In the light of all the Corona virus chat I thought I’d offer some tips on ways to boost your immune system. I’ll break them up into different categories to make things clearer.
It should go without saying that getting enough sleep and/or rest is paramount when it comes to your health. For healthy adults you should be aiming for 7-8 hours sleep, or just bed rest if your suffer from insomnia. If you’re a person with a chronic illness, you may well require more sleep than this and it’s not uncommon to need to sleep for a lot more than 8 hours per day.
Ensuring that your diet is varied and consists primarily of foods which offer high volumes of nutrients is paramount. Eating the same thing every day which isn’t varied and contains a lot of snacks and processed foods will often lead to deficiencies somewhere or another, so a simple rule to go by is to base your diet around the guideline:
Meat/Fish, fruit and colourful veg and make it varied!
These are the hard hitters when it comes to nutrients and making them the foundation of your diet will not only ensure you get a range of vitamins and minerals, but it’ll also help you feel great, whilst boosting that immune system.
It’s worth mentioning that ideally, you want to get all of your nutrients from your food, and unless you are deficient in any of the following, taking them won’t necessarily be of benefit to you. However below is a summary of the major players when it comes to immune system supplementation.
Zinc is a mineral that people need in order to stay healthy. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
Found in in large quantities in most meats/fish/shellfish and dairy produce. Vegans and vegetarians should supplement.
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Also important in maintaining a strong immune system and it’s likely that one of the reasons we get colds and flu towards the end of the winter is due to lack of vitamin D.
Sunlight is our main source of vitamin D, but foods which are high in it are Salmon and other fatty fish, egg yolks and mushrooms. Some foods which don’t naturally contain vitamin D may be fortified with them, so check the labels.
People who live in countries where sunlight is limited and vegans/vegetarians would do well to supplement.
Vitamin A is present in many foods. It is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.
There are two different types of vitamin A. The first type, preformed vitamin A, is found in meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. This form is ready to use as soon as it is ingested. The second type, provitamin A, is found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. This type needs to be converted in your body to Preformed vitamin A before it can be used.
Preformed vitamin A is a sensible supplement for veggies/vegans because the conversion of beta carotene (plant vitamin A precursor) may not give you enough.
Side note: The high levels of Carotene, found in carrots is the reason why we say “eat your carrots, they’ll help you see in the dark”
Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient found in some foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal. In addition, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease.
Good food sources tend to be fruit and veg, mainly red/orange and green things. The human body cannot produce or store vitamin C, therefore, it’s essential to consume it regularly in sufficient amounts.
Magnesium helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heartbeat steady, and helps bones remain strong. It also helps adjust blood glucose levels. It aids in the production of energy and protein.
Fatty fish, whole grains, seeds, fruit such as bananas, leafy greens are all usually good sources of magnesium.
*I haven’t included dosage for the various supplements because it will vary from person to person based on your size and level of deficiency. Start by correcting your diet and seek medical advice if you think you may be in need of supplementation.
Research suggests that the best way to boost your immune system through exercise is to do resistance training. This means weight training, strength training, resistance machine training, resistance band training etc. Of course, any exercise is good, but a resistance training programme will not only boost your immune system, but it’ll also build strength, functional ability and help with maintaining or building muscle mass.
So there you have it. Simple methods to strengthen your immune system and help it to function the way it should.