What is the immune power?
First of all, it is important to understand what it is. Our immune power is made up of two main defence mechanisms: on the one hand, there is what is called innate immunity and on the other hand, adaptive (or acquired) immunity.
Innate immunity is what allows our body to immediately defend itself against infectious agents, in other words, it is our first line of defence.
It is made up of mechanical barriers (the skin, mucous membranes, coughing to expel pathogens from the respiratory tract), Physico-chemical barriers (stomach acidity, antibacterial enzymes), inflammation, natural bacterial flora or macrophages, the cells that destroy foreign bodies in a non-specific manner.
Adaptive immunity, on the other hand, provides our body with a later, but more lasting protection.
It is this form of immunity that allows us to produce a specific response to substances identified as foreign to the body (viruses, bacteria, etc.).
Unlike innate immunity, which provides an immediate response, adaptive immunity retains the “memory of the aggressors (antigens)”, which allows us to have a more effective response when we encounter these antigens again.
This is the principle of the vaccine: administering a tiny amount of weakened bacteria or virus so that the body can develop a stronger defence when it comes into contact with the disease.
At the microscopic level, it is the B and T lymphocytes (two types of white blood cells) that play a major role in our immune power, notably by producing antibodies.
When it comes to COVID-19, we are not all equal.
As Health Canada reminds us, there are vulnerable populations such as “the elderly, people who have an underlying medical condition (heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, etc.), or a weakened immune power as a result of a medical condition or treatment such as chemotherapy.
While there are still many unanswered questions about COVID-19, it seems that the immune power plays a major role in dealing with the disease. But can you really improve your immune power?
Are there any super products that can help us fight COVID-19 more effectively?
What can weaken our immune power?
Our immune power may be strong, but it is not a superhero either! Like all body functions, it can be weakened or impaired in certain situations. Why does our immune power go wrong? What factors can weaken it?
The immune power is the body’s defence mechanism against infection. But for one reason or another, this complex power can become weakened.
What are the factors that weaken our immune power?
Overweight and obesity
Adipose tissue secretes specific cytokines called adipokines, some of which are pro-inflammatory and others anti-inflammatory.
“However, in the case of overweight, the former takes over from the latter, leading to micro-inflammation which, by becoming chronic, can alter immunity,” explains Prof. Martine Duclos.
“When left untreated and uncontrolled, hyperglycaemia reduces immune responses and therefore leads to greater susceptibility to infections, including influenza, urinary tract or fungal infections, or occasional secondary lung infections. bronchitis,” explains Dr Boris Hansel, endocrinologist.
What about Covid-19? “It has not been shown that people with diabetes are more likely than others to be infected with the virus, but when they are, they are more likely to develop severe forms.”
High blood pressure
“High blood pressure can cause a surge in certain white blood cells involved in inflammation,” explains Professor Claire Mounier-Vehier, head of the vascular medicine and arterial hypertension department at Lille University Hospital.
“Hence the importance of keeping blood pressure under control and, if you are on medication, of continuing to take it because, contrary to what was suggested at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, antihypertensive drugs do not in any way weaken immunity.
- Excessive salt consumption
A study published in April 2020 in the journal Science Translational Medicine suggests that consuming too much salt may weaken our immunity. This bad habit was already linked to an increase in high blood pressure.
Study subjects who consumed six extra grams of salt per day (the salt content of two fast-food meals) had pronounced immune deficiencies.
In fact, long-term consumption of fast food also has an impact on our immune power. The researchers, therefore, stress the importance of following the WHO recommendations: 9 to 12 grams per day on average.
Experience has shown that people are more susceptible to infections in times of stress and that they last longer.
Last March, Inserm researchers at the Marseille-Luminy Immunology Centre published a study on mice that provides an explanation.
“We observed that stress hormones stimulate receptors on the surface of certain immune cells, preventing them from producing the inflammatory chemicals needed to eliminate viruses,” explains Sophie Ugolini, coordinator of the study.
Lack of sleep
Numerous studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation (less than 6 hours per night) makes us more vulnerable to infections.
Indeed, by shortening our nights, we also shorten the time of deep slow-wave sleep.
This encourages the production of “memory” B lymphocytes that record the characteristics of microbes and produce specific antibodies in the event of a new attack.
