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Boost your immune system and support your mouth's natural defences!

Your immune system is there to help defend against disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms and, for the most part, it does a great job. But occasionally, our immune defences may not be able to do all that’s expected of them, and this is when we get sick. So, how do you boost your immune system to try and prevent this from happening?

This article will look at what a healthy immune system looks like as well as ways to strengthen your immune system and support your natural defences.

Understanding your body’s defence system

As humans, we have two lines of defence against disease-causing pathogens (i.e., viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites, and fungi):   

External barriers: These stop pathogens entering our bodies. They include skin, stomach acid, mucous in the nose, and saliva in the mouth. They are known as our first line of defence. 

Our immune system: This works inside our bodies once a pathogen has entered. We have two types: 

  1. Innate immunity which provides a rapid and general response when the body detects signs of an infection. 
  2. Acquired immunity which provides defences targeted against a specific invader. This acquired immunity gives your body a ‘memory’, which offers protection should you encounter that infection again. This is how vaccines work.

The importance of the mouth for your immune system

The mouth and oral microbiome are intimately connected to the healthy function of our immune system. The oral microbiome is the delicate ecosystem of bacteria naturally found in our mouths. It needs the right balance of bacteria to stay healthy and help protect our mouths and bodies. A healthy, balanced microbiome helps support the healthy function of our immune system. 

Saliva plays an important role in the mouth’s immune system, forming part of our body’s amazingly complex immune system designed to protect us by helping keep our mouths healthy. It contains a balance of ingredients including enzymes and proteins. Some can either trap or remove bad (pathogenic) bacteria, while others help good bacteria flourish. 

Gum inflammation is your body’s response to a build-up of bacteria at the point where your tooth meets your gum. Irritated and inflamed gums can be a sign that your immune system has been triggered. Your body detects the toxins released by the bacteria and responds by triggering inflammation to try and fight the bacteria.

The oral microbiome is not the only gateway to seeding those good gut bugs, but it also helps protect us from dental health problems and is intimately connected to the proper healthy function of our immune system.

Dr Jenna Macciochi, Immunologist

How to improve your immune system

Green vegetable leaf

We’ve seen how important the mouth is in helping your immune defences fight pathogens, but what can you do to help keep your defences up? 

1. Eat the right foods  

Experts say that most people need to increase the number of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets for a healthier gut microbiome and to boost their immune system. Organic apples1, for example, have been shown to have a significantly more diverse bacteria that’s better for gut health.  

2. Vitamin D  

One of the best natural ways to build up your immune system is by getting enough Vitamin D. The World Health Organisation2 recommends 5-15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week to keep Vitamin D levels, so if you have a space at home exposed to the sun like a garden, terrace or even a window, seek some time there.  

It’s also important to maintain good oral hygiene. If you’re not getting enough Vitamin D, teeth may not be able to absorb calcium as efficiently, making them vulnerable to disease3.  

3. Probiotics + Prebiotics  

Are probiotics good for you? Most of the time, the answer is ‘yes’. This is because probiotics are ‘good’, live bacteria which help to restore the natural balance in your body4. Similarly, prebiotics are ingredients which support good bacteria, often by providing the nutrition they need. By supporting good bacteria, prebiotics help to crowd out the bad bacteria and so deliver a health benefit. Examples of probiotic-healthy foods for teeth and gut health include certain yogurts and cheeses, which contain friendly bacteria.

4. Get a good night’s sleep 

While more sleep won’t necessarily make us invincible, if you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system could become vulnerable. While you sleep, your body uses that time to recover, including your immune system. Research has shown that just one night of poor sleep can suppress the activity of some of your immune cells by nearly half, so if you want to know how to improve your immune system, start by getting a good night’s sleep – we recommend 7-9 hours of sleep every night. 

5. Get enough exercise 

Exercise can also help maintain a healthy immune system and keep your body functioning well. In fact, research shows that it helps to reduce inflammation and supports your infection-fighting cells. If you’re not able to go to the gym and are staying at home, there are plenty of ways to still exercise at home with no equipment. Plus, endorphins from exercise also reduce stress.

How good oral hygiene can protect a healthy immune system

Woman's mouth smiling

As we have seen, the mouth and the oral microbiome is one of the body’s most important lines of defence, and so maintaining good oral hygiene is an important step in helping support your immune defences. Here are some tips which will help you to do so! 

  • Brush twice a day: Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes.  
  • Visit your dentist regularly: A yearly check-up at your dentist is a simple way to protect your health and care for yourself.  
  • Choose a toothpaste that supports good bacteria: When it comes to your oral care, choosing a toothpaste that includes ingredients that help support the good bacteria in your mouth is a good way to improve the oral microbiome and strengthen your mouths natural defences. Zendium toothpaste’s ingredients deliver a prebiotic benefit because, like a prebiotic, they help boost the good bacteria in your mouth, supporting your mouth’s natural defences. Its mild formulation also protects the soft tissues, so it’s ideal for even the most delicate mouths. Kind and effective, clinically proven.

And there you have it, a guide to building up and supporting a healthy immune system, starting with your mouth. For more information on the delicate balance of bacteria in the microbiome, check out this article

References:

1 NCBI – An Apple a Day

2 WHO – Radiation: The known health effects of ultraviolet radiation

3 NHS – Benefits of Vitamin D

4 NHS – Probiotics

5 NCBI – Health Benefits of Probiotics

The advice in this article does not constitute medical advice; it is solely available for information purposes. We recommend that you consult your dentist if you are experiencing any tooth or gum problems.