Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a new virus that had not been previously identified in humans. There is currently no vaccine to prevent (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Another thing you can do is to improve your diet and fitness. So, it this article we are going to discuss how to boost your immune system during coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus infects people and spreads easily from person-to-person. Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide and community spread is being detected in a growing number of countries. On March 11, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Who is at Higher Risk from COVID-19?
The information from the Centers for Disease Control shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness.
- Older adults
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take action to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.
Don’t let the media scare you! Don’t panic but protect yourself and others.
How to Boost Your Immune System?
Everyone is talking about Boosting the Immune System to Fight Coronavirus, but what are the steps you can take to keep your immune system strong and healthy?
There may be steps that you can follow to strengthen your immunity in the short to medium term, to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.
1. Reduce Your Stress Levels
Stress has a direct effect on immunity. When you experience a stressful event, your body responds by releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which affect your production of T-cell lymphocytes (1), a type of immune cell responsible for fighting infections. Your immune system will overcome short term stress. But when stress becomes chronic, you can become susceptible to viruses (including Coronavirus) and bacterial infections. So, how to boost your immune system when you feel stressed?
Fear about the coronavirus is normal – but “don’t let it control you!”.
It’s important to know how to manage and reduce your stress levels. Introduce more time to relax, exercise regularly, get more sleep and express your creative side.
Create artwork, if you aren’t into drawing or painting, consider coloring in a coloring book. Adult coloring books have risen in popularity and for good reason—coloring can be a great stress reliever (2).
Research consistently shows that coloring can have a meditative effect. One study found that anxiety levels decline in people who were coloring complex geometric patterns, making it a perfect outlet for stress reduction (3).
While another study showed that music strengthened the immune system (4).
2. Exercise Regularly (at Home)
Research shows that moderate exercise boosts your immune system and can potentially reduce the severity of an upper respiratory tract infection. However, overdoing it adds to stress levels, raising cortisol, and weakening your immune system (5).
Moderate exercise means raising your heartbeat about 50%-70% of your maximum heart rate, for around 150 minutes per week. You can do this by taking a brisk walk or a jog. The good news is that you don’t need to go out or go to a public gym to exercise; instead, you can exercise at home until the threat of coronavirus has passed. Here are some of the exercises you can do at home:
- Walking or jogging on a treadmill
- Using an elliptical trainer
- Jogging in place
- Jumping rope
- Jumping Jacks
- Staircase exercise
- Gardening and some housework, such as vacuuming.
3. Quit Smoking
It’s well known that smoking increases your risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection. Coronavirus is a disease that attacks the lungs, and if they are already damaged by smoking, then it will increase the risk of complications. So if you’re wondering how to boost your immune system – quit smoking.
Stopping smoking will help you deal with the effects of coronavirus. Incidentally, if you enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, this might offer some protection, but only for non-smokers (6).
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep plays a big role in boosting and regulating your immune system.
Remarkably, recent studies show how the immune system replenishes itself during sleep, and even one night without sleep affects the innate immune system.
The innate immune system is the first line of defense against viral infection, it responds immediately to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the body. “Natural killer” cells are a type of lymphocyte (a white blood cell) available in blood circulation. These cells play a crucial role in this first line of defense against viruses, as they immediately recognize virally-infected cells and rapidly eliminate them. So while you’re working to boost your immune system during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s crucial to get enough sleep.
Lack of sleep reduces white blood cells
Researchers found that sleep disturbance causes a reduction of Natural Killer cell activity. This means that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not getting that natural killer cell protective activity, so you are more prone to catch viruses such as colds and the flu, even coronavirus. So is it really possible to boost your immune system by catching up on your sleep? Let’s look at the study that explains this in detail.
A Study on Sleep and Natural Killer Cell Activity
A group of researchers conducted several studies to test whether sleep loss alters daytime values of cellular immune function and the effect of night partial sleep deprivation on Natural Killer cell activity. One study included 23 medically and psychiatrically healthy male volunteers.
After a night of sleep deprivation between 3 and 7 AM, Natural Killer cell activity was reduced in 18 of the 23 subjects with average virus destruction activity reduced significantly.
Another study included 42 medically and psychiatrically healthy male volunteers. After a night of sleep deprivation between 10 P.M. and 3 A.M., a reduction of natural immune responses measured by Natural Killer cell activity was found.
In both studies, after a night of recovery sleep, Natural Killer cell activity had returned to baseline levels.
These studies results indicate the role of early night sleep in the modulation of natural immunity and demonstrated that even modest sleep disturbances produce a reduction of Natural Killer cell activity.
Therefore, getting a good night’s sleep helps boost your Natural Killer cell activity to get rid of viruses and keep you healthy. While sleep deprivation will reduce your immune response (7,8).
