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Wellbeing

6-minutes for a strong immune system

6-minutes for a strong immune system
W

ho doesn’t know it? Laughing is healthy and with just a little bit of humor, you can bear the coronavirus restrictions with more ease. But when someone laughed this morning on the train and then suddenly “ah-choo!” coughed, it was no longer funny. Especially the judging looks of the passengers struck me. It's like a Mexican standoff with noses instead of guns.

Reactions after someone sneezes in public transport these days...

Both the guy in his raincoat on the opposite side of me and the older lady by the window pulled their FF2P masks higher above their noses. And I asked myself: What defines whether I can defend myself against the invisible enemy or not? You guessed it, it's the immune system. On that note (and since we're all passengers on this journey), I'd love to share my research on the simplest and most effective tips to activate and strengthen your immune system. As usual in 6-minutes style, fast, easy to understand and do, but with highly impactful outcomes for you:

The two types of immune system

There are two types of immune defense and it is worth understanding which one has to be upgraded and how: unspecific and specific. Not a fancy difference in name but each comes with unique fancy features. The unspecific immune defense includes natural barriers for potential bad pathogens and triggers inflammatory reactions. For instance, taking cold showers, eating mushrooms, and doing weight training are positive stressors that activate the unspecific immune system. It is innate and unchangeable - in contrast to the specific immune defense: It is "capable of learning" and forms e.g. antibodies against pathogens such as the coronavirus. Unfortunately, only after the body has come into contact with these. Side note, that is also how vaccination works. While our body is in the learning phase to deal with the various evil pathogens, AURUM suggests the following unspecific immune boosters:

Long live cod liver oil

Who remembers the moment when, on a cold winter morning, you swallowed a spoonful of cod liver oil, which was stretched straight into your mouth by your strict loving grandparents? The disgust of all children. According to the motto "The sooner you swallow, the fast we put it behind us." In the meantime, however, science has proven that cod liver oil is a miracle cure to strengthen the immune system. "The mother was right about cod liver oil," reads a scientific article in the Medscape Journal of Medicine [1].

Cod liver oil contains 5 different immune-boosting substances: Vitamin E, A, D, EPA and DHA. Vitamin A is essential for the immune system, our skin, and eyes. Vitamin D3 is the absolute secret weapon for strengthening the immune system, as it influences over 1000 different genes, significantly strengthens immune function and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Even Blick.ch features Vitamin D3 on their cover today, and they are usually the last to come across really valuable information. Without D3, we would not survive for long. The best thing about cod liver oil is that the two vitamins, A and D3, reinforce each other. EPA is especially important for the production of prostaglandins. These are hormone-like substances that play an essential role in the immune system, muscle function, and stomach protection. Attention dear home office colleagues and parents: DHA is important for the brain and strengthens the nervous system. So, take enough Omega-3 every day :-)

The two are often confused: Cod liver oil and fish oil are two different things. Cod liver oil is subtracted directly from the liver of cod and contains much more vitamin A and D3. Additional benefits arise if you choose a fermented cod liver oil, as we will learn later in the gut microbiome section. We consume these substances naturally if we consume fish or liver regularly. But who can eat liver every day? Or even liver of fish, unthinkable... This is a classic case in which a food supplement makes perfect sense. We recommend this one.

8 hours of sleep without having a bad conscience

Arnold Schwarzenegger is famously quoted: "Sleep six hours, if you want to be a champion, sleep faster". Sorry Arni, that's utter bullshit.

If you sleep well and enough you get a myriad of other benefits that increase the likelihood of becoming a champ, but when it comes to immunity, sleep is the best medicine. That's because it supports the work of the T-cells, the defense cells of our immune system. Clinical study results show that people with chronic sleep deprivation have a weaker immune system: Already 3 hours of sleep deprivation can significantly weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness [2]. Read how you can improve your sleep in our detailed blog post: 21 tips for super sleep or watch our YouTube video.

Keep your microbiome happy

Think of your mouth and nose as the castle gates into the fortress that is your body. The immune system sits right behind the battlements of your lungs, esophagus, gut and bowl. The microbiota are the troops positioned in front of the walls to weaken potential baddies even before they arrive at the walls. Keeping those troops happy also prevents break down of your castle walls.

Your immune system can deal with any virus as long as you have a well functioning microbiome, or gut flora. Evolution created the first pre-forms of our gastrointestinal digestive system 500 million years ago and thus created a biological niche for a multitude of microbial symbionts. These bacteria, or microflora, which make up about 1 kg of our body weight, influence not only our digestion but also our immune system through their metabolites. Many studies show that a diverse and healthy microbiome is the first line of defense against any virus or bacterial attack. Why?

