There are various lines of study and many different interpretations of the results, but what everyone agrees on is that strategies aimed at adopting a healthy lifestyle are the first step to give a significant hand to our immune system.
The right choice to strengthen the immune system
The basic elements of a healthy and Wellness lifestyle are:
- Not smoking;
- Adopting a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables;
- Exercising regularly;
- Maintaining a healthy body weight;
- Consuming alcohol in moderation;
- Getting enough sleep;
- Washing hands frequently;
- Minimising stress.
Regular exercise is a fundamental pillar of a healthy lifestyle. It improves cardiovascular health, helps to lower blood pressure, helps control body weight and protects against countless diseases.
Exercise, an ally to improve the immune system
- improved humoral immunity (the production of antibodies that bind to viruses, bacteria and substances foreign to the body);
- stimulation to the release of a range of substances (e.g. MAEPK/ERK, AMPK, TOR) associated with improved antigen recognition (substances recognised as dangerous by the immune system);
- Activation of autophagy which plays a key role in the elimination of intracellular pathogens and the induction of adaptive immune response.
Can exercise also help improve our immune system and keep us healthy?
As with nutrition, physical exercise contributes to general health and thus indirectly benefits the immune system. But the exercise also has a direct function as the improvement of blood circulation allows the body to bring the substances needed to function properly to the cells of the immune system more effectively. But what is the correct intensity of exercise? Many studies have been done on this subject, especially with athletes, and it is now clear that extremely intense exercise can lead to an increased susceptibility to infection as soon as the training session or competition is over.
What about moderate exercise? Can it help the immune system to stay healthy?
Scholars recommend exercising at moderate intensities, while avoiding too high intensities that could have counterproductive effects. Moderate exercise on the other hand causes positive improvements in the immune system and a reduction in upper respiratory tract diseases. During each moderate exercise session, there is increased recirculation of immunoglobulins, neutrophils and natural killer cells that persist for up to 3 hours after exercise. This exercise-induced increase in the immune cells of the innate immune system is temporary, but it improves overall resistance against pathogens.
Nutrition and immune system
Like any army, the immune system must be fed correctly and regularly. Scientists have long realised that those who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to various types of infections. There is evidence to support that deficiencies in zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C and E alter the immune response.
Stress and immune system
Modern medicine has begun to recognise the close relationship between body and mind. Many diseases, ranging from hives to cardiovascular problems, are closely related to stress. The functioning of the immune system also has a strong relationship with the state of stress levels, and scientists are actively studying the mechanisms underlying this relationship. When scientists study the relationship between stress and immune function, they generally do not dwell on a single acute element of stress, but rather try to study the effect of so-called chronic stress, which has more substantial effects as it is present for a very long time.
Chronic stress is the stress generated by interpersonal relationships within families or with friends, what we experience with colleagues at work or what is generated by a continuous stimulation to do more at work.
- Harvard Health Publishing
- Harvard Medical School, How to boost your immune system
- Amalesh Mondal, Sarmishtha Chatterjee, Exercise and Immunity: A Correlated Mechanism
- David C. Nieman, Moderate Exercise Improves Immunity and Decreases Illness Rates