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5 Ways To Keep Your Immune Thriving In COVID-19

Do you find it 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? 

Whilst taking steps to reduce our exposure to Covid-19 is undoubtedly one way to reduce the risk of infection, we also need to be considering what we can do each day to support healthy immune function, to ensure we're as healthy as possible - because lets face it - optimal health is ultimately your best defence against infection as well as reducing the severity of the side effects  - should you come into contact with the virus.

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. 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 risk of infection, along with the effects viruses like COVID-19 can have on your health, is to support your immune system to enusre it's functioning optimally.

So what are the most effective & scientifically proven ways to support a healthy immune I hear you ask?

Below I've listed my top 5 ways to do just that...

1. Remove inflammatory foods from your diet

Chronic low-grade inflammation is no doubt the biggest contributor to the majority of health and lifestyle diseases, and one of the major drivers for this are poor dietary choices.  Think foods containing sugar, artificial additives, gluten, processed cow's dairy, soy and corn and processed vegetable oils.  Considering these foods form the basis of the western diet, is it any wonder that we're in the midst of a chronic illness epidemic - well before the current pandemic came about - and it's preexisting conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer that make us more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.  Replace these pro inflammatory foods with fresh, whole food sources - mainly from organic plant sources, combined with a moderate intake of clean protein sources - namely non-farmed fish, grass fed meats, organic eggs, and of course lots of healthy fats...AKA see exhibit 'A' below.

2. Reduce alcohol intake

One of the fall outs from COVID-19 has been the increase in alcohol consumption.  Research commissioned by the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare revealed many of us are drinking considerably more than before the COVID-19 pandemic - thanks to a combination of spending more time at home and the added pychological stresses inflicted by the pandemic.  Alcohol is an immune suppressant, weakening your body's defensive mechanism to fight off a cold, viral or bacterial infection.  So if you're wanting to support your immune as best as possible, it's essential to reduce alcohol consumption to a level that isn't compromising your health.  I recommend a maximum of 1 standard alcoholic drinka, no more than 4 nights a week - if you're serious about being optimally healthy and if you're already immuno compromised, then it's best to avoid alcohol all together.

3. Reduce chronic stress

Chronic stress is synonymous with modern day living, and COVID-19 has only amplified the normal day to day stresses.  The affects of chronic stress on our health are far reaching, and one of the major, if not the biggest contributor to chronic illness and disease. Chronic stress impacts our immune system by triggering a physiological response within our body known as the HPA (Hypothalamic, Pituitary, Adrenal) axis. When we're experiencing chronic stress, our body thinks we're under attack, and over time, being in this 'fight or flight' response mode can erode our immune defenses, 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.

4. Maintain a healthy gut

By now you've probably heard that the gut is our second brain, 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 around 70-80% of your immune system is contained within your guts microbiome, for the simple reason that the gut contains billions of bacteria, out numbering every cell in our body by a ratio of 10:1!

Maintaining a healthy balance of the 'good' bacteria that live within your gut's microbiome, will ensure your immune system is fighting fit when it comes to protecting you 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.

Your 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, as well influencing your mood, sleep and cognitive function. By nurturing your gut health with foods that feed the good bacteria within your gut and maintaining regular bowel movements, you'll also be ensuring healthy mental and cognitive function, as well as a strong immune system.

5. 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 whilst consuming foods highest in vitamin C on a regular basis - like kiwi fruit which contains 196 mg of vitamin C per cup, compared to just 96 mg per cup of oranges - taking a vitamin C is the best way to boost your vitamin intake for effective immune support.  But even a vitamin C supplement is dose dependent, when it comes to being effective against viral infections. I recommend taking around 3- 4 grams of vitamin C per day  (split into two doses), as an effective maintenance dose in someone who has no pre-existing health condition.  In times of acute infection, the dose needs to be substantially increased and ideally administered intravenously for maximum absorption.

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. 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.  Fresh oysters are the richest food source of zinc, but if eating oysters on a regular basis is out of your food budget, then taking a quality zinc supplement is the next best thing.

Anti-viral herbs - they say nature always provides, 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, all of which have shown to increase our 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 August 31 2020. (terms and conditions apply).

Copyright Sally Joseph 2020


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