Moreover, there’s a link between insufficient sleep and upper respiratory tract infections. A study of over 22,000 Americans showed that participants who slept for 5 hours or fewer per night, or who reported low-quality sleep, had an increased likelihood of reporting a head cold or chest infection in the previous 30 days than people who slept for 6 or 9 hours (9).
If you are experiencing sleeplessness due to coronavirus anxiety, try to relax yourself before going to sleep at night to avoid waking up in the middle of the night feeling anxious.
Here are some tips to help you sleep better
- Do something relaxing like reading or listening to relaxing music until you feel drowsy.
- Keep your bedroom‘s environment comfortable; temperature, lighting, and noise should be controlled to help you to fall (and stay) asleep.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable.
- Keep away all electronic devices and mobile phones so you can ensure a quiet place, free of distractions.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime.
- Don’t consume caffeine late in the day.
- Reduce irregular or long daytime naps.
- Take a good Magnesium supplement.
- Drink a Soothing Beverage like chamomile tea, which has been shown to promote sleep and relaxation.
- Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule.
5. Improve your diet
There are several studies suggesting that nutritional deficiencies can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to infections.
While deficiencies of most nutrients impair immune responses, a modest increase in the intake of some micronutrients may be associated with an enhancement of selected immune responses (10).
Eating healthy fresh food is necessary for good health and it can boost your immune system, yet you may still fall short of some needed nutrients. Also, many older adults aren’t getting enough nutrients from their diets. You can plug these nutritional imbalances through the use of appropriate supplements.
Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables
There is good evidence that increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet will have a positive effect on your immune function and inflammation markers.
Research shows that eating fruit and vegetables increases the production of T-cells and is associated with lower levels of C-Reactive Protein (a marker for inflammation) (11). In severe cases of coronavirus, the inflammatory response is exaggerated, attacking not just the virus, but also healthy tissue. Keeping inflammation levels low through following a healthy diet may offer some protection against the worst effects of the coronavirus.
Limiting dietary fat helps strengthen immune defenses. Research shows that oil may impair white blood cell function and that high-fat diets may alter the gut microbiota that aid in immunity (12,13). Also, maintaining a healthy weight can benefit the immune system, excess fat affects the immune system. Obesity has been linked to increased risk for influenza and other infections such as pneumonia (14).
Avoid processed foods, fried foods, sugars, excessive carbohydrates especially refined ones, preserved or cured meats, etc.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has been traced to animals, so ensure you do cook your food thoroughly, especially meat and eggs. Additionally, use your own utensils when sharing food.
How to Boost Your Immune System by Changing Your Diet
✶ Foods That Can Boost Your Immune System (based on clinical studies)
- Non-Dairy, Unsweetened Dark chocolate
Theobromine, an antioxidant found in dark chocolate, helps to boost your immune system and fight inflammation (15).
Dark chocolate also helps reduce stress.
Anthocyanin is a type of flavonoid found in blueberries which has antioxidant properties that can help boost your immune system.
A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis noted that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system. Fourteen studies were included in this review, results showed that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection or a common cold than those who did not (16).
- Curcumin or Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Asian food. Consuming turmeric may improve immune response, due to its curcumin content.
According to a 2017 review, curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Curcumin phytosome available in Intelligent Labs Turmeric Curcumin Complex Supplement is an excellent anti-inflammatory and has been shown in studies to decrease inflammation levels by up to 1600%, as measured by the reduction in c-reactive protein levels (17).
- Fish Rich In Omega-3
Tuna, salmon, pilchards, and other oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 can help you boost your immune system.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may help to boost the immune system by enhancing the functioning of immune cells, according to new research. The new findings show that DHA-rich fish oil enhances the activity of white blood cells known as B-cells, these cells play a significant role in protecting your body from viral infections.
B-cells found in the draining lymph nodes of the respiratory tract are responsible for the majority of the protective antiviral responses generated during an influenza infection (18).
Intelligent Labs Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement offers the most powerful and effective fish oil with the highest Omega-3 strength. Each serving contains 3000mg of triglyceride fish oil containing 1224mg of EPA and 816mg of DHA.
The cruciferous vegetable Broccoli is a source of vitamin C. It also contains potent antioxidants, such as sulforaphane. For these reasons, it is a good choice of vegetables to eat regularly to boost your immune system health.
The research reported that the antioxidant content of broccoli was retained and/or enhanced more after microwaving than after boiling. Cooking in water caused a leaching effect of antioxidants, and this increased with cooking time (19).
- Sweet Potatoes
Typically, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, a type of antioxidant that gives the skin of the potatoes its orange color. Beta carotene is a source of vitamin A.
Vitamin A is known as an anti-inflammation vitamin because of its critical role in enhancing immune function (20).
The green spinach may boost your immune system, as it contains many essential nutrients and antioxidants (21), including flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of your immune system (22).
Past research also indicates that flavonoids may help to prevent the common cold in otherwise healthy people (23).
