Immune system: tips to make it stronger

Published : 03/10/2020 14:59:11

immune defenses

It defends the body from viruses and bacteria and keeps us healthy,
but it works better by following some rules. Here are the things to know

by Ida Macchi (from:

Every day we are attacked by a multitude of viruses & amp; Co . ready to put health at risk. According to scientists Ron Milo and Ron Sender of the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Rehovot (Israel), and Shai Fuchs , of the Toronto Children's Hospital , compared to about 30 trillion cells an adult man has roughly 40 trillion bacteria.


These are numbers that can impress, but don't worry. Because the immune system is deployed on our side, an army of cells always on alert that identifies the enemies of the organism , intercepts them and then launches a counterattack to destroy them.

Maybe we don't notice it, but in our body there is a daily struggle for survival, ensured by a control network, with locations spread throughout the body.

Thanks to this task force we react to aggressions and stay healthy. But for our defenders to function at their best, we also need our collaboration.

We asked the experts to answer all the most common questions concerning the immune system , to clarify how it works and how to keep it efficient.


What happens when the organism is attacked?

«The immune system activates the dendritic cells, sentinels which identify" strangers "and give the alarm by calling into question other reinforcements. The first of all are the T lymphocytes , a type of white blood cells which takes care of eliminating the infected cells ", explains Professor Maria Rescigno, associate professor of biology applied at the University from Milan and head of the Immunotherapy Unit of the European Institute of Oncology.

«At the same time the B lymphocytes, other specialized cells that produce the antibodies , enter into operation,“ bullets "armed against the target to be annihilated. They are Y-shaped proteins that attach themselves to the surface of the virus or the germ, deactivating it or signaling it to other" defenders "who, in this way, can recognize it and eliminate it », Continues the expert.

In addition, the B lymphocytes maintain an "memory" of the enemy : when an infectious agent that has attacked in the past tries to launch an attack , will produce new antibodies ready to use, in order to defend yourself faster.


Do exanthematous diseases strengthen the defenses of children?

«No, quite the contrary. Very demanding diseases for the organism, such as measles , can weaken ", warns Professor Carlo Francesco Selmi, head of the Autonomous Section of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the Humanitas Clinical Institute < / em> in Rozzano (Milan).

«In the two years following recovery, the immune system is less reactive because it is proven by the fight against the disease. Precisely for this reason it becomes easier for the child to contract new infections.

«They contain only inactivated parts of viruses or germs and, being purified, they are able to trigger the production of antibodies, useful for stimulating and stimulate the immune system safely, without making it engage in a debilitating war against an enemy of health.

But also habits do their part: according to some studies, growing in contact with nature and living in the countryside , for example, can protect against inflammatory diseases such as asthma, "specifies the scientist.


Lymphocytes & amp; Co. protect us from cancer?

«The immune system, every day, destroys tumors in the early stage . But in the more advanced ones it can support their growth ", warns Professor Carlo Francesco Selmi.

«Our defense apparatus has" brakes ", called checkpoints , with which it blocks the reaction against external agents after defeating them . Tumors sometimes manage to use checkpoints in their favor, in order to spread undisturbed, "warns the expert.

«In other cases it is even the B lymphocytes which, in an attempt to protect us, proliferate and change their DNA transforming into malignant cells, situation that occurs in lymphomas ", continues Dr. Stefano Casola, immunologist and director of the molecular immunology research program of B lymphocytes and lymphomas at the Firc Institute of Molecular Oncology in Milan.

The discovery of the brakes of immunity , however, paved the way for the idea of removing them to restart the system response of defense against tumors . Two of them (CTLA-4 and PD-1 / PD-L1) are already used in immunological therapies for melanoma and other tumors, and a new one has recently been identified: it is <strong > IL -1R8 , at the center of an Italian research whose results have been published in Nature, active in a particular way against liver and lung metastases.


Are there other situations in which the system "gets confused"?

"It happens with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus . Or with chronic inflammatory ones, such as psoriasis », explains Professor Carlo Francesco Selmi. "In these cases, the immune system recognizes the body's organs and tissues as foreign, therefore it produces autoantibodies to destroy them.

Probably the start of the error is a reaction to a germ or a virus . After destroying it, the defense system does not "turn off the engines", but keeps the accelerator pressed and directs its weapons against the organism ", continues the expert.

