With diet and lifestyle we can really do a lot to strengthen our immune system and have a powerful ally on our side in the fight against viruses, bacteria, fungi but also cellular degeneration. Small tricks, some changes to our way of life, which perhaps have little importance for us but which instead may have a great impact on the immune system, as we will see thanks to the results of four scientific studies published in recent years (Faraut et al, JCEM, 2015 - Jobin et al, Science Translational Medicine, 2020 - Christ et al, Cell, 2018 - Wu et al, Science Advances, 2020).
The importance of sleep
The first study investigated the importance of sleep with regard to the proper functioning of the immune system. Well, it has been observed that when we devote a few hours to sleep, even if only for one night, there is an immediate increase in hormones associated with stress. Not only that, a reduction in a protein, interleukin 6, with antiviral properties is also observed. Instead, it is possible to counteract the effects of a lack of sleep, both on stress levels and on the immune system, guaranteeing, the day after the almost sleepless night, a small afternoon rest of about an hour. In this case, no changes are observed in either the stress hormones or the protein with antiviral properties. Therefore, what emerges from the research is that a good sleep is important both for the mood and for the ability of our defenses to protect us from virus attacks, but also that, if for work reasons we could not guarantee ourselves for one night more hours of rest, it is possible to recover the next day with an afternoon nap, in order to cancel the effects of too many waking hours.
Salt is also a danger to our defenses
Less salt is better! This is what emerges from the second scientific research we are talking about today. In fact, an excess of salt in diet not only increases the risk of hypertension but is also harmful to the immune system. In particular, a high-salt diet has been found to increase the risk of developing severe bacterial infections.
An unbalanced diet is like an infection
The third scientific research, on the other hand, reveals a noteworthy fact that should lead us to reflect. For our immune system there is not much difference between an infection and a diet high in fat and high-calorie foods. In short, when what we eat is not healthy, the unbalanced diet increases inflammation just as if the body were fighting against an external threat, be it viruses or bacteria. Not only that, the problem is that if the unbalanced diet continues for too long, the damage to the immune system becomes chronic and a change in diet to a healthier lifestyle does not seem to be able to reverse this process. As a result, long-term high levels of inflammation weaken our defenses and pave the way for arteriosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.
The role of muscles
Finally, the last scientific research emphasizes the importance of an active life and moderate physical exercise. What emerged is that those with more developed muscle mass are able to fight viral infections more effectively than those with weak muscles. Hence the importance of regular physical activity.