Covid-19. Suddenly everyone is afraid of germs and tries to avoid them by disinfecting everything, maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home.
But in reality, germs are not necessarily a bad thing. We fear deadly viruses and bacteria but forget all the bacteria we have in our gut. Most bacteria are essential for our digestion and ultimately our survival.
One example of that is E.coli bacteria. There are some E.coli bacteria that will make us sick but on the other side we depend on them. Humans actually have a symbiosis with E.coli bacteria. They live in our gut where we keep them warm and protected and in return, they help us digest our food.
Everyone has different bacteria in their gut. These bacteria have a lot to decide, they help us form our immune system. So it’s important to support the right bacteria with food. You can get them directly from food (probiotic food). Or eat food that promotes a healthy gut milieu for those good bacteria (prebiotic food).
Most microbes are not harmful but actually important for a healthy balance inside and on our bodies. See them as a good ‘training’ for our immune system against serious, potentially life-threatening infections like the Covid-19.
Covid-19 and the Hygienic Hypothesis
A new study from Science found that mice that have been exposed to all kinds of bacteria are more likely to be resistant to harmful bacteria. Let me explain the experiment in easy terms: The scientists had two groups of mice. One group has been exposed to germs. Whereas the other group was ‘pathogen-free’, meaning they had no exposure to any germs. Then they exposed these two groups to pathogens. The result was that the pathogen-free mice were more likely to die when being exposed to normally not life-threatening bacteria. This proves the hygienic hypothesis. Let me give you another example of the Hygienic Hypothesis:
Why do foreigners get sick on their holidays in India?
The answer is that the immune system of humans living in western culture is not used to the exposure of germs. Whilst the immune system of locals has been exposed to microbes and built an adequate immune defense.
I’m not saying Hygiene is bad and you should never wash your hands. Hygiene is important to prevent diseases but everything should be balanced. Too much hygiene can weaken your immune system. Therefore don’t overdo disinfection sprays. Don’t fear human interactions and especially don’t fear the gym, it’s your immune system best friend next to healthy food.
Build a strong immune system just like you build muscles
Working out regularly keeps you healthy and fit and is vital to building not only strong muscles but also a strong immune system.
Avoiding the gym as soon as it opens again isn’t going to help you in any way; the opposite is the case; your body needs movement and social interactions to be happy and healthy.
It is not a secret anymore that exercising has many great health benefits including decreasing the risk of illness. However, I want to go a little in-depth on how going to the gym will boost your immunity.
Exercise improves your metabolic health and that in turn improves the defense activity of your immune system. In Addition, Exercising has an anti-inflammatory effect and can even delay the age-related dysfunction of immune regulation. The major reason for this is that when you exercise your immune cells ‘exercise’ too.
Stress hormones have the ability to suppress immune cell function so it’s important to keep them low. So how can we keep stress hormones low?
By not being in constant fear of Covid-19, but rather exercising our anxiety away.
Exercising decreases stress hormones like cortisol, increases endorphins like dopamine and serotonin, and even directly strengthens the immune cells.
In other words; when you exercise your body relaxes, it’s a way of ‘meditation’ because you let all your stress go.
Why your immune systems need social interactions
Another plus point of working out at the gym is that you probably will have social interactions. I know because of the fear of Covid-19 most people are scared of contact with other people. But let me tell you how important it is for your overall health to have social interactions. The Harvard Medical School says:
“Good connections and social support can improve health and increase longevity.”
People with a lot of social interactions tend to have better sleep, healthier diets and habits, be happier and live longer. Important is here the quality of a relationship. A strong romantic relationship for example can decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases and dementia.
In contrast, people who lack social relationships are much more likely to be depressed, suffer from cognitive issues, be overweight, and an even higher risk of premature death.
So what makes social interactions so healthy? Just like a good workout, social interactions decrease the levels of stress hormones. Reducing stress hormones enhances blood flow in coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. So go to the gym and be kind it will save your life!
Your immune system works day and night for you. However, you only feel it when it disappointed you and you get sick. In these times with Covid-19, it’s important to give something back. The only thing you have to do is to love your body; workout at home or at the gym, have human interactions, and don’t stress over germs, drink enough water, and eat healthily.