No matter who you speak to, the pandemic is on everyone’s minds these days. And the question at hand, “how can I avoid coronavirus?” Well, beyond social distancing, frequent handwashing, and a disinfected home, the next most logical approach seems to be building a stronger immune system. Time is of the essence. So, while there’s currently no cure for coronavirus, researchers are exploring the links between lifestyle and stronger immune function. In the meantime, here are some healthy strategies that may help you build a stronger immune system fast.
You can’t turn your immune system on and off
Your immune system is a complex network of cells, molecules, tissues, and organs that lives throughout your entire body. It can’t be turned on and off. Its role is to protect your body from invaders like infection, disease, viruses, bacteria, and parasites. And it does a pretty awesome job doing this. But sometimes it can fail. Germs invade the body, making you sick. That’s why researchers are working hard to study the immune system and trying to find ways to make it work even better. And within the current climate, researchers need to do this quickly.
In the meantime, what can you do to build a stronger immune system? While science continues to discover the benefits of diet, exercise, and psychological stress factors on immunity, there are lifestyle changes you can make to build up your immune system and give you a fighting chance against disease, infection, and viruses.
Does getting sick build a stronger immune system?
There is actually some truth to this question. When you get a virus, you can build immunity up for that particular strain. The problem is, there could be hundreds of different strains for one family of viruses. For instance, the coronavirus that emerged out of Wuhan, China, is the product of natural evolution, according to research published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Coronaviruses are, in fact, a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from mild to severe. Coronavirus first showed up in China in 2003 as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or (SARS). A second outbreak emerged in 2012 in Saudi Arabia as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or (MERS). So, while you can still build up immunity to the two or three viruses, there are hundreds more that have not yet been encountered. Building a stronger immune system may not cure viruses like COVID-19 but it may help your body better defend itself. Here’s what you can do now.
Maintain a healthy weight
Easier said than done, right? Well, according to research, a little goes a long way. Losing just 10 pounds could correct a somewhat shaky immune system. Body fat, in general, but particularly abdominal fat, triggers the production of “pro-inflammatory” immune cells. These circulate in the blood and encourage inflammation. Want to lose 10 pounds fast? We’re not talking about starvation here. Here are a few simple steps to lose weight fast.
- Up your protein intake and eat fewer carbs. High protein diets can help reduce cravings and stop you from continuously thinking about your next meal by 60 percent.
- Remember, “protein, fat, and vegetables.” Load up on lean meat and low-carb veggies.
- Avoid processed (junk) food and eat whole food instead.
- Lower your calories by avoiding sugary sodas and drinks. Stick to three meals a day.
- Stay active with cardio exercises and try to do strength training at least three times per week.
Supplement with Turmeric
Turmeric (a bright yellow spice often used in Asian cuisine) has been touted as a wonder spice that helps ward off inflammation. Research from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that curcumin, the active compound of turmeric may be used for immune disorders due to its anti-inflammatory effects. The problem is, a dash of turmeric in a recipe every once in a while won’t allow you to reap anti-inflammatory benefits. Instead, the Arthritis Foundation recommends supplementing with 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric, three times per day. If you prefer spice form, take up to three grams of the root powder per day to boost your immunity and fight inflammation.
This is a no brainer, but it bears mentioning. Studies have found that tobacco smoke, whether firsthand or secondhand, contributes to the development of many diseases. Smoking leads to pro-inflammatory responses and dysfunction of immune cells. What does that mean in terms of fighting off viruses? More and more evidence suggests that smoking weakens the immune system, making it extremely hard for your immune system to fight off disease, infections, and viruses.
Get enough sleep
If you are deprived or lack quality sleep, you’re more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus like coronavirus. Not enough sleep negatively affects your immune system, says the Mayo Clinic. That’s not all; not enough sleep can also affect how fast your body recovers because when you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines.
Cytokines promote sleep and also decrease in production when an infection, inflammation, or stress is present. That means that while you were up all night partying, your production of protective cytokines decreased, leaving you more vulnerable to viruses. Plus, antibodies and cells that help fight the virus are also reduced.
The hard truth is, for now, there is no cure for COVID-19. But while we wait for modern medicine to catch up, why not give your immune system a fighting chance by eating healthier and making a few positive lifestyle changes. Before you know it, you’ll be on the road to building a stronger immune system, and in turn, a stronger, healthier you.
Disclaimer: “None of this has been proven to prevent, treat or remedy COVID-19, these are just things to consider.”