COVID-19: 9 ways to strengthen your immune defenses

Posted by Nutrition pro on

COVID-19: 9 ways to strengthen your immune defenses

No supplement, diet, or lifestyle modification — outside of confinement and practicing proper hygiene ⁠ — can protect you from developing COVID-19.

The strategies described below can strengthen your immune system, they will always be a plus, but they do not specifically protect against COVID-19. There is currently no known cure.

While boosting your immunity is easier said than done, several dietary and lifestyle changes can boost your body's natural defenses and help you fight off harmful pathogens and organisms.

Here are 9 tips to naturally boost your immunity :

1. Get enough sleep

Sleep and immunity are closely linked.

In fact, inadequate or poor quality sleep is linked to greater susceptibility to disease.

In a study of 164 healthy adults, those who slept less than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night .

Sufficient rest can boost your natural immunity. Also, you can get more sleep when you're sick to help your immune system better fight off illness .

Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teenagers need 8 to 10 hours and younger children and infants up to 2 p.m.

If you have trouble sleeping, try limiting screen time to an hour before bed, as blue light emitted by your phone, TV, and computer can disrupt your circadian rhythm, or your body's natural sleep-wake cycle .

others sleep hygiene tips include sleeping in a completely dark room or using a sleep mask, going to bed at the same time each night, and exercising regularly .

2. Eat more whole plant foods

Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that can give you the upper hand against harmful pathogens.

The antioxidants contained in these foods help reduce inflammation by fighting unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body at high levels .

Chronic inflammation is linked to many health problems, including heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and certain cancers.

Additionally, fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which can shorten the duration of a cold .

3. Eat healthier fats

Healthy fats , like those found in olive oil and salmon, can boost your body's immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation .

While low-level inflammation is a normal response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system .

Olive oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory, is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties can help your body fight off harmful bacteria and viruses that cause disease .

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those of the seeds of Salmon and chia, also fight inflammation .

4. Eat more fermented foods or take a probiotic supplement

fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics , which populate your digestive tract .

Research suggests that a thriving network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate normal, healthy cells from harmful invading organisms.

In a 3-month study of 126 children, those who drank just 70ml of fermented milk a day had about 20% fewer childhood infectious diseases, compared to a control group .

If you do not regularly eat fermented foods, probiotic supplements are another option.

In a 28-day study of 152 people infected with rhinovirus, those who received a probiotic supplement Bifidobacterium animalis have had a stronger immune response and lower virus levels in their nasal mucus than a control group.

5. Limit added sugars

New research suggests that added sugars and refined carbohydrates may contribute disproportionately to overweight and obesity .

Obesity can also increase your risk of getting sick.

According to an observational study of approximately 1,000 people, obese people who received the flu vaccine were twice as likely to get the flu as people without obesity who received the vaccine .

Limiting your sugar intake can reduce inflammation and promote weight loss , reducing your risk of chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease .

Since obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease can all weaken your immune system, limiting added sugars is an important part of an immune-boosting diet .

You must strive to limit your sugar intake less than 5% of your daily calories. This equates to about 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of sugar for someone on a 2000 calorie diet.

6. Get moderate exercise

Although prolonged intense exercise can suppress your immune system, moderate exercise can give it a boost.

Studies indicate that even a single bout of moderate exercise may increase the effectiveness of vaccines in people with weakened immune systems .

Additionally, regular, moderate exercise can reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate on a regular basis .

Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking , regular bicycling, jogging, swimming and light hiking. Most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week .

7. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated doesn't necessarily protect you against germs and viruses, but preventing dehydration is important for your overall health.

Dehydration can cause headaches and impair your physical performance, concentration, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These complications can increase your susceptibility to the disease .

To avoid dehydration, you should drink enough water daily to make your urine pale yellow. Water is recommended because it's free of calories, additives, and sugar .

Although the tea and juices are also hydrating, it is best to limit your intake of fruit juices and sweetened teas due to their high sugar content .

As a general rule, you should drink when you are thirsty and stop when you are no longer thirsty. You may need more fluids if you train hard, work outdoors, or live in a hot climate .

8. Manage your stress levels

Relieve stress and anxiety is the key to immune health.

Long-term stress promotes inflammation as well as imbalances in immune cell function .

In particular, prolonged psychological stress can suppress the immune response in children .

Activities that can help you manage your stress include meditation , exercise, journaling, yoga, and other mindfulness practices. You may also benefit from seeing a licensed counselor or therapist, either virtually or in person.

9. Wise supplements

It's easy to turn to supplements if you hear claims about their ability to treat or prevent COVID-19.

However, these claims are unfounded and false.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is no evidence to support the use of any supplement to prevent or treat COVID-19 .

However, some studies indicate that the following supplements may boost your body's overall immune response :

  • Vitamin C. According to a review of more than 11,000 people, taking 1,000 to 2,000 mg of vitamin C daily reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children. Yet the supplementation did not prevent the cold initially .
  • The deficiency vitamin D. It can increase your chances of getting sick, so supplementation can counter this effect. Nevertheless, taking vitamin D when you already have adequate levels does not seem to provide additional benefits .
  • Zinc. In a review of 575 people with the common cold, supplementation with more than 75 mg of zinc per day reduced the duration of the common cold by 33% .
  • Elderberry. A small review found that elderberry may reduce symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections, but more research is needed .
  • Echinacea. A study in over 700 people found that those who took echinacea recovered from colds slightly faster than those who received a placebo or no treatment, but the difference was insignificant .
  • Garlic. A high-quality 12-week study in 146 people found that garlic supplementation reduced the incidence of the common cold by almost 30%. However, further research is needed .

The essential

There are several lifestyle and diet changes you can make today to boost your immune system .

These include reducing your sugar intake, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress levels.

While none of these suggestions can officially counter COVID-19, they can strengthen your body's defenses against harmful pathogens.

While waiting for the lockdown to be lifted, stay at home.

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