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How to stay well and support your immune system

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

Understandably people are asking what they can do to protect themselves from contracting Covid-19 and how to recover quickly if they do indeed get it.

Hand washing, avoiding touching your face and using tissues to catch sneezes and coughs is vital to stop the spread but it is also important to focus on building a stronger immune system.

The principals involved in boosting your immune system are quite simple. The first goal is to make sure that you provide the immune system with vital nutrients by consuming a health-promoting diet and utilizing proper nutritional supplementation. The next step is following a healthy lifestyle that includes getting enough sleep and taking regular exercise.

So here, lets talk about some key nutrients and foods to support your immune system……

1. Vitamin C.

If you're not using vitamin C right now, I highly recommend that you do. Currently, 3 studies are underway in China to see if Vitamin C is affective against those with SARS also testing positive for Coronavirus. It has particularly powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. In addition, it also supports the adrenal glands helping our body deal with stress – a culprit that reduces immunity levels leaving us more prone to catching a cold or flu.

Foods that can provide good amounts of Vitamin C include kiwifruit, guavas, oranges, broccoli, kale, peppers, strawberries, blackberries, papaya, tomatoes sugar snap peas. I would also recommend supplementing 1000mg – 2000mg a day during the cold and flu season to protect you.

At the first signs of a cold or flu start taking 1g every hour for 6 hours, then continue with 3g a day until symptoms subside. Studies have shown a reduction in symptoms at this level. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body so it is important to keep levels up during an infection.

2. Vitamin D

Its commonly known how important vitamin D is for healthy bones, but its role in human health goes well beyond that. Vitamin D is essential for a health working immune system and it seems to regulate the immune system. The majority of immune cells have a vitamin D receptors and some viruses turn this down. This may be a major reason why viruses can take hold in the winter. So make sure your vitamin D level is above 50nmol/l, ideally higher. Do talk to your nutritional therapist (as there is a toxicity associated with supplementing at very high doses) but its likely you will need to be supplementing at least 15mcg (600iu) on a regular basis to achieve this but can top up levels for a month with 25mcg (1,000iu) a day and expose yourself to sun whenever you can. Sadly foods are a limited sources of vitamin D but there is some in tuna, eggs, liver and cheese.

3. Black Elderberry

There are numerous studies on using elderberry extracts and it is shown to have a number of different effects on the immune system, including up-regulating certain types of immune cells that are known to help you fight viruses. A placebo controlled trial of black elderberry, by the virologist who discovered interferon, giving black elderberry extract to those with flu reported a halving in recovery time. In a second trial of 60 patients with flu those taking black elderberry cut recovery time by four days compared to placebo.

What you have to be careful with is a lot of the elderberry products have sugar in them. Sambucol do a sugar free version.

4. Zinc

Zinc is a vital immune-boosting mineral and important antioxidant. It’s needed for the production and function of white blood cells in the body. White blood cells are the cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders. Some of the best food sources of zinc are seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, shellfish, and chicken

The average zinc supplement dose is 10-15mg per day but at first signs of a cold, you can increase this to 50mg per day. You can get zinc lozenges which are really good for sore throats or look for a supplement which combines zinc and vitamin C. Sambucol do a black elderberry and zinc sugar free syrup.

4. Enough protein

Protein plays a major role in body function. It is essential for proper maintenance of the immune system, the detoxification systems in the liver, antibody formation, muscle maintenance, tissue repair, digestive enzyme production, neurotransmitter (brain chemicals), and hormone production. With relation to your immune system protein is need to make antibodies, particularly IgA which is essential for your body’s ability to combat infection from viruses, chemical toxins, as well as allergies.

Protein is also required to build and maintain muscles are required for movement of the frame. As part of this process, muscle serves as a pumping system for your lymphatic vessels. These vessels are crucial because they help the body transport immune cells and antibodies. They also help remove damaging toxins. Aim for 2 to 3 helping of protein a day or about 40-50g a day.

5. Probiotics

The gut is where the vast majority of our immune reactions occur –this is where the outside world with its toxins and pathogens comes into close contact with our body (hence the sound advise to wash hands and not touch our faces and mouths). So, to protect yourself from getting the flu, support your gut with the probiotics. These are the beneficial bacteria that boost and support a healthy immune system. You can improve your gut health by eating probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi pickles, natural yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, and kefir water. You can also consider taking a good quality probiotic supplement. Speak to a Nutritional Therapist to help find the right product for you. In addition, try to avoid a diet laden with sugar, as sugar feeds the harmful bacteria which upsets the careful balance in your microbiome. Instead, a diet rich in fibre and low in sugar and refined carbs can help support your gut and ward off winter cold and flu.

5. Garlic

The antiviral and antibacterial activity of garlic is well established. Regular consumers of garlic seem to rarely have colds or become victims of influenza. Garlic has been known to abort colds even in those who are not regular consumers. Garlic contains allicin and is also rich in sulphur and amino acids which all have antioxidant properties. These are released from the garlic when it is crushed, chopped or sliced.

Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick in the first place, as well as how long you stay sick. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms of cold and flu, like fever, the shakes, congestion, cough and more.

Another study found that colds were on average 61% shorter for subjects who ate 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract per day, compared to a placebo group. Their colds were also less severe

InTry adding garlic to your diet as often as you can.

References: Vitamin C

Vitamin D





Tips & Warnings

· Always consult a Nutritional Therapist or healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

· There are no guarantees to what I am saying, if you take these nutrients. We have to apply common sense. Hand-washing and good hygiene practices are also very crucial.

And finally remember the following lifestyle factors influence immunity:

· Reduce stress

· Don’t smoke

· Eat a diet rich in colourful vegetables and fruit

· Maintain healthy weight

· Exercise regularly

· Alcohol moderation

· Sleep at least 8 hours a night

Good luck and Stay well

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