University of Maryland
With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infecting many, people are seeking to boost their immune systems. We definitely need our bodies’ defenses to be as strong as possible. How can this be done?
Like the Army, the immune system is an intricate network of units that act together to combat invaders, in this case bacteria, viruses and other “enemies.”
Since it is a system of many parts, not a single unit, it cannot technically be boosted. However, it can be strengthened to run efficiently in order to fight off diseases. Keep your body’s soldiers fit and ready by living a healthy lifestyle.
Boosting Immunity to Prevent COVID
While there are no COVID medications or immunity-boosting supplements that can cure or prevent coronavirus, there are steps you can take to make your defenses as strong as possible.
And at the same time, you’ll want to practice these precautions for preventing the virus.
Healthy living strategies you can do for your immune system include:
Exercising regularly – Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables – Use the MyPlate technique to determine portions and types of healthy foods that are best for nourishing your army.
Maintaining a healthy weight – Aim for a BMI of 25 or lower. The best way to lose weight is with exercise and a healthy, balanced diet.
Getting quality sleep – Set a schedule and routine for sleep and practice good sleep hygiene.
Reducing stress and developing good coping mechanisms – Include activities in your daily life that help you handle stress, like virtually connecting with loved ones, going outside, practicing meditation regularly, exercising, making art or other hobbies.
Quitting smoking – If you smoke, you can get support to help you quit.
Drinking alcohol only in moderation, if at all – Limit the amount of alcohol you keep in the house or limit the number of glasses/bottles you drink.
Taking steps to prevent infection – This includes washing your hands frequently and social distancing.
Immunity Support Supplements
Chris D’Adamo, PhD, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, helped create a prevention strategies guide with the Institute for Functional Medicine. These guidelines are in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition to the above listed lifestyle and behavior practices, he recommends using the following supplements in moderation to keep the immune system functioning at its best:
Vitamin C may help prevent viral, bacterial and other infections by shortening the duration of colds and acting as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.
Vitamin D is one of the most important immune system-strengthening nutrients that can reduce the risk of colds and flu; this should be taken on a regular basis.
Vitamin A, when used on a short-term basis, can help support the body’s ability to fight infections, especially with respiratory infections.
Zinc can help reduce the number of infections and the duration of the common cold when taken within 24 hours of onset.
Selenium is a key nutrient for immune function and is easily obtained from foods like the Brazil nut. Selenium is also an antioxidant, which strengthens the body’s defenses against bacteria, viruses and cancer cells.
Raw honey is good at relieving minor pain and inflammation of mucous membranes, like nose and mouth, and has antioxidant properties and some microbial effects; it is helpful for coughs and sore throats and can be added to tea or hot water with lemon. (Note that children under 1 should not be given honey.)
Garlic, fresh, aged extract and garlic supplements, may reduce the severity of upper viral respiratory infections and function in preventing viral infections of the common cold.
Probiotics contain “good bacteria” that both support gut health and influence the function and regulation of the immune system. They also can decrease the number of respiratory infections, especially in children.
Further research has been conducted and the following additional supplements are now recommended as options for strengthening immunity:
Beta-glucans – numerous human trials have shown that beta-glucans stimulate activity against viral attack, these findings include a decrease in cold and flu symptoms and upper respiratory tract infections compared to placebo.
Mushrooms – a variety of mushroom species have been shown to help with immune function in a myriad of ways; some of the medicinal mushrooms include Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, and Reishi.
Berberine – found in the roots, rhizomes, and stem bark of various plants, this natural compound has been shown to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties; it can be found in goldenseal, goldthread and Oregon grape species.
Sulforaphane – sulforaphane has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties; it can be produced in the body in small amounts by eating some cruciferous vegetables or in more therapeutic amounts in dietary supplements containing glucoraphanin and myrosinase enzyme.
Elderberry – studies have shown that elderberry has properties that appear to help fight viruses; choose a low-sugar capsule or tablet, if possible, as opposed to sugary syrup.
It is very important to understand that these supplements are suggestions and more research needs to be done. If you want to try these, be sure to communicate with your health care provider and take them in moderation or as your doctor recommends.
If you feel sick now, please don’t hesitate to contact your provider. Many offer telemedicine and can advise you how to treat your symptoms right away or if you need to get more advanced care.