Strengthen the immune system…
Periods of extreme cold when contagious diseases return en masse, covid-19 which continues its transmission in the world…
What can you do to boost your immune system naturally?
We know the barrier gestures to avoid transmitting contagious germs but it is not these methods that will make it possible to become more resistant to diseases.
In these few lines, you will discover the methods that work and that have been validated by scientific research to boost the immune system, fall less sick and for less time.
Good news at first, the immune system is mainly conditioned by our lifestyle and not by the genetic material we inherited from parents.
It’s interesting to know that we can boost the immune system with our lifestyle and thus become less sick thanks to sport and good nutrition.
By studying immunity factors in a population of twins, the researchers proved that immunity is 75% determined by epigenetics and 25% by genetic inheritance. (1)
What is a good immune system?
The immune system brings together all the body’s defense mechanisms to identify and kill pathogens arriving from outside (bacteria, viruses).
The immune system is a system made up of immune cells (lymphocytes or white blood cells) produced in organs and tissues designed for this purpose.
To simplify, there are two types of lymphocytes:
- those that will identify external germs, B lymphocytes. They identify infectious agents (called antigen) and release antibodies in response to this signal.
- those that will kill them, the T lymphocytes.
Strengthening the immune defences, this means for the body:
- make it difficult for healthy cells to access diseases
- detect external attacks
- increase the amount of lymphocytes and their efficiency in the body.
It is important to boost immunity for two reasons:
- get less sick and stay healthy
- fight effectively against the disease (diseases are less violent and last less long)
The benefits of sport to increase immunity
Does sport boost immunity?
Yes, according to science, from 2.5 hours of physical activity per week (these are also the international recommendations given by health authorities).
However, too much sport will harm the resistance of the immune system.
Look at some research that proves that exercise will boost immune defenses:
How does sport increase immunity?
The mechanisms have not all been identified but we can see that:
- the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) is increased during exercise,
- cellular respiration is improved during exercise and lymphocytes can reach cells more easily through better vascularization
- The lymphocytes are more efficient (they fight more effectively): physical activity will induce metabolic stress in the muscles and the immune system is triggered to fight temporary inflammation. It is reinforced after each muscular effort.
Too much sport weakens the immune defenses?
Athletes who exercise too much actually have a weakened immune system, that’s for sure (5).
However, the studies must be put into perspective with the lifestyle habits of athletes who do too much physical activity (6).
The population studied are often marathon runners (or other cardio activity), with a high duration of sports practice.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol found in people who do a lot of low-intensity cardio are elevated and weaken their immune system.
Their energy intake is often lower than what their body needs, which further increases the level of immune defences.
For bodybuilders like us, at AlphaBody, does sport boost immune defences?
Several studies have shown that high-intensity sport reduces the risk of infection by 18% compared to people who do not exercise (7).
Moreover, in addition to strengthening the immune system, the study shows a decrease in the level of stress.
To understand how to build a program that builds your body without exhausting it, you can click here.
Impact of good sleep to boost immune defenses
The quality of sleep will impact the level of our immune defenses. A lack of sleep is responsible for an increase in the risk of infection, from the common cold to the virus. (8)
Quality sleep plays a key role in regulating homeostasis.
What foods boost the immune system?
Even if we do not control the entry of viruses and bacteria into our body, we can give better protection to our immune defenses to prevent diseases.
It is not a question of eating quality food correctly only when we are not in good shape, but of having all the nutrients and vitamins that the body needs to have optimal resistance to external aggressions.
Eating nutritious foods properly is not just for losing weight, but for maintaining our health in condition to ward off disease.
For this reason, a diet with a sufficient amount of protein, rich in fiber (fruits and vegetables), helps strengthen the immune system.
With this nutrition base, we can safely add foods that make us happy, even if they are high in fats and sugars, as long as it is included in a nutrition plan.
The food variety will make it possible to cover relatively all the vitamins and minerals that the body needs for optimal functioning of its defense system. There are enough vegetables available to us in stores and markets to cover the nutritional needs of our body.
Our AlphaBody programs teach our alphas to freely compose their diet according to important nutritional principles:
You also have a nutrition challenge at your disposal to start building your nutrition plan now.