Ginger is a strong antioxidant that has been shown to naturally boost your immune system. It contains tons of vitamins, some of which are magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium. Ginger helps kill cold viruses and has been said to combat chills and fever (24).
Typically, garlic is a common home remedy for the prevention of colds and other illnesses.
Garlic is antiviral, it is especially effective against viruses if chewed raw.
One previous research looked at whether taking garlic supplements containing allicin reduced the risk of getting a cold. The test group of participants taking a placebo had more than double the number of colds between them than those taking the garlic supplements (25).
- Green Tea
Green tea contains only a small amount of caffeine, so people can enjoy it as an alternative to black tea or coffee.
Similar to blueberries, green tea contains a group of flavonoids called catechins, which appear to inhibit viral infections by blocking the enzymes that allow them to reproduce (16).
Kefir is a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt that is made from kefir grains, a specific type of mesophilic symbiotic culture.
Research suggests that drinking kefir may boost the immune system. According to a 2017 review, various studies have shown that regular consumption of kefir can help with: fighting bacteria, reducing inflammation and increasing antioxidant activity (26).
- Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of vitamin E, an antioxidant. In the same way as other antioxidants, vitamin E improves immune function. It does this by fighting off free radicals, which can damage cells (27).
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E that acts as an antioxidant and helps your immune system function. They also contain manganese, magnesium, and fiber. Almonds are also high in iron and protein that are essential for your immune system (28).
- Kiwi fruits And Oranges
Kiwi fruits and oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is the vitamin that many individuals turn to when they feel a cold developing. While researchers are still not sure exactly how it helps, vitamin C may reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve the function of the human immune system.
Vitamin C may alleviate or prevent infections caused by viral infections especially common cold (29).
- Red Bell Pepper
Individuals trying to avoid the sugar in fruit might find red bell peppers are an excellent alternative source of vitamin C. They contain twice as much Vitamin C as citrus fruits. It is also rich in Vitamin A and Quercetin, which plays an important role in helping your body combat free radical damage linked to chronic diseases.
In addition, its antioxidant properties may help reduce inflammation, allergy symptoms, and blood pressure.
A 2016 study showed that Quercetin inhibited influenza infection with a wide spectrum of strains (30).
How to Boost Your Immune System by Taking Vitamins and Minerals
- Vitamin D
A review of existing research in 2012 which looked at 5 clinical trials found that taking vitamin D supplements may help to prevent respiratory infections (31).
Aim to keep your vitamin D in the normal range (between 50 and 175 nmol/L) – vitamin D levels can easily fall, especially in the winter months. You can test your vitamin D with a Vitamin D Blood Test or as part of a general health check.
- Vitamin C
One of the biggest immune system boosters of all. In fact, a lack of vitamin C can even make you more prone to getting sick. Daily intake of vitamin C is essential for good health because your body doesn’t produce or store it.
The evidence around vitamin C and the prevention of respiratory tract infections is mixed. However, once you are infected, vitamin C appears to shorten the duration of the infection (32,33). It is difficult to measure vitamin C in a blood test as levels of vitamin C change rapidly according to what you’ve just eaten. However, vitamin C is safe to take as any excess passes out of your body in your urine.
It would seem sensible to supplement with vitamin C, especially if you become infected.
Lately, scientists have been claiming that the coronavirus pandemic can be dramatically slowed, or stopped, with the immediate widespread use of high doses of vitamin C. They are basing their claims on previous studies that prove the role of high doses of vitamin C in preventing and treating respiratory infections.
Until this moment there is no evidence on the effectiveness of Vitamin C in preventing or curing coronavirus infections. However, vitamin C is being examined in China for its potential benefits against coronavirus, with a clinical trial document from last month showing that studies were underway. The predicted completion date is September of this year, so vitamin C is not at the moment considered a viable treatment or cure.
- Vitamin B6
It is vital in supporting the biochemical reactions of the immune system. Vitamin B6-rich foods include chicken and cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna. Vitamin B6 also is found in green vegetables and in chickpeas.
- Vitamin E
A strong antioxidant, found in higher concentrations in immune cells compared to other cells in the blood, is one of the most effective nutrients known to modulate immune function, especially in the aged.
Vitamin E deficiency has been demonstrated to impair normal functions of the immune system in humans, which can be corrected by vitamin E repletion (34).
Selenium is a trace mineral that is a powerful antioxidant and also supports the immune system. Modern agricultural methods mean that levels of selenium in the soil are becoming depleted, which directly affects the amount of selenium in the food we eat. Selenium deficiency appears to place you at a higher risk of viral infections, including SARS, and also means that the virus mutates more quickly (35).
Measuring your blood levels and correcting any deficiency may offer you some protection against coronavirus.
Zinc may not stop you from getting coronavirus, but it may help you recover more quickly. A meta-analysis conducted in 2012 of over 2000 participants showed that the people taking oral zinc supplements recovered faster from the common