5 Ways To Boost Your Immune System And Protect Yourself From COVID-19
During this difficult time, we need to take better care of ourselves.
People around the world have been faced with the threat of COVID-19 for more than a year now. Through it all, experts have always emphasized the importance of keeping our bodies healthy to have a strong immune system that will help us fight the virus.
Our bodies are naturally equipped with a defense system – our immune system -- to shield us from infections and diseases; however, many of us take it for granted. With an effective vaccine and a healthy immune system, we can beat COVID-19. In the meantime, as long as a vaccine is not made available for every citizen, we can only rely on our immune system to do all the fighting.
Bombi Plata, a 46-year-old filmmaker, tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2020 along with his wife. “We were asymptomatic initially, [but] I had myself tested [to fulfill] a work requirement so I could enter the shooting studio set,” he says. The results showed he had contracted the virus.
When he and his wife began the isolation period, a few COVID-19 symptoms became apparent. “We experienced loss of taste and smell, a bit of a sore throat and colds,” he recalls.
Surprisingly, the couple already started to feel better just a week into home isolation. Says Bombi, “From about 5 days to a week [later], almost all of our symptoms began to disappear.” He believes their strong immune system had a lot to do with their quick recovery.
“My family was already into the healthy lifestyle way before the first lockdown. We were heavy fruit eaters – we’d have them for snacks. We were drinking freshly boiled turmeric tea after meals, and we also watched our red meat intake. I can attribute our having a strong immune system to these,” he shares.
How does the immune system work?
To understand how our body fights diseases, it is important to familiarize yourself with these terms:
- Pathogens - microbes that can infect our body and cause diseases.
- Antigens - proteins found on the surface of pathogens, whose presence can trigger an immune response.
- Antibodies - healthy proteins that bind with the body’s foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, and neutralizes them.
According to an article by the Makati Medical Center, the immune system gets to work when the body encounters a foreign substance or antigen. The first time the body encounters this disease-causing germ, the immune system stores its information and finds ways to fight it, so that when it invades again, the immune system is able to recognize the antigen and signal the other elements to attack the invader more effectively.
While having a strong immune system does not prevent you from contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19, it can sustain your body by familiarizing itself with the virus if you do get sick, giving you enough strength to recover. Developing a strong immune system also helps you fight common diseases like colds, flu, and fever.
How to boost your immune system
To boost your immune system, you need to nourish it well. Keeping yourself healthy depends on you. Here are ways to be the healthiest version of yourself!
- Eat nutritious food.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consuming a variety of foods for a healthy and balanced diet. The immune system requires the support of nutrients from grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and animal source foods. As for COVID-19, there is no evidence that a single food will prevent you from catching it.
While it is generally safe to take multivitamins and supplements, WHO says that there is little evidence that micronutrient supplementation can prevent COVID-19. “Wherever possible, micronutrient intakes should come from a nutritionally balanced and diverse diet, including from fruits, vegetables, and animal source foods.”
- Don’t forget your Vitamin D.
According to Dr. Maria Isabel O. Quilendrino, a Health Optimization Medicine (HOMe) Specialist and Developmental Pediatrician, Vitamin D was previously known for its importance in calcium metabolism and bone health. However, it now plays a big part during the pandemic.
Vitamin D “is now known to also play an important role in regulating the innate and adaptive immune responses of the body. Deficiency in Vitamin D puts one at increased risk for autoimmune disorders and susceptibility to infection.”
WHO suggests obtaining Vitamin D from natural sources like salmon, tuna, mackerel, cheese, egg yolks, etc. However, in situations where an individual’s Vitamin D status is “already marginal” or if Vitamin D-fortified foods are not enough and exposure to sunlight is limited, a Vitamin D supplement is recommended.
- Get enough sleep.
The University of Chicago Medicine says that getting ample sleep is crucial in reducing the risk of infection as it supports the immune system to effectively fight diseases. Sleep deprivation, however, can weaken the body’s defense system, which makes us more vulnerable to contracting a virus.
Ideally, our bodies require 7 to 9 hours of sleep to keep our immune system strong.
- Manage your stress well.
Dr. Quilendrino also suggests minimizing stress as much as we can. “Psychologists in the field of psychoneuroimmunology have shown that the state of mind affects one’s state of health,” she says.
Chronic stress or anxiety produces stress hormones which can suppress the body’s immune system, making you twice as likely to get sick. Taking mindful breaths, doing yoga, and meditating may sound like simple tasks, but according to a 2012 study, those who performed these activities on a regular basis were less likely to get sick.
- Stay active.
The same article by the Makati Medical Center recommends moderate exercise as a part of our lifestyle. “Moderate exercise can help boost the immune system, allowing antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly.” It also helps produce endorphins, or what we call “happy hormones,” and aids in lowering the amount of stress hormones in the body.Exercising does not always require intimidating machines and weights. You are already doing your body a huge favor just by walking for 20 minutes per day, riding a bicycle around the neighborhood, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking your dog for a walk. However, make sure that while doing so you are also complying to the health guidelines for COVID-19 protection, like wearing your mask, keeping your hands sanitized at all times, and keeping a safe distance from people who do not live in the same household.