The human body is a wonderful thing. Did you know that you can reduce your risk of contracting viruses like Covid-19 and lower your severity of infection by working on building up and improving your immune system?
I contracted Covid- 19 a month ago. My symptoms were mild and they lasted for about two-three days.
The current messages to avoid contracting Covid 19 are mask wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene but what about messages on how to build a healthy immune system?
Each individual can work on building a healthy immune system to help protect themselves from current and future infectious diseases.
The immune system “The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection” What we want to strive for is an immune system that functions well by switching on when infection hits and switching off when the infection is gone and dealt with. A well-functioning immune system will help improve resilience to infection; how you cope and recover.
Building a healthy immune system.
Vitamin D Vitamin D plays an important role in supporting a healthy immune system. Having healthy levels of Vitamin D is crucial as this will help to keep your immune system healthy and lower your risk of infection and disease. It is important to get your levels checked form your GP and if low, discuss your options with your GP.
Blood sugar level control High blood sugar levels can weaken a person's immune system defences. Do you have Type 2 Diabetes or have you been told that you have Pre-Diabetes or that your sugar levels are getting high? If so, it's important to try and manage your blood glucose levels. Diet plays an important role in blood glucose control and an Accredited Practicing Dietitian can help provide evidenced based education and also provide you with an individualised plan moving forward.
Diet Eating enough nutrients as part of a varied diet is required for the health and function of all cells, including immune cells. Eating enough calories is also very important as often I see clients who are simply not eating enough to support their requirements. Limiting ultra processed foods (high in sugar and fat) to 10% of the time is key. They don't need to be restricted but rather balanced within a healthy and varied diet. Variety is key including enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant based proteins, dairy and small amounts of local sustainable animal protein. Water is important also so try to aim for 2L per day. Eating the right balance of foods to create a healthy gut microbiome is also super important.
Read more about this in the section below.
Gut microbiome We have many microbes (Eg Bacteria) living inside of us that help fight off external threats such as viruses. The bacteria in the gut help balance the immune response to these external threats. Bacteria help with our immune response to both infections within the gut but also infections in other parts of the body such as the lungs. Gut bacteria produce antiviral proteins that help to get remove viral infections. If your gut does not contain all the beneficial gut bacteria, your immune response to external viruses may not be as strong.
So how to create a healthy gut with lots of healthy bacteria? Check out my previous Gut Microbiome blog here :-) https://adelaidenutrition.com.au/blog-1/the-gut-microbiome-let-food-be-thy-medicine
Sleep Sleep quantity and quality is essential for a healthy immune system. Achieving the correct quantity and quality will help with a well-balanced immune system. Improving sleep starts with improving sleep hygiene. This includes having the right mattress, having a good pre bed routine including being off of cell phones and tablets before bed, having a good sleeping environment and having a consistent sleep schedule.
How much sleep? Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
Stress Are you feeling stressed, burned out, frustrated with your current schedule and routine? Not feeling like you have enough time for rest or for yourself? Feeling like you are rushing from place to place all the time? Do you need to readjust your work/life balance? Stress affects all systems of the body including the immune system. Chromic stress affects the immune system's ability to fight off external viruses. The stress hormone corticosteroid rises and in turn can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system.
Ways to reduce stress in your life:
Reassess your work/life balance
Maintain a healthy social support network
Engage in regular physical exercise
Get an adequate amount of sleep each night
Try to set aside time to relax and chill with some stretching, meditation, reading, watching your favourite show or movie or journal writing.
I hope that you have found this blog useful. As always, if you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to me.
Happy Healthy Immune System!
Mattea Palombo Accredited Practicing Dietitian
PS Check out our new lovely website :-) www.adelaidenutrition.com.au