How to defend and support the immune system

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It's so skilled at its job that we hardly take care of it at all. Yet, its careful maintenance would make us feel even better – even more so when bitter cold exposes us to potential risks. We're talking about the immune system and its extraordinary ability to defend us from viruses, bacteria, germs, and more. Hence the importance of taking care of it.

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What is the immune system

A metaphor can help. Same as a home alarm protects us from potential attackers, so does the immune system protect our bodies. It equips itself to prevent pathogens from entering and harming us. Let's be clear, nature has properly equipped itself with a powerful defensive apparatus capable of confronting insidious intruders. What matters is that it does this when it’s at its best. How? With a balanced diet, consistent physical activity, and proper rest. Add to that an adequate daily intake of some specific nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and other plant substances.

How the immune system works

To defend itself from invaders, the immune system deploys three lines of defence: the physical one, made up of skin and mucous membranes lining the digestive, respiratory and urogenital systems; the chemical one, composed of tears, secretions, mucus, and gastric acids; and finally the third, which contains many specialized cells, leukocytes, and antibodies.

Immune system and nutrition

Let's start from a very general concept, which is unanimously accepted by the scientific community and confirmed by numerous studies: nutrition plays a fundamental role in the correct functioning of our immune system. This applies to macronutrients and specific micronutrients, which include many vitamins (A, B6, B9, B12, C, and D) and minerals, such as zinc, iron, copper, and selenium. All these elements play a vital and often synergistic role in the functions of immune cells, and it’s essential to intake adequate quantities every day. The micronutrients with the greatest scientific evidence of their ability to support the immune system are vitamins C and D.

Vitamin C: a powerful antioxidant

The intake of vitamin C protects our body from oxidative stress and contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risk of getting sick with colds and flu. What’s the recommended dose? At least 500 mg/day.

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Vitamin D: moderates the risk of acute respiratory infections

It’s known for its function in healthy bone formation and mineralization, but its benefits go far beyond that. In fact, vitamin D is relevant to the immune system’s physiology and plays a key role in controlling infection and reducing inflammation. What’s the recommended dose? It's good to get up to 1000 IU per day.

Immune system: the value of beta-glucans and Ashwagandha

Then there is a wide variety of plant substances and nutraceutical compounds that have a potentially positive effect on the immune system. These include polyphenols in fruits and vegetables, beta-glucans in some mushrooms and certain herbs, such as Ashwagandha, which has a dual function to relax and invigorate, and is capable of supporting the immune system and the immune response.

Don’t forget the fundamental role of omega-3

By now science has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that to keep our body in full working order, we must ensure optimal levels of omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources. If it’s necessary to resort to supplementation, it’s good to verify that they are of the highest quality and from safe and sustainable sources. The various certifications (IFOS, ORIVO, Friend of the Sea) make this choice easy.