With the overwhelming threat of Corona Virus and self-isolation, most of us have a lot of time on our hands to think about ‘stuff’. In the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of clients anxiously contacting me to ask about what food they should be eating and what supplements they need to take to boost their immune system.
It is generally agreed in scientific and medical spheres that you have a better chance against Corona if your immune system is functioning well.
Rather than feeling like a sitting duck waiting for Corona to get you, here is a cheerily impressive collection of things that you can do for yourself and your family……
Social distancing and hand hygiene. Not my area of expertise, but these are the most important ones Government guidance
There are many, many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system. There is no one super food or super vitamin that you need to max out on. I know it may be boring, but I maintain my consistent message that a healthy balanced diet is fundamental for your immune system to function well. Here’s a link to the Eat Well Guide. You will be doing very well if you can get these foundations of good, solid nutrition consistently in place.
There are some nutrients that you can make sure you are including that are specifically important for the immune system. I sympathise that supermarket and shop shelves can be sparse at the minute, so it doesn’t matter if these come from fresh, frozen, tinned or dried.
• Vitamin C – citrus fruit (lemons, oranges, grapefruit), kiwi, red pepper, broccoli, potatoes.
• Zinc – meat, fish, nuts and seeds, lentils, eggs, dairy
• Vitamin D – the main source is sunlight, with smaller amounts coming from food. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified foods (breakfast cereals, milk & dairy). If you can’t get outside, then I recommend a vitamin D supplement 1000IU per day.
• Beta-carotene/vitamin A – carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, red and orange peppers
• Folate – broccoli, spinach, breakfast cereal, frozen peas
• Iron – breakfast cereal, red meat, dried fruit
Other important points:
• Taking mega doses in the form of supplements doesn’t provide extra benefits, and in some case can be detrimental. If you are worried that you aren’t able to get these nutrients from food then you could take a Complete Multivitamin – I will elaborate on this in a future post.
• Try not to become hyper focused, obsessive or overly worried about nutrition. Anxiety increases stress hormones in the body which negatively impact the immune system.
• Under-eating or over-eating can negatively impact the immunity (aka being underweight or overweight). Try to keep within a healthy BMI weight range check your BMI
Microbiome – our gut bacteria are essential for a healthy immune system. The healthy gut bacteria are found in the last part of the digestive system (the colon). To feed your gut flora eat a varied diet with lots of high-fibre foods. The more plant foods you consume, the better, it really likes fruit, vegetables, oats, wholemeal bread, beans, lentils and yogurt.
Alcohol – I know, I know, I’ll try not to get all preachy about this – I enjoy a drink as much as the next person. The fact is that boozing through the coronavirus crisis isn’t a great idea, because drinking depletes our immune cells. Daily drinking can lead to a reduction of the lymphocytes, so if Corona virus gets into you, you’re not going to be as good at fighting it off. Alcohol also has a negative impact on your sleep (see point 6)
Move – exercise mobilises the white cells of the immune system by increasing your blood flow. The NHS says adults should be physically active in some way every day. If you are lucky enough to be in a country that is not in complete lock down (yet!) aim for about an hour outside – this has the added benefit of getting vitamin D from daylight. Exercise also releases happy hormones.
Be careful not to over exercise, I regularly see elite athletes who over train and become very susceptible to coughs and colds. This is because too much intense exercise can produce stress hormones which are bad for your immune system. If your exercise leaves you feeling energised, then you’ve probably got it right, but if your exhausted and worn out, then you may be over doing it.
Sleep – Exercising and eating well will have the likely knock-on effect of helping you sleep better, which is a bonus because a tired body is more susceptible to bugs. Lack of sleep impaired the disease-fighting ability of lymphocytes.
Over the coming weeks and months I’ll elaborate on a lot of the points above. If there are any specific topics that you would like me to write about, leave me a comment below!
Thanks for reading xxxxxx