The biological drugs used today to treat these diseases intervene to break the mechanism: they block cytokines (such as interleukin 6, 17 or 23 and TNF-alpha), molecules that function as messengers between the various cells of the immune system to remain activated.

Unfortunately, however, there are still no medicines capable of re-educating the immune system , forcing it to lay down its weapons against the wrong target.


Are there cells of the defense system in the intestine?

The two thirds of the cells of the immune system are found in this organ. "It is an army composed of numerous elements (such as plasma cells that produce antibodies useful for controlling the composition of the microbiota) , with a dual function.

They allow you to process foods without triggering allergic reactions and intolerances ; they act as sentinel both towards pathogenic bacteria that penetrate with food, and for those that make up the microbiota, if they manage to overcome the physical barriers of the intestine (mucus and epithelium) and penetrate the body ", explains the Professor Maria Rescigno.

Although good, the bacteria of the intestinal flora must remain in their natural location. Here they perform important health functions , such as producing some molecules called postbiotics, which control the cells of the immune system and allow them to mature.

Furthermore, they contribute to the production of serotonin , the hormone of good mood : a role that makes them very important also for psychophysical well-being.


Is the genetic component important?

«Of course. Genetics is the platform that guarantees the production of a vast repertoire of antibodies . Thanks to the information present in our DNA we are able to churn out over 10 trillion different antibodies among which to select the most effective ones to neutralize the enemies with which we come into contact on a daily basis ", explains Dr. Stefano Casola.

It is then the environmental factors (such as vaccinations, exposure to infections, nutrition) that shape and strengthen the immune system . In practice, it is on the field that defenders make bones and become able to function well.


Is it true that some people have weaker weapons?

"Yes, they are those that since childhood show a greater susceptibility to infections . Like children who during the first 2 years of life suffer from recurrent otitis », specifies Dr. Stefano Casola.

To check if there is a greater fragility of the immune responses, just a few blood tests (leukocyte formula and serum antibody titre, i.e. the amount of antibodies present in the blood); if the values are within the norm it is unlikely that there will be a congenital immunodeficiency. Rather, it means that the immune system only needs to grow and fortify itself.


How can the immune system be strengthened?

«With a healthy life: no smoking, 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables, a normal weight », suggests Professor Maria Rescigno.

«Also, you need to add a good quality sleep . It restores the immune system and maintains a perfect balance ». This is demonstrated by research developed published on Sleep , which shows that those who sleep less than 5 hours per night have more than 45% risk of getting a cold compared to 17.2% of those who they allow themselves 7 hours in a row.


Can physical activity be useful?

«Yes. If sports activity is moderate it can have a positive effect and strengthen the immune system ", explains Professor Maria Rescigno.

«The ideal is to move by choosing aerobic activities, such as brisk walking, cycling or dancing », recommends Maria Rescigno . There is no need to overdo it, because exaggerating could knock out natural defenders: 20-30 minutes a day is enough.


Does sun exposure play a positive role?

«The sun's rays stimulate the production of vitamin D , fundamental for a good regulation of the immune system, especially of the district that protects the skin . Obviously you have to expose yourself without exaggerating », explains Professor Carlo Francesco Selmi.

Recent research published in Scientific Reports has also shown that the blue component of sunlight gives sprint to T lymphocytes , enabling them to reach the area where the infection is faster. A discovery that opens up new horizons of research, with blue light baths that could become an additional tool in the future to increase immune capacity.


What relationship is there between the mind and the body's defenses?

«There is a very close relationship», underlines Carlo Francesco Selmi. «When we are chronically under stress the increase in the production of hormones such as cortisol by the central nervous system makes the immune system more vulnerable.

As a consequence, the production of T lymphocytes and antibodies is reduced, making us more exposed to bacterial infections », continues the doctor. Furthermore, the dialogue between the two systems is two-way: in the case of autoimmune diseases, it is easier for mood to pay for it and to fall prey to the depression.

One more reason to avoid living in the name of frenetic rhythms : «Relaxation, meditation techniques are useful, but above all the rule of 20-30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity must be respected ".


Are there hours in which the immune system is more active?

«The immune system also has a circadian rhythm, so much so that an infection is more or less intense depending on the time it is contracted », reveals Dr. Stefano Casola.

