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INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Our immune system

The immune system is a complex defence mechanism, composed of a variety of cells and proteins that are distributed throughout the body. It serves as a defence against foreign substances and pathogens, but is also responsible for the detection and removal of the body's diseased cells.

The immune system is divided into the non-specific (innate) immune system and the specific (acquired) immune system.

The non-specific immune system primarily uses defence cells that form a first line of protection against pathogens, and tries to keep them in check, regardless of their type. If that does not suffice, this is followed by a specific immune response after a delay of several days. This response is targeted against a specific pathogen and thus very efficient. This way, both systems complement each other in their immune response.

A variety of things may weaken our immune system. These include an unbalanced diet, physical inactivity, the use of alcohol and tobacco, excessive exposure to UV radiation, environmental toxins, “negative” stress, lack of sleep, high-performance sport, climate change, chronic diseases and taking a variety of medications. A weakened immune system is reflected in recurrent infections and poorly healing wounds, for example.

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Vitamin C is multifaceted – it is important for the immune system, collagen formation and cell protection

Vitamin C plays an important role for our immune system, and it additionally contributes to normal collagen formation, thereby supporting the functions of the skin, gums and cartilage. A key component of the connective tissue that forms the basic building block of these organs is collagen.

The antioxidant vitamin E is used or reduced by binding free radicals. Vitamin C is involved in the regeneration of the reduced form of vitamin E and also contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress, as does vitamin E. That is also important for our immune cells.

Preventative protection from overexertion

Overexertion or excessive training can have a negative impact on the immune system. The German Nutrition Society recommends to take at least 100 mg vitamin C a day for a healthy adult. When, in addition to the recommended daily amount of vitamin C, an additional 200 mg are taken, vitamin C also promotes the immune function during and after heavy physical exercise. That means, that athletes, people pursuing heavy leisure activities or heavy labourers can also benefit from vitamin C. Like all water-soluble vitamins, vitamin C can only be stored to a very limited extent and must therefore be continuously supplied with our diet. Good sources of vitamin C include rose hips, sea buckthorn, kiwi fruit, peppers and citrus fruits.

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Tips for strengthening the immune system

Regular exercise outdoors: Regular physical activity outdoors in every kind of weather helps to strengthen the body's defences. Endurance activities such as swimming or cycling lead to an increase in the number of immune cells in the body. However, you should ensure not to overdo it, because excessive exercise weakens the immune system.

Toughening up your body: If you regularly toughen up your body, you will train your body's immune system. Switching between hot and cold showers, or visiting saunas and the like can all help.

A healthy and balanced diet: The immune system requires a variety of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and high-quality protein in order to work properly. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E and the trace elements zinc and selenium are particularly important. Your diet should thus be rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, eggs and lean meats.

Drinking sufficient liquids: Drinking, especially drinking warm liquids (e.g. herbal teas), moistens the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. This means that they dry out less and are less susceptible to pathogens. Even if you already have a cold, consuming enough liquid (1.5 - 2 litres a day) is very important.

A healthy indoor climate: Your home should not be too hot and the air not too dry. Otherwise, your mouth, nose and throat are more susceptible to viruses. Ideal temperatures are 21 °C (70 °F) in the living room and 18 °C (64 °F) in the bedroom. Sufficient sleep: Sufficient sleep in well-ventilated rooms supports the body's defence mechanisms.

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