Boost Your Immune System Against Respiratory Illness
The recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been complicated by what the World Health Organization is calling a massive ‘infodemic’ due to an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.
We agree. In fact, there may even be more panic in the air right now than airborne infection, especially if you’re following the outbreak online.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take coronavirus seriously. Like the flu, coronavirus is a respiratory infection, and complications from these kinds of infections can be severe. They may also worsen long-term medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
But there are plenty of practical everyday precautions you can take – wash your hands, for instance, and try not to touch your face; clean your cell phone, and stay home if you’re sick. There’s also lots you can do to strengthen your immune system and boost your body’s ability to heal if you do get sick.
Start with optimum nutrition, getting more immune-boosting and inflammation-reducing nutrients in particular. For example vitamin D, which is also great for your oral health, may provide increased protection from infections. Vitamin A is likewise known for defending against infection while also having anti-inflammatory properties. With pneumonia being one common complication of respiratory infections, building your body’s ability to control that inflammation is key.
Zinc is another good nutrient to increase for building up your immune system. Research suggests that it can help control infections by “gently tapping the brakes on the immune response.” Glutathione – the master antioxidant – also plays a key role in controlling infection in the lungs, as does selenium.
And who can forget good old vitamin C, which deserves its stellar reputation for being beneficial against all kinds of infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, Candida albicans, and protozoa. And if you do become sick, megadoses of vitamin C may help you recover faster. The government of Shanghai, China has even gone so far as to officially recommend that COVID-19 should be treated with high amounts of intravenous vitamin C. While IV vitamin C isn’t exactly a DIY remedy, liposomal vitamin C, is another powerful way to prevent or lessen infection by controlling oxidative stress.
Ideally, you’ll get most of these nutrients in their original packaging – whole foods (though because of the need to megadose, getting enough C means supplements). Elderberry is one good food source of vitamin C (and makes terrific popsicles!), and leafy greens have a range of immune-boosting nutrients – especially when you toss in some bacteria-busting garlic. Elderberry juice syrup may also reduce the severity and duration of your infection if taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms.
Homeopathic remedies have also been found helpful over the years. A good homeopathic medicine cabinet for colds and flu includes the likes of gelsemium, bryonia, eupatorium, arsenicum, aconite, belladonna, ferrum phos, mercurius, rhus toxicodendron, and oscillococcinum.
However, for supplements and remedies alike, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should always talk with a knowledgeable integrative practitioner to make sure you get the right doses in the right combination of good quality products. (Not all supplements are created equal.)
Another thing you can do is cut out sugar or do intermittent fasting to enhance your immune system. Dr. Yasmine Belkaid, an immunologist at the National Institutes of Health, performed a study on mice where she restricted their food intake by 20%. “It’s like skipping a meal,” Belkaid said. And the result?
She found that memory T cells, which produce molecular weapons to kill pathogens and cancers, suddenly became supercharged when they retreated to the bone marrow.
“Not only were they able to survive, they were also optimized, and these T cells were able to protect [the body] better,” said Belkaid.
If it feels impossible to protect yourself and your family against the invisible infectious agents that cause disease, especially when the news outlets put you in high-panic mode, know the more you have in your immune-boosting toolbox, the better off you are.