Natural Ways To Support Your Immunity

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These simple holistic lifestyle changes may help to naturally support your immunity during the current outbreak. With no vaccine or current treatment, our primary focus right now should be aimed at coronavirus prevention and natural support for the immune system to help improve health and prevent the spread of the disease.

Boost Your Immunity Against the Coronavirus

What is the Coronavirus?

Chances are, you already know about the coronavirus and the widespread panic that it is causing to sweep not only across the world but our home here in the United States now as well.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the coronavirus (also called Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)) is a viral respiratory illness that is quickly spreading across the world. They report that “current understanding about how the virus … spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses” and that there is more to learn (1).

Similar to the flu, the coronavirus is a contagious respiratory illness that is easily spread from person-to-person, or from contact with infected surfaces or objects. It is believed that person-to-person contact is the most common way to spread the virus.

How to Prevent Getting the Coronavirus

The CDC states that “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus” (1).

That is where these simple, everyday preventive actions can come in to help prevent both the spread and contraction of this fast-spreading diseases. These preventative actions have all been shown to help strengthen the immune system or stop the spread of this disease.

Wash Your Hands (Seriously)

Now, more than ever, it is absolutely critical that you are consistently washing your hands in order to reduce your exposure to the coronavirus.

We’ve seen the posters and signs on proper handwashing but the importance of proper handwashing cannot be emphasized enough. Practicing this important task correctly can prevent the transfer of both the coronavirus and other common illnesses like the flu, from others or objects to ourselves.

The recommendation from the CDC is to “wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing” (3). They also a complete guide on “When and How to Was Your Hands” if you need more detailed directions.

Will hand sanitizer kill the coronavirus?

The CDC states that using plain soap and water is the best method for removing germs from the hands in most situations, but if these are not available, a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol can serve as an alternative.

5 Natural Ways To Support Your Immunity During the Coronavirus Pandemic

There are no current alternative healthcare recommendations from the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization that point to the effectiveness of these natural habits against the coronavirus specifically, but we do know that they may play an important role in strengthing and supporting your overall immunity.

By naturally strengthening and supporting the immune system, we give our bodies a better chance at defending itself against a contraction of the coronavirus, or a stronger defense if the virus is contracted.

#1 – Get a Good Night’s Sleep

While getting more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting the coronavirus, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to contracting the infection.

It may sound simple, but we often underestimate how important it is for our bodies to rest and get good quality sleep. Unfortunately, sick or not, many of us suffer from poor sleep quality, sleep deprivation, or insomnia.

When the body is sleep-deprived, it releases the hormone, cortisol.  Cortisol is typically anti-inflammatory and contains the immune response, but not when it is consistently released over a long period of time. Chronic elevation of cortisol decreases the efficiency of the immune system (4).

According to the Mayo Clinic, “studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus” (5).

While it may be easier said than done, here are a few simple tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep:

  • Set a specific week-night bedtime and stick to it
  • Stop all electronic use at least 1-hour before bed
  • Get plenty of exercise throughout the day
  • Eat nutrient-dense foods throughout the day
  • Try a meditation app like Calm to fall asleep
  • Try a full-spectrum CBD oil to stay asleep

#2 – Get Enough Exercise

Yes, exercising regularly can also benefit the immune system. Eating well and exercising go hand-in-hand, so there’s no escaping this component.

Studies have shown that individuals who live a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to getting a cold, or other infections than those who lead an active lifestyle (6).

You don’t need to immediately run to the gym and buy a membership or buy a fancy exercise machine. Simply building a habit of walking for at least 30-minutes a day is a great place to start.

#3 – Make an Effort to Reduce Stress

A healthy lifestyle isn’t only comprised of a well-rounded diet and exercise. Managing stress is extremely important because it keeps the not-so-good inflammation in the body at bay.

Once stress becomes chronic or long-term, the levels of the hormone cortisol increase in the body and may impair immune system function (7). Stress management is easier said than done, but it is important for a healthy holistic lifestyle whether the coronavirus is in question or not.

Try This Recipe: Blueberry Lavender Stress Relief Smoothie

#4 – Stay Hydrated

Hydration is critical to overall health, and good hydration is important if you want to stay healthy and support your immune function. Chronic dehydration is dangerous and could become even more dangerous or potentially life-threatening if you were to contract the coronavirus.

