Tips to Build Up Your Immune System
As the pandemic rages around the world, medical experts remind us that it’s important for each person to take proactive steps to build up their immune system. The immune system protects the body by helping to prevent pathogens from invading. It also produces chemicals, proteins and white blood cells that attack and destroy any foreign substances that do enter the body.
If you look at some of the main health sites – World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, etc, you’ll find advice that suggests that you wear masks, wash your hands and practice social distancing. There are other things that you can do to lessen your chances of getting the virus and things that you can do to help your immune system fight off the virus if you do get sick.
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Exercise and Physical Activity
Physical activity is associated with lower levels of anxiety which translates into better immune function. Doctors remind you to run, bike and do other things that keep you physically active while you maintain social distance. If you have a dog that needs walking, that’s a good start.
If you don’t have a dog, this may be the time to get one….having pleading doggy eyes staring at you, begging for a walk is often all the inspiration that you need to grab the leash and go out for a stretch. If you are allowed to visit parks and other open spaces, do so. There’s also plenty that you can do inside. Dance around the house to your favorite music, turn on a recorded exercise class, jump rope, try yoga (plenty of yoga tutorials on youtube), etc.
Be mindful of your lifestyle practices. In addition to maintaining an active physical lifestyle, make sure that you get enough sleep, each nutritious foods and manage your stress. It’s also strongly suggested that you reduce or eliminate smoking and/or alcohol consumption, both of which can negatively impact on your immune system.
Most people need at least 7 hours of good quality sleep every night to maintain a good-functioning immune system. Stay away from screen time before bedtime…….looking at a screen has been shown to interfere with the ability to fall asleep. Meditation practices have been shown to reduce the effects of anxiety on the body’s immune system which may help you sleep better at night.
Good nutrition is vital to a healthy immune system. Balanced nutrition enhances your ability to fight off infections and remain healthy. Keep your weight at a healthy level – that’s not easy when you’re at home for so much of your day but you can watch your weight if you develop an eating schedule and stick to it, making sure that some of your snacks and meals center around low-calorie foods (dry legumes, eggs, vegetables, etc).
In addition to balancing healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fruits and vegetables, you must be sure that your body maintains a healthy level of vitamins and minerals, specifically:
Vitamin A (Beta Carotene)
Vitamin A isn’t specifically linked to anti-COVID-19 properties but having a healthy level of vitamin A in your body is recognized at aiding the health of your respiratory system. The lungs are organs that are often adversely affected by COVID and by maintaining a healthy level of Vitamin A you can support your body in fighting respiratory infections. Foods rich in vitamin A include broccoli, sweet potato, carrots, cantaloupe , spinach, chard, mangos, yellow maize, squash and papayas.
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, has been shown to prevent inflammation in the lungs – a common effect of COVID. You can overload your system with vitamin B3 so if you’re going to take a supplement, speak to your doctor to make sure that you get the right dose. Vitamin B3- rich foods include chicken, meat, fish, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
Vitamin C is a super-vitamin. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, help prevent iron deficiency, prevent gout attacks and reduce blood uric acid levels, reduce risk of heart disease and reduce risk of chronic disease. However, it’s an immune system builder that vitamin C shines. It promotes the production of lymphocytes and phagocytes, white blood cells that help protect the body against infection.
These cells function more effectively when vitamin C is present to protect them from damage from harmful molecules such as free radicals. It can also act as an antioxidant for the skin, shorten wound healing time, aid in healing and boost health outcomes. This is specifically important as it relates to COVId-19 where lung injuries are believed to be caused by a build-up of free radicals which causes oxidative stress.
Vitamin C, some researchers believe, speed the process of neutralizing these free radicals so oxidative lung damage can be better managed. In addition to vitamin C supplements, it’s recommended that you consume vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits and vegetables (strawberries, oranges, tomatos, red peppers, cabbage, and grapefruit).
Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins whose effects on COVID-19 have been demonstrated in peer-reviewed studies. The studies were small and must be replicated in order to confirm the results but initial findings note that there seems to be a correlation between low levels of vitamin D in COVID-19 patients’ systems and complications from COVID-19.
One study determined that the proportion of COVID-19-positive people who experienced respiratory failure was higher in those who were deficient in vitamin D. A second study found that patients in intensive care who received high dose of calcifediol -- a type of vitamin D -- needed less care than did those who did not receive the calcifediol. It’s believed that vitamin D, known to be a pathogen-fighting aid to macrophages and monocytes, decreases inflammation and promotes immune response when an inflammation does occur.
Higher risks of upper respiratory tract infections among vitamin D deficient people has long been recognized in the medical community and vitamin D is one of the first supplements suggested for fighting the virus. Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods but some that do contain vitamin D include cod liver oil, tuna fish, salmon, beef liver, dairy products and orange juice. Direct sunlight is also a good source of vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are strongly suggested.
Zinc is found in the body’s cells. The mineral facilitates normal development and function of the cells in your immune system. Some studies suggest that boosting your zinc level helps you to inhibit the replication of viruses. Other studies suggest that zinc can aid in preventing the COVID-19 virus from spreading and reduce the risk of death from COVID-19-related pneumonia.
It might help to slow the virus’s replication in a case of someone becoming sick with COVID-19. Too much zinc in the body is as dangerous as too little – in can lead to lowered immunity in addition to other medical problems. Zinc is found naturally in some seafoods and some dairy products but a daily dosage is suggested (consult with your doctor to find out what dosage is right for you).
Additional supplements and focus on foods containing specific minerals is also suggested. These additional minerals include selenium which strengths the body’s defenses against viruses, raw honey which has antioxidant properties, garlic which is a natural anti-biotic and reduces inflammations and probiotics which impact the regulation ad function of the immune system.