Protect yourself from a viral attack
Winter is coming and, with a viral pandemic on the loose, it is vital that we focus on our health and strengthen our defences against viral infections.
So, what can we do, beyond precautions like social distancing and hand-washing, to maintain our body’s innate immunity and give ourselves the best chance to fight off this virus if it takes hold?
First, let’s look at what happens to our immune systems when a novel pathogen like COVID-19 enters the body.
Our immune system has an immune memory. It remembers microbes that have previously entered the body and has a heightened response to fight these pathogens off. This is how we build up our immune systems.
With a novel virus like COVID-19, the human immune system hasn’t built up the necessary antibodies to fight it off. Under cover of anonymity, the virus takes hold, hijacks the cells and begins to replicate in its millions within days of entering the body. It is deadly in some but mild enough in others where a healthy immune system prevents it from escaping containment. In other words, a healthy immune system can send in fighter T-cells to surround and overcrowd the pathogen, starving it of space and nutrients.
In milder cases, the body’s immune response is able to contain the virus in the upper respiratory tract. Having a healthy immune system will lessen the effects of the virus and could save your life.
So how can we strengthen our immunity and fend off immune system attacks?
First, let’s look at what weakens our immune systems.
Low nutrient foods.
These are foods with low vitamins, trace minerals, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids like take-aways and sugary foods. The nutrient defence system is dependent on good nutrients. Low nutrient foods make you more susceptible to getting sick.
If you are feeling run down or sick, avoid going on a low fat diet. Essential fatty acids protect the bilipid fat layer that protects the cell. A virus is not alive unless it invades the cell wall and a diet rich in essential oils will help protect the cell from invasion.
Stress causes the body to produce greater levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This can result in high levels of inflammation that weaken the immune system. Over time this diminishes the body’s ability to fight off invaders.
Stress also reduces the white blood cells ability to fight off infection. The lower your white blood cell count, the more at risk you are for viruses, like colds, flu and pneumonia.
Lack of sleep
Sleep is vital for maintaining a healthy immune system. Many studies have reported the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Researchers from Germany have found that sound sleep improves the efficacy of immune cells known as T-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Adhesion molecules called integrins help T-cells to kill virus-infected cells. Deep sleep strengthens integrins that allow T-cells direct access to the compromised cells.
If you have a sleep problem, now is the time to deal with it .
Glucose can activate certain viruses. Now would be a good time to stay away from sugary foods. Alcohol, like sweet wine and beer, contain carbohydrates that convert into glucose in the body. Turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism in stressful times will weaken the immune system and provide the right fuel for the virus to flourish.
Some studies showed an increased risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) among heavy drinkers. ARDS is the lung complication responsible for most of the COVID-19 related deaths.
If you are a heavy drinker or rely on a sugar and carb-heavy diet, try a modest approach to changing your habits. The stress of going ‘cold-turkey’ will only compromise your immune system further. Most experts recommend a reasonable daily limit of two drinks for men and one drink for women.
Now let’s look at ways to strengthen your immune system:
Vitamin C is well known for its role in supporting a healthy immune system. It activates the production and function of many types of white blood cells and antibodies that bind to invading microbes.
Vitamin C is also essential for the proper production of adrenal hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating cortisol that controls stress.
Foods that are high in vitamin C: Leafy green veg, broccoli, cauliflower, sauerkraut, bell peppers, papaya, berries and citrus fruits.
Vitamin D modulates immune responses. A lack of vitamin D can increase your susceptibility to infection.
A study done in 2017 found that taking a Vitamin D supplement had a protective effect against respiratory-tract infections in most people, but provided much greater protection in those who were very deficient in Vitamin D.
Your body is capable of making Vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight, so it’s important to get some sun whenever you can. Aim for around 15 minutes of exposure per day to a large part of the body such as the torso or back.
Foods that contain vitamin D are fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
If you are at increased risk for COVID-19, it is wise to take a vitamin D supplement right now (2,000 IU per day or more with medical supervision).
Vitamin A is vital in maintaining immune function. It is important for the structural integrity in the mucosal cells in the sinus and respiratory centres. Vitamin A also helps diminish inflammation which compromises the immune systems ability to fight off pathogens.
Good sources of vitamin A are: cod liver oil, egg yolk, butter, carrots, spinach and other dark leafy greens.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral for the immune system as it is crucial for the development and function of immune cells. People who are zinc-deficient experience a greater susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.
Foods high in zinc are: Oysters, red meat, baked beans, chickpeas and nuts such as cashews and almonds.
Garlic is extremely potent and is hands down number 1 in killing off viruses , yeast, funguses and mould. Garlic contains a property called allicin that gets released when you cut into vegetables and antioxidants that help the immune system fight germs and infections.
Turmeric contains a bright-yellow compound known as curcumin, which emerging research suggests might enhance immune function. Curcumin possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. Studies confirm that turmeric also acts as an antioxidant which helps build up the immune system. Trusted source
However, if you have any medical conditions — especially if you take blood thinners — check with your doctor before supplementing with curcumin.
In summary, the reason for the rapid spread of this strain of Corona Virus is that our immune systems are not equipped to deal with it yet. So, we need to take every precaution to keep ourselves as healthy and fit as possible. This is also good advice to protect your self from getting the common cold. If you suspect that you have contracted Covid-19 please seek medical advice from your doctor.
Even if your'e never exposed, you can improve your health by:
- Managing your stress
- Prioritising a proper night’s sleep
- Eating a diet high in essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals ( food is the first line of defence )
- Taking supplements where needed
- Making time to exercise
- Reducing sugar, carbs and alcohol