Everyone has suffered from colds and flu, especially during the change of seasons. Recent research indicates that moderate levels of exercise and proper nutrition reduce our susceptibility to disease . Conversely, long periods of strenuous exercise and periods of high-frequency training and a diet lacking the right nutrients seem to increase the risk of catching colds and the flu. Let’s see in the article what is the importance of sport and nutrition for the immune system .

What Affects Immune Function
The average adult contracts two to four infections of this type per year, small children even contract twice as many. Every day our immune system protects us from an army of pathogenic microbes that bombard our body.
Immune function is mainly affected by :

  • Genetic composition of an individual
  • Stress
  • Bad nutrition
  • Lack of sleep
  • Normal aging process
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overtraining

These factors can suppress the immune system , making a person more vulnerable to infections. In particular, in the next few lines we will focus on the relationship between sport and nutrition for the immune system .

Physical activity and the immune system
Exercise can have both a positive and a negative effect on the functioning of the immune system .
A one-year study of over 500 adults found that 1-2 hours a day of moderate exercise reduced the risk of contracting a respiratory infection by a third, compared to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle (Nieman et al., 2011).
Other studies have shown that people who train 2 or more days a week have half the days of absence from school or work due to colds or the flu, compared to those who do not train.
However, it is not always better to do more in terms of exercise volume, as other studies show that, after strenuous exercise, athletes experience weakened immune resistance and are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, particularly infections of the upper respiratory tract.
Depression of post-exercise immune function is most pronounced when exercise is continuous, prolonged (> 90 minutes), moderate to high intensity (55-75% of aerobic capacity), and performed without food intake (Gleeson et al., 2013).

Nutrition and the immune system
As already mentioned above, in addition to physical activity , nutrition and the correct functioning of the intestinal system can influence the response of the immune system .
Vitamin C , for example, has a well-established reputation for supporting the immune system. An intake of 250/500 mg of vitamin C per day is more than enough to saturate the reserves present in our body; large doses do not infinitely increase the response of the immune system.
Other nutrients that impact the immune system are Vitamin D, Zinc and Selenium ,which contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system . Echinacea , used for centuries to treat diseases of the respiratory tract, to which anti-inflammatory , antiviral and antimicrobial effects are associated with the daily intake of 200-400mg of dry extract, or Uncaria which in some studies has proved effective for its antiviral properties (Caldas LQA, Olej B. et al. 2010).
In case our daily diet does not continuously provide us with the right doses of these nutrients, or simply there are doubts, an external supplementation through supplements is certainly able to ensure 100% of the recommended daily dose.. Also in this case, taking mega doses of these elements does not have a beneficial effect, but on the contrary it can be harmful.

Intestinal system and immune system
In addition to the intake of the right nutrients, we must pay close attention to the health of our intestine , as the intestinal microbiota plays a central role in the development of the immune system, “training” first, and “keeping fit” then , the various functions of the latter.
An intake of lactic ferments during seasonal changes or during particularly intense training periods can help maintain the balance of the intestinal bacterial flora .
In conclusion, we can say that there is no single sure solution to prevent “seasonal ailments”, but certainly greater care for one’s lifestyle and a balanced diet that provides the correct active ingredients can certainly help to reduce the risk of contracting viruses or respiratory tract infections .

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