It’s no secret, we are all looking for ways to stay healthy, especially now during this COVID-19 crisis. When our immune systems are working properly, we simply take it for granted and don’t even notice it.
Truth is simply that no supplement, diet or lifestyle modification – aside from social distancing and practicing proper hygiene – can protect you from contracting this virus.
However, with a strong immune system, you do stand a better chance of fighting off viruses. The strategies outlined in this article can give your immune system that boost.
What is the immune system?
The immune system is made up of an interactive network of organs, white blood cells and proteins that protect the body from viruses and bacteria, or any foreign substances. It consists of two parts:
- The innate immune system, which works as a general defence against invaders;
- The adaptive immune system, which targets very specific invaders that the body has already had contact with.
For the immune system to work optimally, it needs to be able to differentiate between “self” and “non-self” cells and organisms.
“Self” substances are proteins on the surface of our own cells. Under normal circumstance, the immune system has already learned to identify these proteins belonging to our own bodies. When the body identifies these wrongly as “non-self” and attacks them, it’s called an autoimmune reaction.
“Non – self” substances are called antigens, which includes the proteins on the surface of bacteria and viruses. The immune system, when functioning properly, can detect the presence of antigens and work to defend the body against them.
A well-functioning immune system is constantly adapting and learning so that the body can fight against bacterial and viral invaders. Our two immune systems complement each other and work together.
The following steps will help you to maintain a strong immune system for fighting off infections and viruses.
1. Get enough sleep
When it comes to your health, sleep plays a crucial role. While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, poor sleep habits could adversely affect your immune system, so getting enough shut eye should be your nr 1 priority right now.
In his book “Why We Sleep” Matthew Walker explains why sleep is the most important factor in the health trinity of diet, exercise and sleep. Chronic poor sleep virtually “shuts down” elements of the immune response.
Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines – a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep.
Good quality sleep is critical to maintaining a healthy immune system.
2. Include bone broth in your diet
Bone broth supports immune function by promoting the health of your gut and reducing inflammation caused by leaky gut syndrome. The collagen and amino acids found in bone broth help to seal openings in the gut lining and support its integrity.
Collagen is literally the glue that holds our tissues together. These include our bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, and even our digestive system. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies.
At around age 35 though, our natural collagen stores begin to decrease. The first symptom of this is typically achy joints, sore muscles and poor digestion. Hello, menopause symptoms…
Make sure you consume enough collagen in your diet to improve your gut health, which in turn will boost your immune system.
Alternatively, look for a supplement that contains Type II Chicken collagen, which will provide your body with both glucosamine and chondroitin. Both of these are important components of intestinal mucin, acting as a barrier between gut flora and the intestinal wall, and potentially affecting gut permeability and intestinal immune mediation.
3. Eat foods that are high in Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps with the production of white blood cells. Low levels of vitamin C tend to be linked to poor health outcomes. It also boosts your immune system by providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Studies display that getting enough vitamin C (along with zinc) in your diet may help to reduce the symptoms of respiratory infections and shorten the duration of illnesses like the common cold and bronchitis.
Common food sources that contain adequate amounts of vitamin C include the following: strawberries, leafy green vegetables like baby spinach, citrus fruits, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and parsley.
Foods rich in Vitamin C are a must in you daily diet.
4. Include ginseng in your diet
The roots, stems and leaves of ginseng have been used for maintaining immune homeostasis and enhancing resistance to illness and infection for centuries. It does so by regulating each type of immune cell, including:
- Natural killer cells
- Dendritic cells
- T cells
- and B Cells.
Ginseng has also been proven to possess antimicrobial compounds that work as a defence mechanism against bacterial and viral infections.
Ginseng can be found at Oriental markets, or else in supplement form at your local drug store.
5. Include ginger in your diet
Although ginger has only recently become popular in the western wellness community, it is well known in the Ayurvedic wellness community for the treatment of a variety of ailments.
It’s believed that ginger helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in our organs due to its warming effects. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system - our network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
Due to its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, ginger may boost immune health. What’s more, ginger also has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Numerous test-tube and animal studies show that ginger extract reduces inflammation in those with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory gut disease, asthma, and certain cancers. Human studies reveal similar results.
One test-tube study found that fresh ginger had antiviral effects against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which causes respiratory infections, and helped boost immune response against HRSV.
Ginger, either fresh or in a supplement, has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Including these lifestyle and diet changes into your life won’t work overnight to keep you safe from viruses, but it will give your body a helping hand when it needs it.
If you cannot include these food types every day (and get a healthy amount of sleep) at least take a nutritional supplement with these ingredients. All supplements should have a Nutritional Fact Panel to see the ingredients used in them, and although the supplement industry is not a regulated industry here in the United States, a reputable company will be happy to offer you a money back guarantee on their supplements.
Whatever you do, please stay home and stay safe, we are all in this together and we can make it through this.