7 keys to improving your immune system

7 keys to improving your immune system

The immune system is, like the nervous system or the microbiota, one of the most complex in the human body, and the pandemic has made us aware of its importance. But there are some ways to improve our body’s natural defenses. Dr. Africa González Fernández, in her book Immuno Power (Sphere of Books) gives us some easy-to-follow keys.

How to know and strengthen your defenses.
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Many times we wonder what causes cancer and what can help destroy it, how age influences our defenses, what is its relationship with food and microbiota, what function does fever have or what is the difference between allergy and intolerance. These and many other questions are answered in the book ImmunoPower, which has been written in an informative style by Dr. África González, professor of Immunology at the University of Vigo . She was also president of the Center for Biomedical Research (CINBIO) and president of the Spanish Society of Immunology.

This manual reveals the secrets of our immunity, as well as what happens when it fails us, and explains the immunological techniques and the latest advances in immunotherapy. “The immune system has been one of the great forgotten and unknown. Today we know that it is much more than a defense mechanism against potential pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites). It has a crucial role in regulating that the body itself, exercises antitumor surveillance and non-compatible transplants , and is interrelated with the endocrine and nervous systems, as well as with the microbiota “, he says.

Immuno Power. Dr. Africa González Fernández. Editorial The sphere of books.

To keep your defenses in shape you have to follow this easy guide, which eliminates many hoaxes and myths, such as the one about superfoods.


One of the issues that most affect the immune system is diet. Dr. González explains that a correct diet is especially important in the case of children – who are beginning to develop their defenses – and of older people , with an immune system that begins to function worse.

In the case of developed countries – except for bulimia and anorexia – the biggest problem is overnutrition. ” Obesity is associated with an inflammatory state of the body, since fat cells (adipocytes) produce pro-inflammatory cytokines,” he explains. The diet should be varied and balanced, adjusted to energy expenditure and the age group.

The doctor highlights the advantages of the Mediterranean diet , avoiding restrictions and excesses and advises visiting the page of the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition.

The book explains the difference between prebiotics and probiotics and how our body interacts with the microorganisms that we host, called microbiota. It highlights that there is no consensus that probiotics (which we take in the form of fermented dairy products) help prevent the development of infectious diseases, although some studies indicate that they could help in certain gastrointestinal, urinary and respiratory infections.

The doctor answers the question of what functional foods are: “Those that have some biologically active component, above their nutritional value and that confers positive effects, such as fortified milk and yogurt (with calcium, folic acid, omega 3, vitamins), juices with vitamins, cereals with fiber, eggs with omega 3, supplemented margarines …

“The problem – he says – is that in most cases no studies are done to check if this supplement adds any special properties to the food” and qualifies as misleading advertising when it says that it “boosts the defenses” or “stimulates your immune system” without studies to support it.

Regarding superfoods, such as cocoa, spirulina, blueberries, or coconut, he also says that there is “little data that supports that they have any real preventive or curative effect on diseases” and that in many cases they can be replaced by other conventional products much more cheap.


Vitamins are essential elements for life, he says. They are divided into fat-soluble (A, D, E and K) and water-soluble (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C and H). Most of them we cannot produce them and we have to take them from food, with exceptions such as Vitamin D that we can generate in the skin by exposure to the sun. “With a correct diet and fresh and not overcooked food we will have the necessary contribution without having to take additional supplements”, says the doctor, who makes an exhaustive tour of each of them and their functions.

Regarding trace elements , such as iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, cobalt, etc., it stands out that they are necessary in very small quantities.


Stress induces the release of cortisol, which remains elevated in cases of chronic stress. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and has an immunosuppressive effect, thus weakening our immune system. It acts on the thymus and lymph nodes, organs where immune cells work.


Low physical activity, together with obesity, is the cause of many deaths. Moderate exercise stimulates the formation of growth hormone, improves blood circulation, exercises muscles, reduces fat (and, therefore, the inflation that it produces) and is anti-stress, because it increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which that makes us feel good.

Exaggerated exercise, on the other hand, is stressful for the tissues, causes cellular aging and immune stress that favors infections.


Adults need 6 to 8 hours of sleep and children even more. Not getting enough sleep or not doing it often weakens the immune system. During sleep , cells regenerate and melatonin, the youth hormone , is released . Similarly, cortisol and adrenaline, which suppress the immune system, decrease during sleep .


Although it seems a cliché, alcohol affects the cells of the immune system and modifies the microbiota, which is why alcoholics are at greater risk of contracting infections. Tobacco is also associated with the development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and inflammatory responses in the body. As for drugs, they cause multiple physical and psychological problems. Cocaine, ecstasy or morphine cause immunosuppression, so addicts suffer a greater number of microbial infections.


It is the way to be protected from serious diseases. In addition to the complete guideline that applies to children, the doctor recommends revaccination with booster doses, for example of tetanus, every ten years. People over the age of 75 should get vaccinated against pneumococcus and influenza. Of course, it is also necessary to be vaccinated against the arrival of new pathogens such as the SASRS-CoV-2 virus, and to be revaccinated against new variants or if the immune memory generated by the vaccines is not very durable.

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