Our immunity is like our defensive shield. Protect yourself, not only in the fight against coronavirusArticle
27. 11. 2020
During seasonal epidemics, there’s a lot of emphasis put on strengthening your immune system, as this can determine whether or not you can recover from an illness or get defeated by it. Additionally, at the time of the coronavirus pandemic, strengthening our immune system is an important step by which we can help protect ourselves and the people around us.
How does our immune system work?
The immune system is made up of many types of different cells, tissues and substances, whose mutual synergy plays a key role in the body's defences. Thanks to them, the body fights against external foreign substances - bacteria, viruses, fungi, fungi and their toxins. However, dangers lurk even within our own organism, so another job of our immune system is to monitor and kill any potentially harmful cells (for example, old, damaged or tumorous cells).
The immune system is made up of two components: innate and acquired immunity. Innate (non-specific) immunity consists of white blood cells, but also skin or mucous membranes. White blood cells are able to absorb foreign substances (antigens) and neutralize them in a matter of minutes, but only when they are definitively convinced that it is really an antigen. However, they cannot remember the foreign substance for the next time. In contrast, the acquired (specific) immunity consists mainly of white blood cells maturing in the thymus and bone marrow (T and B-lymphocytes). They are able to remember the antigen and react immediately the next time they are presented with them.
Innate and acquired immunity must work together to fight coronavirus
SARS - CoV2 (COVID-19) is a completely new type of virus for our immune system. It is spreading so fast in the population because our innate immunity cannot respond to it immediately. As a population, we have to go through a relatively long process before everyone’s individual acquired immunity is can remember and deal with it.
Unlike bacteria, the virus attacks the cell directly. Innate immunity responds to this with a multitude of different cells; so-called natural killer (NK cells), and other cells of innate immunity (dendritic cells) recognize the viral cell with their receptors, engulf it and dissolve it. Parts of this viral cell are then used to create specific immunity, which triggers further viral cell killing reactions. It is only at this stage that specific antibodies are formed, which then circulate in the blood and provide immunological memory.
A low immunity increases your risk of infection; the elderly and obese are at increased risk
The most at risk populations for contracting COVID-19 are immunocompromised individuals which includes elderly people. As age increases, immunity decreases. This is due, among other things, to a decrease in the production of immune cells in the bone marrow, reduced production of antibodies on the mucous membranes and impaired function of the immune system as a whole. The course of the disease is usually worse in seniors due to the increased inflammatory reaction of the organism.
"Obesity also has a negative impact on our immune system. It causes a reduced immune funtion (damaged white blood cell activity, reduced production of antibodies). At the same time, obese people tend to have a more severe course of the disease, as adipose tissue is a source of pro-inflammatory substances causing a state of chronic inflammation in the body even before infection,"says Ing. Mgr. Jirka Jirků, nutritional therapist from the Canadian Medical Clinic.
We can strengthen immunity with a suitable diet
Currently one of the key goals is to prevent the spread of the disease and to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. That is why there’s so much emphasis on strengthening our immunity. This can be achieved by getting enough rest and increasing your physical activity (ideally getting out into fresh air) or by consuming suitable foods.
"Our immune system is always active, never resting. During an it’s activity increases considerably which also means that the demand for our resources is increased (metabolism speeds up, there is an increased need for substances for the formation of new cells, etc.), which we must get from the diet," explains Ing. Mgr. Jitka Jirků. Sufficient amounts of vitamins and trace elements play a key role in the proper functioning of the immune system both in terms of prevention and treatment of the disease. An integral part of an optimally functioning immune system is a healthy intestinal microbiota (intestinal bacteria).
Key vitamins in the fight against infection include vitamins A, C and D, which are all directly responsible for the maturation and effectiveness of immune cells, including their ability to distinguish harmful substances and the effectiveness of their response. Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid are important for the activity of white blood cells. The diet must not lack antioxidant vitamins C and E and antioxidant enzymes, which include selenium, zinc, copper and iron. These protect our body against oxidative stress, which is an integral part of our defences against disease. Sufficient plant food, fibre and fermented foods are important for the growth and support of healthy intestinal microbiota. The above information can be summarised in the following: we need to ensure a regular and sufficient intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, eggs, fish and dairy products (preferably fermented. Omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in fatty fish have also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and are, therefore, also an indispensable part of our diet. Their variability will help to achieve optimal intake during the period of increased demands of the body on all immune functions in the body.
Why should you know your vitamin D level?
"Vitamin D is absolutely essential for human health. Its deficiency has many adverse effects on our immunity - for example, respiratory diseases, heart and muscle function, blood pressure, nervous system, healthy development of bones and teeth or the risk of certain tumours, "recalls Dr. Petr Podroužek, CSc., Expert director of EUC Laboratories.
During the winter and spring months, we cannot get sufficient vitamin D from sunlight (the UVB component of radiation is missing) and we must therefore ensure adequate intake through our diet or with vitamin supplements. Experts point out that over 40% of the European population is deficient in vitamin D.
You can easily find out what level of vitamin D you have in your body. "Vitamin D levels are tested from a blood sample, the sample must be taken on an empty stomach, do not eat or smoke for about 12 hours before. It is good practice to drink at least ¼ litre of water or unsweetened tea before getting your sample taken, “advises Dr. Podroužek.
Currently, we are offering discounted package, which will let you find out your vitamin D level as well as your level of COVID-19 antibodies. You can take this test at the sampling points of EUC Laboratories throughout the Czech Republic.