Virus-proof your body

Try these simple steps to build your defences

Whilst practicing good hygiene will go a long way to controlling the spread of a virus, there are other steps you can take to help build a strong immune system.


1. Limit your intake of processed foods

Aim to eat a high percentage of raw and whole foods. If you consume 90% as whole, unprocessed food, and 50% as raw food, your body will certainly thank you. After building up a regular regime of this kind of eating, you should notice a boost to both your immunity and energy levels. To really increase the gains, opt for organic produce where possible to minimise your intake of pesticides and other endocrine and immune disrupting chemicals.


2. Avoid refined sugar.

We all seem to be singing off of the same hymn sheet in modern times when it comes to acknowledging the detrimental effects of sugar. In no uncertain terms, sugar suppresses your immune system. But it’s not just sugar that we need to be wary of. Refined flour, refined oil, foods with chemical preservatives, dyes, additives, and processed foods all wreak havoc on your immune system.


In research stemming as far back as the 1930s, it has been shown that when you eat processed, refined, chemicalised and fried foods, an inflammatory stress response is triggered in your body. On the flip side, the researchers found that eating unaltered, raw food or food heated at low temperatures did not cause this reaction in the blood.


3. Exercise at least three times a week.

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. Whilst it was previously thought that competing in endurance sports suppresses the body's immune system, making people more susceptible to infections, researchers from the University of Bath have found this isn’t the case. In their study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, they concluded that strenuous exercise does not leave the body immune-suppressed but instead it boosts your immune system. According to the researchers, regular physical activity and frequent exercise may even limit or delay immunological ageing.


But you don’t have to run a marathon to get these immune boosting benefits. A study from the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University found that even just walking thirty minutes a day significantly increased the circulation of natural killer cells, white blood cells and other immune system warriors.


4. Be at peace

It’s important to work towards consistently feeling good and being in a state of peace about your relationships, your work, and yourself. Mindfulness and present moment living goes a long way towards creating a sense of inner calm and contentment.


Meditation offers many people a window to this peace and insight, affording an opportunity to monitor your inner world and recalibrate your thoughts and emotions to build mental resilience. According to research published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure and enhanced cognitive function.


5. Get enough restful sleep.

Not getting enough sleep has been shown to significantly impact your immune system. Without sufficient sleep your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets inflammation and infection, creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, meaning a double blow to your immune system if you skimp on shut-eye.


If your sleep schedule is erratic due to work or other commitments, try to make up for the lost rest with naps. A study from the journal Industrial Health found that taking two 15-minute naps during the day decreases stress and offsets the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.


6. Up your vitamin C

Vitamin C has been shown to inhibit viral activity and boost the immune system significantly. In a review of scientific studies, vitamin C deficiency was linked to an increased risk and severity of influenza infections.


Found in high concentrations in immune cells, vitamin C is used up quickly when the immune system faces a challenge. Unfortunately the body can't make its own or store it efficiently and it is excreted in urine. But we can boost our levels of this immune boosting nutrient through consumption of vitamin C rich fruits, vegetables and herbs such as parsley, spinach, broccoli and kiwis.


Some scientists are currently testing to see if vitamin C could be used to treat patients with coronavirus — if given in a high enough dose. Researchers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University launched a randomized clinical trial with 140 patients in February to test whether mega doses of vitamin C, delivered intravenously, could treat the viral infection. The test group will receive infusions twice a day for seven days, with each infusion containing 12g of vitamin C. (The daily recommendation for an adult man is only 90mg.)


The trial will be completed in September, and no results are yet available, according to ClinicalTrials.gov.


7. Check your vitamin D

High doses of Vitamin D has been shown to be a potent promoter of innate immune function. In fact, vitamin D triggers the release of your body’s own natural antimicrobial peptides against infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. If opting to supplement, it is recommended to have your vitamin D levels checked beforehand.


8. Go for probiotics.

There are hundreds of species of beneficial bacteria that reside in the digestive tract, assisting digestion, boosting nutrient assimilation, and protecting against harmful microbes. Studies show that probiotic bacteria can increase T cells, a critical class of immune responders. Another study from the journal Nutrients showed that the probiotics can increase immune responses to flu viruses too.


9. Load up on prebiotics.

According to a study in Medical Microbiology and Immunology, one of the beneficial effects of prebiotics is that they help to increase the population of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They do this by feeding and nourishing the probiotic bacteria. Other foods that have prebiotic qualities include mushrooms, garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus and chicory root.


10. Think zinc

Zinc is designed to support the body’s natural defense system as well as enhance digestion and metabolism of important vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients.


According to researchers from Ohio State University, without zinc on board to begin with, your vulnerability to infection is increased. In addition, if you do get an infection and you are deficient in zinc you are at a disadvantage because your immune system is unable to respond appropriately.


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