With Coronavirus causing a worldwide panic, many are looking for ways to boost their immune system in hopes of gaining an edge on the deadly virus. So how do you boost your immune system? Let’s take a look at what works and what doesn’t.
*For official advice on how to protect yourself from COVID-19 Coronavirus, visit the CDC Website
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is a collection of billions of cells that flow through the bloodstream, hunting and destroying invaders like bacteria and viruses that could potentially make us sick. It’s important to realize that it is a system. It’s a complicated balance of many different components that are all affected by what we eat, think and do.
Exercise and Fitness Boost Immunity
While the exact mechanism remains unclear, studies have repeatedly shown that higher levels of fitness result in fewer incidences of getting sick. And, when you do get sick, a higher level of fitness will result in a less severe cold or flu.
A Study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at over 1,000 people over a 12 week period, specifically focusing on upper respiratory illnesses (like Coronavirus and Flu). The study found that those who performed aerobic exercise 5 or more times per week spent 43% less time being sick than those who exercised 1 or less times per week.
The study also showed that those with high levels of fitness had 41% less severe symptoms when they did get sick vs. those with low or sedentary levels of activity.
Fitness and Life-Span
Studies have also shown that aerobic fitness directly correlates to a person’s chances of dying from all causes. Basically, the higher your aerobic fitness, the less chance you have of dying. And the kicker; there’s no upper limit to the benefit. Improving your fitness levels can help you avoid getting sick, get less severe symptoms when you do get sick, and live longer.
Vitamin C: Does it Work?
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. It also plays a large role in the formation of collagen (think healthy, resilient skin).
Our bodies cannot make Vitamin C, and so we must get it from our diet. Severe Vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy. In the past, it was responsible for millions of deaths, until 1747 when a man named James Lind showed that lemons and oranges could cure the disease.
Many studies have examined the role of Vitamin C on the immune system.
A Review of 31 studies found that regular Vitamin C consumption can reduce the duration of being sick by 8% in adults, and 14% in children. It’s effects on preventing illness were not as clear, with no significant benefit observed.Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) Powder
Most beneficial for those under heavy stress
It appears that Vitamin C supplementation can be most beneficial for those under extreme stress, such as marathon runners or those training with a lot of intensity, like military athletes. For people under heavy physical stress, Vitamin C was shown to cut their chances of getting sick in half.
It appears that Vitamin C can be beneficial for some. It can cut your cold short by about one day, and appears to have the ability to boost the immune system for those under heavy stress.
To reap the benefits of Vitamin C, you’ll want to take in about 200-400mg per day. It’s best to get it through your diet, from citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, as these foods also contain other nutrient and antioxidant rich compounds that can also lead to improved health and immunity.
Which food has the most naturally occurring Vitamin C? Kakadu plums! They contain 100 times the vitamin C of oranges!
Sleep and Immunity
At this point we know that sleep affects almost every aspect of our health. But what effect does it have on our immune system?
A 2019 study found that sleep improves the functioning of T-cells: cells in our body that fight pathogens such as a virus that has infiltrated our healthy cells. Without adequate sleep (experts recommend at least 7 hours), our immune system may not have the strength to fight off a cold or flu.
Studies have repeatedly shown that when exposed to a virus, those getting poor sleep, or not enough sleep, are significantly more likely to get sick than those getting the recommended amount.
Melatonin is an all natural, non habit forming supplement that can help you fall asleep faster:Melatonin Powder
If you’re getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, or frequently wake up feeling groggy and tired, chances are your immune system is struggling to keep up. Here are 3 things experts recommend you try to improve your sleep:
- Consume caffeine earlier: The half-life of caffeine is 5-6 hours. That means half of that energy drink you had at 3:00 pm is still flowing through you when you get ready for bed.
- Have a Routine: Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This helps the body develop a rhythm.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you’re still up after 20-30 minutes, do something relaxing. Read, Take a shower.. and try again when you start to feel tired.
Quit Smoking (and vaping)
Smokers have a much higher risk of complications from respiratory illnesses like Coronavirus. According to the CDC, smoking harms the immune system and leaves the body less successful at fighting disease.
A 2017 Study concluded that smoking “interrupts immunological homeostasis, causes various diseases, and exerts paradoxical effects on immune and tissue cells”
Viruses like Coronavirus attack the body’s respiratory system. Lungs being over-stressed by harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke are more vulnerable to the virus, and can have a more difficult time getting rid of the illness.
How to Quit
Quitting smoking is no easy task. Using nicotine substitutes like nicotine gum or lozenges can double your chances at success. Experts recommend setting a quit date, and slowly reducing the amount you smoke up until that date. Then, use a nicotine substitute. For more info, check out smokefree.gov
There’s no need to go into the multitude of health benefits of quitting smoking. Just know that for the purposes of boosting your immune system and avoid getting sick, quitting can give you a huge boost in immunity.
Watch Your Stress
Chronic stress can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. When we’re stressed, our body releases a stress hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the immune system by lowering the amount of lymphocytes we produce. Lymphocytes are immune cells needed to fight off disease. This effect an be magnified if we use alcohol and tobacco to cope with stress.
It’s important to realize that our body interprets stress in a similar way, regardless of where it comes from. The sympathetic “fight or flight” response to stress can happen as a result of fighting with your partner, stress at work or a really intense workout.
Learning to better cope with stress can limit this stress response. The body follows the mind. Take time out every day to relax and reflect. We get to choose how we interpret outside stress. Check out my article on Mental Toughness if you want more insight on how to better deal with stress.
It’s all in the Gut
Our digestive system contains millions of bacteria, both beneficial and harmful. The beneficial bacteria are referred to as Probiotic. These helpful bacteria assist the body in fighting disease and maintaining health.
Our relationship with these bacteria is known as symbiotic: A mutually beneficial relationship between two different organisms. These probiotic bacteria are intimately tied to our immune system. An imbalance in gut bacteria can have a negative impact on our ability to fight disease.
To cultivate a healthy gut, experts recommend eating nutrient rich foods, focusing on healthy grains like quinoa along with green vegetables. Processed foods and sugary carbohydrates hurt our gut bacteria, and can be detrimental to our immune system. Probiotic supplements or yogurt is always a good choice to make part of your daily diet.
Chronic stress, poor nutrition and lack of exercise can all negatively affect our gut bacteria. Finding the right balance is key.
In this article, we discussed how to boost the immune system to avoid illnesses like the Coronavirus and Flu.
What we eat, think and do can all have a huge impact on our body’s ability to fight off diseases like the flu or most recently, Coronavirus. Keeping yourself healthy is the best defense.
We discussed how exercise impacts your immune system and life span. We discovered that Vitamin C can help shorten the amount of time you’re sick, but won’t help avoid the flu unless you’re under extreme physical stress.
We talked about smoking, stress and gut health.
Overall, it’s pretty clear that if you live an unhealthy lifestyle, no supplement is going to help you avoid getting sick. Exercising, eating a nutrient rich diet, avoiding smoking and managing stress are all ingredients to the recipe for boosting the immune system and warding off illness.
I hope this article was helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments! And please… Subscribe!