Can you boost your immune system to fight COVID-19?
With South Africans moving into level 3 of our national lockdown on Monday the 1st of June, and following the media and all the scientific and actuarial projections about what still is to come, the sober reality is that most of us may in fact get the virus. While some people may get very sick, or even die, others may only experience mild symptoms and in fact, shake it off relatively fast.
Can a strong immune system protect against COVID-19?
A strong immune system will fight off disease-causing micro-organisms (like viruses and bacteria) that will engineer our healing process. A weak immune system, on the other hand, results in an increased susceptibility to virtually any type of illness.
Some common signs of an impaired immune system include fatigue, repeated infections, inflammation, allergic reactions, slow wound healing or chronic diarrhea, to name but a few.
Not a quick fix
The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so may be quite difficult. The immune system is precisely that – it is a “system”; not a single entity. It involves many different organs, structures and substances, including white blood cells, bone marrow, the lymphatic system (spleen, tonsils, thymus and our lymph nodes), specialised cells found in various body tissues, and many more – all working together to protect the body against infection and disease.
Factors that can compromise our immune system
Our immune system can work as it should, only if it is cared for properly. This includes the right nutrients, healthy living strategies and avoiding the things that can suppress our immune system. Many aspects of our daily lives can compromise our immune system, for example the chemicals in the household cleaners that we use, the overuse of antibiotics and other drugs, pesticides, and the myriad of food additives in our daily diet. Stress is another factor that can adversely affect our immune system, as it results in a sequence of biochemical events that ultimately suppress the normal activity of our white blood cells and places undue demands on the endocrine system.
Recommendations to boost immunity
- Take inventory of the most important factors that may compromise your immune system and take steps to correct them. Stress and an incorrect diet (especially if your diet is high in fat and refined processed foods) are two of the most common immune suppressors.
- Make sure you supply your immune system with adequate amounts of nutrients. Some of the most valuable nutrients include the following:
- Vitamin A is very important in the body’s defense system.
- Vitamin C is essential in the formation of adrenal hormones and certain white blood cells. It also has a direct effect on viruses and bacteria.
- Vitamin E interacts with vitamins A and C and the mineral selenium, acting as a primary antioxidant and scavenger of toxic free radicals.
- Zinc further boosts the immune system and promotes wound healing.
- Your diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably raw), nuts, seeds, grain and other foods high in fiber.
- Consume “green drinks” daily.
- Include lots of garlic in your diet – it is well-known for boosting the immune system.
- Avoid too much meat, processed foods, sugar and soda.
- Try to follow a fasting programme once a month to rid your body of toxins that can weaken the immune system.
- Use spirulina, especially while fasting, as it also aids in protecting the immune systems and is rich in nutrients for cleansing and healing.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Try to minimise your stress. Living under constant stress, even low-grade, causes the body to produce too much cortisol (the stress hormone). Over time, elevated cortisol lowers your resistance to fighting off infection and contributes to poor sleep and higher blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid overeating and maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
Good to know
- Marijuana weakens the immune system. THC alters the body’s normal immune response, making the white blood cell count 35 to 40 percent less effective than normal.
- A positive mindset is vital for health and well-being and is important in building up the immune system.
- An under-active thyroid will lead to a suppressed immune system. Have your thyroid function checked annually.
And last, but not the least – remember that sometimes, even with doing all the right things, superheroes can also get sick. It’s OK! The key is to take time off to recharge and avoid making others sick. If you have a healthy immune system, you should be able to bounce back in no time.
By Elmarie Jensen
Phyllis, A & Balch, JF. 2000. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.
The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.