7 tips for boosting your immune system

Many people have been asking, other than washing their hands, not touching their face with unwashed hands and avoiding contact with those who are ill, what else can they do to help protect themselves from COVID-19 Coronavirus.

COVID-19 is what’s known as a ‘novel’ or ‘new’ virus, which means that no one has ever been exposed to it before and therefore there is no ‘community immunity’ to it (also known as herd immunity). Despite this, the stronger your immune system, the theory is the less impacted you will be by the virus if you get it. A stronger immune system will also help to reduce the number of colds, the severity and the length of cold, as well as other viruses and infections (which in turn will strengthen your ablity to fight it).

With that in mind, what can you do to strengthen immune system? I’ve put together 7 tips for boosting your immunity as well as help you generally feel healthier, both physically and mentally.

Please note that these are tips to generally boost your immune system as well as benefit your general physical and mental health and wellbeing and no studies have been carried out on their effectiveness of reducing the impacts of COVID-19.

  1. Exercise regularly

Doing regular moderate exercise (e.g. brisk walking, cycling, golf) has shown to increase resistance to upper respiratory tract infections[1] and reduce sick days from work. Try to get outside to walk, cycle, paddleboard or run, whatever interests you, or you could try doing exercises within your own home.

  1. Practice yoga and meditation

Regular meditation and yoga can help to increase your ability to deal with stress and therefore the negative impacts of stress on the immune system[2]. Furthermore, meditation can help to mediate some of the short-term stress response to more intense exercise mentioned above[3]. The movements carried out during yoga postures are also thought to help flush out toxins, and boost your digestive system, further supporting a healthy immune system[4][5][6].

Try a one-minute meditation to start.

  1. Drink plenty of water

Along with keeping your body moving, having plenty of fluid is key for helping deal with toxins, preventing a toxic overload and taking them to where they are processed. It is also important for aiding digestion, getting key nutrients to the parts of the body where they are needed.

  1. Get plenty of vitamins, minerals and balanced nutrition

Malnutrition is the most common cause of immunodeficiency worldwide. Protein is essential for production of antibodies and other important substances in immune function, as well as, zinc, iron, vitamins A, C, E, and B-6, and other micronutrients[7]. Make sure you are having a good variety of fruit and veggies a day and minimise processed food, additives and preservatives.

Turmeric (in root or powder form) is an excellent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant spice. It is particularly powerful at reducing long term low-level inflammation, which is thought to be one of the main causes of many chronic western diseases. Add it to curries, stews and even boiled potatoes. Studies have also shown that the components of garlic can decrease both the severity of colds and flus and number of colds people suffer with[8][9]. Raw garlic has the greatest impact as cooking can break down the active compounds.

  1. Minimise alcohol and quit smoking

Smoking can lead to upper respiratory tract infections and more frequent and more severe illnesses, so quitting smoking will really help boost your immune system (although please take advice from your GP, Pharmacist or Help Me Quit on the potential impact of going cold turkey at this time). Furthermore, alcohol has also been shown to lower the initial response to viruses[10] so cutting down what you drink can help prevent illnesses and your recovery rate.

  1. Exercise good sleep hygiene

When it comes to your health, sleep plays an important role. While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune system, leaving you susceptible to a bad cold or case of the flu[11].

  1. Try to stay positive

Positive psychological well-being has been proven to increase human body immune response[12][13]. Therefore, trying to remain as positive as you can under the circumstances will help to keep you strong. I know it is difficult but try to focus on today, the here and now, and try to just allocate specific time to planning for potentials rather than letting it consume your thoughts. There is so much you can’t control so focus on what you can and then go about doing the things are good for your mental and physical wellbeing (as above but also check out 5 Ways to Wellbeing).

If you would like a 1:1 consultation to talk about some lifestyle changes you could make to support your health and wellbeing then please give me a text/call/whats app on 07876 754645, email or use the contact form.

[1] Pedersen, B. K. and Toft, A. D. (2000). Effects of exercise on lymphocytes and cytokines. British Journal of Sports Medicine 34:246-251. [Available online]

[2] Davidson, R. J.; Kabat‐Zinn, J.; Schumacher, J.; Rosenkranz, M.; Muller, D.; Santorelli, S.; Urbanowski, F.; Harrington, A.; Bonus, K. and Sheridan, J. (2003). Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine Volume 65 – Issue 4 – p 564–570. [Available online]

[3] Solberg, E.E., Halvorsen, R., Sundgot-Borgen, J., Ingjer, F., Holen, A. Meditation: a modulator of the immune response to physical stress? A brief report. British Journal of Sports Medicine 29:255-257. [Available online]

[4] Gopal, A., Mondal, S., Gandhi, A, Arora, S, Bhattacharjee, J. Effect of integrated yoga practices on immune responses in examination stress – A preliminary study. International Journey of Yoga. [Available Online];year=2011;volume=4;issue=1;spage=26;epage=32;aulast=Gopal

[5] Arora, S. and Bhattacharjee, J. (2008) Modulation of immune responses in stress by Yoga. [Available Online];year=2008;volume=1;issue=2;spage=45;epage=55;aulast=Arora

[6] Liao, S. and Padera, T. (2013) Lymphatic Function and Immune Regulation in Health and Disease. [Available online]

[7] Chandra, R.K. (1997) Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction.

[8] Josling, B. (2001) Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. [Available online]

[9] Nantz MP1, Rowe CA, Muller CE, Creasy RA, Stanilka JM, Percival SS. (2012) Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. [Available online]

[10] Coghlan, A. (2011) Too much booze blunts your immune system, New Scientist

[11] Sleep Foundation (ND) The Science of Sleep: How sleep affects your immunity. [Available online]

[12] Ben-Shaanan, T. L., Azulay-Debby, H., Dubovik, T., Starosvetsky, E., Korin, B., Schiller, M., Green, N. L., Admon, Y., Hakim, F., Shen-Orr, S. S and Rolls, A. (2016) Activation of the reward system boosts innate and adaptive immunity. Nature Medicine. Vol. 22, P 940–944. Available online []

[13] Abdurachman and Herawati, N. (2018) The role of psychological well-being in boosting immune response: an optimal effort for tackling infection. [Available online]

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