Our immune system

Every person has an immune system. What is an immune system? Is an immune system an organ? What do we need it for? What can disrupt the immune system and even make it sick? Can we avoid such diseases? Are there ways to strengthen the immune system? We would like to answer these questions for you in the following.

function and components of the immune system

Our body is constantly exposed to the influences of the environment. Some of these pose a threat to the body. Thus, invading microorganisms can lead to dysfunction, illness and death. Typical pathogens are bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. The body's immune system (from lat.: immunis = untouched, free) serves to defend and fight such pathogens. It removes invading microorganisms and foreign substances. It is also able to destroy cells that have become defective.
The immune system is not a single organ like the heart or liver. It is rather a complex network of different organs, cells and molecules. Components of the immune system are located in the intestines, skin and mucous membranes as well as in the bone marrow, lymph nodes and spleen. The best known are probably the white blood cells, of which there are different types. Each type has its own function and is produced by the body as required. The most important ability of the immune system is to distinguish the body's own "material" from foreign "material" and to fight it. The immune system thus protects us from infections, diseases and harmful substances. All living creatures have such a defence function.

Disturbances of the immune system

Errors can also creep into the immune system. The immune system can lose its ability to react appropriately to pathogens or the body's own cells. Depending on the cause of the disorder, the immune response may be too weak or even absent, or it may be too strong and excessive. In most cases, there are several factors that lead to a disorder of the immune system.
An inadequate immune response becomes noticeable by an increased susceptibility to infections or an immune deficiency. Individual components of the immune response are missing or no longer function properly. This means that the immune system can no longer effectively combat pathogens. Even diseases that are normally harmless can then take on life-threatening progressions. Immunodeficiencies can be congenital or acquired. An example of the latter is AIDS.
In the case of an excessive immune response, a distinction is made between hypersensitivity/allergies and autoimmune diseases. In the case of hypersensitivity/allergy, the immune system loses the ability to react appropriately to foreign proteins. Excessive activation of specific defence cells can lead to allergic reactions such as hay fever. Activation of these cells throughout the body can trigger severe symptoms, up to and including so-called anaphylactic shock.
In the case of autoimmune diseases, the protective mechanisms of self-tolerance no longer function properly. The immune system begins to attack the body's own structures. In these diseases, the usually very well-balanced equilibrium between specific defence cells is disturbed. Examples of autoimmune diseases are diabetes type I, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

This strains the immune system

There is a whole range of factors that can impair the immune system in its function. It should be noted that several factors together can cause increased stress. It is widely recognised that diet, stimulants, lifestyle and certain drugs can disturb or even block the immune system.
➢ Nutrition
The area of nutrition includes unbalanced diet, overeating, slimming diets and eating disorders. For example, the consumption of 100 grams of sugar (roughly equivalent to the amount in 1 litre of Coca-Cola) can impair the function of the white blood cells for up to 5 hours. As a result of the malnutrition mentioned above, there is often a lack of essential nutrients.
➢ Luxury food
The frequent consumption of alcohol, coffee and/or tobacco can put a considerable strain on the immune system. Smoking, for example, greatly reduces the function of the white blood cells and increases the risk of infections enormously.
➢ Lifestyle
Negative stress at work or at home, conflicts, fear or grief can also have a negative effect on the immune system. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality and lack of exercise are other factors that can affect the immune system.
➢ Medicines
Certain drugs are used to specifically suppress the immune system. These include the so-called immunosuppressants. They are used after transplants to prevent rejection reactions. In the treatment of autoimmune diseases, the immune system is also lowered by such drugs. As unwanted side effects, antibiotics, cortisone, painkillers and flu remedies can lead to a weakening of the immune function.
➢ Other factors
In addition, there are other factors that are suspected of having a negative influence on the immune system. These include:
  • Food additives such as colourings, preservatives, flavour enhancers, etc.
  • Environmental toxins such as exhaust fumes, wood preservatives, pesticides, etc.
  • Physical factors such as radiation, electrosmog or magnetic fields

This strengthens the immune system

Fortunately, there are also a whole host of factors that you can use to support your immune system and improve its functions. The basis for a healthy immune system is a balanced diet, sufficient sleep and positive feelings such as laughter or satisfaction. Exercise and sport are also beneficial.
The immune system functions optimally when it is supplied with the right building blocks. In other words: If we make sure that the supply of necessary nutrients is secured, the best possible immune function can be maintained and susceptibility to infection reduced. Important nutrients for the immune system are:
  • vitamins..: vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids;
  • trace elements such as iron, iodine, copper, lithium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silicon and zinc;
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids;
  • and the three amino acids glutamine, lysine and arginine.

Products to strengthen the immune system from your pharmacy

sumething

The main goal for strengthening the immune system is: Keep your immune system in balance or make sure that it is rebalanced. There are basically two ways to do this: Firstly, by relieving the immune system of negative influences and secondly, by strengthening the positive factors. A healthy immune system can effectively combat various pathogens. Sometimes it can even prevent the outbreak of a disease or at least alleviate the symptoms or shorten its duration.

Time and duration

We need our immune system not only during the winter. Therefore, make sure that your immune system remains in balance throughout the year. Please note that short-term measures only make sense for acute illnesses (e.g. colds). It is more advisable to strive for a long-term improvement of the immune situation. For this purpose, at least 6-12 months should be planned.

Related topics

Sources

  • Burgerstein's Handbook of Nutrients, 2002, 10th edition, published by Karl F. Haug
  • wikipedia.de