How to strengthen your immune system?

Main “shield” is in the intestines

Recent research implicitly proves that immune system function directly depends on the state of our gastrointestinal tract, types and quantity of its microbes and on their interaction. Back in 1907, Russian scientist, Nobel laureate Élie Metchnikoff was first to put forward the theory that the use of beneficial bacteria — probiotics —conduced to health. While it has been believed until quite recently that those microorganisms are good only for our digestive system, today it is safe to say that good immune system isn’t possible without normal intestinal microflora.

Intestines are the biggest immune organ of children and adults for it host about 70–80% of our immune cells.

Scientists distinguish a few types of probiotics that “specialize” in supporting human immune system — bifidobacteria and lactobacilli — they are essential to human immune development. Their main task is to protect us from foreign bacteria invasions and growth, to suppress opportunistic pathogens and stimulate immunoglobulin synthesis. When choosing a immune boosting medicine make sure it contains bifidobacteria and lactobacilli as well as a prebiotic (inulin, dietary fibers) – beneficial bacteria use them as a breeding and growth medium.

“Sunny” vitamin D for your immune system

Do you know that vitamin D is one of the most important ones for our immune system? Until recently vitamin D deficiency was linked only to the risk of getting rickets. According to recent research vitamin D is critical for fighting against various infections. In particular, vitamin D activates immune cells that block bacterial and viral intrusions.

The discovery of vitamin D’s new role was a real breakthrough, because before that no one could even imagine how important it was for immune system.

Besides, it has been relatively recently proven that vitamin D has an anti-cancer effect. A study conducted in 2005 shows that daily intake of vitamin D halves the risk of developing colon, breast and ovarian cancers.

Vitamin D is often called the "sunny" vitamin – it is produced by human skin under the sunlight. However, in autumn and winter, especially in Russia, the lack of sunlight makes us suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Of course, it can be gained from food products - the highest level of this vitamin is found in oily fish, yolks and butter. But it is quite difficult to get its daily average norm from dietary because you will need to eat, for example, 24 yolks or about two kilograms of butter daily.

Vitamin C for colds

It seems everyone nowadays knows that immune system and vitamin C are connected. Indeed, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is one of the most important vitamins for human immune system. Its deficiency decreases body’s resistance to infections. Vitamin C is very effective against colds, it boosts our immune system, alleviates the progress of viral diseases, hastens the recovery.

You can take vitamin C both for prophylactic purposes, and during illness — in higher doses. It will help you to get rid of unpleasant symptoms quicker and to reduce risks of complications.

One shouldn’t forget other, equally important, properties of vitamin C: it has a powerful antioxidant effect, strengthens blood vessels, helping to preserve their elasticity, improves blood composition, as it contributes to a better iron absorption. Vitamin C is often prescribed to patients who suffered a heart attack or a stroke.

Ascorbic acid is very unstable. Stored in vegetables, fruits and berries, vitamin C gets half destroyed in only 2-3 months. Stability of vitamin C in foods is also negatively affected by thermal treatment: frying and boiling destroy up to 90% of this vitamin.

It is important to know that our body does not produce or store vitamin C, so it is important to ensure its daily intake with food or via dietary supplements, especially during the season of colds, when it is necessary to strengthen our immune system.