With the number of coronavirus cases escalating day by day, we are left wondering what else we can do to protect ourselves, other than panic-buy toilet paper and constantly wash our hands. While I understand how important washing our hands is, and I’m still clueless as to why my fellow Australian’s would need so much toilet paper, here is some constructive diet and lifestyle information on what you can do to build up your immune system and keep it strong and healthy during this time.
Please note: this advice is not intended to replace any medical advice given to you by your health care provider, and is not a cure for coronavirus. These general tips are scientifically proven ways of supporting your immune system, which you may find useful against fighting viruses in general.
When it comes to eating to support your health and well-being, it’s important to choose foods that support a healthy gut, so try the following:
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least 3 pints of clean, filtered or bottled water per day. This will help to eliminate toxins and pathogens out of your body that your immune system kills.
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables from 5 to up to 10 portions a day. This amount contains 30g of fibre which supports a healthy gut which is needed for a healthy immune system. They contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These are important as they are the building blocks used by your immune system to fight viruses and infections.
- Minimise alcohol consumption as it places extra burden on the liver in an effort to detoxify it, when in fact the liver is needed to fight infections.
- Limit your intake of sugar, sugary drinks and highly processed foods, as they are not good for your gut health. Sugar actually suppresses the immune system for up to a few hours after consuming it.
- Ensure you get enough protein each day to support your immune system. Protein is vital to build and repair body tissues and fight viral infections. Too little protein can lead to symptoms of weakness, fatigue and poor immunity.
- Immunity can be strengthened by ‘time restricted eating’. Try shortening your eating window and fast at least 12 hours overnight. Studies show this can improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and even trigger your immune system to start producing new white blood cells, which are a key component of the body’s immune system.
- The following vitamins and minerals are important for supporting your immune system so try to consume a wide variety of these foods as much as possible:
o Zinc - white mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, chickpeas, lentils, beef, lamb, quinoa
o Selenium – brazil nuts, sardines, cod, chicken, beef
o Iron – lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, olives, swiss chard
o Copper – sesame seeds, cashews, mushrooms, tempeh, lentils, walnuts
o Magnesium – pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, sesame seeds, quinoa, cashews, sunflower seeds
o Vitamin A – sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, winter squash, beet greens
o Vitamin C – papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, kiwi, cauliflower
o Vitamin E – sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, swiss chard, avocado, beet greens
o Vitamin B6 – turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, potatoes, spinach, banana, sunflower seeds
o Vitamin B9 – lentils, spinach, broccoli, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans, black beans, kidney beans
Below are some suggestions for supplements to help support your immune system. As this is generalised advice, please check with your doctor before starting any new supplement programme.
1. General multivitamin and mineral supplement (especially if you feel you can’t eat enough fruits and vegetables a day)
2. Vitamin D3
3. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps fight free radicals produced during infection
4. Probiotics are very important for the health of the immune system as 60% of our immune system is in our gut.
- Avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings. The coronavirus is very contagious and has the potential to infect large groups of people very quickly. The older population and those with existing health conditions are especially vulnerable.
- Stress lowers your immunity and increases the risk of catching an infectious disease. So, try to do something daily to help reduce your stress levels to help reduce cortisol levels such as meditation, yoga or gentle stretching.
- Gentle exercise supports the immune system and sweating eliminates toxins. During this time perhaps it’s best to avoid group exercise and places like the gym but getting out in nature or exercising from home are both great options.
- Get enough sleep! Your body is busy healing and repairing while you sleep and it’s important your immune system has time to regenerate during this time. Ensure your room is dark and cool and that you keep to a regular sleep schedule to maximise sleep quality.
I know that global pandemics can feel scary, and media headlines are bombarding us all right now, but no one benefits from living their life in fear. Stay calm, look after yourselves and each other. By following this advice and improving your overall health, you can support your immune system so it can better support you when you need it most.
Kylie Hendrikse is a Registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in autoimmunity and immune related health conditions, based in Clifton, Oxfordshire. Kylie offers free 20-minute health assessment phone calls. To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07766851111.