Staying safe and protecting yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic is simple- there are no dietary supplements, and there is no need to modify your diet or your lifestyle. All you have to do is practice proper hygiene and physical distancing, which is commonly known as social distancing. You may also want to boost your immune health and help your body fight off illnesses naturally. Although there is no evidence that bolstering your immunity would ward off diseases, there are several dietary and lifestyle changes you can make, that may strengthen your body’s defences and help you fight disease-causing organisms. The methods or strategies delineated below may help you boosting the Immune System, but they are not guaranteed to protect you especially from COVID-19.
Here’s How you can Naturally Boosting the Immune System
- Get adequate sleep
Sleep and immunity are interlinked, and inadequate sleep is considered to make you further susceptible to illnesses. Therefore, getting adequate and good quality sleep may actually strengthen your natural immunity. Sleeping more when you are sick also aids the immune system to fight the disease. According to a study done in 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours every night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept for an adequate amount of time every night. Adults should get 7+ hours of sleep at night, whereas teenagers require 8-10 hours of sleep and younger children up to 14 hours. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try reducing your screen time for an hour before bed. This is because the blue light emitted by electronic devices could disrupt your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s natural sleep cycle. Other ways to sleep better include going to bed in a pitch-dark room, using a sleep mask, going to bed at the same time every night, and regularly exercising.
- Include whole plant foods in your diet
Antioxidants in foods help decrease internal inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals, that cause inflammation in your body if they are present in high levels. Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, etc. are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that may help you improve your body’s defence against harmful pathogens. The fibre or roughage in plant foods feed your gut microbiomes, which are healthy bacteria in the gut. They help you to boosting the Immune System and prevent harmful pathogens from entering the body via the digestive tract. Vitamin C, which is present in many fruits, helps reduce the duration of the common cold.
- Consume more healthy fats
Healthy fats can make the body’s immune response to pathogens more efficient by decreasing inflammation. Although low-level inflammation is normal and occurs as a response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation suppresses the immune system. Olive oil is highly anti-inflammatory (and hence can help the body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses), and is linked to a decrease in risk of chronic ailments like heart disease and Type-2 diabetes. Food items like salmon, cod, chia seeds, etc. contain Omega-3 fatty acids which fight inflammation.
- Consume fermented foods or include a probiotic supplement in your diet
Fermented foods like yogurt, curd, kimchi, kefir, natto, sauerkraut, etc. are rich in helpful bacteria called probiotics, which populate the digestive tract. A flourishing network of gut microbiomes can help immune cells differentiate between normal cells and harmful, invasive organisms. If fermented foods are not a part of your staple diet, you can also take probiotic supplements.
- Reduce the intake of added sugars
Added sugars are known to significantly contribute to obesity, Type-2 diabetes, heart disease, etc. which suppress your immune system. Added sugars, along with refined carbs contribute disproportionately to obesity and increase the tendency to become overweight, in turn making one more susceptible to illnesses. Reducing or controlling your sugar intake can reduce inflammation and accelerate weight loss, reducing the risk of chronic health conditions. The ideal sugar intake is less than 5% of your daily calorie intake, which would be about 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of sugar for someone consuming 2,000 calories per day.
- Exercise regularly in moderation
Moderate exercise (like jogging, brisk walking, steady cycling, swimming, and short hikes) can significantly boost your immune system, and even a single session of moderate exercise can increase the effectiveness of a vaccine in people with compromised immune systems. It can also reduce inflammation and aid in the regular regeneration of immune cells. It is advisable to set a target of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. However, prolonged intensive exercise can place undue stress on the body and lead to inflammation.
- Stay hydrated
Although hydration will not necessarily protect you from harmful bacteria and viruses, preventing dehydration is of extreme importance when it comes to overall health and wellbeing. Dehydration leads to headaches and hinders physical performance, focus, moods, digestion, heart and kidney function, increasing susceptibility to illness. In order to prevent dehydration, drink enough fluids daily to make urine pale yellow. The best option to do so is to regularly drink water, since it is free of sugar, calories and additives unlike tea, coffee, juice, and other fluids. If you are someone who exercises often, works outdoors or live in an area with a hot climate, you may require more fluids. As you age, you begin to lose the urge to drink fluids since your body does not signal thirst adequately. In such cases, you should drink water even if you do not feel thirsty.
- Control your stress levels
Managing your stress levels through activities like meditation, yoga, exercise, etc. can help your immune system to function efficiently. Relieving stress and anxiety is extremely important when it comes to immune health, and one can benefit from mindfulness practices or seeing a licensed counsellor or therapist either online or face-to-face. Long-term stress leads to inflammation and causes imbalances in immune cell function. Additionally, prolonged psychological stress in children can suppress their immune response.
- Take supplements wisely
It is easy to fall for false advertising and turn to supplements that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19. Although some supplements may fight viral infections, none of them are proven to be effective against COVID-19. These assertions are untrue, and there is no evidence to support the use of any supplement to prevent or cure COVID-19. However, there are some studies that indicate that the following supplements could strengthen the body’s general immune response:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
It is important to reiterate that these supplements may not be effective against COVID-19; they merely demonstrated potential in studies and research. These supplements are also prone to mislabelling since they are not regulated by a government body or organisation. If you decide to take supplements, be sure to purchase products that have been tested by a third-party clinic, lab or organisation.