coronavirus – how to boost your immune health

immune defense-1403072_640

Health care systems are currently under strain. As a result, governments around the world are directing us to self-distance from each other to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

We face a challenge and opportunity – to bolster our own internal health system (ie our immune system) with all it needs to help us, within ourselves, to be best equipped to deal with this virus.  

We also have an opportunity to improve our own stress management strategies and the ways me look after our own mental health.

In this post below I describe both dietary and lifestyle factors you can adopt to boost your immune system. Important note – this post is a summary – full details are in my post immune health study.

As I mentioned in my post loneliness is a killer, the effects of being alone can be both damaging and deadly to your immune system as well as to your mental health. So can stress and anxiety. This post therefore partners with my post Coronavirus – self-care in a time of stress for tips about how to take care of yourself. It also partners with my post hacking happiness – food for your mood for dietary advice for mental health optimisation. And it partners with a post I am currently preparing about dealing with stress and anxiety – for a preview, see my posts on tune out, turn on, drop in – surf stories about the mysteries of nature and energy and “Let THE body … BE a body” as well as exercise and how energy flows.

Why I write this post and blog

I’ve spent 25 years of my life dealing with health issues including chronic immune suppression. So I know intimately and very personally how important it is to take care of our health on an integrative health basis – involving mental, immune and digestive health amongst all others. I have also completed graduate studies is functional health medicine and nutrition to learn more – all to both help myself and in turn find ways to help you. And I have learnt so, so much. Huguru is my channel for bringing what I learned to life – so I can help you too. Helping you is what I see as my spiritual purpose in life

The very best of health to you, your families, your communities and this world. May the very best of health, wealth, love and laughter be with you!

Index of topics in this post

(click on the lines directly below to scroll down)

Key factors that influence immune health
Dietary and lifestyle factors that influence proper immune function
Nutrients that support immune health
Herbs and botanical adaptogens
Other Nutritional aids for Immune health

Core advice for enhancing your immune system

Click on the lines below to scroll directly down to in this post

And feel free to explore the highlighted words in the post below – these will direct you to  other posts i have written on this web-site with more specific and detailed nutritional information

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Key factors that influence immune health

The key to safeguarding the health of your immune system is to address where imbalances are occurring. Imbalances in key body systems such as hormone, digestion and detoxification interact and determining your immune health. The expression of those imbalances are like the branches on the tree below – where Roots Causes and body system imbalances (ie the Pillars of Health) become evident in disease (ie Disease Model)  

WellnessTree

This approach to health I explain in more detail in my post on the Functional Medicine model of health. A core and key benefit of this approach is using it to uncovering those root issues determining the health of your immune system – in other words, the factors suppressing your immune system.

Immune System Suppressors

Immune system suppressors disrupt the functional harmony of the systems in your body and predispose it to infection, cancer and diseases. These suppressors include:

  • imbalances in lifestyle and hormones
  • emotional / psychological factors that include overwork, multiple stress, poor quality diet, lack of sleep and lack of exercise
  • core factors that leave your body more vulnerable to attack and with a reduced ability to defend itself

Put simply, these factors and imbalances lead to immune weakness by depleting your body of energy and vitality as well as using up key nutrients needed for proper immune function. And they include the following :

  • Ageing
  • Hormones imbalances such as excess cortisone, adrenaline or insulin
  • Lack of proper rest and sleep
  • Stress responses to your life circumstances (eg work, social, financial)
  • Medical intervention, Pharmaceutical use and Drugs
  • Allergies and Chemicals in the diet and environment
  • Improper Diet and food intake
  • Improper exercise

