The body is constantly exposed to microorganisms that can be easily inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed via the skin and mucus membranes. Whether or not organisms turn into something to worry about is determined by the efficiency of the body’s defense system, also known as the immune system. If the immune system isn’t working properly, the body has an increased risk of developing some sort of illness or infection.
Given the current global pandemic that is the coronavirus (COVID-19), people should amp up their immune systems to increase the body’s natural defense. While coronaviruses are very common and have been around for many years, the new strain (COVID-19) that originated in China is slightly unknown. For the most part, COVID-19 is spread by person-to-person contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you do contract the virus, symptoms can take anywhere from 2-14 days to appear. The initial symptoms are very similar to the common cold or flu, but the top three symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
What Can You Do About It?
All of the previous information, in addition to the constant news reports and social media feeds, can be very scary, but there is hope. One of the best ways to protect yourself is by building immunity. We’ve detailed easy steps to take below.
Focus On Freshness:
You don’t need to be a nutritionist to understand that eating processed foods with lots of preservatives is not beneficial for your overall health. People continue to flood the stores to buy non-perishables like canned foods, packaged donuts, frozen foods, and who knows what else. There is a lot of published data on other respiratory viruses, though, and the evidence points to the fact that poor diet and metabolic health is linked to worse outcomes, including prolonged recovery and higher mortality rates. While social distancing is encouraged, it is also important to eat clean, prioritizing fruits and vegetables. These foods help supply the body with necessary vitamins and minerals that encourage immune strength.
Get Sufficient Sleep:
When your sleep is off, or you aren’t getting enough sleep, the body has a difficult time recovering. People who lack sleep can experience inflammatory responses that reduce T cell (specific white blood cells) activity in the body. This ultimately weakens immune response, so it is advised that you get 7-8 hours of sleep every night to establish a healthy circadian rhythm.
Maintain Personal Hygiene:
This shouldn’t have to be said, but we’re saying it anyway. Scrub those hands, wash your face, clean behind your ears, brush your teeth, and wear clean clothing. There are billions of microbes around us at all times, so you want to regularly clean your body. A clean body can help promote the development of healthy bacteria that strengthen the immune system. In these quarantined times, it can be easy to just wear the same sweatpants every day, but don’t do that.
Limit Alcohol Consumption:
Many studies have shown that high alcohol consumption is linked to reduced immune function. To fight infections, it is wise to cut back on alcohol intake. Additionally, alcohol negatively impacts gut health, which decreases the amount of beneficial bacteria in the body and makes you more susceptible to harmful pathogens. If you are trying to boost your immune system, cut alcohol out of your diet.
You don’t need a gym to exercise, people. Daily activity is a must and there is no shortage of online workout videos with detailed instructions that show you how to do the exercises. A 2018 study found that adults (aged 55-79) with higher levels of physical activity had reduced rates of immunosenescence (the gradual deterioration of the immune system over time). Another study found that moderate exercise mobilizes immune cells that defend against pathogens. Systemic inflammation is directly correlated with little to no daily activity. Exercising helps mobilize T cells, which are white blood cells that guard against infection.
Stay safe, everyone, and remember to try and keep your stress levels down. Chronic stress can suppress immune response because of the over presence of cortisol, which interferes with T cell production.