**NOTE: These recommendations are based on the available information on viruses in general. This year on top of the typical cold and flu season, we also have the added concern about the novel Corona virus (COVID-19). The COVID-19 virus is particularly virulent and novel, it appears to be mutating, and one of the severe complications appears to be overstimated immune system - called a "Cytokine Storm." So certain foods and supplements that boost the immune response, may not be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read: Is Elderberry Safe Right Now? to learn more. Experts are essentially rewriting the rule book on the fly when it comes to COVID-19, even common sense therapies like Ibuprofin are being questioned - so is important to stay on top of emerging eveidence and research regarding this particular virus. This article will be edited and updated as new information becomes available.**
Our immune system is kind of like internal armor - it is designed to protect us against harm from foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and free radicals. But sometimes if our armor is weakened, our immune system can become overwhelmed, and we get sick. This post offers tips for boosting the immune system so it can mount the best defense, and we can stay as healthy as possible.
If we can avoid introducing the virus or bacteria into the body/mucous membranes in the first place, that is the best protection of all. This would include smart strategies like good thorough hand washing with soap*, avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or face; and if you are sick do the right thing - stay home until you are not contagious in order to prevent spreading it to others. Social distancing has been identified as another key step in the lowering the transmission of pandemic viruses – which means avoiding large gatherings, no hand shaking, and staying several feet away from people.
But it is not always possible to completely avoid viruses and bacteria - some viruses can live on surface areas for days, and can be transmitted from seemingly "healthy" individuals: or you might find yourself in close quarters with sick people (like an airplane)! In order to support our immune system, we need to avoid foods and habits that make our immune system more vulnerable, and make sure we are getting enough of the key nutrients that give our immune system a boost!
SUPPORT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM:
AVOID SUGAR: If you have ever considered taking a break from sugar -- now is the time to do it! Eating sugar is one of the worst things we can do if we want to stay healthy, because sugar lowers our white blood cell effectiveness, which makes our immune system more vulnerable to viruses and bacterial infections. Chapter one of my book 'The Perfect Metabolism Plan' is titled "break up with sugar" because the #1 step to reach a healthy weight, and keep your metabolism humming, is to eat for blood sugar stability. If you need more support in breaking up with your sugar habit, consider taking my course The Break up with Sugar Program.
GET YOUR ZZZZs: Studies show that sleep deprivation can negatively affect the body's ability to mount an effective immune response to infection. So it is a good idea to practice good sleep "hygeine" - which includes turning off electronic devices at least 1 hour before bedtime.
REDUCE STRESS: Been burning the candle at both ends? Working like a dog? Can't remember the last time you had any "downtime?" When we are under stress, our immune system is not as capable when it comes to fighting off viruses and infections. So being mindful about ways that we can reduce our burdens during cold and flu season may just help us get through the season without getting knocked down with an illness. I always say, if we don't take a break occasionally, our body will force us to.
AVOID CIGARETTES & VAPING: Studies have found that both cigarette smoking and vaping can lower the body's immune system response.
LIMIT CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL: An occasional glass of wine with a meal is not likely an issue, but excessive drinking can reduce the immune system's response and make someone more susceptible to complications developing from viral infections. Alcohol can negatively affect the microbial balance of our digestive system, which plays a big role in our immune system.