With over 340 thousand cases of Coronavirus and almost 15 thousand deaths (as of this writing), boosting our immune system has never felt more urgent. But before we dive in on how to build a strong immunity, we should first know how our soldiers aka White Blood Cells, work to fight off those tiny invaders.
Our Immune System, which is made up of specialized organs, cells, and tissues, is responsible for protecting our bodies from disease-causing microorganisms. When the invaders are detected, a message is sent out throughout the whole body to give a warning that it is being attacked, and sends out antibodies to attack these bad cells to protect us.
That’s why in order to keep our Immune System alert and always ready to defend us from foreign bodies, such as bacteria, viruses and cancerous cells, it is our responsibility to make sure we are always strong and healthy.
Before the pandemic, you may be one of those people who didn’t really care about strengthening your immunity. But now, you might be one of those who hoarded masks, oranges and Vitamin C tablets. I hate to break it to you, but having a strong immunity to fight off diseases isn’t just about covering up and loading up on “magic foods.”
To maximize your immune system’s strength, the following diet and lifestyle changes should be practiced:
1. Load up on Vitamins naturally.
Our soldiers need to be fed in order to get them always ready to fight, so make sure to have a healthy diet and consume foods rich in Vitamins C, E, A, D, and Zinc to name a few.
Did you know that there are other fruits (and vegetables too), that have higher Vitamin C content than citrus fruits? According to health.com, a cup of red bell pepper contains three times more than an orange. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and Kale, all pack a hefty dose of ascorbic and ascorbate. As for fruits, shop for mangoes, strawberries, pineapples, and kiwi.
Zinc is an essential mineral that you should look for as well because it plays a central role in the immune system. Foods rich in zinc include, meat and poultry, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, legumes, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, and 60-85% dark chocolate.
2. Consume probiotics.
One key player in immune health is the gut. Probiotics (from food and supplements), are types of friendly bacteria, that promote a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system too.
According to an NCBI study, protection from viral infection has also been shown as a benefit of probiotic action. So where can you get probiotics? Well, aside from supplements, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, pickles and kombucha, are good sources of these live microorganisms.
3. Eat protein-rich foods.
Research states that antibodies rely on protein, thus playing a vital role in fighting viral and bacterial infection. Not getting the right amount of protein, which is a minimum of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, can result to a poor immunity. More protein, doesn’t just mean more meat. Aside from lean meat and poultry, other protein-rich foods include fish and seafood, eggs, dairy products, nuts, legumes and beans.
4. Get enough zzz’s.
Lack of sleep can result in chronic inflammation, which can overstress the immune system and make it less effective in fighting off harmful substances. Getting enough sleep, on the other hand, lets the body produce adequate amounts of cytokines that help regulate immunity and inflammation. A good seven to eight hours of sleep every night is highly recommended.
5. Lower your stress levels.
Ah, I wonder how we can remain unstressed at a time like this. I know how hard it is to stop ourselves from worrying about the coronavirus and the economy, but let’s just try our best not to think too much about it because we all know that stress is a silent killer. Stress compromises our immune system’s abilities to protect our bodies, making us more susceptible to infections and diseases. Just keep that in mind.
6. Stop smoking and consuming alcohol.
I know, I know. Having all this time at home with the quarantine thing and self-isolation, how can you stop yourself from lighting up a cigarette multiple times a day and start drinking at 2 PM? But remember, clinicians have long observed the association between alcohol consumption, smoking and immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia.
Lastly, stay active. Exercise has long been known to strengthen the immune system and help the body fight off infections and viruses. You have all the time in the world in your hands now, a 30 minute of home work out won’t hurt.
On top of building a strong immunity, let’s not forget the importance of washing our hands too. In conclusion, let’s all be responsible in taking care of our immune system so we could also help others as well.