Boosting Your Body’s Natural Immunity
Let me start off by stating that no supplement or diet is going to protect you from COVID-19. There are of course lifestyle modifications, which can reduce the potential for contraction. It starts with the new buzz words “social distancing” and proper hygiene. In short, wash and sanitize and keep your safe distances.
Supporting your body’s natural defenses can be a challenge requiring lifestyle and dietary changes. Some may be easier than others and it’s not an all or none proposition.
I am sure you have heard it time and the human body needs its rest. Lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to illness. Poor sleep has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and obesity. Study after study has delivered similar results, those with sufficient sleep as we’re less likely to catch a cold than those with insufficiency. The goal should be 7 hours a night for adults and 8-10 hours for teens. Infants and young children up to 14 hours is recommended.
While there are supplements for sleep you can try “natural” means. One issue is artificial lighting and electronics (“blue light”) in the evenings, which may disrupt your brain’s natural sleep-wake cycles. Blue light is emitted from phones, televisions, computers, and more.
The solutions are minimizing screen time an hour before bedtime, sleep in a darkened room, use a sleep mask, go to bed the same time, and cannot stress enough regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seed are packed with antioxidants and nutrients, which may assist in an increased immunity to ward off harmful pathogens. Antioxidants help decrease inflammation and chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions.
Healthy bacteria sound to many as an oxymoron. But the fact is they do exist and are important. The fiber in plant-based foods, feed the bacteria in your gut microbiome, which can improve your immunity. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like Vitamin C, which studies indicate may reduce the duration of common colds.
We are programmed to think fat is unhealthy. But salmon and chia seeds are plentiful in Omega-3 fatty acids and know for fighting inflammation. Olive oil also has high anti-inflammatory properties, which may help decrease the risks of chronic diseases. Hemp oils are also a major source of Omega-3 and 6.
Since chronic inflammation suppresses your immune system, logically anti-inflammatory aspects of a diet can be a factor in combatting illnesses.
We have all heard about Probiotics one of the most popular supplements in the nutritional market. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which is a “good” bacterium that populates your digestive tract. Yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and natto are but a few.
A healthy network of probiotics in the gut can aid your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms, according to research. If one doesn’t consume probiotics regularly from their diet, supplements are an alternative.
It’s old news, and study after study indicate added sugars and refined carbohydrates are major contributors to obesity and overweight. Needless to say, obesity increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
Sugar intake should be limited to less than 5% of your daily calories, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. How does that 5% translate is unfortunately only 2 tablespoons (25 grams).
Everything in moderation and always checks with a doctor before engaging in any exercise regimentation. While intense exercise can suppress your immune system, an exercise in moderation can give it a necessary boost.
Research has shown that regular exercise in moderation may reduce inflammation and promote regular immune cell regeneration. A goal should be 2-1/2 hours per week of moderate exercise. Again, absent any medical conditions, any exercise may be beneficial.
Hydration while not directly offering protection from viruses and germs, is crucial to overall health and wellness. A dehydrated state can have numerous effects on physical performance, mood, focus, digestion, heart and kidney function.
The human body is approximately 60% water. We lose water from sweat and urine, which requires replacement with adequate amounts of water. The 8×8 rule is the most common being 8 ounce glasses of water, 8 times a day (2-liters/ half gallon total).
How one drinks depends on a number of factors as you may need more when you are exercising or in hot climates. General guidelines suggest drink when you are thirst and stop when you are not. As we age, the body’s signaling process diminishes. Accordingly, older adults need to drink regularly despite no feeling of thirst.
Stress over the long term promotes inflammation and immune cell function imbalance. It has been well documented that prolonged psychological stress can suppress immune response.
There are a multitude of activities which can help you manage stress including exercise, yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices. Lowering stress levels can promote a well-functioning immune system.
Supplement for Deficiencies
We always try to refer to supplements as “aids,” not treatments, cures or prevention for anything. Health and wellness begin with a good diet and regular exercise. With a proper diet your body produces most of your daily requirements. To be clear, any claim you hear about supplement abilities to treat or prevent COVID-19 are false, according to the National Institute of Health.
However, a stronger and healthier body may logically result in a superior immune response. There is no shortage of studies spanning decades which indicate the usefulness of certain supplements:
- Vitamin C and Zinc reducing the duration of colds
- Echinacea promoting slightly quicker recover from colds
- Elderberry reducing the symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections
- Garlic reducing the incidence of the common cold
- Vitamin D deficiencies adversely increases chances of sickness
Yet with all the decades of research it is clear that more studies are necessary. As with any supplements or people with medical conditions you should consult a physician prior to taking anything.
Do Your Own Homework
It’s funny, yet a bit discomforting at times when you visit your healthcare professional and they’re googling your symptoms or medication to see what’s new. The National Institute of Health is a treasure trove of publishing of studies and research in their raw form. You will find for every positive study for a particular supplement there may be others either resulting in disparate results or limited to one that is most promising.
Often people take the position, if it’s not going to harm me (which again is for a healthcare professional who knows you to determine) I might as well seek the benefits. One can empathize with the frustration when hearing of a friend who takes a supplement and has successful results and doesn’t work for you. The fact is, everyone’s body reacts differently due to innumerable factors. More importantly, what can be beneficial to one can result in adverse reactions to others. This is why we recommend do your homework and read. There are many good resources which you can bring to the attention of your healthcare professional for their ultimate opinion.