Although laboratories around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, and some treatments are helping to improve recovery time in hospitalised patients, there is currently no available pharmacological cure. If infected, our best weapon against COVID-19 is our immune system. We know that lack of sleep, stress and bad habits such as smoking can have a negative impact on how our bodies fight viruses. So, what can we do to improve our immune system?
Sleep: Make sure you are getting the hours you need to allow your body to heal. Results from a study published in an American journal —in which 153 volunteers were inoculated with a common cold—showed that those who slept for less than seven hours a night were three times more susceptible to developing cold symptoms than the group who slept for more than eight hours.
Cut the Binge: We know the word ‘pandemic’ can drive stress levels up, and stress can lead to reaching for that glass of wine too often. Be mindful of your alcohol intake! Apublished study found that heavy drinkers have an increased risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)—and this syndrome is the most life-threatening complication caused by COVID-19.
Eat for Nourishment: Like most of us, you probably have quite a few packets of pasta sitting in your pantry right now. That—combined with around the clock quarantine snacking—is the perfect recipe for a high-sugar diet. Be mindful of our choices. A healthy immune system needs regular micronutrients and nourishment. It is proven that deficiencies in zinc, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E alter immune response in mammals.
Feed Your Gut: The microbes in our intestines are an important barrier against infection. To make sure your flora is balanced, doctors recommend eating a varied diet that is high in fibre, with some fermented foods added to it. Some good options are kefir yogurt and pickled foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut.
Keep Moving: You can’t hit the gym right now but that’s no excuse to become a couch potato. An optimised immune system requires a fit body. Search on YouTube for ‘home workout’ and you will see endless options. Breaking a sweat in your living room will reduce stress by lowering hormones such as cortisol—the same hormone which in high levels can compromise immune function.