When news of the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out, it was only a matter of time before “miraculous ways to combat the virus” followed suit. A number of reports stated that loading up on citrus fruit, probiotics, or herbal teas and supplements could give your system the boost it needed to keep you safe.
While the idea of being able to boost your immune system against COVID is an attractive one, there is no evidence that any of these methods will do the trick.
Can You Boost Your Immune System Against COVID (Or In Any Context)?
Well, the immune system is much more complicated than that. It’s not a single entity – it’s an entire system. It needs harmony and balance to function optimally. At the moment, there are no scientifically-proven correlations between lifestyle and strengthened immune function, which is why the idea of “boosting” your immunity has proved elusive for various reasons. It is closer to a social health trend than a scientific certainty.
This doesn’t rule out the fact that your lifestyle does play a significant role in ensuring your immune system isn’t compromised. Factors such as diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and its effects on immune response are still being explored. For now, maintaining a healthy way of life is a good way to give your body the upper hand against fighting COVID.
What Can and Should You Do?
Get Enough Rest
Sleep is vital for maintaining bodily functions. For decades, we as a society have neglected the importance of sleep. Not anymore. Experts now agree that one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system is to get a good night’s sleep, consistently.
Numerous findings conducted over the years have demonstrated how lousy sleep weakens your immune system, leaving you susceptible to infection. According to The Sleep Foundation, people who sleep less than the ideal 7 hours per night are more vulnerable to developing chronic illnesses (heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s), as well as infectious diseases (common cold and influenza). More food for thought is that better quality sleep is said to improve the effects of vaccines – meaning sleep clearly benefits adaptive immunity.
During times like this, you might good quality sleep doesn’t come as easily – read this article on How To Stop COVID-Related Anxiety From Disrupting Your Sleep.
Fostering a completely healthy immune system requires wholesome, regular nourishment. Medical officials have acknowledged that malnourished people are more defenseless to infectious diseases. However, whether this vulnerability is a result of poor nutrition is not clear. As with most of the studies on the human immune system, relatively few have been conducted.
Besides all this, a well-balanced diet is imperative to many of the body’s functions – you don’t need to jump on the new superfood trend to combat COVID-19, but eating well won’t hurt.
One of the pillars of healthy living is regular exercise. There’s a whole website dedicated to it – exercise is medicine. It enhances cardiovascular health, helps control body weight, lowers blood pressure, and guards against a variety of diseases. But does it boost your immune system and keep it healthy?
Similarly to eating well, staying active can facilitate overall good health, and consequently, a healthy immune system.
The boost would stem more from good circulation, which enables the cells and components of the immune system to move more freely and do their job efficiently.
Keep Stress Levels Down
An unfavorable insight into the human immune system is that psychological stress has been found to hinder it. Modern medicine has come to value the intricate connection between the mind and body. In fact, various common conditions, such as an upset stomach, hives, and heart disease, are linked to the adverse effects of emotional stress. Despite obstacles, scientists are actively studying the relationship between stress and immune function.
Stress is one of the biggest threats to our immune system, especially when exposed to chronic stressors – meaning managing daily stressors, and managing them well, is a significant aspect of our wellbeing.
It goes without saying that coping mechanisms such as alcohol, smoking, and binge-eating are not good ways to manage stress. And understandably, aggravates any attempt the body makes to stay well-balanced.
Instead turn to cultivating healthier coping mechanisms, such as meditation or partaking in a mindfulness activity like yoga. It will keep your immune system happy – both the physical and the psychological one.
Is “Boosting” The Immune System A Total Bust?
Well no, since every element of your body, including your immune system and mental functions, perform better when strengthened by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In turn, this means that in the event of a COVID-19 infection, your body will be able to operate the way it was intended to and fight the virus naturally.
However, as a whole, the idea of an immune-boosting solution to COVID-19 infections only emphasizes that we need to continue following guidelines such as social distancing, masks and good hygiene practices.