These are difficult times that catch us unprepared and helpless in the face of the unknown, the invisible, something that creeps between us, within us and takes our breath away.
The information that reaches our ears and our understanding is discordant and this disturbs us, makes us anxious, afraid for ourselves and for our loved ones.
Our immune system indirectly feeds on this stress which risks making us weaker and more exposed.
Instead, we must support our immune system from multiple angles, to activate the first defenses of our body, not to be surprised and to be found strong and “armed”.
The immune system
The immune system is a defense system of our organism, composed of different cells, but each with specific functions and of circulating molecules that, while moving, intercept, recognize and are activated to eliminate foreign agents such as bacteria, viruses, pathogens, cancer cells.
The immune system has two weapons to use to defend the organism: innate or non-specific immunity, also called natural immunity, and specific , or adaptive, also called acquired immunity.
- Innate immunity: it is the system in place before the encounter with the external agent. Its structure is such since birth , and is made up of both the body’s barriers , such as the skin, mucous membranes, secretions, and circulating cells that act as mediators and regulate the body’s inflammatory response. In practice, if the foreign agent breaks through this first barrier, our body responds by producing and mobilizing substances to deal with the intrusion.
- Acquired immunity : this system develops during the first year of life and is structured and strengthened in an experiential way , by virtue of the responses to infections it faces. It is a fast-reacting and effective system, much more than that of innate immunity, because it is targeted and has a memory towards the antigens encountered. In this system the additional information brought by the vaccinations are inserted, a sort of precious library. Acquired immunity responds thanks to T and B lymphocytes .
T lymphocytes develop in the thymus and travel in the blood and lymphatic system, they know how to distinguish and recognize the cells of the organism so they do not attack them, while they are activated when the receptors they have intercept antigens. To recognize them, T lymphocytes must come into contact with other cells such as macrophages , B lymphocytes or dendritic cells capable of presenting that antigen.
For example, the macrophages, which are our scavenger cells , after having incorporated the foreign agent, have traces of antigen on the surface, so that the T lymphocytes intercept them and begin to secrete cytokines ., substances that inform all the other types of lymphocytes and that intervene with them to eliminate the foreign element, with a cytotoxic activity.
B lymphocytes develop in the bone marrow and displace in the lymph nodes . In contact with the antigen , the B lymphocyte duplicates itself in clone cells, some of which become plasma cells , progenitors of specific antibodies, while the other B lymphocytes act as memory cells , replenishing our library in case of future attacks of the same. antigen.
This explanation is necessary to make us understand that our immune system is very complex and it is not so easy to intervene to change it. And luckily we could add.
The tool for enriching the “library” of the acquired system is given by vaccines , more or less contested, without entering into the merits of judgment.
Influenza vaccines are delivered every year to people at risk such as elderly people, health workers, heart patients: they are designed to expand the memory cell heritage and protect against any epidemics.
On which systems is it possible to act then to support our immune system in this period of forced sedentary lifestyle?
We hear a lot about Microbiome and Microbiota and its activity to support the immune system. Let’s see what it is.
Microbiota and Microbiome
The human microbiota is the totality of single microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa that live in symbiosis with the human body. The Microbiota is mainly concentrated in the intestinal tract, but also throughout the body with the exception of the brain and circulatory system.
The Microbiota exerts influence on metabolic activity , on psychological states through the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and the serotoninergic system and on the immune system .
The microbiota can be influenced by numerous factors such as nutrition, the environment, inflammatory states.
The equilibrium condition of the microbiota is called eubiosis , the altered onedysbiosis . A balanced microbiota is able to help the immune system to protect us because it is enriched by “good” bacteria that strengthen the intestinal flora.
The Microbiome is the genetic heritage that the microbiota possesses. A number for everyone to make us understand the importance of the macrobiome: 99% of our genetic component derives from bacteria, a sort of second genome and consequently how not to consider the microbiota as an additional endocrine organ essential for our health.
The Microbiome and its genes are complementary to DNA and to the system of apparatus to maintain the state of health or to intervene in cases of pathology: it supports the gastrointestinal system, the immune system .
This makes us understand that if we know how to feed our microbiota correctly, we can support our body and its defenses against external pathogens.
Healthy eating at the time of CoVid19
Food is our medicine !
We eat 3 to 5 times a day, every day of our life ! We introject “external elements” into our internal microcosm.
