As the world struggles to find a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19, we must look at ways to support our own health. Find out how to boost your immune system during a pandemic with these simple, easy to do steps.
It seems like all we have heard about for weeks is the Coronavirus (COVID-19). First, it was like a voice in the distance as the virus quickly spread in far-flung countries and then suddenly the UK is infected and people are dying.
As I write this, the UK is in unprecedented times. The Government is operating as a “wartime” government and has imposed laws to restrict our movements. All in the race to get on top of this killer pandemic and save lives.
Our instructions are clear:
- Stay at home
- Wash your hands
- Keep at least a 2-meter distance between each other
- Do not go out unless for essential needs such as food, medications or to work
- Work from home if you can
- Isolate for 7 days if you experience ANY symptoms
- Your household should isolate for 14 days if anyone in the household has ANY symptoms
COVID-19 is a virus and therefore is not treatable with antibiotics. Currently, there is no way of effectively treating people with it and omplications occur when the virus causes pneumonia and acute respiratory failure.
Anyone with a low or compromised immune system or pre-existing medical conditions like COPD, diabetes and heart disease are more susceptible to developing these complications. This is why it is so important to adhere to the Government’s instructions which protect those who are most vulnerable from this novel virus. As well as helping to reduce the pressure on our NHS.
It’s a scary time for everyone, but especially so for the elderly or those of us with pre-existing medical issues. Our hearts go out to anyone who loses a loved one during this pandemic.
How We Can Protect Ourselves From Coronavirus
The good news is that there are things you can do at home to reduce your risk of infection and naturally boost your immune system.
So what can you do to protect yourself? What can you do to boost your immune system?
Wash Your Hands
One of the most important things we can all do to slow down the spread of this disease is to wash our hands.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, for 20 seconds each time.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a new disease which means we don’t know a lot about it yet. But we do know that it’s not very heat resistant and that soap is its nemesis!
So why is soap and water so effective in killing Coronavirus?
It’s quite simple. Viruses are made up of material protected by a layer of proteins and fat. When viruses come in contact with soap, the fat coating gets ripped out by the soap molecules effectively killing the virus.
What kind of soap should you use? Any! Posh soap. Cheap soap. Perfumed soap. Liquid soap.
It doesn’t matter.
What is important though, is how long you spend washing your hands. You need to keep the soap on your hands for a full 20 seconds To ensure the virus is destroyed.
Wash them frequently throughout the day and especially after returning home or before eating.
If you’re a smoker, not only are you reducing your immune system but you’re actually more likely to suffer complications if you do become ill. So if you want to naturally boost your immune system then quitting smoking is a great place to start.
We all know that smokers are at increased risk of cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses, but it also increases your risk of death from Coronavirus too.
The Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock said:
“It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.”
I know it’s hard. Beating any addiction is. But with the right support, you can free yourself from smoking.
If you’re planning to quit smoking then ask for help. Now could be the perfect time for you to stop!
Reduce Sugar and Highly Processed and Refined Carbohydrates
High consumption of sugar, including highly processed or refined carbohydrates, has become the ‘normal’ part of our western diet that many people don’t even question it.
Sure, most people know that it’s bad for your teeth and will make you gain weight. But did you know that sugar inhibits your immune system, reducing its ability to function and increasing the likelihood that you’ll get sick?
Eating too many carbohydrates can reduce the function of your white blood cells (your disease-fighting cells!) for many hours after consumption.
So if you want to naturally boost your immune system and increase your ability to fight off disease, my advice is to reduce your overall carbohydrate intake. You should aim to reduce things like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cakes, biscuits, crisps, chips, chocolates, flavoured yoghurts, fizzy drinks, sweets, ice cream and cereals.
What about fruit? That’s high in sugar right?
Yes and no. Whilst fruits can be high in sugars, most fruits are also full of disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. However, vegetables are also full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, in some cases, they provide even more nutrients than fruit. Plus, most vegetables are very low in sugar.
To boost your immune system, I would recommend limiting your portions of fruit to just 1-2 portions per day and increase your vegetable intake.
Ok, so this is going to be bad news. Another common immune suppressant is alcohol. Not only does it disrupt your gut bacteria (an essential part of your immune system and health!) but it also decreases your macrophages, T and C cells – your disease-fighting cells.
Whilst we are all to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel, it can be tempting to stock up on your favourite alcoholic beverages. But if you want to naturally boost your immune system then alcohol is best avoided.
Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep can do wonders for how you look and feel, but it’s also important for immune function too.
Not only does sleep give your body the rest it needs to repair and prepare for the next day, but while you sleep your body makes cytokines, a type of protein that helps fight infection and inflammation. If you don’t get enough sleep your immune system can’t operate at full capacity.
So how much sleep do you need? Aim for 8 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you can’t get a full night’s sleep then try to make time for naps in the day.
If you struggle to sleep then there are natural remedies that can help – Valarian tea, magnesium and CBD oil can all aid sleep.
Exercise – But Do It Right
Staying active is important for your immune system, but too much exercise can actually have a negative impact!
Strenuous exercise, especially if you haven’t exercised for a while, actually reduces your immune system temporarily. This can make you more prone to infections for a short time.
If you’ve always been active then keep doing what you do. But if you’re not, then now isn’t the time to jump into a heavy exercise routine.
If you want to boost your immune system, gentle exercise is the key here. Keep your body moving with activities like walking, cycling and yoga. But don’t launch straight into an Insanity type HIIT routine!
