The World Health Organization recently declared COVID-19 a pandemic . This dramatic move comes as the epicentre of the coronavirus has now moved to Europe, nearly three and a half months since it first surfaced in Wuhan, China. Coronavirus has now spread to nearly 114 countries and there’s no denying this virus is fast-spreading.
Consensus among experts is that the situation is likely to continue to get worse before it improves. The virus has already had a profound impact on business trade, and day to day life around the globe.
As fears over the spread of coronavirus reach fever pitch, people have started panic-buying hand sanitiser and masks in order to protect themselves from the deadly disease.
But there’s NO need to panic or lock yourself away if you are feeling fit and healthy. Medical experts are instead urging people to just practice good hygiene and do certain things to help boost your immunity. Your immune system is your main line of defence against illness, so it only makes sense that you’d want to keep it in top shape
How does the immune system work?
The immune system is the body's natural defence system. Humans have a multi-layered defence comprising of a network of cells, molecules, tissues, and organs working together to protect the body. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in how the immune system works and its function as a whole to preventing infection or diseases.
Your immune system is designed to fight off sicknesses and viruses. But unfortunately, the immune system can get worn down by many things typical of a modern life— such as stress, toxins, lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating. This prevents our bodies from effectively fighting off sickness.
Here are some easy (and more importantly, free) ways to boost your immune system and give it a fighting chance -
Reduce your stress levels
Modern medicine has come to appreciate the powerful mind-body connection. The body is trained for both physical and mental stress - supercharged to quickly react, sending powerful cells into the blood and provoking a physical response that enables you to recover from infection. However, long-term stress and a chronic response promotes a distressed immune system and higher potential for disease and infections.
When you're stressed out your body produces stress hormones which tax the immune system. So one of the most important ways to boost immunity is to reduce stress. Ensure you have decent work-life balance, take breaks when you need them and employ some calming or relaxing stress-reduction techniques, like practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Long-term studies of committed meditators show changes in their brain activity and better preservation of judgment and cognition. If you meditate regularly you can also make decisions easier.
Maintain a healthy diet
Our immune system requires vitamins and minerals to function at an optimum level. Consuming a wholesome and varied diet ensures that our immune system operates at peak performance and helps us guard against illnesses and immunodeficiency problems.Make sure you eat foods with:
Proteins – which make antibodies that fight against antigens and disease.
Omega 3 fatty acids – these are important in controlling and reducing inflammation.
Vitamin E – this can be found in nuts and seeds and is part of the production of antibodies.
Vitamin A – this helps your cells stay strong and can be found in milk, cheese, eggs, fish and liver.
Zinc – found in seafood, meat, poultry, liver and eggs, this also helps support the immune system.
Vitamin C – this helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells and produce antibodies. Vitamin C can be found in oranges, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes and strawberries.
Iron – this creates B cells and T cells which are critical in fighting illnesses and resisting disease. Iron can be found in red meat, legumes, tofu, green veggies and eggs.
Check out the following links for more details on a healthy diet-
Keep your alcohol intake in check
Drinking dehydrates and stops the immune system working optimally. Keep hydrated by sipping water on the side while you are drinking. Alcohol reduces the white blood cell count in your body making it more difficult to fight off diseases. It also aids in red blood cells clumping together to cause smaller blood vessels to plug up which reduces the flow of oxygen to many vital organs. With less than an optimal amount of oxygen, your organs and your immune system will not operate at peak efficiency.Chronic heavy drinkers are predisposed to a range of health issues including infections and inflammation.
Get out in the sun
Everyone knows how important vitamin D is good for healthy bones but it has been shown to play a key role in boosting your immune system as well. Studies show that people with vitamin D deficiency are more susceptible to infection or that vitamin D supplements might boost immunity. Vitamin D forms in our skin in response to sunlight.
Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen though!
Getting sufficient shut-eye is the bedrock of good health. Cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, are produced and released while you sleep.
Evidence shows that lack of sleep impairs immunity. Even the response to vaccines is dulled if you don’t sleep enough. Studies show a 70 per cent reduction in natural immune cells after four to five hours of sleep. As a result, you aren’t able to fight off contagious viruses, such as corona, as effectively.
Fortunately, this can be amended as soon as you have sufficient sleep (seven to nine hours as an adult). However, the quality of sleep is also equally important – by practicing healthy sleep habits such as limiting blue light in the evening, taking a sleep supplement, meditating and applying lavender oil, you’re more likely to sleep deeper.
Wash your hands often
The best defence against germs is to follow basic hygiene – washing hands with warm soapy water, or using hand sanitiser.
Make sure you are washing your hands thoroughly as well as helping and encouraging your children to do the same.
The World Health Organisation advises people wash their hands at least five times a day for appx 20-30 seconds with soap and water.
Other measures you can take are to disinfect your door handles, telephone, computer keyboard, light switches, taps, fridge, kettle and microwave handles, etc or anything you or your family might use often; especially if you have children that might not follow proper hand washing techniques.
Experts are also advising people to reject formal handshakes and instead opt for pats on the backs or air handshakes. This will help stop the virus from spreading.
Keep up with a regular exercise routine
Exercise can be one of the best things to do to boost immunity. Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases.
But does it help to boost your immune system naturally and keep it healthy? For now, even though a direct beneficial link hasn't been established, just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system.
It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. But we have to be careful- don’t overdo it because too much exercise is stressful on the body and can be tough on our immune system.
Finally, quit smoking if you haven’t already.
This is a no-brainer. Smoking affects many systems of the body and immunity is not spared. It reduces the function of cilia (delicate hairs that move mucus around the respiratory system). Tobacco smoke has immune suppressing effects and damages delicate lung tissues. Smoking damages and destroys antibodies in the blood stream. Antibodies normally help fight off infectious illnesses. According to Livestrong, and the University of Cincinnati, smoking not only weakens immune response when it comes to fighting off infections, it may also turn the immune system against the body’s own cells.
Adopting the simple lifestyle habits above can strengthen your immune system. Of course, you can do everything right and still get sick. But doing your best to boost your immune system now will not only help you with Coronavirus but everyday bugs that exist all around us and whatever bugs may come your way later.