2

Dietary and lifestyle factors that enhance proper immune function 

9

Exercise

  • Exercise and the lymph system
  • Exercise stimulates the lymph system and metabolic rate and is important for proper circulation of both nutrients and lymph fluid
    • The lymphatic system functions as secondary circulation system and is a network of vessels that plays a major role in the immune system
    • The lymphatic system depends upon on breathing and muscular contraction to pump lymph fluids around the body – body movement and deep breathing with diaphragm speed up rate of circulation
  • Light to moderate exercise is best for immune system health (eg Tai Chi, Yoga)
    • The key is to adapt your exercise to what your body needs and balance Yin exercises (eg Tai Chi and Yoga) with Yang exercises (eg strenuous cardio-vascular and/or weight training)
    • Excessive exercise (leading to exhaustion) depresses the immune system for hours after exertion leading increased risk of infection – so exercise within your limitations and feel comfortable

Most importantly, body energy mobilised during light or moderate exercise can transform our immune health. For more details, see my post exercise and how energy flows

10

Meditation and Laughter

  • Meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis, relaxation and a positive mental attitude all promote immune function
  • Laughter: positive emotions enhance immune system
    • Learn to laugh alot and inject humour
    • Read and watch funny things – preferably with someone else
    • Play (eg with children or be childish)
    • Find humour in situations and enjoy laughing immediately

Adequate restful sleep

Social interaction and involvement

11

Whole food diet rich in plant foods

  • This is the best diet for providing key immune-supportive anti-oxidants and vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients that act as immune supporters and enhancers of immune function

Decrease sugar

  • Sugar reduces neutrophil activity (neutrophils engulf bacteria)

Decrease saturated fat

  • Saturated fat suppresses immunity

12

Sufficient but not excessive protein

  • Protein and amino acids form immune tissues and antibodies
  • Combine your intake with key vitamins and minerals required for protein production in the body: B6, B5, Folic acid, Magnesium, Zinc
  • Protein is needed for Making White Blood Cells, antibodies and chemical messengers as well as for Glutathione which enhances immune function
  • Key amino acids – L-Arginine and L-Glutamine boost immune function 

Water is necessary to flush out impurities and clear out toxins

Fiber is necessary clear out toxins

Essential Fatty Acids

3

Nutrients that support immune health

  • If you are ill or above the age of 65 – consider taking a high potency, high quality vitamin and mineral supplement
  • For younger people, a whole foods diet will provide the majority of nutrients you need
  • Overall, ensure you get enough of the following nutrients and consider buying high quality individual supplements to boost your intake as needed

The most critical immune supporting nutrients – Vitamins A, C, E, D and Mineral Zinc

Vitamin A

Vitamin C: the most important anti-oxidant nutrient

  • Turns on WBCs to attack antigens
  • Helps in antibody responses and White Blood Cell functions
  • Increases production of antiviral and anticancer immune compound interferon
  • Increased intake of Vitamin C is needed when dealing with infections and in particular viral infections, colds, progressive disease, stress or undergoing surgery
  • Best food sources: raw vegetables and fruits such as Red Chilli; Red and green bell pepper; Parsley; watercress; Spinach; Avocado, acerola; papaya; oranges; lemon; mangoes; kiwi

Vitamin E

Vitamin D

  • Important for improved resistance and healthy immune function against diseases and helping to reduce your likelihood of developing viral infections like the flu, according to 2010 research
  • Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common
  • Best food sources: Mushrooms in particular maitake mushroom, fish, eggs and fortified foods (eg milk, cereal, yogurt, orange juice)
  • Vitamin D3 is the best supplement type as it is the most potent

Zinc

Additional vital nutrients – B-Vitamins, Copper, Iron, Iodine, Selenium

B-vitamins:

  • Required for forming anti-bodies
  • Essential for normal cell division needed in manufacture of new WBCs
  • B6 the most important B vitamin: aids immunity and antibody formation
    • Deficiency leads to lessened cellular immunity, slow energy metabolism
  • B12 directly stimulates immune function
    • Deficiency leads to decreased lymphocyte proliferation and bacteriocidal activity by PolyMorphoNuclear leukocytes (ie PMNs or neutrophils)
  • B5 helps combat stress
    • Deficiencyleads to lowered humoral imunit and increased irritation of stress
  • B1, B2, B3 overall immune support and antibody production
  • Folic acid is necessary for normal cellular function
    • Deficiency leads to reduced Red Blood Cell production and increased risk of cancer

