Immunity refers to the the body’s ability to defend itself against substances that threaten its proper functioning or survival. These threats can be microbes such as viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, cells that have become cancerous, or a foreign body such as a splinter for example.
“Immunity is a complex machine,” smiles Jean-Luc Teillaud, immunologist. It involves several types of white blood cells, which interact with each other and are able to react very quickly in the event of external aggression », Explains the specialist.
It has in fact been shown that the environment and the hygiene of life influence the quality of the immune response.
The uniqueness of winter
In this context, the cold seasons which coincide with a higher circulation of viruses are generally not well received by the organization. “In terms of food, the unconscious need to build up reserves through a more fatty diet can lead to intestinal inflammation », Explains Dr Teulières, general practitioner and immunologist. If immunity is at half mast as winter approaches, it is not without reason. In some people, the production of serotonin decreases between autumn and winter, and causes the occurrence of a depressive syndrome, fatigue and stress. However, this hormone is secreted not only by neurons, but also by cells of the immune system, and more than 95% of serotonin is not produced by the brain but by the intestine. It is not uncommon to have sugar cravings, especially at the end of the day and in the evening, when the days are getting shorter and the light is reduced. This is completely normal: the body tries to compensate for the decrease in serotonin in the brain. So boosting your serotonin production is fighting stress, and therefore boosting your immune system!
Start by improving your lifestyle
“The entry into the winter period represents for the organization an effort toconsiderable adaptation », Analyzes Dr Teulières.
Dr Teulières’ advice: do not suddenly change your diet, favor seasonal products, and do not enrich your diet with sugar or fat under the pretext that a winter depression is making itself felt. And ideally: you really have to ease off alcoholic drinks and sugary sodas, which can deregulate the immune system.
To boost serotonin production, and therefore the functioning of cells: neuronal and intestinal immune systems, be sure to favor slowly digested carbohydrates from bread, pasta, cereals, rice rather than consuming rapidly digesting carbohydrates from candies, cookies, pastries.
Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and during the day, let as much sunlight as possible inside your home, or your workplace if you can. A tip from our Scandinavian neighbors: place a few mirrors in strategic places to reflect the daylight towards the interior of the place where you are.
Regular physical activity, such as simply walking for 30 minutes a day, by improving blood circulation, helps increase cell immunity and reduces the risk of respiratory infection by 40%. Conversely, overtraining would have a rather negative impact: after too intense a workout, there is a drop in the lymphocyte level, which implies fewer potential antibodies in the event of aggression. It’s up to you to find the right balance, without forcing.
Vitamins, allies of immunity
Vitamin A : It stimulates the proliferation of white blood cells, and the production of antibodies by lymphocytes. It is also essential for the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa. The right dose: 600 to 800 micrograms per day. For a contribution, think of carrots, pumpkin or even spinach. Be careful, for pregnant women, supplements containing vitamin A (retinol) and in particular fish liver oil, can be harmful and cause birth defects if the recommended dose is significantly exceeded.
Vitamin C : It is a powerful antioxidant which protects white blood cells and increases their mobility. It stimulates the production of cytokines, the messengers that activate the immune response. It is found in fruits and vegetables. The recommended daily dose is 110 mg per day.
Vitamin E : designates a group of molecules called alpha-tocopherols. These are naturally present in the diet, such as in sunflower seeds or vegetable oils. Studies have shown that vitamin E compensates for the loss of immune response due to aging by stimulating the production of white blood cells and its benefit in fighting respiratory infections.
Vitamin D : is known to activate white blood cells (T lymphocytes) needed to make antibodies and destroy germs. It is mainly found in fatty fish (cod liver and its oil, smoked herring, mackerel, etc.). Two forms are the most common, D2, of plant origin, and D3, of animal origin. No difference in effectiveness between the two, but a recommended minimum intake of 5 micrograms per day potentiated by daily exposure to daylight, the production of vitamin D being mainly induced by UV rays.
Selenium and zinc, two essential trace elements
Selenium, found in Emmental, cooked ham or button mushrooms. At a rate of 50 micrograms per day, it intervenes at the immune level by keeping a pool of white blood cells alert.
Zinc, (seafood, poultry, cheese …) at a rate of 10 to 15 mg per day, protects cell membranes from infections by microbial agents.All these assets, in quarterly cure, will restore your annual stocks for a winter in all serenity.
Favor essential oils that are antiviral and immunostimulating
The essential oils of ravintsara, “leaf good for everything” in Malagasy, tea tree, thyme with savory leaves or thujanol and eucalyptus radiate are excellent antivirals and immunostimulants.
How to use them? As a mixture for a powerful stimulating effect, mix 20 drops of EO of ravintsara, 20 drops of EO of radiated eucalyptus, 20 drops of EO of lemon. Place 3 drops of this mixture on a neutral tablet once a day, 5 days a week, as long as the epidemic lasts. Do not use in case of breast cancer, in pregnant or breastfeeding women, and in children under 7 years old.
What about the children? Before 3 years, refer to your pediatrician before considering supplementation. After 3 years, only food supplements that have received a favorable opinion of the authorities can be administered. Labeling must clearly indicate the age range of children targeted by the supplement, and claims relating to their health and development are strictly regulated. Some overdoses may have serious consequences on their health. If in doubt and before any purchase, seek professional advice.