Winter is the peak season for flu and colds. A healthy lifestyle can help you strengthen your immune system and avoid getting ill. Here are the most important tips.
The immune system is a highly complex and sensitive network. It consists of various organs, cell types and proteins that protect the body from pathogens including bacteria, viruses and fungi. A distinction is made between non-specific, innate immunity and specific, acquired immunity, which are closely linked.
Non-specific immunity protects the body from all types of pathogens. Immune cells such as phagocytes and killer cells play a major role – they fight harmful substances and pathogens that, for instance, enter the body via the skin or digestive system.
The specific immune system takes over when the non-specific immune system is unable to kill pathogens. It produces antibodies that it specifically uses to fight certain pathogens. The specific immune system is also capable of remembering recurring pathogens, meaning it knows exactly how to kill them. And it never stops learning; this enables the body to fight bacteria and viruses that change over time.
The stronger your immune system is, the lower your risk of catching a cold, flu or virus. Numerous factors affect the immune system, and we as individuals also play a major role. A healthy lifestyle is vital for keeping the body’s defences strong. This includes mindfulness, good nutrition and exercise, among other things.
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Constant stressors at work or in your personal life can cause persistent stress. Set clear priorities and learn to say “no” sometimes. Take longer periods of rest on a regular basis. Relaxation exercises such as meditation, yoga and autogenic training can also help your immune system respond better.
Good to know: COMPLETA covers 75% of the costs of recognised courses that promote health, up to a maximum of CHF 200 per calendar year.
Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Eat three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day. Regularly include grains, legumes, meat, fish, milk and dairy products in your diet, and where possible, use fresh ingredients.
Make sure you drink between 1.5 and 2 litres of water a day. If you don’t like drinking water, unsweetened tea and watered-down juice are good alternatives.
Vitamins and minerals help the immune system function normally. Eating a balanced diet helps ensure that you’re getting enough essential nutrients.
Good to know: there is often a lack of clear evidence to suggest that there are benefits associated with taking supplements to strengthen the immune system.
Try introducing more exercise into your daily routine – ideally in the fresh air. Sunlight and oxygen additionally stimulate your immune system. Take the stairs rather than the lift, and walk short distances. Find a sport you like and incorporate at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise into your weekly routine. Swimming, cycling and jogging are all great options.
Good to know: the number of immune cells decreases immediately after an exercise session, which makes you particularly susceptible to infection during this time.
How well the body’s defences function depends strongly on how long and how well we sleep. The sleep hormone melatonin helps the body regenerate. While we’re asleep, the number of natural immune cells increases.
If the immune system is weakened, it’s less effective at protecting the body from viruses and bacteria. There are various reasons for this:
Note: this is not an exhaustive list.
No, going outside in the cold with wet hair or light clothing doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get sick. It is more difficult for the body to defend itself from pathogens when it is wet and cold, but this is only an issue if there are already viruses or bacteria circulating in your body. If your immune system is strong enough, it will effectively fight pathogens even when your hair is wet.
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