The change of season and the arrival of cold are phenomena that destabilize and weaken our immunity, making our body more vulnerable and more sensitive to infections. To effectively strengthen your immune system and approach the winter season with confidence, discover in this article what are the defense strategies of our immune system and the nutrients essential for its proper functioning.
What is the immune system?
To protect against infections or internal disturbances of the body, our body has a natural defense mechanism called immune system. Its mission is to maintain the integrity of the body by protecting it from external aggressions. Indeed, very complex and specific to each, our immune system tolerates foreign elements that are useful to it (such as good bacteria) and eliminates those that are harmful to it.
Our environment is full of a multitude of microorganisms or pathogens that try to infiltrate our body in order to develop and reproduce there. To protect ourselves effectively against these infectious agents, we have two main lines of defense:
- external barriers of our body namely the skin, mucous membranes (digestive, sexual, respiratory) and their associated secretions (saliva, sebum, sweat, mucus, etc.). This first bulwark against external aggressions aims to prevent the penetration of pathogens into our internal environment.
When external agents manage to penetrate the body despite these natural barriers, we have a second line of defense: internal protections. The latter are made up of an “army of soldiers” made up of a large number of specific cells and molecules which make it possible to neutralize pathogens which have succeeded in crossing natural barriers.
How to strengthen your immune system ?
A high-performance immunity will therefore be more able to effectively fight a virus than a defective immune system. Being actors in our health, we can act for a more efficient immunity because we have in our hands the levers of action to strengthen our immune system.
The intestines play a crucial role in our immunity
The intestine is essential for digestion and especially for the absorption of nutrients, but not only! It plays a key role in our immunity and this on 3 levels:
The intestinal mucosa: a membrane that lines the entire wall of the intestine whose role is to let nutrients pass. It plays a role of "filter" limiting the penetration of pathogenic substances.
The intestinal microbiota: composed of non-pathogenic bacteria protecting the intestines. They are the ones that prevent pathogenic bacteria from entering the bloodstream or from proliferating in the intestines, and the rest of our body.
The intestinal immune system: over 60% of our immune cells are concentrated in the intestine. These cells ensure the body's defense against aggressors and are also involved in the tolerance of the foods we eat.
Poorly managed stress, a poor diet or the repeated intake of antibiotics can disrupt the balance (called symbiosis) of the intestinal ecosystem and therefore weaken our immune defenses. In this context, consuming probiotics (lactic ferments) can help restore balance. Probiotics are bacteria which in sufficient quantity exert a beneficial action on our intestinal microbiotal. They can be found in fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha) or in the form of food supplements.
To ensure the proper development of its bacteria, it is essential to provide them with a favorable environment and in particular something to "eat". Its "good bacteria" feed on substances called "Prebiotics". It is essentially about dietary fiber present in our diet, in particular in garlic, asparagus, carrots, onions, leeks, radishes, tomatoes, etc.
A diet rich in nutrients to ensure the proper functioning of your immune system
Cover your needs in vitamins, minerals and trace elements and essential for ensure the proper functioning of our natural defenses. Some have a direct action on the immune system, such as vitamin C vitamin D and zinc. Their deficit is likely to lead to deregulation of the immune response.
Vitamin C and zinc contribute to the body's defense by protecting against oxidative stress generated by pathogens. Indeed, the vitamin C and zinc are powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals, support the immune system and limit the oxidation of white blood cells (immune cells). Also, vitamin D tends to be lacking in winter and plays a crucial role since it is also involved in the immune response.
Plants to support your immunity
Also, some plants likeEchinacea have been proven and are frequently used in the prevention and management of certain winter infections such as the common cold. Studies have in fact highlighted the immunostimulatory, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties Echinacea that can strengthen our immune system.
Have a good sleep
Sleep plays a crucial role in the body: it is essential for the proper functioning of our memory, our concentration and directly influences our mood. It also plays a key role in regulating our body clock and hormonal system. However, many studies have also shown that'' a lack of sleep induced by insomnia repeatedly had a negative impact on our immune system because would decrease the activity of certain white blood cells and the synthesis of antibodies. Having a restful sleep of 7 to 9 hours per night is therefore essential for ensure the proper functioning of our immune system limit the risk of infection, especially in winter.
Just like lack of sleep, chronic stress greatly disrupts the proper functioning of our immunity. The massive production ofadrénaline and cortisol induced by chronic stress lead to intense dysfunctions of the immune system including the proper functioning of our white blood cells (immune cells). In this sense, fight against stress is a necessary lever to strengthen your immune system.
Limit the intake of harmful substances
Finally, some substances such as tobacco and I'alcohol induce an immunodeficiency because they cause a accumulation of free radicals and toxins altering the proper functioning of our cells. However, the decrease in immunity leads to an increased risk of infection. Having a healthy lifestyle by reducing chronic consumption of tobacco and alcohol helps strengthen our immune system, especially when it is most in demand.
A healthy lifestyle combined with the use of food supplements dedicated to strengthening the immune system can help you cope with winter ailments and improve your body's resistance.
Dimitrov S, Lange T, Gouttefangeas C, et al. Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. J Exp Med. 2019;216(3):517-526. doi:10.1084/jem.20181169
Maywald, M., Wessels, I., & Rink, L. (2017). Zinc Signals and Immunity. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(10), 2222.
Liugan, M. and Carr, AC (2019). Vitamin C and neutrophil function: results from randomized controlled trials. nutrients , 11 (9), 2102.
Baeke, F., Takiishi, T., Korf, H., Gysemans, C., & Mathieu, C. (2010). Vitamin D: modulator of the immune system. Current opinion in pharmacology, 10(4), 482-496.