5 Ways To Keep Your Immune Thriving In COVID-19
Updated: May 10
It seems perplexing that during these troubling times of COVID-19, we hear little to no advice from health authorities, on ways we can effectively support our immune system to reduce the chances of infection, as well as the severity - should you be unlucky enough to come into contact with the corona virus. Whilst staying at home and isolating has undoubtedly reduced the rate of infection, it's not a feasible solution in the long term, and considering we could be waiting a long time for a safe and effective vaccine, we need to be considering what we can do right now to minimse our risk of infection from COVID-19, through boosting our own immune defences.
We all know that COVID-19 is a virus, and viruses have been with us for thousands of years, in fact it's safe to say that we have and will continue to be infected with several viruses over the course of our lifetime - ranging from the common flu, through to the Herpes family of viruses - namely EBV (Epstein Barr Virus) - commonly known as glandular fever and CMV - cyto megalo virus, to name but a few. But what causes one person to suffer the affects of a virus more than another, often boils down to the state of their immune system and underlying health.
Because viruses are opportunists, they like to prey on the weak and vulnerable, so the key to reducing your chance of infection, and or reducing the effects a viral infection has on your health, is to support your immune defences so that they are functioning optimally, but what are the most effective and scientifically proven ways in which we can do this?
Remove inflammatory foods from your diet
Chronic low-grade inflammation, is no doubt the biggest contributor to the majority of health conditions and lifestyle diseases, and the explanation for this lies in our modern day diet and lifestyle, because it is so pro-inflammatory. Think foods containing sugar, artificial additives, gluten, processed cow's dairy, soy and corn, and of course, alcohol. Sadly, these foods tend to be consumed by western society on a daily basis, and collectively they fuel an immunological inflammatory response, that begins in the gut, and over time spreads to other body systems and organs, eventually creating disease and illness. So if low grade chronic inflammation is the major underlying cause of illness and disease, you dont have to be a rocket scientist to work out that avoiding these foods will go a long way towards stamping out modern day diseases. Be sure to replace these foods with fresh, whole food sources, mainly plants, a little clean protein from grass meats and organic eggs, and of course lots of healthy fats - AKA see example 'A' below.
Reduce chronic stress
Chronic stress is synonymous with modern day living, and the affects of chronic stress has a far reaching impact on our health - because it triggers a physiological response within our body known as the, HPA (Hypothalamic, Pituitary, Adrenal) axis. When we are experiencing chronic stress, our body thinks we are under attack, and over time this can erode our immune defences, cause hormonal imbalances, (consequently affecting our mood, sleep, sexual function and metabolism), as well as compromise our digestive function. Daily practices like meditation and mindfulness, are scientifically proven ways to reduce, even reverse the effects of chronic stress on our health.
Maintain a healthy gut
By now you've probably heard the gut has a direct influence over our brain - via the enteric nervous system - but did you know that the function of our gut also has a major influence on the function of our immune system? This is because over 70% of our immune system is contained within our gut, for the simple reason that it contains billions of bacteria, which out number our cells by a ratio of 10:1! Maintaining a healthy balance of the 'good' bacteria that live within our gut's microbiome, will ensure our immune system is fighting fit when it comes to protecting us from invaders like viruses, as well as reducuing chronic inflammation - which precedes the onset of conditions like, arthritis, sinus and hey fever, asthma, hypertension and heart disease, depression, and of course food sensitivities and allergies, just to name a few.
Our gut's microbiome also produces and regulates neuro-endocrine compounds (brain specific hormones), such as GABA, serotonin, oxytocin and cortisol - which affect multiple body systems and of course our mood, sleep and cognitive function, so by nurturing your gut, you'll also be ensuring healthy mental and cognitive function, as well as a strong immune system.
Maintain healthy nutrient levels
Vitamin D - is one of the most powerful immune boosting nutrients, and is essential for a healthy immune system. Vitamin D functions more like a hormone than a vitamin, making it a precursor to the production of every hormone within the human body. Considering every cell in our body has a vitamin D receptor, it's little wonder that maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is crucial for preventing infection and healthy hormones - including serotonin. In fact a recent research paper from Oregon University, claims that "Supplements containing vitamins C and D, along with other micronutrients, can be a “safe, effective and low-cost” means to fight off the novel corona virus and other acute respiratory tract diseases". Because we can't always get adequate sunshine exposure each day, I recommend taking a combination D3 and K2 supplement each day to boost your immune system and assist with healthy hormone production.
Vitamin C - is a powerful antioxidant, protective against oxidative stress. Many studies have found high dose vitamin C to be protective against viral and bacterial infections. But effectiveness is very much dose dependant and taking vitamin C as part of a daily multi vitamin or even just 1 or 2 grams a day, is not enough to be effective at eliminating the viral infection. For this reason, taking around 3- 4 grams per day split into two doses maybe an adequate preventative or maintenance daily dose for someone who has no pre-existing health condition, but the dose needs to be substantially increased in times of acute infection.
Selenium - Selenium is an essential trace mineral that plays a crucial role in effective immune responses, including preventing viruses from attaching to cell receptors. Because Australian soils are almost devoid of all selenium, chronic deficiency of this mineral is very common amongst Australians. For this reason I recommend taking around 100 - 200mcg of selenium each day, or boost your intake of selenium rich foods, like Brazil nuts, but don't exceed more than 15 each day to avoid toxicity, although considering our body can only absorb around 55- 70% of selenium from dietary sources, it's unlikely toxicity will occur if you eat too many Brazil nuts.
Zinc - is another common mineral deficiency seen in western society. Found in cells throughout the human body, zinc helps the immune system to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells, so low zinc levels will not only impair your immune function and cellular growth and development, but impact on your hormonal balance
Take anti-viral herbs - nature always has a way of providing, and when it comes to strengthening our immune system and fighting off viral infections, she's got us covered - with herbs such as astragalus, garlic, elderberry, andrograghis, echinacea and medical mushrooms such as Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake, which have shown to increase natural killer cell activity and virus-killing cytokines.
If you're keen to learn how you can boost your immune system using nutritional or herbal medicine approaches, contact me here and I can advise you on the most suitable approach for your health and immune system, free of charge until June 30 2020. (terms and conditions apply).
Copyright Sally Joseph 2020 www.sallyjoseph.com