A study from the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine stated that “health and onset of disease may be affected by the chronic hydration state of individual” (8).

Stay on top of your health and make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of water every day. Remember, unsweetened beverages count towards your daily fluid goals, too!

Try This Recipe: Honey, Lemon & Warm Ginger Water

#5 – Eat a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables

You’re probably not shocked. You hear over and over again to load up on fruits and veggies because of their ample health benefits, and it’s the truth!

The nutrients in these foods nourish the immune system so that it can function effectively and stand strong against any potential invader, including the coronavirus.

While plant-based foods are rich in important nutrients and plant compounds that help the immune system function properly, we’ll explore specific fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that are known to benefit the immune system below.

Foods That Help Support Immunity Against the Coronavirus

Below are some of the most powerful plant-based foods, herbs, and spices that have been studied for their ability to support immune function. While consuming these foods won’t prevent you from contracting the coronavirus, they may give your body a better chance at fighting the virus.

We will explore the evidence behind the following foods that are believed to help support the immune system against the coronavirus:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Berries
  • Garlic
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Probiotics

#1 – Citrus Fruits and Vitamin C for Immune Health

For years you may have been taught that orange juice was the go-to drink when you’re sick, and that’s not far from the truth.

Citrus fruits, like oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, and limes, contain a high amount of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that has been extensively studied for its role in immune health.

Vitamin C can help increase white blood cell counts naturally and these cells protect our body from infections. It may also help decrease the duration of the common cold.

While I always, always encourage consuming fresh, whole foods over supplements, there is some promising research on vitamin C and its effects on respiratory infections. Remember, the coronavirus is a viral respiratory infection with no known cure or treatment.

In this vitamin C and immune function clinical review, it was claimed that “supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections” (8).

Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin with little chance for toxicity, it is safe to consume vitamin C rich foods and vitamin C supplements at the same time, although it is not clear about how much the body will be able to utilize beyond the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).

The RDA varies based on a person’s gender, age, and current lifecycle but the current recommendation for a female 19 years of age and older, not pregnant or breastfeeding, is 75mg per day (9).

Highest Food Sources of Vitamin C

  • 1/2 cup Raw Red Bell Pepper
  • 3/4 Orange Juice
  • 1 medium-sized Fresh Orange
  • 3/4 cup Grapefruit Juice
  • 1 medium-sized Kiwifruit
  • 1/2 cup Raw Green Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Cooked Broccoli
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Strawberries
  • 1/2 cup Cooked Brussels Sprouts
  • 1/2 medium-sized grapefruit
  • 1/2 cup Raw Broccoli
  • 3/4 Cup Tomato Juice

Try This Recipe: Mandarin Orange & Rosemary Hot Toddy

#2 – All Types of Berries for Immune Health

Consuming fresh or frozen berries is a great way to support your overall immune health because these fruits contain good amounts of flavanols,  phytochemicals, and contain a large number of vitamins.

Flavonols are a type of antioxidant that can support the immune system. In addition, berries also contain Vitamin C, which we mentioned above to be an important nutrient for immune health.

In a clinical review of the health effects of berries on human health, it was found that:

“Effects ranged from support of the immune system and beneficial microbiota to reduction in the number and size of premalignant and malignant lesions. These results demonstrate the potency of berries and suggest berries can serve as a strong adjuvant to established treatments or therapies for a variety of gastrointestinal and immune-related illnesses.” (10).

Popular berries consumed for immune health include:

Try This Recipe: Berry Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Berry Quinoa Breakfast Bowl for Immune Health

#3 – Eat More Garlic for Immune Health

Not only is eating garlic a natural remedy to settle an upset stomach, but it’s a popular home remedy for the common cold. The main active ingredient, allicin, is produced when garlic is crushed or chewed and produces germ-fighting properties. 

Garlic is thought to have powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, which makes it a viable contender to help support the immune system against infection from the coronavirus.

