Coronavirus: Strengthen the body’s defenses

Coronavirus: Strengthen the body's defenses
Coronavirus: Strengthen the body's defenses

In times of increased risk of infection, it is extremely important to strengthen the immune system. The expert Prof. Dr. Michaela Ax-Gadermann knows how this works.

This is how you strengthen your immune system via the intestine

In times of increased risk of infection, it is extremely important to strengthen the immune system, because infections are easier if the body’s immune system can quickly eliminate germs. In the meantime, numerous studies have shown that healthy intestinal flora and the right probiotic bacteria strengthen the immune system, protect against infections with viruses and bacteria and improve the success of vaccinations.

Even in times of coronavirus, it does not harm if the intestinal immune system is well-positioned. Studies show that certain probiotic bacteria can push the immune system.

The gut – the headquarters of our defenses

Our defenses work well when they are balanced. The immune system must regulate the immune response correctly. If it is constantly on alert, the body is flooded with inflammatory substances, while the body’s defenses gradually become dull and lose their willingness to react. But even an immune system that is too weak cannot properly fulfill its defense function.

A weak immune system not only favors infections but also ages more quickly. This is known from patients in whom the immune system has to be suppressed for medical reasons.

Healthy eating is essential

Since the immune cells need an enormous amount of nutrients, a balanced diet is the focus of immune health. If the need for stress, competitive sports, increased risk of infection or in the course of life increases, you sometimes have to help with nutritional supplements to close gaps.

It is also very important to strengthen the intestinal flora because the headquarters and the control center of our defenses are located in the intestine. 70 to 80 percent of all immune cells that produce antibodies and fight infections or cancer cells in the body are located here in the submucosa. Submucosa means “under the mucus layer”. The largest defense organs are not the spleen, thymus or lymph nodes, but the gut is the coach of our immune system.

In the digestive tract, the bacteria are in close contact with the immune cells. The constant confrontation with the microorganisms means that the immune system always remains vigilant. Since the immune cells not only stay in the intestine but also travel through the body and visit other “defense stations” such as the lymph nodes, the information is passed on. In this way, a healthy and diverse microbiome can not only protect against gastrointestinal diseases but also against viral infections and colds.

The magic formula: bacteria food plus probiotic bacteria

To get a great microbiome, our gut needs enough prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers that are not broken down by the digestive enzymes and reach the colon unchanged. There they are “fermented” by the intestinal flora, that is, they are converted into important, health-promoting substances such as short-chain fatty acids. But not every fiber is good bacterial feed.

Our helpers in the intestine thrive well with asparagus and oatmeal, they love garlic, onions, leeks, and legumes. But coffee, dark chocolate, green tea, apples, cranberries, coffee or red wine also ensure a healthy intestinal flora and thus a good immune system.

Our immune cells also love probiotic, healthy bacteria: children are less likely to catch a cold and have less fever and cough when they take probiotics. Exhausted athletes were able to reduce the susceptibility to infections during hard training or competitions in studies. Seniors, shift workers and people under stress can also be shown to have astonishing effects on the immune system by taking probiotics.

Probiotics can be fed with a knife and fork. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut or kimchi provide a good portion. Fermented “non-milk products” such as soy or coconut yogurt also contain probiotic bacteria.

Probiotic bacteria boost the immune system

The targeted use of probiotic preparations can also make sense to influence the immune system in a targeted manner. Because not all probiotic microorganisms are equally suitable for strengthening the immune system. Some germs can obviously “steam” the immune cells better than others and only certain bacteria can effectively stimulate the production of antibodies against infections – at least this is what the results of various studies suggest

So decreased by taking the probiotic bacteria L. Plantarum and L. Paracasei the risk of infectious diseases measurable over 12 weeks. And if a virus did spread, it was milder for the study participants who had received probiotics. The number of sick days and the symptoms were less pronounced than in the placebo group.

Another study was able to show that a probiotic mixture (L. acidophilus, L. Casei, L. Reuteri, B. Bifidium, and Streptococcus Thermophilus) was able to stimulate certain immune cells in a targeted manner and was even able to reactivate down-regulated immune systems. Smoldering inflammation in the intestine also decreased. The study concluded that probiotics can not only activate the immune system but also reduce inflammation.

Probiotics improve vaccine response

Probiotics influence and modify numerous immunological reactions. As a result, they are even able to increase the effectiveness of vaccinations. So taking Lactobacillus Rhamnosus The protection rate against the virus increased significantly over 28 days after flu vaccination. There were no side effects.

It seems even cheaper to take a mixture with effective probiotic bacteria a month or two before a planned vaccination. This pretreatment improves the immune response to vaccination and measurably increases long-term protection. This is the conclusion reached by Israeli pediatricians. They administered either probiotics or a placebo to young children two months before the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination. Despite vaccination, 17% of children in the placebo group developed too few antibodies (antibodies) and thus insufficient protection against the diseases. In the probiotics group, vaccination success was only 8%. At the same time, vaccination reactions and side effects were lower in the probiotic group.

Conclusion: If we want to strengthen our immune system, prevent serious infections and improve the effectiveness of vaccinations, we should take good care of our intestinal flora

Bacteria that are particularly effective in studies have increased the immune system, activated immune cells and improved vaccination success, among other things.

  • L. Plantarum
  • L. Rhamnosus
  • L. Casei
  • L. Gasseri
  • B. Bifidium
  • B. Breve
  • B. Lactis
  • Streptococcus Thermophilus
  • L. Acidophilus
  • L. Reuteri
  • L. Paracasei


Berggren A, Lazou Ahren I, Larsson N, Onning G. (2011) Randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study using new probiotic lactobacilli for strengthening the body immune defense against viral infections. Eur J Nutr. 50: 203-210

Davidson LE, Fiorino AM, Snydman DR, Hibberd PL. (2011) Lactobacillus GG as an immune adjuvant for live-attenuated influenza vaccine in healthy adults: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 65: 501-507

Written by Editorial Staff

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