The microbial intestinal flora and our immune system influence each other. The two most important tasks of this interplay of symbiotic gut bacteria and our immune system are on the one hand protection against pathogenic microorganisms and on the other hand tolerance of harmless food components. Whether granny's cookies or Coronavirus, the bacteria in the intestine and the cells of the immune system decide whether it is a friend or an enemy. Accordingly, it is decided what gets into the bloodstream and what the organs are supplied with or what has to be attacked and eliminated. If receptors of the innate immune system in the intestine and the antigen-presenting cells are activated, these cells can activate the immune system through pathogenic patterns via the T-cells. The intestinal mucosal lining thus plays the role of a barrier and a mediator of tolerance at the same time.

The importance of a well functioning intestinal barrier for our survival in extreme cases is evident based on an appendix rupture. If microbial components such as lipopolysaccharide enter the bloodstream, this can lead to systemic activation of Toll-like receptors and consequently to sepsis (blood poisoning), which usually leads to death if left untreated. In this case, the fatal event is not the bacterial infection itself, but the systemic reaction of our immune system to the perceived threat [3].

To put it simply: It needs a variety of nutrients for both the gut bacteria and the cells of the immune system, so that the friend or enemy recognition, the communication between cells as well as the defense system can function properly. Our diet has a direct effect on the composition of bacterial diversity. What you should eat to make your intestinal flora happy, listen to Dr. med. Torsten Albers, from minute 2:40.

Sauerkraut is king 

It's worth asking what nutrients, trace elements and vitamins my body needs in order to activate maximum immune defense. Those who provide the body with sufficient cell-protecting nutrients can strengthen their immune system and better ward off the attack of annoying viruses. If you lack the "gut" guys in your digestive tract, the whole system suffers. So, which foods should you serve your gut bacteria so that they activate the immune system?

  • Probiotics from fermented vegetables, especially from sauerkraut and yogurt. A clear disadvantage of most probiotic yogurts is their high sugar content and coloring and flavoring substances. Skyr from Coop is a safe option. 
  • Fiber (prebiotics) such as oatmeal, colorful vegetables (4 colors in one meal is great!), including root vegetables such as Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip or seaweed. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of the good gut bacteria. 
  • Spices: In alternative medicine, turmeric and ginger are considered anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and antioxidant. The yellow root is not only supposed to help against inflammation, but also to strengthen the immune system. This also applies to cinnamon, coriander, saffron, thyme, pepper and many other spices.

A detailed list of foods to enjoy and avoid can be found here.

Stress can strengthen, stress can weaken

Acute stress briefly boosts the immune system, but chronic stress severely weakens it: susceptibility to disease increases. With good acute stress - e.g. weight training such as the AURUM 6-minute workout or the cold shower in the morning - the immune system activates the non-specific defense.

From an evolutionary point of view, this makes perfect sense: since stress used to arise primarily from life-threatening situations, the body prepares to heal imminent physical damage quickly. In the case of strength training, it means much more than simply building a muscle and thus becoming stronger. A trained muscle mobilizes messenger substances, the so-called myokines, which we have discussed here. These stimulate additional defenses in the muscle and thus activate the body's entire defense system. The body's own scavenger cells multiply and become more active. The specific immune system defense, on the other hand, is reduced - it is less needed in threatening situations than the non-specific one. During acute stress, the number of white blood cells, scavenger cells and natural killer cells increases, the latter becoming more active at the same time. Components of the specific defense, such as T-lymphocytes, however, multiply more slowly. This has the purpose of allowing the immune system to concentrate more on the non-specific defense.

While only the specific defense is reduced during acute stress, both the specific and the non-specific immune defense suffer during chronic stress. As a consequence, the specific immune cells, white blood cells, phagocytes and killer cells divide more slowly. The total number and activity of the immune cells in the blood decreases - the immune defense is weakened as a result [4]. In the case of chronic stress, we recommend taking a look at the AURUM 6 Minutes Guide to Wellness.

In summary:

Sleep enough every day, swallow a spoonful of cod liver oil, continue to enjoy the good old sauerkraut or the trendy turmeric latte, do not get frustrated too much, keep your distance from others and exercise regularly, at least 6 minutes a week :-)


References:

  1. Mother Was Right About Cod Liver Oil, 2008 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2258476/ 
  2. Wie Schlaf das Immunsystem stärkt, 2019 https://www.aerztliches-journal.de/medizin/allgemein-medizin//wie-schlaf-das-immunsystem-staerkt/c969ab100ef108490a95039bcb4a19d2/  
  3. Die mikrobielle Darmflora und unser Immunsystem, 2015 https://www.labor-bayer.de/laborinformationen_publikationen/stuhldiagnostik/Wissen_Luetzner.pdf
  4. Chronischer Stress schwächt das Immunsystem, 2020 https://www.netdoktor.ch/gesundheit/stress-immunsystem-6856299
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