By Kristen DeAngelis
Having a strong immune system enables your body to fight off infections, such as the flu and common cold. With coronavirus affecting people around the world, and of all ages, it’s never been more important to foster and support a healthy immune system.
To do that, we want to think about reducing comorbidities (that is, the presence of more than one disease and conditions in the same person) and clearing up any inflammation or stress the body may already be under. Taking care of these foundational aspects will help prevent the virulence of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of infectious disease in general.
And here’s some good news. These steps toward an improved immune system are important — but they’re not necessarily challenging. Here’s what to do.
Inadequate sleep increases our risk of catching a cold or infectious disease. One study found sleeping less than five hours increased risk of developing an upper respiratory infection (rhinovirus associated cold) by 350 percent compared to sleeping at least seven hours per night.
Adequate sleep supports REM and deep sleep which is essential for rebuilding and repairing our body’s systems — the main one being our immune system! Getting adequate sleep ensures melatonin production which supports immunity and may play a role in reducing COVD-19 severity of symptoms if contracted.
Physical, mental and emotional stress disrupts the immune system and excessive production of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to inflammation and decrease infection-fighting white blood cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Try these tactics to reduce your stress levels:
Working with a professional, dietitian, personal trainer, therapist or health coach can be a stepping stone to improving in these areas of stress management as well.
Your gut is where 80 percent of your immune system resides. Addressing stress, sleep, removing added sugars, processed foods and trans fats and replacing with a micronutrient rich diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, probiotic and prebiotic foods, filtered water and limiting exposure to toxins, EMF’s, and harmful chemicals in home products and foods by purchasing organic when possible.
Aim to drink one-half your body weight in ounces of filtered water daily (or more). Add electrolytes like lemon, lime, and orange to your water for extra benefit. Add in coconut water, bone broth or herbal teas which can also count towards hydration and offer health benefits. These teas are hydrating and also have immune, sleep and stress modulating properties:
The more fruits/vegetables the more benefit you will be providing to your immune cells and support your first line defenses. Flavanoids have been found to reduce specific inflammatory signaling pathways and therefore reducing TNF-a, IL-6, IL-1B and IL-18 (inflammatory molecules) from being expressed. Here are ways to get flavanoids:
Like flavanoids, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) inhibits a specific inflammation response in the body. Vitamin C has been found in clinical trials to reduce the frequency, duration and severity of colds and infections. Typical dosing of supplements may be 500mg to 3000mg with higher doses used during acute infection or adrenal insufficiency or other viral loads. Include a wide variety of the following for fruits and vegetables to start increasing your vitamin C intake:
Consume wild-caught salmon and fish, Flaxseeds and flax oil as EPA/DHA helps to reduce overall inflammation in the body. Daily intake of a quality fish oil supplement may greatly benefit.