Begin to understand your immune system.
- What is the Immune System?
- What are the functions of your immune system?
- The immune system and sports performance.
The question itself is poorly formulated, since we could say that: “YOU are your immune system”.
Research and knowledge about the immune system is quite recent, even for those who have dedicated their lives to studying it and trying to understand it. But if there is one thing that is commonly accepted, it is that any part of your body, internal and external, is linked to your immune system.
Either as a response to its functioning or as an organ or tissue that is part of it.
To give an example, we can talk about the skin, remembering that it is the largest organ of our body and that it has a link with the immune system that can serve as an example for any other tissue or organ.
When our immune system detects that something is not going well inside us, be it punctually or chronically, the first place where it will send a reaction will be to our skin, for two reasons:
- Because it is the largest organ and we are going to notice itching, stinging or discomfort very quickly.
- Because it is the organ in which our sense of sight can quickly detect that something is wrong.
Dermatitis, itching, scales and other symptoms are signals that our system sends to show that something is wrong inside and that we must take care of it.
We have seen how the skin is used by the immune system to send us a “message”. Well, at the same time our skin is part of our immune system as the first barrier to protect us from the entry of bacteria and external colonizers that, in enormous quantities, try to enter our body. every second.
Each pore of our skin, as well as the hair follicle, continuously secrete fatty acids that act as very effective bactericides to eliminate external pathogens.
If our diet, for example, is not correct, our skin will not be able to secrete these substances in the correct amounts and be so protected, our hair will not grow or we will lose it as a consequence.
This example of the skin as an organ used to send us a signal, and at the same time as a defending part of our immune system, should help us understand that any tissue in the body works the same, hence the statement that all of you are your immune system.
The functions of the immune system are varied and multifactorial, but we will explain here the main and most studied ones.
- Protective function against the outside.
- Regulation of internal homeostasis.
- Autophagy and revision processes in the replication of genetic material.
- The protection function against the outside is very complex, but we can understand it through two basic actions.The first is to recognize, every minute, thousands of external microorganisms that enter through the openings of our body and distinguish precisely which ones are dangerous for us, which are good and which are harmless
Our state of health depends on this very important distinction, and it is a function acquired and memorized during our evolution as a species, as well as of each individual as they grow and relate to each other. external world.
Dangerous microorganisms are immediately studied by various specialized cells of the immune system. From here our body begins to react to hinder and avoid its harmful mechanisms within us.
A clear example is fever, a marvelous evolutionary response. Our immune system raises the temperature because it has determined that a specific virus will reproduce worse with a higher temperature of the internal environment.
- The intervention of the immune system in the regulation of homeostasis is very complex, but we could relate it to its anti-inflammatory capacity. We continually receive stimuli from the external environment that cause inflammation as a defensive and necessary response, but when these accumulate in a short time and our habits do not favor the optimal functioning of our defenses, a sustained low-grade inflammation is triggered, which can lead to an undesirable symptomatology.
That's a sign that the immune system's anti-inflammatory function is at its peak. In this case, you have to understand the factors and reduce them.
- The function of replication is still very partially understood, but it is very important to understand that in each copy of our cells that is produced, and there are millions every minute, all of our genetic material is transcribed. This can lead to failures, so our immune system is also responsible for reviewing and repairing these errors, avoiding possible mutations in new cells. It is a process that happens several times a day.
02 | The Immune System and Sports Performance.
Having already understood the importance of our immune system for any vital function, it is easy to understand that for sports performance it is key.
No one will achieve athletic performance if their defenses are not working properly.
The processes of recovery, to give just one example, are closely linked to the anti-inflammatory function of our immune system.
If in any stimulus or training applied there is not a good pro-inflammatory response and a subsequent anti-inflammatory response, the activity will not produce any beneficial effect, quite the opposite.
When we accumulate bad eating habits, lack of quality sleep, stress, smoking, alcohol intake, poor hydration levels, etc., each of them are pro-inflammatory stimuli for our body. Whether or not we add sports to them, we mean that our immune system does not have the necessary capacity to carry out anti-inflammatory functions and trigger vital problems.
Feelings of fatigue, anxiety or irritability, muscle or joint injuries and decreased performance are some of the symptoms…do any of them ring a bell?
Supplementation strategies can help a lot if they are accompanied by good habits, of course.
Omega 3 – supplements with EPA and DHA, along with other synergistic active ingredients, help our immune system in anti-inflammatory functions, thereby improving the recoveries and all the symptoms for the athlete
MAGNESIUM – is a slowly absorbed salt that requires loading. Ideally, it should be consumed before going to bed as it favors our quality of rest, which improves the functioning of the immune system and all its capabilities.
GLUTAMINE – the intake of between 3 and 5 gr of Glutamine helps in many cases in intestinal membrane permeability problems. By improving this state our immune system, closely related to the digestive system, will improve significantly.
New generation probiotics and prebiotics – a good supplementation proposal with the right strains is, without a doubt, one of the best aids we can offer our immune system to improve its capabilities and help us balance the Microbiota that neuromodulates the production of some of its cells.
We observe, then, that the basis of any sports preparation consists, as a priority, of observing, understanding and helping our immune system so that it can perform its functions autonomously.
A good option to mitigate the damage of the noisy rhythm of life that we lead are the different proposed supplementation strategies, understanding that the basis will always be our good healthy living habits.
03 | Bibliography
Torres, Yaquelin, et al. "Development of the immune system: nature or nurture?." Venezuelan Archives of Pharmacology and Therapeutics 36.5 (2017): 144-151.
Pancorbo Sandoval, Armando Enrique. "Diagnosis and prevention of chronic fatigue or overtraining syndrome in high-performance sports. A proposal for biological recovery mechanisms." Sport Psychology Notebooks, vol 3, nº 1, 2003 (2003).
Vilamitjana, Javier. "Sleep, sport and quality of life." REDAF (Physical Activity Network) Guerrero-Morilla R., et al (2013). Endocrine-metabolic adjustments during the Ramadan fast in (2014).
Merellano-Navarro, Eugenio, et al. "Reduced Naïve T Cell Numbers Correlate with Increased Low-Grade Systemic Inflammation During Aging and Can be Modulated by Physical Activity." International Journal of Morphology 39.3 (2021).
Krause, Mauricio, et al. "The effects of aerobic exercise training at two different intensities in obesity and type 2 diabetes: implications for oxidative stress, low-grade inflammation and nitric oxide production." European journal of applied physiology 114.2 (2014): 251-260..