The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against infection and disease. A healthy immune system can identify pathogens and distinguish these from the body’s cells. However, a weak immune system caused by poor nutrition and lifestyle choices can make the body susceptible to infections, like the coronavirus that is currently ravaging the world.
Fortunately, there is a way to fortify your immune system, by observing the following preventive measures against infection and disease.
A good way to super-charge the immune system is to eat nutrient-dense superfoods. Many fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals that aid bodily functions including immunity and metabolism.
Garlic contains powerful plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, such as allicin, alliin and ajoene. As an antiseptic, garlic can treat mild viral and bacterial infections including colds and flu. It is a known remedy for toothaches, coughs and constipation, but it is also used to treat cardiovascular conditions including hypertension, coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. (Related: Garlic can protect against heart tissue damage caused by reoxygenation.)
Ginger is widely considered a superfood due to its vitamin and mineral content, which includes potassium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and vitamin C. It also contains bioactive components that have antioxidant effects against disease-causing pathogens. Ginger is a known remedy for nausea, constipation and joint pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Blueberries are excellent sources of vitamin C and potassium, which stimulate the body’s immune functions including white blood cell production and pathogen recognition. Blueberries also contain high amounts of antioxidants that prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals.
Like most citrus fruits, oranges contain high amounts of vitamin C that play an important role in immunity enhancement. Oranges also contain antioxidants, such as flavonoids and carotenes, that boost immune responses.
Hygiene may not directly contribute to the body’s immune functions, but it does lower the risk of bacterial and viral infections. For instance, washing your hands and observing cough and sneeze etiquette can prevent the transmission of pathogens. Although proper hygiene is important regardless of the circumstances, it should be strictly followed especially during flu season or viral outbreaks when the rate of transmission is high.
Exercise helps decrease your chances of developing cardiovascular conditions, such as hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke. Exercise also keeps bones sturdy and prevents muscle atrophy. That being said, over-exercising does not amplify these benefits. On the contrary, over-exercising can cause muscle strain, restlessness and dehydration.
Toxins in cigarette smoke can also significantly weaken the immune system and various bodily functions including respiration and blood circulation. Often, the body can take years to restore damaged lungs, blood vessels and arteries due to smoking, so it is best to quit as soon as possible.
Poor sleep quality can increase the risk of bacterial and viral infections. During sleep, the immune system replenishes proteins known as cytokines that regulate inflammatory responses. The immune system also produces infection-fighting antibodies during this period. Individuals who do not get adequate, quality sleep risk inhibiting the production of these compounds, which can lead to a weaker immune system.
Adequate sun exposure can boost vitamin D production in the skin. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system’s antimicrobial response. The study also revealed that vitamin D can stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory receptors.
Personal hygiene and a strong immune system are the best defenses against the new coronavirus disease. Maintain a healthy immune system by consuming superfoods, avoiding poor habits and exercising regularly.