5 Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 by Boosting Your Immune System

COVID-19

Many of us are anxious  about the COVID-19 pandemic but other than taking the well publicized precautionary measures such as hygiene, social distancing and isolation there are other things we can do.   There is nothing we can do about the virus but definitely something we can do about the host (ourselves).  We can make our health stronger by boosting our immune system  and enabling our bodies  to better fight viruses and infections.  Supplements can certainly help though they  can be hard to find and expensive these days.   Here are 5 simple habits you can start practicing today to get you strong and healthy.

1. SLEEP

Sleep quantity and quality is important.  Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, although sleep needs differ from one individual to another, the average number of hours is usually quite stable for any one person. 

Lack of sleep reduces our energy level and leads to a decrease in our body’s T-cells and T-lymphocytes. These have the function of attacking foreign antigens (viruses and bacteria). Emotionally, our lack of sleep clouds our  mood and reduces  our ability to deal with life’s difficulties,  especially  at this particular time of uncertainty. 

2. EAT

Enjoy whole foods and nutrient dense foods.  A wide variety of colourful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds will ensure you all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function and perform at its best.  Vegetables and fruits are high in important vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system such as vitamin A and C.  Choose dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens…), bell peppers, vegetables in the cabbage family (cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy…), orange vegetables and fruit.  

Drinking plenty of liquids such as, water, warm water and herbal teas such as lemon water, ginger and turmeric tea is also important.  Bone broth is an excellent gut protector, it is full of collagen and helps in gut repair.  Find recipe here.

Eat antimicrobial and antiviral foods such as garlic, onions, ginger and herbs and spices (oregano, thyme, turmeric, rosemary…). 

Protein:  Proper protein intake is essential to build and repair body tissue and fight viral and bacterial infection.  Heads up to vegans and vegetarians here as your protein consumption may not be adequate during these trying times.  Make sure you get 0.8-1 gram per kg of your body weight per day (i.e. if you weigh 60kg you would need about 60 grams of protein).  For healthy protein options think legumes, nuts, seeds, lean meats (preferably organic), eggs, fish, organic tofu and tempeh.  High protein foods are also generally high in zinc another very important mineral when it comes to immune healt

Avoid

Sugar and processed foods – People with diabetes are more at risk of dying from COVID-19.  Sugar and high glycaemic foods suppress the immune system and feed the virus.  This is a great opportunity to create new habits : ditch the sodas, fruit juices, cookies etc. and focus on foods that have a low glycaemic index (i.e. most whole foods).

3. GUT HEALTH

Eat foods rich in pre and probiotics as approximately 80% of your immune cells  live in your gut.  Our vitamins and minerals are also absorbed in our small intestine and therefore in order to absorb them properly our microbiome needs to be healthy.  Optimal immune function therefore means having a sufficient amount of good bacteria which  we need to feed  with the right foods.  This means eating foods rich in:

  • Probiotics such as: miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, organic yogurt, kefir, kimchi, … and
  • Prebiotics (fibre): vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.

If you are finishing a round of antibiotics or if you feel you are coming down with a cold you should be taking a high quality probiotic. Choose the kind that requires refrigeration and that contains a minimum of 30 billion colonies.

4. RELAX and Cultivate Hope

Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space, invite one to stay.

Maya Angelou

Stress  depletes our immune system and makes us more likely to succumb to viral infections.   We also know that although certain factors make us more likely to  become stressed, it is  usually perception bound and we know that we can  change our perceptions.  A great tool to help us do this is mindfulness meditation.  This is a perfect time to learn and to practice meditation, yoga and/or deep breathing. 

Studies have shown that even a short course  of meditation can significantly increase our immunity by decreasing the body’s cortisol level and increasing  important antibodies called IgAs. These IgAs line  our respiratory tract and gut and are our  first line of defence against pathogens.

Don’t forget the all important ‘vitamin L’ (aka Love)! Even if we are physically isolated we can still stay close to our loved ones through the many telecommunication tools at our disposal.  Love helps lower stress and therefore cortisol and floods our brain with healthy and happy hormones and neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine.

5. EXERCISE Regularly

Low and moderate physical activity (both aerobic and anaerobic) help boost your immune system.  Avoid heavy training or over-training especially if you are already feeling tired or depleted as this will weaken your immune system.

Work out outside if you can! This way you’ll also benefit from absorption of very important vitamin D.  Immune cells are favourably affected by vitamin D and nothing beats its natural form- from direct sunlight.  If the outdoor experience  isn’t possible consider an online yoga video (or whatever type of exercise you enjoy doing) straight from your living room. In this case take vitamin D supplements!

In addition  to the above suggestions, if you do feel that you  would benefit from a little boost, taking an adaptogen plant can be a good idea.  Reishi, ashwaganda, ginseng are a few examples, all of which are sold in supplement form and help the body adapt to stress, anxiety and reinforce the immune system. 

Conclusion

It’s important to feel reassured, most of us are already doing many of the right things to support a healthy immune system.  Although the  research on the Corona virus is ongoing, we do know that proper sleep, exercise, gut health and diet are all significant contributing factors to a healthy immune system.  Why not see this time as an opportunity to create new healthy habits?  Get creative, learn to cook, try new recipes and ingredients, discover new activities, hobbies, garden, reconnect with old friends, reconnect with nature, explore your spirituality…