We eat with most of our senses: with the eyes, with the sense of smell, with taste, sometimes with touch. We are inebriated with good food and good drinking. It really is our medicine and then it must be good, healthy medicine .
Now that we are all at home it is important to give ourselves rules so as not to fall into easy temptations of gluttony or not to kill time with food.
Let’s scan the day into 5 meals and differentiate them by quantity, flavors and foods:
For the mid-morning snack we choose a fruit: apple, kiwi, banana, even orange, for the vitamin intake which is as important as it is not to consume fruit at the end of lunch, to keep our gastrointestinal system in balance without running the risk of fermentation.
For the snack we can indulge in a hot tea or a relaxing herbal tea with lime , passion flower , rosehip . In this way we help our nervous system to stay relaxed, we provide vitamin C to support our immune defenses and a hot drink that helps the stomach and kidneys. We can accompany it all with a fruit.
If we can establish a correct diet without “messing” between meals and without drowning our anxieties in food, we will have already given good support to our immune system.
Natural remedies to integrate
We can use some help that Mother Nature generously gives us to support our immune defenses and to enrich the microbiota.
To do this, the advice is always to contact a professional or general practitioner who can evaluate the specific situation of the patient. Supplements with antioxidant properties help defend us from the attack of harmful elements and
oxidative stress. Here are some of them:
- Vitamin C: it is contained in foods such as peppers, chilli, black currants, rocket, crucifers, kiwis, citrus fruits, strawberries. We can take a supplementary share through dry extracts of dog rose , acerola titrated in L-Ascorbic Acid, the reference daily nutritional value is 500 mg. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that cannot be accumulated in the body. It participates in the metabolic reactions and in the synthesis of many elements such as amino acids, collagen, hormones. It has an antioxidant activity, structures the defensive barriers and fights the formation of free radicals .
- Spirulina: a superfood with remineralizing, antioxidant and immunostimulating properties . Spirulina Algae is a superconcentrate of elements useful for the well-being of the body to strengthen the immune defenses: potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, sodium, zinc are the mineral salts that help to structure us, in addition to vitamins of group B, vitamins A, C, D, E. It is useful in case of asthenia, after long periods of convalescence . Phycocyanin , which gives Spirulina its typical greenish color, supports the immune system as it promotes the production of lymphocytes, has antioxidant properties, appears even in a much more powerful way than ascorbic acid and tocopherols, interrupting in particular the pro-oxidative action of hepatic cells and carries out an anti-inflammatory action.
- Pelargonium Sidoides : is the botanical name of the African geranium, the roots of which are used to obtain the dry extract. Pelargonium is rich in polyphenols , such as tannins and proanthocyanidins A and B, and coumarins . It has immunomodulating properties , thanks to the presence of gallic acid which regulates the immune response against infections, antibacterial to Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria, antiviral thanks to the ability of the phytocomplex to inhibit the penetration of the virus into the cell, and to block its replication. It has a fluidifying activity on the mucusand expectorant, indicated in case of bronchitis , pharyngitis .
- Probiotics : probiotic components that can arrive intact in the intestine, perhaps in the form of spores, are useful for enriching the intestinal bacterial flora, supporting the microbiota and therefore supporting the immune defenses. They are able to promote the absorption of vaccine principles, to help fight infectious diseases, protect the body in the reaction to food intolerances . The most widely used probiotics are live lactic ferments from bacterial strains such as lactobacilli, streptococci, lactococci and bifidobacteria. Probiotics exert an immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory actioninteracting with epithelial cells, dendrites, and lymphoid follicles of the intestine, also at the level of the systemic immune system. In fact, they promote the production of cytokines by specific lymphocytes and in the intestine the secretion of immunoglobulins A, antibodies, by the B lymphocytes, in whose membrane they then act as antigen receptors, stimulating reactions.
- Vitamin D : Foods that contain vitamin D are few, such as fatty fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, eggs, cod liver oil. A supply of vitamin D is useful not only for bone support through the metabolic processes of calcium and phosphate, but also to modulate the activity of the immune system. It therefore regulates reactive excesses and promotes them when they are deficient, thanks to the presence of receptors capable of binding one of its metabolites (1,25OH2D) on many cells of the immune system (macrophages, thymus cells and monocytes) and the same metabolite can stimulate the production of antimicrobials both at the level of the immune system and at the level of the epithelium that lines the respiratory tract.