Boosting immune system keeps the doctor away

Johannesburg – The global pandemic has highlighted the need to stay healthy and keep our immune systems as strong as possible.

It is well-documented that people with co-morbidities and poorly functioning immune systems are at the highest risk of getting really ill from Covid-19.

Although you cannot suddenly reverse a co-morbidity or instantly boost your immune system, now is a good time to make your health and natural defences a priority.

Below are tips on how to boost the immune system and keep it that way.

What is the immune system?

The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend the body against infection. It also keeps a record of every germ (microbe) it has ever defeated, so it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again.

The fact that Covid-19 is a novel (new) pathogen, means our bodies don’t have any existing antibodies to mount a defence. For that reason, it remains imperative to continue wearing masks and practising social distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette.

Can over-the-counter vitamins and supplements help? There is no magic pill that will instantly boost your immune system.

However, together with healthy lifestyle habits, various supplements can boost your immune system and give you a fighting chance.

What is considered useful vitamins and supplements to take?

Respiratory system. PICTURE: INSTAGRAM

The recommendation for general health is a combination of five essential vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy.

These include:

Vitamin C:

Supplementing with Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold.

This vitamin can also be found in oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, strawberries, red bell peppers and tomato juice.

Vitamin D:

Also fights off infections and maintains strong bones.

Vitamin D has been highly researched in connection with Covid-19 because of its effect on the immune system.

It is found in salmon, mushrooms, milk, cereals and breads.

Studies have shown that Vitamin D can expedite healing and stall inflammation in the respiratory system, but there has not been robust clinical evidence to prove its use against Covid-19.

Vitamin A:

Helps regulate the immune system and protects against infections by keeping your tissues and skin healthy.

It can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots and spinach.

Vitamin E:

Is an essential antioxidant that helps fight cell damage. Nuts and peanut butter are filled with Vitamin E.

Zinc:

Works as an antioxidant and boost the metabolism along with healing wounds. Meat, shellfish, beans/legumes and nuts/seeds are high zinc foods.

Zinc is needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in inflammatory response.

A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease. It has also been highly researched in the fight against Covid-19, but sadly has not shown any proven clinical results.

Your mental state influences your physical health. Our immune and lymphatic systems are chemical-based, so we are a collection of chemicals, from our brains to our bones.

The air we breathe converts into chemicals that we need to fuel our cells.

The way we breathe matters and even impacts our body chemistry. The physiological responses to deep, controlled, mindful breathing are so profound that if we could bottle them and sell them as drugs, they’d be worth a fortune.

Learn to exhale, activate your diaphragm, breathe deeply and work on fixing your posture. The state of our health is not black and white, nor can it be affected by one-stop solutions. A holistic approach to health will always win against quick fixes.

Once we understand that, improvements in these body systems can happen naturally.

• Mkhatshwa is head of operations at Bonitas Medical Fund.

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