This is demonstrated by a study published in the scientific journal Immunity : the researchers found that when viruses attack the dawn their replication capacity is 10 times greater than ten hours later.

The defenders of the body, however, regain strength in the central hours of the morning: an English research has in fact shown that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine it is 4 times higher and is inoculated between 9 and 11: probably our defenses are more reactive in those hours.


How has it evolved over the years?

«During childhood the immune system is still immature and under construction. The defense system expresses its maximum potential after puberty , then maintaining them during adulthood.

But starting from the age of 50 his ability to protect against virus and bacteria attacks gradually begins to decline , leaving the elderly more exposed to infections », explains Carlo Francesco Selmi. The antidote to give it new strength? Maintain healthy living habits and cultivate social relationships .

Research published in the Proceedings National Academy of Science has found that having human relationships stimulates the immune system, especially in the case of over 65 .

Attending friends and relatives is good for the psyche , keeping the dialogue between the nervous system and the immune system active and efficient», specifies the professor Selmi.


The extra trick: chew!

If you want to keep your immune system in shape, when you are at the table chew every bite well . A study published in Immunity has shown that prolonged chewing stimulates the gingival microbiota (the army of protective germs present in the mouth) to produce Th 17 lymphocytes.

These function like real guardians, ready to defend against substances that you introduce with food and which could endanger health . In practice, the more you chew, the greater their quantity. In this way, the defense system intervenes before the food reaches the intestine and the bacterial flora that colonizes it.


Make way for the puppies

If you love animals and have a baby, today there is one more reason to welcome a puppy in the family: their presence at home helps to reduce the risk of childhood allergies , as revealed by a study conducted by the National Environmental Health Research Center in Munich (Germany).

Living in close contact with an animal, explain the scholars, "trains" the children's immune system to be less sensitive , and therefore to shoot less likely in front of house dust, mites or pollen .

Merit of the substances that nestle in the saliva of the 4-legged friends (the endotoxins) that direct the defenses of the little ones towards germs and viruses , and not against allergens. "


Terranova Nutrition has developed a “ EMERGENCY PROTOCOL " with the best synergy of products all aimed at strengthening the immune system in a natural way.

Let's see how:

ASTRAGALO SAMBUCO AND GARLIC COMPLEX : stimulates the immune system cells responsible for antiviral and antimicrobial defenses. It protects the first streets areas and improves their efficiency. Has direct antimicrobial action.

In the product Astragalo Garlic and Elderberry Complex, the presence of the larch's arabinogalactan is very interesting, which is found as the second component in order of concentration: 225 mg. Arababalogalactan is a GOS, galactoligosacarride, and acts as a prebiotic for intestinal flora.

By nourishing the intestinal flora, I improve its balance, therefore I create a state of eubiosis, and this causes the immune system to benefit as well.

In fact, 80% of the immune system is produced at the level of the intestinal peyer plaques.

If the intestinal flora is healthy, I allow proper production of the immune system.

If instead there is imbalance, it alters, and I can have a decrease in my defenses.

Recall that the intestine is an organ that plays a fundamental role in blocking the access of pathogenic and harmful agents in our body, thanks to the flora, but also thanks to the mucous membrane and the intestinal immune system.

A well balanced intestinal flora as well as effectively stimulating the immune system, will facilitate many other functions, including the synthesis of vitamins.


VITAMIN C COMPLEX : contributes to the maintenance of the normal function of the immune system by enhancing the production of collagen which strengthens the defensive barriers against infections. It improves the phagocytosis of our immune cells. It has been experimentally observed that vitamin C is able to stimulate the production of interferons, which protect cells from viral attacks AND stimulate the proliferation of neutrophils .


ZINC COMPLEX :  this precious mineral acts in protein synthesis, helping the production of immune system cells. Zinc also performs a not negligible healing action in chronic or recurring pathologies. It stimulates the production of immune system cells responsible for antiviral defenses and improves our defensive capabilities. It stimulates the differentiation of Th1 lymphocytes, which play a fundamental role in the recognition of viral infections.


VITAMIN D COMPLEX : necessary for the balance of the immune system and for promoting its correct functionality. Epidemiological studies show an association between low levels of vitamin D and a higher risk of viral infections of the upper respiratory tract (URT). Vitamin D performs many functions in the body and a deficiency appears to compromise immunity. Extensive systematic reviews have found that supplementation can help prevent upper respiratory infections.

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