Immune system: our protective shield
Our body’s immune system fends off pathogens, viruses and toxins. Protective bacteria in the intestinal flora and on the skin and mucous membranes are just as much a part of this defence system as the lymphatic system and the immune cells in our blood. To strengthen this defence system, it’s important to eat a balanced diet, get enough exercise and manage stress.
Tip 1: Exercise
With its benefits to mind and body alike, it's a well-known fact that physical activity is healthy. But you don’t have to be a sporting champion to do something good for your body. Taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking to the train station instead of catching the bus are small gestures that can compensate for a lack of physical activity. Outdoor exercise has other positive effects: after a day at the office, the body needs to be refuelled with sufficient oxygen.
Be careful after the training session
But be careful: after practising sport, there is something known as the «open window effect», whereby the number of immune cells actually decreases. This makes us particularly prone to infections after exercise. The same applies to very long or extremely intensive sports sessions: they weaken the immune system more than they strengthen it.
Tip 2: A varied diet
A balanced diet is the be-all and end-all of a strong immune system. Individual foods or food supplements, such as vitamin C, cannot replace a varied diet, especially since their effect has yet to be proven. However, several foods are believed to have a positive effect. For example:
- Chilli and red pepper: these are true vitamin C bombs, just like citrus fruits. Chilli also stimulates blood circulation and warms the body.
- Ginger: raw or infused, ginger prevents or relieves colds, nausea and pain.
- Garlic: frowned upon for causing bad breath, garlic helps keep blood, arteries and the heart healthy.
A wide array of foodstuffs is best, as this contains all the nutrients, trace elements and vitamins we need and strengthens the body's own defence cells.
Tip 3: Cold and hot showers
Under a hot shower, blood vessels dilate, while a cold shower causes cells to instantly constrict. The switch not only boosts metabolism and blood circulation but also has a positive effect on our mood. A similar effect is achieved in a sauna.
Tip 4: Eliminate stress
Although it may sound obvious and, in principle, is nothing new, everyday stress too often affects our blood circulation – which also affects our immune system. The problem is that we don't always notice it. It’s important to be aware and avoid drowning in a sea of worries. What’s the best way of doing this? That depends on the individual.
Tip 5: Laughing
Can you remember the last time you had a good laugh? If not, you should do it more often. Laughter is not only good for the heart, but for the immune system too. The release of serotonin, the happy hormone, also enhances your good mood. And the deep breaths caused by laughter help supply the body with more oxygen.
Tip 6: Sleep
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. Studies show poor sleep weakens the immune system. However, it's the quality of sleep more than the length that matters.