- Certain drugs
Some chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs suppress the immune power, as does cortisone taken over the long term.
“That said, it is precise because they block or slow down the activity of immune cells, for example, to treat certain cancers or autoimmune diseases, that they are prescribed,” insists Professor Vivier.
Around the age of 60, the skills of some of our immune cells begin to deteriorate: “This has been shown to be particularly true of T lymphocytes, which react less well to aggression,” says Professor Vivier.
The organism, therefore, defends itself less well in the event of an encounter with a new microbe such as the Covid-19.
What are the natural solutions for strengthening the immune power?
It is scientifically proven that we can optimise our immune power,” says Dr Eric Lorrain, a phytotherapist.
But 70% of our immune power is in the intestine.
Hence the idea of taking a course of probiotics (lactobacilli) to strengthen the intestinal mucous membrane before the circulation of viruses intensifies, particularly if you are elderly or weakened by a lot of stress, old bronchitis or a chronic illness such as diabetes.
A study has shown that taking a mixture of lactobacilli every day for 12 weeks reduces the risk of catching a cold. They can be found in yoghurts, at a rate of 1 to 2 per day, or in food supplements.
Drink a glass of fresh orange juice:
Think about it every morning to stay in shape: “but also thiamine, an amino acid, folates, B vitamins, potassium and sugars that give you the energy to start the day”. Dr Philippe Goeb, a consultant in natural therapy, points out.
The best thing to do is to squeeze a few oranges; you can keep your orange juice for two or three days in the fridge, as the loss of vitamins is low.
Relax with magnesium:
Some studies indicate that magnesium chloride stimulates white blood cells. But it is mainly for the anti-fatigue action that Dr Philippe Goeb recommends it.
He favours foods that contain it:
– Sardines in oil,
-Dark chocolate with 70% cocoa,
– Spices (cumin seeds, coriander, curry, ground ginger, etc.),
– Wholemeal bread and rice,
- Get enough sleep
A sleepless night is enough to weaken the immune power because it reduces the number of a certain family of white blood cells.
Even if the amount of sleep is specific to each person, doctors recommend at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
- Take breaks to de-stress
Yoga, gardening, reading, going to the cinema, going out or eating with friends…
It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is to relax, because stress, fatigue and overwork weaken the immune power.
- Engage in regular physical activity
Moderate exercise, i.e. 30 to 60 minutes of walking a day, most days of the week, is beneficial and immunostimulating. It reduces the risk of respiratory infections by about 40%.
However, don’t overdo it, as intense and prolonged exercise can weaken the immune power, making it easier for viruses to enter and multiply in the body (American College of Sports Physicians).
- Get plenty of vitamin D:
It activates the white blood cells (T-cells) needed to make antibodies and kill germs.
microbes. In the diet, it is found mainly in oily fish:
-Cod liver and its oil,
– Smoked herring,
Dr Lorrain advises post-menopausal women and the elderly, most of whom lack vitamin D, to take a higher dose, three to four times the recommended daily dose (1000 units), in the form of medication or food supplements.
Two forms are most common, D2, from plant sources, and D3, from animal sources.
- Prefer unsaturated fats: unsaturated fats containing essential fatty acids: cold-pressed virgin oil rich in omega 3 (rapeseed, flaxseed, walnut, camelina) or small cold sea fish..
- Favour a balanced diet in terms of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It should be varied and adapted to the seasons and stages of life.
- Reduce the consumption of foods rich in visible or hidden sugar (foods with a high glycemic index).
- Avoid over-consumption of saturated animal fats and excess animal proteins.
- Increase the proportion of vegetables and fruit (especially coloured fruit).
- Encourage the consumption of fibrous foods: legumes, semi-complete or complete cereals, vegetables or fruit.
Favour organic foods to avoid the ingestion of pesticides and endocrine disruptors.
Colds, coughs, flu… To get through the illnesses of autumn or winter and avoid a red nose, watery eyes or a sore throat, you need to know how to protect yourself and take care of yourself.
Whether you often catch viruses or bacterial diseases or are quite healthy, the immune power is at the heart of your health. It defends our body against various external aggressions and is constantly trying to protect us and keep us healthy. It is up to us to provide it with the best possible conditions so that it can perform this task as well as possible!
By strengthening your immune power, you can get through the winter without colds and flu.
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