Copper

  • Improves resistance to infection
  • Deficiency leads to lowered resistance to infection

Iodine is required in neutrophil activity

Iron

  • Improves resistance against infections by increasing cellular metabolic efficiency and immune activity. Its also supports lymphocytes and neutrophils (phagocytes) and can improve bacterial killing
  • NB Excess enhances microbial growth, reduces phagocyte activity and is immunosuppressive (ie increases oxidation)
  • Deficiency leads to decreased cellular immunity and neutrophil activity

Selenium

  • Selenium supports production of glutathione peroxidase enzyme which stimulates immune response, protects against toxins and counteracts peroxides (ie free-radicals)
  • Deficiency reduces levels of cellular and humoral immunity, lowers antibody levels

6

Herbs and botanical adaptogens

  • These powerful plants stimulate the immune system during infection and cure chronic infection. They also bring immune system back to normal after infection and when you may be suffering from immune suppression (eg stress)

15

The following are the most potent immune enhancing herbs and botanicals and should only be used for short periods (up to 2 months maximum) 

  • Reishi Mushroom
    • The most important effect of the reishi mushroom is that it can boost your immune system (see this study) to treat viral infections
    • Traditionally it is used to treat a depleted immune system and to nourish it back to full health
  • Echinacea is effective against infection and providing proven treatment in:
    • Prevention and therapeutic treatment of viral respiratory tract infections
    • Treatment of temporary immunodeficiency and increased susceptibility to infections
    • Echinacea increases TH1 cell activity to fight colds and viruses and shorten the duration of illness and speeds recovery
    • Echinacea appears most effective when started as soon as symptoms are noticed, taken many times a day, and used for seven to 10 days
  • Astralagus
    • Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat viral infections
    • Enhances immune system and prevents viral, bacterial infection
    • Stimulates all aspects of immune function, especially cell-mediated immunity
    • Strengthens and heals lungs
    • Important note: do not take during acute infection or during cold or flu

The following herbs can be used for any duration

Siberian ginseng – eleuthero

  • Strengthens immune system and regular use prevents colds and infections
  • Reverses bone marrow suppression and decreased white blood cell count in patients undergoing cancer therapy
  • Enhances athletic performance and prevents immune suppression from excessive training

Prince Seng

  • Treats frequent colds and lung infections
  • Enhances immune reservoir (in combination with reishi, schisandra, dang shen, jiaogulan or eleuththero) and has broad non-specific ability to promote immune system competence

Shiitake mushroom

  • Stimulates natural killer cell activity to combat common infections such as colds
  • Builds resistance to viruses and other diseases and is immune boosting, assisting to fight infection and disease

Schisandra berry

  • Adaptogen with dual effect of nervous system – stimulating to enhance reflexes, work performance and mental activity as well as calming, reducing stress and anxiety and preventing stress induced immune depletion
  • Enhances endocrine and endocrine-mediated immune functions that are affected by stress, anxiety, anger, depression and fear
  • Note that schisandra berry should not be taken with acute viral or bacterial infections (eg colds, influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia

Jiaogulan (gynostemma)

  • Enhances immune system function and reverses / prevents immunosuppression
  • Antioxidant: enhancementment of Super Oxidase Dismutase (SOD)

He shou wu

  • Immune enhancing – enhances T lymphocytes and macrophage activity

Goldenseal

  • Improves immunity

Licorice root

7

Other Nutritional aids for Immune health:

Garlic is antibiotic, anti-microbial and has immune enhancing properties

Raw honey has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial qualities

Additional resources:

This post is sourced from my university study paper on the immune system available here.

https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32150748

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