How do you get your immune system to pack a punch as we all move about more with Covid-19 lurking?
well-functioning immune system could boost your defences if you encounter the virus, reducing the risk of complications.
Before you embark on any self-improvement, experts say one of the key basics to strengthen defences is getting some solid shut eye.
The advice is to try to keep regular sleeping hours as this programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. Try to wake up at the same time every day and although you may feel you need to catch up on sleep, doing so regularly will disrupt the routine. Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool and limit daytime naps to no more than 45 minutes.
Another pillar of healthy living is regular exercise, which helps to control weight. Obesity is known to be a risk factor for Covid-19 hospitalisation. Experts say apart from its overall benefit, it might directly impact the immune system. This is because it promotes good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job more effectively.
According to Safefood taking regular vitamin C supplements – at 200mg/d, which is the same as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – does not prevent you from getting a cold. But it appears to reduce the duration and severity of common cold symptoms by about one day. There are also similar findings with zinc. Vitamin C can be found in a variety of fruit and vegetables including oranges, kiwi fruit, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes.
Concentrate on what is on your plate
There are many nutrients involved in the normal functioning of the immune system, so it comes back to trying to eat a healthy balanced diet in order to support the immune function.
There are some nutrients worth focusing on including vitamin A, which is found in meat, dairy, eggs, liver and yellow and orange vegetables.
Vitamin B6 is present in pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, bread, whole cereals, potatoes, soya beans, peanuts, and fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs and fortified cereals.
The sunshine vitamin
Research from Trinity College in Dublin found vitamin D offers many positive benefits to overall health, including boosting the body’s immune response and supporting bone and muscle health. It says vitamin D is an unusual vitamin – it is a hormone and we get most of it by the action of ultraviolet light on cholesterol in the skin.
Unless you live in a sunny country or eat a very large amount of oily fish you likely to need supplements to maintain a normal level.
It is plausible that vitamin D deficiency increases risk of severe Covid-19 illness, but all the evidence is indirect. People get vitamin D from sunlight on their skin. Other sources include oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks.
The pandemic has increased stress levels and there is no quick-fix cure. Try to reduce mental strain by taking time out to relax. Stress causes a surge of hormones in the body and these are released to enable you to deal with pressures or threats – the so-called “fight or flight” response. Once the pressure or threat has passed, your stress hormone levels will return to normal. However, if you’re constantly under stress, these hormones will remain in your body, leading to the symptoms of stress.
A cigarette habit impacts on the immune system so this might be as good a time as any to try to quit.
The World Health Organisation said on May 11 that smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop severe disease with Covid-19. There is insufficient information to confirm any link between tobacco or nicotine in the prevention or treatment of Covid-19.
Age and immunity
Our bodies’ processes slow and become altered with age. Bone marrow produces fewer of certain fighter and signalling cells – B and T cells – as we get older. Although elderly people have just as many of some other immune cells, such as lymphocytes, they become more sluggish.
If older people feel that they are not getting enough nutrients from food they could take a supplement.