As COVID-19 continues to take its toll on people across the globe, extra care for our immune system through preventative protocols using naturopathy becomes even more crucial. Although there is no specific research that shows that any of the dietary or herbal medicine can directly prevent or treat COVID-19, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be taking extra precautions to protect ourselves and boost our immunity. After all, protection from COVID-19 can be managed through the immune system, and we can certainly improve our immune system through naturopathy. In fact, even the World Health Organization is encouraging people to look at alternative ways to manage and prevent COVID-19 and the immune system holistically.
Role Of The Immune System
Our immune system is composed of organs, tissues, cells and enzymes all targeted for one purpose; to protect our body against foreign pathogens. We have two types of immune systems – the innate immune response which is nonspecific and secondly the acquired immune response, a response targeted on specific types of pathogens.
The innate immune response is our body’s first response to foreign threats. Immune cells recognize the threat and begin the inflammatory response. Acquired immune response will roll out a specific attack on foreign threats, which include releasing T cells, B cells and antibodies. These cells play an important role in generating immunological memory – the ability of the immune system to store information about a specific pathogen in preparation for future attacks by the same pathogen. A compromised immune response can lead to the function of these cells not functioning efficiently. Below are the ways that you can boost your immunity holistically through implementing diet and lifestyle changes, as well as through herbs.
8 Ways To Boost Your Immunity Through Diet
1. Eat plenty of vegetables
Think rainbow colored vegetables as they are full of essential vitamins and minerals including phytochemicals (compounds produced by plants protecting cells from damage) and antioxidants that support a healthy immune system. These includes bell peppers, purple cabbage, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes & carrots
2. Include spices in your cooking such as garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, thyme, rosemary and oregano
These herbs consist of bioactive phytonutrients (chemicals contained in plants such as carotenoids & flavonoids that have actions on the body promoting good health) with anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties that supports healthy immune function, and can protect you from COVID-19
3. Use cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
These group of vegetables are high in sulphur content which stimulates certain antioxidant genes and enzymes in our immune systems, enhancing our body’s ability to fight free radicals (an unstable atom that can cause cell damage, illness & aging) and eliminate toxins
4. Consume foods rich in Vitamin A
These foods support the integrity of the mucosal surface which are composed of epithelial cells and these cells form a barrier between hostile external environment and the internal environment. They are the secretions which are the first line of defence in the body. Beta-carotene is a source of antioxidants which reduces free radicals & is an immune stimulant. Sources of Vitamin A includes carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, squash, rock melon, pumpkin & papaya
5. Increase foods rich in Vitamin C, which is another potent antioxidant
Vitamin C rich foods reduce the length and the severity of the symptoms associated with cold and flus including supporting white blood cells responsible for our immune function. It supports healing at sites of inflammation. They are anti-viral, antibacterial, improve antibody responses and give resilience to the immune system. These includes bell peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, kiwis and pineapples
6. Buy zinc rich foods
Zinc is necessary for both innate and acquired immune function. It protects against free radical damage and increases activity of the immune cells. Zinc rich foods includes pumpkin seeds, cashews, sesame seeds & variety of mushrooms
7. Drink bone or vegetable broth infused with medicinal mushrooms
Broths especially bone broths help to seal openings in the intestinal lining of the gut that if not can lead to an overactive or a weakened immune system. Healthy intact gut equals a healthy immune system to help protect against COVID-19
8. Add prebiotic and probiotics rich food to your diets
70 – 75% of our immune system resides in the gut. To boost immunity, we need to address our gut function. Sources of prebiotics are legumes, asparagus, artichokes, and apples. Sources of probiotic foods includes fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh & coconut yogurt
6 Lifestyle Modifications To Help Protect Against COVID-19
1. Include daily physical activity
Exercise modulates the immune system by releasing pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines (large groups of proteins secreted by specific cells by the immune system) & lymphocytes (your white blood cells) which are responsible for your immune system during and after exercise. Implement at least half an hour daily of physical activity
Incorporate stress reducing activities such as, yoga, essential oils, prioritizing time for play, dance and connection
Our body repairs itself during sleep, the immune system releases certain cytokines which increase with infection or inflammation. Sleep deprivation can decrease production of these protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies. Aim for 8 hours of quality sleep
4. Expose yourself to direct sunlight daily
For appropriate amounts of Vitamin D at least 10 minutes per day & if not, allow fresh air in by opening the windows into your homes
5. Express gratitude
Daily gratitude practice has been significantly shown to promote contentment of the mind, it promotes good sleep and thereby boosting our immune system
6. Wash your hands regularly
4 Herbs To Boost Immunity & Protect You From COVID-19
The effectiveness of these four herbs are seen when taken over a period of time and consistently and not to be used right after getting sick but mostly used as a preventative measure.
1. Medicinal mushrooms & Reishi
Medicinal mushrooms have an immune-modulating effect on the body treating conditions such as chronic immune deficiency to chronic infections and used especially as a tonic for the elderly
This herb is both an immune enhancer and immune modulator. It is indicated for acute to chronic infections. Used to treat upper and lower respiratory conditions, to other systemic infections such as glandular fever. It can prevent an incoming infection, especially amongst those with compromised immune system
Known as the king of bitters. It is an immune enhancer used to treat both acute and chronic infections including conditions related to liver insufficiency & digestive weakness
This herb has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. Astragalus increases production of white blood cells and boosts resilience to infections. It has an immune enhancing effect, acts as an overall tonic to the body. It is used to treat chronic infections or used as an infection prevention especially those with a compromised immune system
Although there has been no proven research that any of these dietary, herbal or lifestyle recommendations can treat or effectively prevent COVID-19, we do know for sure that following the recommendations above can certainly improve and protect our immune system for the long haul. Preventative measures such as these are able to boost the immune system well, which in the long run can help to fight off viruses, including the coronavirus – all without side effects.