Spring is definitely a long-awaited time for many. But in addition to awakening nature, spring is also a test for the human immune system, weakened after a long period of cold, flu season, and fewer vitamins. How to help the immune system cope with this difficult period?
Spring is a stress for our body
The human body, in early spring, experiences certain physiological stress. It is caused by several factors that directly or indirectly affect the general state of the immune system. The immune system, the body’s main defence system, is working all the time. And especially hard in winter, when attacks of common cold and flu significantly deplete her strength. Also at the end of winter, the body experiences a lack of vitamins and trace elements, which negatively affects the immune system, leading to its depletion (1).
And the human immune system is very sensitive to all the changes taking place in the modern world. Its main task is the timely recognition of foreign cells and their subsequent destruction. Immunological memory is formed for the body to react quickly to the factors that lead to diseases in the future. As soon as foreign microorganisms enter the body, the immune system begins to show its protective functions. So, almost everyone has a weakened immune system in early spring, which may take the form of secondary immunodeficiency. The severity of secondary immunodeficiency can be different and depends on different components – nutrition, diseases, etc. And today, thanks to COVID-19, the situation has become even more complicated, since the immune system of many people is already in a borderline state (2).
The immune system – what is it?
The immune system is the organs, tissues, and cells that protect the body in the event of the penetration of pathogenic microorganisms. The bone marrow and thymus belong to the central organs where immune cells are formed and mature. Mature immune cells function in the spleen, lymph nodes, small intestinal mucosa, tonsils, and some other organs. The main cells that support human immunity are lymphocytes. They are the main “killers” of pathogenic microbes and viruses (3).
To penetrate the body, pathogenic microbes and viruses need to overcome the line of defence that the immune system builds. Its first boundary is the skin and mucous membranes, of course, if they function properly. Sebaceous and sweat glands of the human body secrete substances that are harmful to viruses and bacteria.
The last line of defence against pathogenic bacteria can be attributed to the lymph node system. When pathogenic bacteria enter them, an inflammatory process occurs. The reason is that leukocytes try to kill pathogens by preventing them from spreading to tissues and internal organs.
The importance of immunity for health
The importance of immunity to health is difficult to overestimate. Weakened immunity significantly reduces the body’s resistance to many diseases. The body’s powerful defence system, which prevents the penetration of viruses and pathogens, is destroyed, causing frequent colds and other diseases (3).
Certain symptoms and signs, sometimes almost invisible, may indicate that the immune system is not working properly. Example:
- constant fatigue, even in the morning, when there are no symptoms of any disease
- insomnia, which is not caused by nervous tension or taking any medication
- muscle pain not associated with intense physical activity
- enlarged lymph nodes without visible symptoms of infectious diseases
- intense hair loss, it becomes brittle and dry
- bleeding gums without obvious signs of periodontitis
Sometimes these ailments seem trivial, but they can indicate problems with immunity.
Causes of weakened immunity in spring
The most common causes of weakened immunity are (1):
• Ecology. The state of the environment affects the climate, the number of sunny days per year, the quality of food, and, as a result, our immunity. Unfortunately, continuous technological progress leaves fewer and fewer places in the world with a clearly favourable environment. A compromise solution – spending the weekend outdoors.
• Stress. Nervous tension affects the body’s ability to resist disease. The solution to this problem is to set the right priorities, spend more time on recreation and sports.
• Insomnia. The body needs regular rest, during which it can regain its strength. Healthy sleep is one of the key factors in the optimal functioning of the immune system.
• Climatic features. Every season, human immunity affects in its own way. It is cold in winter. In spring and autumn – rainy. Even in the hot summer, the immune system is tested for strength with a constant sharp change in temperature – plus thirty-five on the street, and the room is air-conditioned plus twenty. No matter what the weather is outside, the body needs help to protect itself at any time of year.• Improper nutrition. Irregular meals and fast food can negatively affect various internal processes of the body. Including the work of the defence system, which is largely in the intestines. Therefore, such a seemingly simple thing as a caring attitude to food can help strengthen not only the digestive but also the immune system (4).
How to help our organism and strengthen the immune system
Strengthening the body’s defences and boosting immunity in the spring is best achieved through an integrated approach. The first and most important rule is a balanced diet that fills the deficiencies of all necessary trace elements and vitamins (2). Losing weight through dieting and starvation, preparing your body for summer is a risk of further weakening the immune system, which is already fragile after the winter.
A complete spring diet should include dairy products containing bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. The body needs to be provided with antioxidants, which are vitamins A, E, C, and D. These substances neutralize the action of free radicals, thereby increasing the protective properties. To replenish antioxidants, you need foods such as carrots, citrus fruits, liver, oils. Substances such as flavonoids, which protect the body from cancer, also have a pronounced antioxidant effect. Walnuts, legumes, and tomatoes are rich in flavonoids (5).
Minerals are components of green vegetables and fruits, such as lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, apples, cucumbers. Of the trace elements are particularly important immunity selenium and zinc, the sources of which are meat, nuts, eggs, seafood, cheese, cereals, liver, kidneys, cereals. In the spring replenishing vitamin reserves will help vegetable and fruit juices – beet, pomegranate, cherry, carrot, blackberry, strawberry, grape (4).
Since it is not always possible to make a diet that fully meets all the needs of the body through food, doctors recommend the use of various supplements with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as bacterial preparations with strains of bacteria needed by the body. For example, well-known supplements such as Immuno-m®, Immunostar®, and Multi EM Ferment® help to balance nutrition with essential vitamins and minerals, provide antiviral and antibacterial protection, restore microbiome, reduce oxidative stress in cells and normalize the immune response.
The human immune system is designed not only to protect against harmful external factors but also, in addition, fight the accumulated toxins in the body (5). Therefore, there is another important point to help the human immune system – is to cleanse the body. But in this case, you should avoid harsh methods of removing harmful substances. Such methods can simultaneously wash away the useful elements, thereby weakening the immune system. Therefore, it is often recommended to use natural zeolite Zeostar®, which has proven effective and safely and competently helps to detox.
In order to recover and strengthen the organism with physical activities, they must be regular, systematic, and comprehensive (4). Suitable for any physical activity – morning exercise, dancing, sports. Better – in the fresh air. Exercise will help to strengthen the protective functions of the body’s immune system, as well as keep yourself in great shape.
And yet how good immunity a person has depends not only on his genes but also on lifestyle. A normally functioning immune system is a guarantee not only of frequent viral and bacterial infections but also of manifestations of allergic reactions of various etiologies.
Taking care of your health will allow you to feel healthy at any time of the year. And especially in spring.
Dr. Oksana Klymenko M.D., PhD, SNHS Dip. (Holistic Nutrition), Medical Doctor, Researcher in the fields of molecular physiology and pathophysiology, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology
- Fares, Auda. “Factors influencing the seasonal patterns of infectious diseases.” International journal of preventive medicine vol. 4,2 (2013): 128-32;
- Iddir, Mohammed et al. “Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis.” Nutrients vol. 12,6 1562. 27 May. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12061562;
- Marshall, Jean S et al. “An introduction to immunology and immunopathology.” Allergy, asthma, and clinical immunology : official journal of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology vol. 14,Suppl 2 49. 12 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1186/s13223-018-0278-1;
- Davison, Glen et al. “Nutritional and Physical Activity Interventions to Improve Immunity.” American journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 10,3 152-169. 25 Nov. 2014, doi:10.1177/1559827614557773;
- Alagawany, Mahmoud et al. “The Strategy of Boosting the Immune System Under the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Frontiers in veterinary science vol. 7 570748. 8 Jan. 2021, doi:10.3389/fvets.2020.570748.