COVID-19 and the immune system


I think we are all shocked at a world with COVID-19 in it. Many of us live in countries that are just beginning to feel the effect of  the epidemic. We just don’t know how it will end and what will happen to us.

I do hope the devastating impact of this virus will make people aware of how they need to look after their health. Many people rely on doctors and the pharmaceutical companies to solve their health problems. They look for pills or surgery to help them. There are times when medical interventions can keep us alive. But right now we don’t have pills or surgery that will make this go away. Intensive care facilities are likely to be overwhelmed. We need to look after our own immune systems right now and into the future. This won’t be the last of these viruses that affect many people before being brought under control.

How do we do this?

Eat healthy, nutrient dense food. This means eating lots of fruit and vegetables, some nuts and seeds and lots of beans (pulses/legumes).

The American Heart Association says:

“Research suggests the standard American diet (SAD) is energy-rich and nutrient-poor. And when we say energy, we mean calories! That’s where the saying “empty calories” comes from — it refers to foods that provide a lot of calories without much nutritional value. On the other hand, nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients important for health, without too much saturated fat, added sugars and sodium.”

Drink lots of water. This keeps the mucus membranes in your nose, mouth, throat and lungs plumped up and in a better state to ward off any bug.

If you think you are not getting enough water, these tips may help

The CDC says:

  • Carry a water bottle for easy access when you are at work of running errands.
  • Freeze some freezer safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
  • Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. This can also help with weight management. Substituting water for one 20-ounce sugar sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories. For example, during the school day students should have access to drinking water, giving them a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Choose water when eating out. Generally, you will save money and reduce calories.
  • Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.

Get plenty of rest and sleep.

If you find this difficult check out my blog on 20 tips for a great night’s sleep.

The Mayo Clinic explains why sleep is so important for the immune system:

“Lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.

“During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.”

Avoid fear. The University of Minnesota says: “Fear weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility.  It can lead to accelerated ageing and even premature death.” This is easier said than done at the moment. Take a look at this simple self-help technique to counteract stress and anxiety.

Move more. The immune system is dependent on the lymph system. Lymph is moved round the body by movement. The lymph (carrying white blood cells) gets squeezed along channels as we move, with valves stopping it flowing backwards when we stop. The immune system also clears the debris and garbage away. So we can help the lymph along by moving our bodies more.

Harvard Health agrees:

“Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. But does it help to boost your immune system naturally and keep it healthy? Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.”

Spend time doing positive things – a new hobby or spending time in nature all feed our immune system in a beneficial way.

“A Princeton study suggests that levels of well-being, or happiness, reported by city residents who engage in home gardening are similar to happiness levels linked to other popular activities, such as eating out, biking or walking.” via Gardening May Bring as Much Happiness as Dining Out or Biking

Take appropriate supplements. I really recommend Cytoplan’s Immunovite. This includes 1-3 1-6 beta glucan along with vitamin C, selenium and zinc which contribute to the normal function of the immune system. Beta glucan is a natural form of soluble dietary fibre with a long history of use. I normally take one capsule a day, but if I feel I have been exposed to more bugs, I take up to 3 a day. (I am not connected with the company in any way.)

Of course, we also need to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly. We need to keep social distance. We need to avoid shaking hands and kissing. These all give our immune system a helping hand.

We also need to keep abreast of what our government is recommending. It’s important not to get too obsessed with the news, constantly scanning to see all the dreadful developments around the world.

But fundamentally now and when this virus has passed, we need to do everything we can to support our own health.