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Coronavirus lifestyle strategies and immune strengthening
April 1st, 2020 + The Naturopathic Co.

The function of the immune system is to maintain defence mechanisms that destroy and eliminate foreign material and common invaders such as bacteria and viruses. It has a protective function in the body, and is primarily activated by white blood cells called lymphocytes.

The immune system provides innate and adaptive immune responses. Innate responses are nonspecific defending against foreign material, and include inflammation, interferon, and natural killer cells. Adaptive immune responses are specific as they target invaders after prior exposure within the body.

Low immunity is the cause for predisposition to transmission of infectious agents in infants, diabetics, and the elderly, and for this reason, these people are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19.

For infants, the immune system is under-developed which puts them at a greater risk for infection. For diabetics, elevated serum glucose levels associated with diabetes alters the host immune responses, which results in the heightened predisposition to infection (Casquiero 2012). The environment of an elderly individual can influence exposure to infections, as facilities such as hospitals and retirement facilities causing greater risk to health, as well as the cumulative effect of age-related immune decline (Rajagopalan 2005).

How can we boost our antiviral defence?

Probiotics

Research shows a reduction in inflammation (Li 2019), fever, and upper respiratory symptoms when a probiotic is taken with a specific combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium daily (Kemp 2009).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and research shows that an insufficiency in vitamin C results in impaired immunity and a higher susceptibility to infections.

Omega 3 fatty acids/ fish oil

Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial to our immune system due to their anti-inflammatory activity. They also boost the immune system by enhancing B cell activity, which is a vital component of the immune system.

Zinc

Zinc is involved in diverse roles that include immune cell activation and direct antiviral activity. It is required for normal functioning of white blood cells, and is critical in generating both innate and adaptive immune responses.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is crucial in regulating immunity. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked with a number of chronic health conditions and deficiencies over winter months impact rates of illness. Vitamin D levels influence production of antibodies and enhance adaptive immune response. It also increases cathelicidin which inhibits virus replication (Tripathi 2013).  Those who supplement over the winter months have lower rates of infection.

Herbal medicines

Licorice root, Panax ginseng, Lemon balm, St John’s Wort, Andrographis, Elderberry, Olive Leaf Extract, Echinacea, and Medicinal Mushrooms all have antiviral activity. Make an appointment with your naturopath who can dispense these medicines as required. 

Increase intake of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables

5-7 serves of vegetables per day is recommended, and 2 servings of fruit. Most of us are not having close to this. By eating coloured fruit and vegetables, we fill our body with antioxidants as well as a good variety of nutrients in order to fight infection (each colour generally provides a different nutrient). Antioxidants destroy the free radicals that weaken our immune system. Include fermented foods as part of your intake – fermented vegetables, kimchi, sauerkraut for extra immune strength. These fermented foods introduce beneficial bacteria into our body and strengthen our immune response.

Lifestyle strategies

Adequate Sleep

Sleep increases our white blood cells, part of our immune system, as well as supports the initiation of our adaptive immune response. We all know this intrinsically when we have poor sleep and shortly after we start to feel like we are getting sick. Infection-fighting antibodies are reduced during periods when we don’t get enough sleep. Inflammation increases and consequently our immune function decreases.

Stress

When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced and we become more susceptible to infections. It’s never been more important to get a handle on your stress. Stress hormones lower the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering lymphocytes. The body cannot differentiate between stress. For example, the stress of watching a horror film or playing a stressful computer game induces the same stress response as being in danger. The release of stress hormones burdens the immune system and detoxification.

Exercise

The colon affects every aspect of your health, and when you have dysbiosis in the gut, it leads to reduced immune function. Exercise helps to clear toxins from the body, reduce stress, reduce inflammation, and  support immunity all at once. Over-exercising has the opposite effect and puts a strain on the immune response by causing inflammation, so ensure you are not pushing yourself too hard.

Support liver function

It’s important to regularly consume foods that naturally boost detoxification. Not only can we boost our body’s ability to detoxify through fibre, but we can eat foods which support the liver. When you have a healthy liver, it means the body can successfully remove toxins, waste, and pathogens, and your immune system is not burdened by toxicity.

Foods to increase liver function are bitter foods, lemon, cruciferous vegetables, grapefruit, berries, beetroot, dandelion, artichokes, and most alkaline foods (greens).

Minimise inflammatory foods

Most importantly, minimise the amount of food or drink which places a burden on the liver (inflammatory oils and deep-fried foods, soft drink, alcohol, caffeine (moderation), sugars, processed foods, artificial colours and preservatives, medications). These ‘foods’ place a burden on the body and provide little nutritional value. Sugars also serve as food for opportunistic pathogens, thereby wreaking havoc on the gut and altering our immune defence.

Make an appointment with your naturopath, who will prepare tailored immune support, and if needed, prescribe practitioner-only therapeutic supplements and herbal medicines direct to your door. 

1 x 30 min Immune Boost consultation (Individual). Learn how to boost your immune system, antiviral compounds, and key nutrients to help support strong immune health.

Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of conditions commonly affecting women and children, with a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions, as well as women’s hormonal concerns, digestive issues, fatigue, anxiety, and skin concerns. Yvette consults in South Yarra, Melbourne, as well as Australia-wide via skype/zoom/phone. 

 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566532/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19651563

https://www.aappublications.org/content/30/11/2.3

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3542722/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15824991

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354930/

The Naturopathic Co. Melbourne Naturopath 2020

 


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