranes as well as immune cells.


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