Keep Stress In Check
Everyone is a little stressed right now. Jobs are on the line, we’re all at risk of contracting COVID-19, we’re worried about our elder family members and we’re living through uncertain times.
It’s essential that you take a proactive approach to manage your stress. Not only is stress bad for your mental health, but it decreases your immune function too.
When stressed your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol, this can suppress the function of your lymphocytes (more disease-fighting cells), leaving you more prone to infections.
Studies show that isolation is one of the most stressful experiences for humans, so it’s essential that we take care of our mental health.
But what can you do about it?
Be proactive. Take time for yourself. Now more than ever, we have extra time for ourselves. Make time to meditate, practice yoga or mindfulness and remember to breathe deeply.
If you’re worried about Coronavirus then Vitamin C may give you a little ray of hope.
Vitamin C was discovered in 1928 and has been used for its immune-boosting and disease-fighting capabilities. But with the development of big pharma during the last 50 years, its infection-fighting capabilities seem to have been forgotten.
Vitamin C kills viruses and bacteria and is a powerful antioxidant. It fights oxidative stress and repels free radicals that cause damage.
The real risk of Coronavirus is the high incidences of pneumonia which can be lethal. If the pneumonia is caused by a virus, not bacteria, antibiotics are no help. But there are studies showing that intravenous Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can reduce the severity of pneumonia by up to 80%!
But that’s not all. There have been suggestions that Vitamin C can help protect you from catching the disease in the first place.
Vitamin C has long been studied for its ability to prevent the onset of the common cold and other respiratory diseases and the results look promising! In one study they found that supplementing 1000mg of ascorbic acid per hour reduced infections by 85%!
In fact, recently the Daily Mail has reported that high dose, intravenous Vitamin C is being used to help treat COVID-19 in the USA.
How to use Vitamin C
The recommended daily intake for Vitamin C is currently only 40mg. This amount was set decades ago to prevent scurvy.
In this day and age, with increased stress, pollution, exposure to diseases etc, our actual daily requirement is probably much higher. Humans can’t actually make or store Vitamin C in our bodies so our intake must come from external sources including foods or additional supplements.
It is also useful to point out that because your body doesn’t store Vitamin C, whatever it doesn’t need is naturally eliminated.
The studies mentioned earlier were reporting on the use of high dose, intravenous Vitamin C for the treatment of pneumonia, COVID-19 and other viruses or infections. It is unlikely that you have access to or need intravenous treatments. If you are interested in supplementing with Vitamin C to add some extra protection to your immune system, you can take it orally.
If you choose to supplement Vitamin C, Ascorbic Acid is the best form. This can be taken in powder form, dissolved in warm water.
When using Vitamin C to help prevent illness such as viruses and infections, it is recommended that adults take between 500mg to 7 grams per day. You might choose to spread the dose throughout the day. If you take more Vitamin C than your body requires, your body will naturally eliminate this. When this happens you will experience flatulence, bloating or loose bowel movements. This is known as bowel tolerance.
How much Vitamin C you need depends on how healthy you are. A healthy person, who is not sick will need less Vitamin C than someone who is sick or whose immune system is under increased stress. This is sometimes a useful indication of your health because your body eliminates excess Vitamin C. A healthy adult can usually take between 5-7 grams before noticing the side effects above.
Getting an adequate amount of Vitamin C is a positive step that could help you ward off viruses and treat viruses when you get them. However, it is not a replacement for medical advice or intervention. You should not hesitate to seek medical help when needed.
Vitamin D is essential for keeping your respiratory system healthy. For many years now vitamin D has been studied for its ability to protect from influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
This vitamin can be absorbed from foods, however mostly it’s synthesised by your body when your skin comes in contact with sunlight for a prolonged period of time.
During the winter we see fewer hours of daylight and keep ourselves wrapped up warm, preventing the skin from seeing the sun and depleting our vitamin d stores.
If you’re going to supplement then look for a vitamin D3 supplement that is absorbed under the tongue – either drops or a spray. Tablets are available but it’s thought that the body has a harder time actually absorbing the Vitamin D through the stomach.
Iodine is incredibly important for the metabolic processes in the body. Since the immune system relies on the proper functioning of the metabolism to stay strong, Iodine is incredibly useful in helping to boost your immune system.
Because the human body does not make its own iodine we must ingest it, many people in the western world are deficient thanks to our poor diet.
You can increase it through your diet by eating more seaweed, dairy, tuna, shrimp and eggs. Or you can supplement it too.*
But that’s not all you can do with it. Iodine is the substance used to sterilise your skin before an operation. It kills viruses and bacteria on surfaces and has so far been shown to kill coronavirus on surfaces too.
It may be beneficial to gargle with a very weak solution of iodine and warm water at the onset of a sore throat.
*Seek medical advice if you have a thyroid condition.
Eat Fresh & Varied
We all know a good diet is essential for health and the current situation just makes it more important. Eating plenty of fresh whole foods, including fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, nuts, seeds and legumes can help keep your body and your immune system in tip-top shape.
Avoid processed foods and keep it simple by choosing foods that are closest to their natural state.
If you are having trouble sourcing fresh foods then try your local farm shops, butchers and delivery services. So far they have been able to deliver when supermarkets cannot.
And of course, the best way to protect yourself right now is to stay away from other people and the places they have contaminated. Stay home.
The information provided in the blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this post is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice or care.