How To Support Your Immune System During The COVID-19 Pandemic
A doctor and nutritionist weigh in.
The unfolding coronavirus (COVID-19) situation means that we are all dealing with a lot of uncertainty and change to our day-to-day routine. At Gritty Pretty, we want to help you navigate through this time. We’ll be sharing self care advice and tips on how to look after your body and mental health. If there are any topics you want Gritty Pretty to cover, please send us a DM on Instagram.
With Australians in lock down, it’s normal to feel a little easy right now. As COVID-19 continues to spread, it’s imperative that we all take measures to lower our chances of contracting the virus.
First things first: take a deep breath and follow the government’s recommendation to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.
If you’re worried about your immune system, there are a few things you can do to help support your body as it wards off illness (both Coronavirus and otherwise) as we navigate through this tricky period and edge closer towards winter.
Back To Basics
According to Dr. Preeya Alexander (otherwise known as The Wholesome Doctor), there are two potentially life saving measures being strongly encouraged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Department of Health. They are: “Washing your hands regularly (ideally with soap and water) and social distancing (ensuring 1.5 metres between people, avoiding handshakes and kisses etc.).”
Take Care Of Yourself
To function at its peak, your immune system will benefit from a diet high in fruit and vegetables (more on that later) but “staying physically active and managing stress is crucial,” Dr. Alexander explains. “We also know that some dietary deficiencies (such as zinc) and inadequate sleep can have a negative impact on the immune system.”
Sorting Fact From Fiction
“There are many things being touted currently on social media to help ‘boost’ or support the immune system – including boiling garlic cloves and burning specific essential oils,” Dr. Alexander says. “There is no evidence to support these measures (the WHO has a wonderful page dedicated to addressing common myths associated with COVID-19 to combat misinformation). I would tell people to rely on reliable sources of information like the WHO and DoH.”
Speaking Of Food…
Teresa Cutter, AKA The Healthy Chef, advocates for healthy living all year round – but especially now. By eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, you will nourish your gut and therefore your immune system as “they are so closely connected,” Cutter says. “In fact, the majority (about 70 per cent) of our immune system resides in the gut, ready to fight against any ingested nasties that don’t belong there. Collagen and vitamin C are two powerhouse foods.”
Cutter’s top six foods to support your immune system are:
“To have a strong immune system your body needs a daily supply of quality protein. Research has shown that deficiency of high-quality protein can result in depletion of immune cells, the inability of the body to make antibodies, and other immune-related problems.”
“Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in many types of fruits, vegetables and supplements. One of the most well-known benefits of vitamin C is its ability to improve immune health. In fact, loading up on vitamin C foods is often used as a first line of defence during the cold and flu season.
“Vitamin C acts like your immune boosting personal bodyguard, helping to protect cells and assist in healing. Studies show the use of vitamin C can reduce the duration and symptoms of colds and respiratory tract infections.”
Foods high in vitamin C include: broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, oranges, papaya, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries and tomatoes.
Matcha Green Tea
“Recognised as a superfood, matcha green tea contains high levels of antioxidants as well as various compounds associated with improving immune health and stabilising blood sugar levels. It also contains l-theanine, which is a rare amino acid that supports the adrenal system and the way your body reacts to stress.”
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Images from Earth To Table by Teresa Cutter
“Traditionally, turmeric has been used to help reduce inflammation. Turmeric is high in antioxidants, in particular curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric and is used in Ayurvedic medicine to support digestion, immune, skin and gut health.”
You can find Cutter’s Collagen Beauty Balls recipe (featuring a healthy dose of turmeric) here.
“Ginger is used as a potent detoxifying and antiviral herb that helps the body get rid of toxins, stimulate circulation and boost your immune system. It is regarded as a natural antibiotic for the body and helps to reduce congestion and mucus production. Ginger also helps to stimulate digestion, gut motility and bowel function while helping to relieve bloating, cramping and nausea.”
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Images from Earth To Table by Teresa Cutter
Fruit & vegetables
“Loading up on a few of my favourite top immune-supporting foods is a simple way to nourish a healthy immune system and boosting your health. Fruits and vegetables are rich in the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants necessary to support your immune system and overall wellbeing.”
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