Weakness of defense favors infections because our immune system does not work as effectively as possible when it is defensive. The reasons for immune deficiency can be harmless, but also indicate a serious illness. The following information about symptoms and causes will help you find out if you have a defensive immune system. And you read how to strengthen your immune system with simple means.

Synonyms

Immunodeficiency, immunodeficiency, immunodeficiency, immunodeficiency, immunodeficiency, defect immunopathy

Definition

The immune system of our body protects us – mostly reliably and usually unnoticed – from pathogens. Doctors speak of a weak immune system or immune deficiency if the body’s own immune system is pathological or not fully functional.

Symptoms

Deficiency symptoms are primarily an increased susceptibility to infection and – in the case of an infection – a lengthy or complicated course of the disease. On average, every German has a respiratory infection such as cough , bronchitis or runny nose about 2 times a year . If such diseases occur significantly more often and without a recognizable cause, there is a suspicion of a weak immune system.

Causes

Defense deficiency can be congenital or acquired. In the congenital form, the development of the stem cells is usually disturbed or there is a lack of antibodies. However, the defensive weakness acquired is more common. This means that you fall ill more often and more severely than other people. Typical causes of immune deficiency are:

  • Infections, injuries, surgeries, transplants
  • Cortisone therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy
  • Diseases such as HIV infection , leukemia or diabetes
  • Removal of spleen, almonds or appendix
  • Unhealthy diets with a lack of vitamins or minerals , such as a lack of iron
  • Heavy physical strain (physical work, competitive sports)
  • Stress , mental stress, depression
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia or vomiting addiction
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Smoke
  • Lack of sleep or sleep disorders

Examination

If necessary, your doctor will draw some blood from you to help diagnose your deficiency. The concentration of white blood cells is particularly meaningful for determining the functionality of the non-specific immune system. A microliter of blood usually contains between 4,000 and 8,000 leukocytes in healthy people.

Weakness of defense due to a disturbance of the specific immune system can also be demonstrated by a blood test. For example, a large blood count is made for this immune status, in which, among other things, antibodies (immunoglobulins), certain proteins or immune cells are determined in more detail.

Treatment

Defense deficiency is usually a weakened non-specific immune system. In these cases, it is usually sufficient to follow the recommendations given under “Self-help in the event of a weak immune system”. It is different with a weak immune system. This is usually caused by illness or medication. Here, the doctor will usually treat the triggering disease and / or change medication.

A vaccination against flu and other infectious diseases such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B , diphtheria , pneumococcal or tetanus is particularly recommended for those with specific deficiency . These vaccines belong to the group of dead vaccines and can usually be given in the case of a weak immune system without the risk of undesirable side effects. There is a certain risk with vaccinations with so-called live vaccines such as measles , mumps , rubella or chickenpox . It is best to ask your family doctor about this.

Self-help against defensive weakness

Strengthening the immune system The immune system of largely healthy people benefits above all from exercise and a fresh, varied diet with many vitamins and minerals. Below you will find many suggestions to effectively strengthen the immune system.

Healthy, fresh foods strengthen the immune system

Unless a disease is the reason or consequence of the immune system’s weakness, nutrition comes first. To effectively strengthen the immune system, you hardly need to know anything about food. And expensive fashion foods such as chia, quinoa, kamut or goji berries are also not a must. Just eat as fresh and varied as possible. Rely on local fruits and vegetables as well as fish and whole grains. They provide a wide variety of vitamins, fiber, minerals and trace elements that strengthen the immune system.

Cook yourself as often as possible. And do without industrial pre-treated foods. All experts agree: the fresher, more natural and more varied the diet, the better for the immune system. This form of nutrition very often has another advantage: They keep their weight or even lose weight – and also reduce the risk of highly nutritional-related diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol.

Vitamins A, C, D and E and the trace elements iron and zinc are particularly important for the immune system. These are contained in fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, in a composition that is very useful for the organism.

Exercise strengthens the immune system

Numerous studies have shown that exercise strengthens the immune system. Already 20 minutes a day – preferably in the fresh air – get the immune system going much better. Exercise is a turbo for healing and prevention – and can even strengthen the immune system so much that the risk of cancer is almost halved.

Relaxation and sleep also play an important role. Relaxation exercises such as simple breathing techniques, meditation or autogenic training not only reduce stress (and thus relieve the body’s own defense), but also directly strengthen the immune system. The immune system is particularly active at night while we sleep. In the special topic “Healthy Sleep” you will find many suggestions for getting rid of sleep problems and preventing sleep disorders.

Strengthen the immune system with home remedies

Traditional medicine knows many home remedies with which you can strengthen the immune system. For example:

  • A cold pour in the morning. First take a warm shower for 5 minutes, then shower briefly with cold water from the outside towards the middle of the body (heart).
  • Kneipp applications, e.g. treading water
  • Sauna and plunge pool (Consult your doctor as a precaution if you have blood pressure problems or cardiovascular diseases.)
  • Drink herbal tea, for example with orchids, taiga roots, coneflowers, ginseng, linden flowers or elderflowers
  • Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol strain the immune system – and also disrupt deep sleep, which is so important for the regeneration of the body’s defenses.
  • Breastfeeding protects the baby from infections because it receives certain mother’s antibodies with the milk.

Anti-immune drugs

Healthy people generally do not need anti-immune drugs or supplements to boost the immune system. Nevertheless, herbal remedies and mineral supplements are particularly popular. From a medical point of view, the benefits for largely healthy people have not been sufficiently proven. This applies, for example, to taking herbal supplements, drops or tablets that stimulate the body’s non-specific defense. The preparations often contain extracts from Echinacea (coneflower), Eupatorium (waterost), Thuja (tree of life), Baptisia (indigo) or Eleutherococcus. The ingredients are also offered as homeopathic medicines.

In consultation with the doctor, vitamin supplements or minerals can be useful. However, this only applies in the event of a vitamin deficiency or a lack of minerals. You should preferably take in vitamins and minerals fresh from your diet. Taking a zinc supplement can help prevent colds. But not according to the principle: “A lot helps a lot”. More than 100 mg of zinc a day can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Prevention

The best way to prevent a weak immune system is to heed the recommendations given under “Self-help against a weak immune system”. If you suffer from colds or infectious diseases more often than average (more than 2 to 3 times a year) , you should have the cause examined by a doctor. This applies in particular to sick and debilitated people, seniors and children of all ages.

Function of the immune system

The body has a complex defense system that intercepts and destroys penetrating microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi) and substances produced by the pathogens. A distinction is made between two systems that work closely together.

Unspecific and specific immune system

The unspecific immune system is generally directed against invading pathogens and tries to kill them. This happens regardless of the type of pathogen and the triggering disease.

The specific immune system is much more targeted against germs. Depending on the structure of the respective pathogen, it forms special antidotes (so-called antibodies), which are used to overcome the disease. In some cases, a kind of memory of the survived illness remains in the cells of the specific defense system, so that the effective antibodies can be produced immediately upon renewed contact. In such diseases, immunity is built up on first contact. You usually only get these diseases once in your life. Typical examples of this are measles, mumps and rubella. The principle of vaccination is also based on the functioning of the specific defense system. Special antibodies are also formed here to prevent illness.

Immune system and flu

With certain virus infections such as flu, the virus changes its shape over the course of a year so that the body no longer recognizes it the next time it comes into contact and falls ill again because it first has to produce new antibodies. Because of the variability of the flu virus, there is still no long-term flu shot. Rather, the flu vaccine has to be redesigned every season on suspicion.


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