Keep the immune system in the best of possible conditions It has become a priority during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it really should be a daily practice in any circumstance. We have become accustomed to thinking in concrete terms such as vitamin D, so decisive in the most serious cases of the disease, when we should think about our body from a holistic approach. A complex and precise mechanism in which organs that we do not even suspect are involved, and in which what is good for one is also good for others.
“We live in an environment where everything that surrounds us is populated by microorganisms, hence our immune system is always acting, at all times; is unstoppable“, writes Álvaro Vargas, journalist and superior technician in dietetics, in his latest book, Strengthen your defenses [Grijalbo]. In the work, the specialist traces a journey through the details of our defenses, of the multiple cells involved in the immune response to consumer habits and life that benefit or harm us. These include food, but also physical exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption and stress.
The efficacy of the immune response, explains Vargas, will depend on the type of infectious process to be fought, but also “on the strength of these defenses, their ability to react and act.” Perhaps, influenced by the memory of the series Once upon a time lifeLet’s just think of the white blood cell “patrols” intercepting germs. Or, in full vaccination against the pandemic, we are obsessed with antibodies, specialized against a specific pathogen. But there is a dozen different “troops” in this “army”From the lymphocytes that ‘remember’ past infections, the epithelial cells that form barriers in the mucosa, the cytokines of the dangerous “storm” of Covid or the platelets that plug wounds.
Naturally, a display of this nature involves several types of organs spread throughout the anatomy. Some are well known, although their role within the immune system is often overlooked or undervalued. In other cases, they are specialized bodies, some of which, according to Vargas, “I don’t remember that we studied it in school.” They all benefit from a common eating pattern, which is one that avoids inflammatory foods, its main enemies. Knowing their functions separately, and which foods are the most appropriate in each case, helps us to have a better perspective.
Bone marrow: it is located inside the bones, especially in the femur, spine, ribs, skull and sternum. There are two types, the ‘yellow marrow’, which is essentially a fat reserve, and the ‘red marrow’, which generates 100% of the white blood cells as well as the platelets. It is therefore crucial for the immune system although due to its location it tends to be confused with the spinal cord, which belongs to another system, the nervous system. It benefits from foods rich in B6, such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, banana and avocado; zinc, present in them and chocolate black; and B12, in those of animal origin or as a supplement.
Timo: a curious organ in which, as Vargas explains, “the white blood cells that come from the marrow learn to differentiate the proper from the strange”, a “military academy” of which “only 10-15% of the leukocytes survive “. Located above the heart, it goes from being “large” in childhood to a “small accumulation of fat from adolescence.” It benefits, however, from legumes and vegetables such as onion, garlic, pumpkin or carrot.
Lymph nodes: they allow the cantonment of white blood cells in the main routes of entry of infections and near vital organs, such as the throat, clavicle, pub or armpits. There are no specific foods described to optimize your performance, but good hydration is usually recommended by drinking enough water.
Base: many know it for being an organ that you can live without, since the liver can compensate for its lack, but it is a great unknown in terms of how it works. The ‘red spleen’ clears the blood that passes through it, while the ‘white spleen’ stores white blood cells and other immune cells. To help you, you can take whole grains, green leafy vegetables and cabbages, extra virgin olive oil and “lemon”.
Mucous: They are not organs as such, but they play a key role by serving as a porous border between the inside of the body and the outside. For the same reason, they are more exposed to pathogens, and that is where up to 70% of the cells of the immune system are concentrated, especially in the gastrointestinal tract where the microbiota lives. They are cared for with abundant hydration, flax and chia seeds for their fiber-rich mucilage, and with vegetables rich in carotenoids.
Skin: effectively, it is the first barrier against wounds but also infections, and it is cared for with a daily shower of 5 to 7 minutes with a “little invasive” gel that does not alter our Ph, and a good drying, especially in English, armpits and feet. Foods with vitamin E are the ones that suit you best, nuts and seeds, extra virgin oil and those with natural antioxidants.
Silent inflammation: it is not an organ, but a general organic process caused by a poor diet and linked to problems such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, metabolic syndrome or neurodegenerative diseases. The way to combat it is through omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in the diet.