Best Ways To Support Your Immune System

In this COVID-19 pandemic-ravaged times, people have been understandably desperate for any hint of good news.

Some came earlier this week when, in a study published by Nature Medicine on 16 March, researchers at the University of Melbourne mapping the human immune system’s response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, demonstrated how an increase in white blood cells and immunoglobulins were able to destroy the virus in a patient with a mild-to-moderate form of the disease.

This is common sense. The better your immune system, the more likely you are to fight off an infection. So what are some things we can do to support a healthy immune system and give ourselves the best chance of fighting not just COVID-19 but any virus?  

  • Sleep. Research shows that sleep enhances the immune system by facilitating the release of white blood cells as well as the formation of immunological memory.   
Photo credit: Pixabay
  • Moderate sunlight exposure. Although UV rays can cause damage to the human body, small doses are beneficial. Not only does it help your body manufacture Vitamin D, it improves sleep, enhances emotional wellbeing and potentially aids in weight loss. In addition, researchers from Georgetown University Medical Centre have recently found that sunlight can improve white blood T cell mobility. 
  • Adequate Vitamin D levels. A deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with increased susceptibility to infection and autoimmunity.
  • Vitamin C and Zinc. Adequate levels of Vitamin C and Zinc can lessen symptoms of a cold, cut the duration of upper respiratory tract infections and can improve immunity against pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea infections.
Photo credit: S Hermann and F Richter
  • Moderate exercise. Studies have shown that those who exercise regularly have increased numbers of white blood cells and only half as many colds as those who don’t exercise.
  • Exposure to therapeutic laser (red and infrared light). Multiple studies have shown that red and infrared light has positive benefits on the human immune system including: an increased activity of immune cells; cutting the incidence of colds; restoring immune-competence to cells in the autoimmune system; and improvement of immunological indices.
  • Echinacea. While the jury is still out as to whether echinacea can help guard against the common cold, research has shown that it does seem to have a positive effect on the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells.    

Surfers Health Practice Principal Dr Mark Jeffery says that one of the most important things we can do during the current COVID-19 pandemic is to stay calm.

“This is not going to be the end of the world,” he says. “Emotional stress impacts the capacity of our immune system to run efficiently. If we panic, we’re reducing our capacity to fight this infection. We need to be strong in ourselves, build our own resilience and have faith that everything is going to be okay. If we do that, we can give ourselves a fighting edge.”

Suvi Mahonen is a Surfers Paradise-based journalist. Her work appears in The Australian, the Australian Quarterly, Mamamia and other health and lifestyle publications. Follow her on Facebook, YouTube and online art-selling platform Redbubble.

Feature photo credit: Mohamed Hassan

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