The corona pandemic has led to many noticeable and extreme restrictions in our everyday lives in recent years - apart from the obvious consequences, such as the respiratory disease Covid-19, the mask requirement and the exit restrictions, our immune system has also suffered, which some of them have couldn't perceive ourselves quite as consciously. This is because we cannot see or immediately sense our immune system when it is compromised. Many people are therefore unaware that our immune systems have been weakened by the lockdowns.
The lockdowns as a measure to contain the coronavirus have inevitably also had negative effects that have affected our physical and psychological well-being. In this article we would like to explain why our immune system in particular was weakened and compromised by the lockdown and how we can cure and rebuild it.
Our immune system and how a lockdown affects it
One of the most far-reaching aspects of the corona lockdowns was the restriction of social contacts in order to slow down and limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. During the lockdowns, we had much less social contact than usual. Depending on where they live and their living situation, some people were also less able to get out into the fresh air and spend time in nature.
But why are human interactions and coming into contact with nature and our environment actually important for our immune system?
In our detailed article about the immune system we explain how it works. In short, our immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that protects our body from disease and infection. The human immune system can be divided into two systems: the innate (non-specific) immune system and the acquired (specific) immune system.
Our innate immune system reacts quickly and non-specifically to invading pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. It consists of cells such as macrophages, natural killer cells and dendritic cells. These recognize pathogens and fight them. Proteins also play an important role in this part of the immune system, as they strengthen defense reactions by providing a main source of energy for antibodies.
The acquired immune system, on the other hand, reacts specifically to certain pathogens by producing antibodies and T cells that specifically and specifically attack the pathogens in order to eliminate them. This acquired system also “learns” how to act against the same pathogen in the future – this is known as the immunological memory reaction.
At this point it becomes clear why the acquired immune system is inevitably severely affected by a lockdown. As the name suggests, the immune system acquires its knowledge and antibodies by coming into contact with pathogens. If it does not come into contact with pathogens, it cannot acquire any protection and the memory reaction for future reactions does not occur.
Less social contact weakens our immune system
A lockdown, in which we limit our interaction with other living beings (humans, bacteria, viruses, fungi, animals, etc.), therefore has a negative effect on the specific immune system.
You can imagine our immune system like a muscle that needs to be trained so that it is strong and works. The memory and “power” of our specific immune system become weaker to a certain extent if we do not let it come into contact with other organisms.
This brings to mind the old phrase from our parents and grandparents who said that you should let your child “play in the dirt” because that would strengthen the immune system. This expression has its origins in the principle of the specific immune system. Reduced physical activity and social isolation prevent our specific immune system from preparing for pathogens. If we are suddenly confronted with pathogens after a lockdown, our immune system is less prepared.
A lockdown also weakens our innate immune system
The lockdown has also led to reduced exposure to sunlight and a lack of fresh air - these two factors are important for our innate immune system to function.
Vitamin D, which is produced when UV light comes into contact with our skin, is essential for the function of our acquired (non-specific) immune system. Vitamin D activates the so-called killer cells in the body, which are there to fight pathogens. If we cannot produce enough vitamin D, due to limited exposure to sunlight or diet, then our killer cells remain in a dormant state and our immune system is less efficient.
All of these circumstances can weaken both our specific and non-specific immune systems and increase the risk of infections. A healthy and varied diet, physical exercise, sufficient sleep and social interactions are important factors that help strengthen our immune system and keep it healthy.
Changes in intestinal flora due to stress
The intestine is one of the main players in our immune system and has a strong influence on our general well-being. The GALT, the gut-associated immune system, is particularly important for the immune system as a whole. Between 70 and 80% of the cells that produce the antibodies are in our intestinal lining. Our GALT is not only activated and trained by coming into contact with organisms, but is also subject to other factors, such as our emotional state of mind.
Fewer social interactions can lead to frustration and emotional distress, which in turn has a negative impact on our immune system. Stress, grief and psychological stress cause our body to produce and release cortisol – a stress hormone.
The stress hormone cortisol has a variety of effects on intestinal activity and the intestinal-associated immune system. When we are stressed, our body and hormonal balance go into “fight or flight” status - this causes all processes in the body to shut down in order to send enough energy to the muscles, and the intestines only work to a limited extent the activity even comes to a complete standstill. This also affects the immune activity of GALT. If our gut-associated immune system is weakened or activity is restricted, we become more susceptible to infections.
The lockdown inevitably had a negative impact on our specific and non-specific immune systems. Less social contact and distancing have resulted in our immune systems being less trained. Likewise, the lack of social interactions and the associated emotional stress has led to a stress-related limitation of the gut-associated immune system in many people and consequently to a weakening of our defenses.
It is therefore important to take active measures to protect and strengthen our immune system during and especially after a lockdown.
How can we strengthen our immune system again after the pandemic?
A balanced and nutritious diet, regular exercise outdoors and enough sleep are important factors that can help strengthen our immune system. Mental stimulation and social interactions should also be maintained at an appropriate level to allow our immune system to continue learning and also maintain our emotional health.
After the long period we have all spent in social distancing and during which many of us have been exposed to immense stress, it is more important than ever to take care of our health and well-being by looking after our immune system.
Supply of “good” intestinal bacteria
To strengthen and care for our gut-specific immune system, you can consume good intestinal bacteria - the so-called probiotic bacterial cultures. With fiber we strengthen the good bacteria in our intestines by consuming them with food.
A good option for this is porridge , which is full of healthy fiber. We recommend eating the porridge warm, because warm food also relieves the strain on our immune system as the body's energy can be used more efficiently because less energy is required for the digestive process.
You may have already noticed that your immune system is weakened. Fortunately, through certain foods and supplements we can supply antibodies to make rehabilitation easier for our immune system.
Colostrum, for example, is ideal for this purpose. Colostrum is the first substance released to a newborn after pregnancy. Colostrum is the first milk and contains concentrated forms of antibodies, lactoferrin, amino acids and many other nutrients. The antibodies (immunoglobulins) contained in colostrum support our specific and non-specific immune systems.
Vitamins are known to be essential for our health and immune system. They are involved in numerous metabolic processes in our immune system. Without an adequate supply of vitamins, the immune system cannot work. When supplementing with vitamins, you should definitely pay attention to their quality.
Our high-quality vitamin capsules offer an ideal supplement for the effective supply of all important vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are important for the function of our immune system.
Our Vitamins Minerals Trace Elements can provide additional support for the immune system, especially in the event of stress and a weakened immune system. The vitamin capsules are produced sustainably and locally in Switzerland and are of natural origin.