Boosting your immune system has never felt more urgent as we face the COVID-19/Coronavirus crisis that’s currently sweeping the world, shaking all of our lives and disrupting normality. But is it really as simple as eating more fruit and vegetables? What other things could we be doing to support our health and immune system during this incredibly worrying pandemic?
Are you concerned you have a low immune system? Below you’ll find 5 ways to help support your immune system, aside from maintaining a healthy diet, to help you through this challenging and historic epidemic.
Yes, eating your five a day of fruit and vegetables is the best way to maintain your necessary vitamin levels. However, with panic buying behaviour and the supply and demand issues impacting shops around the world, you may find restricted access to your usual dietary choices. This can make it tough when trying to obtain all the minerals and vitamins you and your body need. It may be that you need to invest in a multivitamin supplement to make sure your body can access the fuel for fighting viruses.
If you’re self-isolating or in quarantine, you’ll not be getting as much sunlight as you’re probably used to. Vitamin D, which we get from spending time in the sun, plays a key role in the immune system’s defences. Keeping your Vitamin D levels up could help keep the respiratory system (lungs) healthy, which is the area of the body that the COVID-19 virus particularly targets. Try taking a Vitamin D supplement to help the body’s defence system work at its optimum level.
Ultimately, what you put you put in your body determines what you get out of it.
Did you know that your white blood cells (the ones that fight off infection) can actually be quite lazy and sedentary? Exercise gets the blood pumping around the body and in turn, activates the white blood cells to fight off bad bacteria and germs. You should aim to do 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (hiking, gardening), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (aerobics, running).
Another perk to keeping your exercise routine up is that it reduces stress and anxiety, which is essential for a healthy immune system. An anxious brain releases cortisol into the body, which is a stress hormone.
Cortisol is great if you’re needing to fend off an immediate threat or run away urgently from danger, but if your stress levels are consistently at a higher level it can compromise your immune function making it more susceptible to illness. So, keep active as much as possible.
In lockdown? Anything is better than nothing! Try gentle exercise classes on the internet (there are lots that don’t require equipment), or simply walking up and down your staircase/house several times throughout the day.
Remember, if you’re allowed to exercise outdoors, make sure to observe social distancing of at least 2 meters to help protect yourself and your community from spreading coronavirus.
A tired body is more susceptible to picking up bugs and developing illnesses. A lack of sleep directly contributes to the body’s inability to fight off disease. Being short on sleep also means that if you develop an infection, it will take you longer than average to fight it off. Exercising and eating well will ultimately help you sleep better and sounder too.
Try to implement a sleep routine during any quarantine period you may experience and your day-to-day life once back to normality: rising at the same time each day and going to bed at the same time each night. Put simply, if you have a regular sleeping pattern, your body will establish a natural biorhythm which means it will perform at its optimal ability.
You need to aim to be sleeping 7-8 hours a night. If you have children, they need longer.
It may seem tempting to buy a few nice bottles of wine to accompany your quarantine film marathon, but studies have suggested that the body’s defences are compromised in people who drink in excess. High alcohol consumption reduces the body’s ability to contain a bug and fight it.
The odd glass here and there isn’t punishable, but be mindful about how much you’re having.
It’s important to not lose your sense of humour in a crisis. Laughter has been proven to reduce stress and plays a part in keeping your immune system happy too. A hearty giggle gives your organs a burst of oxygen, helps your muscles relax and triggers your brain into releasing endorphins: the happy hormones!
Laughter varies your heart rate which is great for your health too. This time is disturbing and unsettling, but appreciate the funny moments you find when they do happen – it’s literally good for you!
It’s worth remembering that there is no way one person can make themselves 100% immune to all illnesses, bugs and diseases. But, you can try your best to support your body in the best way we know how: via diet, exercise and sleep. If you put the wrong petrol in the car, the car’s going to pack up and not work properly. It’s the same for your body.
As we learn more about the behaviour of the COVID-19 virus, information is constantly being updated around how to support the fight against it. Stay up to date with coronavirus advice on the National Health Service’s dedicated web page.