Boosting your immunity is the one positive thing you can do in these uncertain times of global pandemic, social restriction, falling economies and general fear. Everyone is feeling stressed, anxious, sad and frightened as lives have been turned upside down.
Your immune system – the army within
While boosting your immunity cannot prevent you getting Covid-19 it is thought to be much more likely that you will only have milder symptoms and not find yourself fighting for life on a hospital ventilator.
Unfortunately the idea of boosting your immunity to make you more resistant to anything that might be out there has no guarantees as the immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs in your body different for each person. But it is known that an underactive or overactive immune system can cause health issues.
While there is much that researchers don’t know about the complexity and interconnectedness of the immune response, many scientific studies are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress and other factors on immune function.
Factors That Can Weaken Immune Health
There are several known factors that make it harder for our bodies’ immune systems to work at their best and fight off potentially harmful pathogens (like the new coronavirus). They include:
a) Smoking suppresses the immune system, weakens the lungs and makes you more susceptible to respiratory infection
b) Medications such as steroids and those for autoimmune conditions suppress the immune system
c) Age – as we get older our immune system takes longer for our bodies to mount a significant immune response when we get sick. That gives the virus or infection more time to grow or to replicate, which could lead to more severe symptoms
d) Underlying medical conditions – preexisting chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease, can affect the immune system and make people with these conditions at higher risk of infections
e) Pregnancy – pregnant women experience changes in their immune system and body that may place them at higher risk for catching viral infections, including COVID-19
f) Malnutrition – people who are malnourished are more susceptible to viruses and certain diseases, because deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals in the body keeps the immune system from functioning at its best
What You Can Do Right Now to Boost Your Immune System and Keep it Healthy
- Focus on prevention or limiting your exposure to pathogens. Wash your hands often and if you cough or sneeze do it into your elbow or a tissue which you immediately throw away. Carry a hand sanitizer and wear a mask in public if that gives you reassurance but wash it often. The best prevention is social isolation and avoiding people.
- Get enough sleep Healthy sleep will aid in boosting your immunity in a lot of really critical ways. Research finds that there are actually very important parts of the immune response that occur during the different stages of sleep and are regulated by our bodies’ circadian systems.
- Eat healthy foods, that are fresh and unprocessed. Include lots of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and minerals in our food are the lifelines all the systems in our body rely on to function well (including the immune system). The better you feed the body with the nutrients you need, the better it runs to avoid chronic and acute disease, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Also avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, which can interfere with immune functioning, according to an Alcohol Research review paper from 2015.)
- Diets high in sugars and carbohydrates from processed foods can suppress the immune system as soon as 30 minutes after the consumption of sugar and can last up to five hours . Sugar affects the way your white blood cells attack bacteria. Nutrient deficiencies can increase your risk level when warding off infection, and food items with high levels of refined sugar are usually nutritionally obsolete. Sugar triggers low-grade inflammation in the body and also increases weight.
- Hydrate – increase your water intake – 4-6 glasses per day as water is essential for all aspects of good health. Hydration is a key component of the lymphatic system, specifically important for producing lymph, which carries white blood cells (which fight infection) and other immune cells around the body.
- Stay active. Researchers haven’t yet pinpointed the mechanism through which staying active keeps the immune system functioning best, but they do know exercise helps keep other systems in the body functioning properly, so they suspect there’s a link. (There’s even evidence that older adults who exercise regularly can keep their immune systems functioning similarly to people decades younger, according to a study published in April 2018 in Aging Cell.) But you can overdo it. High-intensity or extreme training can actually harm immune functioning. For optimal immune functioning, stick with moderate activity levels.
- Manage your stress. Stress can actually suppress the immune system, keeping it from working at 100 percent. A wide variety of maladies including stomach upset, hives and even heart disease are linked to the effects of emotional stress.
- Supplements to provide armour for your army
- There are many supplements available that are promoted to boost the immune system – herbs such as Andrographis, vitamins particularly Vitamin C and D and minerals, the most important being Zinc.
- Probiotics are source of good bacteria for boosting the immune system. Look for a good quality probiotic that includes Lactobacillus acidopholous, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosum.
What if you get Covid 19
If you suspect you have Covid 19, with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties, then you should get tested.
As there is no proven medical treatments for Covid 19 at this time you should rest, drink plenty of fluid, and eat nutritious food.
But if you would like to go further with self care you might buy a preparation with Pelargonium sidioides, a South African herb used for respiratory infection. Pelargonium can be found in Blackmore’s Kaloba Pelargonium Cough & Cold Relief Oral Drops, Syrup and Tablets
Research shows that the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties of Pelargonium help to prevent bacteria and viruses from attaching themselves to cells in the mucous membranes as well as stimulating the immune system to stop viruses and bacteria from multiplying. Extracts of pelargonium can also act as an expectorant allowing the body to expel infected mucus, which makes conditions less suitable for bacteria and viruses to multiply.
How to take Pelargonium
At the first sign of symptoms take 30 drops three times a day.
You should carry on taking pelargonium for three days after symptoms have disappeared to prevent a relapse.
Pelargonium should not be taken for longer than two weeks.
Do not give to children under 2.
Do not take if you are pregnant.
Finally, with more time at your fingertips in this stay at home period, now is the time to look after yourself and work on boosting your immunity . Take time to relax for example with yoga or pilates on line. Do something fun or creative – painting or music or just start that book you’ve always said you will write.
We are all in this together and it is now time to look after yourself, your community and even, dare I say it, the planet.