Practical recommendations for maintaining immunity
It has long been known that sports and a healthy lifestyle strengthen the immune system. It is also proven that athletes at the peak of their form get sick quite often. It is logical to think that this happens against the background of lowered immunity. So it turns out that exercise worsens immunity? To prevent panic, confusion, and escape from a healthy lifestyle, let’s figure out what happens to the immune system when you play sports.
What is immunity?
For many people, the word “immunity” remains vague and mysterious all their lives. What is the immune system? The organs of the immune system (IS) include bone marrow, thymus, spleen, appendix, lymph nodes, and clusters of lymphoid tissue.
How does the IS work? The immune system is a kind of armor that protects the body from invading foreign invaders and provides stability within the body. Cells called “phagocytes,” which means “devourers” or “swallowers” of cells, destroy unwanted and harmful cells (foreign or mutant cells). Natural killer cells do the same, these “killers” are paid by the immune system to destroy cancer cells (so high immunity is a kind of cancer prevention). Helper cells (T-helper cells) help produce antibodies-immunoglobulins – special proteins produced in response to foreign or potentially dangerous substances entering it. We also have suppressor cells (T-suppressors), which, on the contrary, suppress the production of antibodies when it is necessary to stop the immune response. For the immune system to function properly, there must be a certain balance between all kinds of cells.
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Why does my immune system weaken?
Among the most common causes of a weakened immune system are the following:
Sleep disorders. The most common cause of reduced immunity. Many people neglect the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, considering sleep not important, and often even a harmful waste of time.
“Goods of civilization”: modern ecology, bad habits and food depleted in essential nutrients. The habit of eternal rushing, domestic stress, a million things to do, eating on the go, low quality food, smoking and drinking alcohol – these and some other factors can lead to a state of so-called “chronic” inflammation in the body, and it severely affects the immune system.
Seasonal changes. Lack of sunshine, confronting the cold, lack of fresh food depletes most of the body’s reserves by spring.
Stress. Immunological disorders as manifestations of the reaction to stress are prescribed, in particular, one of the significant roles in the development of malignant and benign tumors, various connective tissue diseases, diabetes, schizophrenia.
Sports, more precisely, heavy physical activity in sports. It is well known that at the “peak of athletic form” disease incidence in athletes increases several times
Sports as a cause of immunity disorders
Changes in the immune system depend on the intensity and duration of physical activity and the psycho-emotional stress that accompanies it. It is thought that light exercise does not cause immune system disorders, but as the intensity of exercise increases so does the risk of getting sick. How does the immune system react to excessive loads? When the mass of IC organs decreases, the amount of lymphoid tissue in them decreases. There is also a depressed content of immunoglobulins A, G and M in the blood, the body’s susceptibility to a variety of infectious agents increases dramatically. It is believed that the phase of lymphoid tissue depletion reflects the so-called failure of adaptation, or depletion of immune reserves, and the entry of the body into the stage of increased immunological risk.
During the competition period, when physical activity increases compared to the training regime, about 40% of athletes have acute respiratory and other diseases caused by the immunodeficiency state of the body. There is a theory of the so-called “open window” after intense training, when the immunity is significantly reduced and viruses and bacteria penetrate the body much more easily, often leading to a more severe course of disease. Such a “window” can last from 3 to 72 hours, depending on the intensity of the exercise, the initial condition and the reaction of the immune system.
What you can do to keep your immune system “working” and prevent disorders of your health:
Get more sleep. As cliché as it sounds, you just need to spend a lot of time on sleep, not less than 7-9 hours a day. Ideal will be in addition to a night’s sleep to “snatch” an hour or two to sleep during the day. Sleep should be of high quality – sound and deep. Sleep is not only the most important determinant in the process of recovery from exercise, but above all a necessary basis for maintaining the immunity level of the body. Simply put, sleep is one answer to many issues of maintaining and improving health. The most effective and at the same time the most free drug
Avoid stress. Remember that stress prevention is essential in today’s society – meditation, sleep and sports help us cope with the many stressors that haunt our immune system at every turn. Stress is the most powerful factor, and dealing with it very often leads to great results.
Try to reduce contact with other people to a minimum when infectious disease epidemics are rampant. One of the simplest things you can do to prevent colds is to wash your hands thoroughly.
Revise your workout routine for this dangerous period, avoiding vigorous workouts in favor of low-intensity workouts.
Drink more water – this will help you to cleanse your body of harmful substances and maintain an adequate water balance.
Taking vitamins is not currently recommended. Most studies have failed to prove that taking the popular vitamins C and E has a positive effect on reducing the severity of inflammation after hard workouts or starts, muscle damage, and immune changes. Large doses of vitamin E can actually have the exact opposite, damaging effect, increasing stress and inflammation.
Don’t forget that food is your main ally in the fight against immune decline. For regular exercisers, it is essential to diversify your diet to include high-quality carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Carbohydrates: in addition to water, proteins and electrolytes, sufficient glucose, which is important for the cells involved in the immune system, is necessary for normal immune cell function. In addition, the levels of stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) after exercise also depend on the availability and amount of glucose in the blood: the lower the glucose level, the higher the levels of stress hormones, which are bad for immune system function. Taking carbohydrates to maintain stable blood glucose levels can reduce the effects of stress hormones and support normal immune system function.
Protein: insufficient protein intake has been linked to immune disorders and increased morbidity, since the production of a variety of protective immune factors depends on adequate protein in the body.
Fats: these are involved in immune system function, regulation of inflammatory response, and taking polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids can have a positive effect on the course of a number of chronic diseases.
If you get sick or are already sick
If you have a high fever, there is no need to go for a run.
Eat well during the illness – the body, weakened by a lack of nutrients, will recover much longer.
Again, drink more – water or freshly squeezed juices.
Reduce your motor activity to a minimum, try to rest more.
Be less nervous. Your achievements will not go anywhere, and regular stress will only lengthen the time of your illness.
Nowadays only carbohydrates have proven to be beneficial for the immune system. Combining a balanced diet and additional general strengthening measures (avoiding excessive psychological stress and overtraining, sufficient sleep, personal hygiene) is the main recipe. By the way, excessively rapid weight loss can also cause immune disorders – be careful.