There is little evidence to clearly identify the mechanism of action that contributes to garlic’s potential antiviral abilities, especially in relation to the coronavirus, but a few studies have been conducted with garlic extract (11) that showed in vitro activity against:

  • Influenza A and B (12)
  • Cytomegalovirus (13), (14)
  • Rhinovirus, HIV, herpes simplex virus 1 (15)
  • Herpes simplex virus 2 (16)
  • Viral pneumonia, and rotavirus (11)

Try This Recipe: Sheet Pan Garlic Tofu & Brussels Sprouts

Sheet Pan Garlic Tofu and Brussels Sprouts from Emily Kyle Nutrition

#4 – Fish and Seafood For Immunity

Ensuring you are including enough zinc in your diet is absolutely critical for immune health. Zinc is essential for the normal development of healthy functioning cells and aids in fighting off bacteria and viruses.

A zinc deficiency has a direct effect on our immune cells and can increase the risk of inflammation and even death (17).

Other common food sources of zinc include:

  • Meat: Beef, dark meat chicken, organ meats like liver
  • Shellfish: Crab, lobster, crawfish
  • Mollusks: Oysters, mussels
  • Legumes: beans, chickpeas, peas
  • Eggs

Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are known to regulate immune function, which is why it is critical to consume enough each day (18). Omega-3’s, found in higher amounts in fatty fish like salmon, help increase the functioning of white blood cells which protect the immune system.

Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are known to regulate immune function, which is why it is critical to consume enough each day (18). Omega-3’s, found in higher amounts in fatty fish like salmon, help increase the functioning of white blood cells which protect the immune system.

Try This Recipe for both Zinc & Omega-3’s: Fish en Papillote

Fish en Papillote by Emily Kyle Nutrition

#5 – Consume More Probiotics for Immunity

With probiotic supplements rising in popularity, there are now quite literally thousands of products on the market. And for good reason, we know that our gut health plays a critical role in our overall health, from digestion to immunity, metabolism and mood, and so much more.

To date, the benefit in humans have not been conclusively demonstrated, and we know that not all probiotics have the same effects. There are many different strains, combinations of strains, the strength of dosages and more to take into account.

Fortunately, there has been some evidence to support the beneficial use of probiotics for immunity, after the use of antibiotics, as well as in cases of irritable bowel syndrome.

In a review published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, the report states “there is now substantial evidence that probiotics can also provide benefits by modulating immune functions” (19).

Try This Recipe: Homemade Probiotic Non-Dairy Coconut Milk Yogurt

#6 – Consume More Cannabis For Immunity

As a Holistic Cannabis Practitioner, I believe in the power of plant-based medicine as I see the power of cannabis and cannabinoid therapy to help my clients with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions every day.

While the scientific-evidence to evaluate the effects of cannabis or cannabinoid-based therapeutics on immunity in human subjects is quite limited, there are some promising preliminary research and a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the role of cannabis use in immune support because of what we know about the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

What we do know is that “endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids have been identified and have been proposed as native modulators of immune functions through cannabinoid receptors” (20).

Even more interesting, in a study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research results from the cross-sectional National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2016 was examined and found a correlation between self-reported cannabis users and average White Blood Cell (WBC) count.

White blood cells function mainly as immune cells in the body, and this correlation suggest that “a modest association between heavy cannabis use and WBC count was detected” (21).

Of course, smoking is not the healthiest way to consume cannabis, especially when considering the possibility of a respiratory infection like the coronavirus. A safer way to consume cannabis would be to safely and responsibly consume cannabis edibles.

Try This Recipe: Crockpot Cannabis Coconut Oil

Cannabis Coconut Oil by Emily Kyle Nutrition

Natural Ways to Support Your Immunity Article Overview

As you can see, preventing the spread of disease and strengthening your immune system doesn’t have to come in the form of pills, food and lifestyle is the best form of preventative medicine.

As outlined in this article, the best natural ways to support your immunity against the coronavirus include:

  • Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Focus on moving your body and getting enough exercise
  • Make an effort to reduce stress or a plan to manage stress better
  • Stay hydrated with non-sugar beverages
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables

I’ve given you a glimpse of some foods that provide immune-supporting properties, but there are a lot of other nutrient-dense, plant-based foods out there that can significantly benefit your health, as well. That is why a diet filled with a variety of foods is always encouraged.

Working with a qualified healthcare professional is a great place to start if you are not sure where to start with supplementation or whole-food diet implementation.

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