Supplement with vitamin C to boost the immune system
A balanced diet provides reassurance about the intake of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
However, we can periodically improve the intake to get through certain periods of cold and more effectively fight diseases such as colds for example. Supplementation reinforces the role of food in the proper protection of the body.
When we come into cold spells, vitamin C can be of great help.
Vitamin C is interesting because it is at the same time an antioxidant and a prooxidant.
It is a vitamin that is mainly studied in the context of flu, which generally announces itself at the change of season.
It can help reduce the duration of colds, their frequency, and the resulting state of fatigue. The effectiveness of vitamin C is proven when taken regularly (ie before the first symptoms) in a bioavailable form.
The body will then assimilate the right formula of vitamin C and derive health benefits.
The best is to take 1 or 2 g of vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, if possible in 2 doses during the day. It can be found in different foods, such as lemon for example.
The role of zinc in boosting immune defenses
It is a mineral that can boost the immune defenses, and fight against infections. Zinc is present in good quantities in certain shellfish such as oysters.
The role of zinc in combating the duration of the flu and the severity of symptoms has been proven as soon as the first signs of the disease appear.
To fight infections effectively, a dose of 80–125 mg of zinc per day in the form of zinc acetate during winter periods is effective.
Garlic consumption to improve lymphocyte quality?
The quality of white blood cells to fight pathogens but also the quantity of T lymphocytes can be improved by regular consumption of garlic. In fact, the consumption of garlic strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of infection.
It has been proven by scientific studies that garlic is effective, however, rather in prevention than to combat the severity of disease symptoms.
To conclude on the immune system / sport relationship
We can all strengthen our immune system through our lifestyle habits.
And that’s good news, especially during this period of covid or changing seasons. Science has actually shown that only 25% of our immune defense reserves are attributable to genetics.
How does sport increase immune defences?
Physical exercise strengthens the immune defenses and many studies have shown that we live better, less sick and longer through sport, good sleep and balanced diet habits.
It even seems that the quantity and quality of lymphocytes, responsible for a strengthened immune system, is increased when additional physical activity is implemented.
This means that we can all within our reach boost our immune defenses and fight the pathogens that threaten our body.
However, if exercise is too frequent or intense in athletes, body fatigue will weaken the immune system.
We can also see that nutrition is at the center of hormonal and physiological activity and plays a central role in boosting immune defences.
Regularity and the establishment of good habits are the key to being healthy and less sick. We already knew it but it’s good to remember it (with the scientific evidence).
- Petter Brodin, Vladimir Jojic, […]and Mark M Davis Variation in the human immune system is largely driven by non-heritable influences 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302727
- Kathrine Pape, Louise Ryttergaard, Torill Alise Rotevatn, Berit Jamie Nielsen, Christian Torp-Pedersen, Charlotte Overgaard, Henrik Bøggild Leisure-Time Physical Activity and the Risk of Suspected Bacterial Infections 2016 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov /27187103/
- Darren ER Warburton, Shannon SD Bredin Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews 2017 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28708630/
- SG Leveille, S Gray, AZ LaCroix, L Ferrucci, DJ Black, JM Guralnik Physical inactivity and smoking increase risk for serious infections in older women 2000 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11129746/
- Christer Malm, Fredrik Celsing, Göran Friman Immune defense is both stimulated and inhibited by physical activity 2005 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15835523/
- Michael Gleeson Immune function in sport and exercise 2007 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17303714/
- Elinor Fondell, Ylva Trolle Lagerros, Carl Johan Sundberg, Mats Lekander, Olle Bälter, Kenneth J Rothman, Katarina Bälter Physical activity, stress, and self-reported upper respiratory tract infection 2011 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov /20581713/
- Elizabeth G Ibarra-Coronado, Ana Ma Pantaleón-Martínez, Javier Velazquéz-Moctezuma, Oscar Prospéro-García, Mónica Méndez-Díaz, Mayra Pérez-Tapia, Lenin Pavón, Jorge Morales-Montor The Bidirectional Relationship between Sleep and Immunity against Infections 2015 https ://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26417606/
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