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Controlling what happens to our immune system has been a topic of discussion for several decades, and we have come to know quite a lot about it. However, a large part of the population still places all their hopes in poorly founded practices, following trends that only seek to increase their supporters without producing any health benefits at all.

To answer the question, how can we strengthen our immune system, we must first ask ourselves what weakens it in the first place? In this way, we will better understand our immunity.

Stress, stress, and more stress.

Stress, to some extent, is what provides us with the impetus to face or run away from something. It is something innate that human beings have and it has helped us to survive. However, in this fast-paced society we live in, stress has become our daily bread. This causes us to face stressful situations multiple times a day, which puts us in an unhealthy state of alertness.

Thanks to advances in science, we know that continuous exposure to stress produces an increase in cortisol levels, the stress hormone by excellence, which would affect various neural pathways through the unbalanced production of noradrenaline. This, in turn, would produce an increase in some pro-inflammatory cytokines, promoting a generalized inflammatory state that is not beneficial to the organism. In addition, sleep would also be affected due to melatonin imbalance, perpetuating immune deficiency.

Diet can affect immunity... in a big way!

We are well aware that maintaining the right nutrition can do wonders for immunity. But we also know that a diet can seriously affect it.

Maintaining westernized diets associated with a high consumption of calorically rich, processed foods, has been seen to be closely related to immune imbalance mainly due to the poor regulation that occurs at a metabolic level with the mismanagement of glycemia, insulin, triglycerides, cholesterol, among other elements.

In addition, overweight and obese patients present elevated inflammatory states, which would further affect the immune system. Finally, a poor diet that is not able to nourish our intestinal microbiota can seriously affect immunity due to their close relation.

Prioritize your sleep.

The immune system obtains part of its regulation from sleep and circadian rhythm management. Although the mechanisms are not fully defined, it is believed that maintaining good sleep habits would favor a better immumnity behavior, improving the action against several external pathogens. It is also interesting to note that just as sleep can affect the immune system, it can also happen vice versa.

Exercise, but not too much.

This is a point with much disagreement among scientists, as some say that exercise is essential for good immunity, while others claim that, done in a certain way, exercise can negatively affect the immune system.

The latter are based on evidence showing that sudden strenuous exercise may lower our defenses, making us more susceptible to infections. However, there are those who refute this, saying that athletes who undergo strenuous exercise on a regular basis have their immune system adapt to these situations, strengthening rather than affecting it.

What is clear is that physical exercise is a stressful situation for the body, a factor that can trigger large amounts of free radicals if not practiced in the right way. It is known that these elements can seriously affect the whole body and not just our immunity.

 For the above reasons, the first thing we should do to strengthen our immune system is to know if we are doing things that affect it. Managing stress properly, eating well, getting good quality sleep, and exercising regularly are the foundations for good immunity.





Scientific references.

Aguirre, C. C. (2016). Sleep deprivation: A mind-body approach. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, 22(6), 583–588.

Barrea, L., Muscogiuri, G., Frias-Toral, E., Laudisio, D., Pugliese, G., Castellucci, B., Garcia-Velasquez, E., Savastano, S., & Colao, A. (2021). Nutrition and immune system: From the Mediterranean diet to dietary supplementary through the microbiota. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 61(18), 3066–3090.

Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2012). Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archiv, 463(1), 121–137.

Campbell, J. P., & Turner, J. E. (2018). Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. Frontiers in Immunology, 9, 648.

Christ, A., Lauterbach, M., & Latz, E. (2019). Western Diet and the Immune System: An Inflammatory Connection. Immunity, 51(5), 794–811.

Lee, A. H., & Dixit, V. D. (2020). Dietary Regulation of Immunity. Immunity, 53(3), 510–523.

Simpson, R. J., Campbell, J. P., Gleeson, M., Krüger, K., Nieman, D. C., Pyne, D. B., Turner, E., & Walsh, N. P. (2020). Can exercise affect immune function to increase susceptibility to infection? 15.

Vitlic, A., Lord, J. M., & Phillips, A. C. (2014). Stress, ageing and their influence on functional, cellular and molecular aspects of the immune system. Age, 36(3), 9631.

Zefferino, R., Di Gioia, S., & Conese, M. (2020). Molecular links between endocrine, nervous and immune system during chronic stress. Brain and Behavior, 11(2), e01960.



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