You can’t live in a bubble, but you can follow these smart tips for giving your immunity system a fighting chance to beat infection, whether it’s COVID-19 or the common cold.
Take a vitamin D supp
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in keeping the immune system in good working order. The best source is the sun’s UV rays, but during winter’s lack of sunshine this can lead to a weakened immune system, increasing the likelihood of illness. In a study in Infection and Immunity, cells treated with vitamin D increased their production of an endogenous antibiotic and killed more bacteria than untreated cells.
Eat garlic to Boost Immunity
Garlic is high in compounds that your body needs to keep your immune system on high alert to quickly seek and destroy any unpleasant outside invaders. Subjects who took a garlic pill every day were three times less likely to catch the common cold than a placebo group in a study at the University of Western Australia – and even if they did, they suffered for a full day less with the symptoms.
One of the most direct effects stress has on our overall health is suppressing the immune system. This is because when we’re stressed we release cortisol into our bloodstream and when cortisol is released, the immune-supporting hormone DHEA can’t be released at the same time, so your immune system suffers.
Get quality sleep for Better Immunity
If you’re tired when you wake up in the morning, you’re not getting enough sleep, or maybe not enough quality sleep. Either way, your immunity is probably compromised. Poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of killer cells that fight germs. Killer cells are also the part of the immune system that combats cells that divide too rapidly, as they do in cancer. Lower their numbers and you may be at greater risk for illness.
Keep up the exercise
Aim to do at least three quality sessions a week. Like 6-8 big bang exercises followed by interval running. Or see our lead story that has some great ideas on how to train while the gyms are closed. It can help your immune system fight infection. If you don’t exercise, you’re more likely to get colds, for example, than someone who exercises. Exercise can also boost your body’s feel-good chemicals and help you sleep better. Both of those are good for your immune system.
Cut back on junk food
Experts have known for some time that when a person is malnourished, their immune system is weakened. When you restore the person to normal nutrition, their immune system improves. But what they’re now learning is that when you continue to improve nutrition beyond mere adequacy, the immune system continues to improve. One thing that a lot of junk food has in common is excess fat. Fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, tend to suppress the immune system. Another bad component of junk food is excess sugar. Sugar inhibits phagocytosis, the process by which viruses and bacteria are engulfed and then literally chewed up by white blood cells.
Watch comedy, not drama
Researchers have found that the positive emotions associated with laughter decrease stress hormones and increase certain immune cells while activating others. In one study conducted at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California, US, 10 healthy men who watched a funny video for an hour had significant increases in one particular hormone of the immune system that activates other components of the immune system.
Eat plenty of protein
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of the cells in your immune system, and they help create protective white blood cells and antibodies. These cells then block invading pathogens. You should consume approximately 50 grams of protein a day, or get at least 30 percent of your daily calories from protein. Choose lean protein, such as fish, skinless poultry, eggs, beans, low-fat cuts of beef or soy products.
Get busy in the bedroom
There’s a link between how often you get lucky and how strong your immune system is. A University of Pennsylvania, US, study found students who had sex once or twice a week had 30% more immunoglobulin A (IgA) – a key component in our bodies’ defences – than those not getting any. Don’t have a partner or friend-with-benefits right now? Stroking a dog has a similar effect. Make of that what you will.
Don’t go it alone
Having strong relationships and a good social network is good for you. People who feel connected to friends – whether it’s a few close friends or a large group – have stronger immunity than those who feel alone, studies show. In one study, lonely freshmen had a weaker immune response to a flu vaccine than those who felt connected to others. When you’re stuck at home thanks to a pandemic, it can be harder to maintain relationships – but it’s not impossible. Schedule regular Skype or Zoom catch-ups with friends and colleagues to help you feel connected.