7 Antiviral Foods To Boost Your Immune System

7 Antiviral Foods To Boost Your Immune System

  • April 30, 2020

What you eat has a significant impact on your energy, your sleep, your mood. And certain foods may fortify your immune system too, helping it fight off viruses and bacteria that could make you sick.

To be clear, just eating the right diet won’t make you immune to coronavirus. You should still stick with the latest recommendations for your area: staying indoors, wearing a face mask when you go out, avoiding close contact with others.

But during the pandemic, we need all the help we can get. And it’s true that certain foods have been shown to protect your health and have antiviral properties. Mascha Davis, RDN, founder of NomadistaNutrition.com and author of Eat Your Vitamins, gave us the inside scoop on what antiviral foods we should be stocking up on now.

<h2>Garlic</h2> <br>Yes, garlic is as good as everyone says. "Compounds found in garlic can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26764332" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:reduce the severity of colds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">reduce the severity of colds</a> by boosting the immune system," explains Davis. "<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417560/pdf/JIR2015-401630.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Garlic also regulates the immune response" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Garlic also regulates the immune response</a>, which is responsible for the therapeutic effect of this food." <br><span class="copyright">Photo: Getty Images.</span><br><br>


Yes, garlic is as good as everyone says. “Compounds found in garlic can reduce the severity of colds by boosting the immune system,” explains Davis. “Garlic also regulates the immune response, which is responsible for the therapeutic effect of this food.”
Photo: Getty Images.

<h2>Ginger</h2> <br>"Ginger has many powerful compounds, including gingerols, shogaol, and paradols," Davis says. "These may help to improve immunity by <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:enhancing antioxidant function" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">enhancing antioxidant function</a> and reducing oxidative stress." Ginger may also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23123794" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:block viruses" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">block viruses</a> from attaching to cells.<br><span class="copyright">Photo: Getty Images.</span><br><br>


“Ginger has many powerful compounds, including gingerols, shogaol, and paradols,” Davis says. “These may help to improve immunity by enhancing antioxidant function and reducing oxidative stress.” Ginger may also block viruses from attaching to cells.
Photo: Getty Images.

<h2>Leafy Greens</h2> <br>Leafy greens are packed with nutrients, such as folate, vitamin K, fiber, and calcium. "They've recently been found to stimulate the immune system beyond the nutritional benefits by <a href="https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(11)01136-6?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867411011366%3Fshowall%3Dtrue" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:signaling between the microbiota and the immune system" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">signaling between the microbiota and the immune system</a>," says Davis. Translation: They help <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/do-probiotics-work" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:your gut bugs" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">your gut bugs</a> talk to your immune system. I'll take it!<br><span class="copyright">Photo: Getty Images.</span><br><br>

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are packed with nutrients, such as folate, vitamin K, fiber, and calcium. “They’ve recently been found to stimulate the immune system beyond the nutritional benefits by signaling between the microbiota and the immune system,” says Davis. Translation: They help your gut bugs talk to your immune system. I’ll take it!
Photo: Getty Images.

<h2>Green tea</h2> <br>"Some compounds in green tea <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23835657" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:have been" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">have been </a><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23835657" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:proven to stimulate T-cells" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">proven to stimulate T-cells</a>," Davis says. T-cells are responsible for killing off viruses and bacteria that wind up in your body. "Catechins in tea are also antimicrobial, antioxidative, and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6076941/pdf/BMRI2018-9105261.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:may help reduce disease risk" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">may help reduce disease risk</a>," she adds.<br><span class="copyright">Photo: Getty Images.</span><br><br>

Green tea

“Some compounds in green tea have been proven to stimulate T-cells,” Davis says. T-cells are responsible for killing off viruses and bacteria that wind up in your body. “Catechins in tea are also antimicrobial, antioxidative, and may help reduce disease risk,” she adds.
Photo: Getty Images.

<h2>Cruciferous vegetables</h2> <br>We're talking broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. "Some research suggests that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables could stimulate a gene that boosts immunity," Davis says. <br><span class="copyright">Photo: Getty Images.</span><br><br>

Cruciferous vegetables

We’re talking broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. “Some research suggests that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables could stimulate a gene that boosts immunity,” Davis says.
Photo: Getty Images.

<h2>Turmeric</h2> <br>Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28799796" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:has powerful anti-inflammatory properties" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">has powerful anti-inflammatory properties</a>. Davis says that even low doses of it enhances <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/04/9738217/can-i-get-antibody-test-covid-coronavirus" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:antibody responses" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">antibody responses</a>, an indicator that your body is fighting off illnesses. You can cook with turmeric, a spice, but you can find curcumin supplements at any health food store too.<br><span class="copyright">Photo: Getty Images.</span><br><br>


Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Davis says that even low doses of it enhances antibody responses, an indicator that your body is fighting off illnesses. You can cook with turmeric, a spice, but you can find curcumin supplements at any health food store too.
Photo: Getty Images.

<h2>Nuts and seeds</h2> <br>Nuts and seeds are high in vitamin E. This nutrient <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266234/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:helps the body produce T-cells" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">helps the body produce T-cells</a>, which in turn can kill off infectious bugs. Nuts also contain good-for-you antioxidants, Davis says.<span class="copyright">Photo: Getty Images.</span><br>

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are high in vitamin E. This nutrient helps the body produce T-cells, which in turn can kill off infectious bugs. Nuts also contain good-for-you antioxidants, Davis says.Photo: Getty Images.

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What Is Immunosenescence and How to Boost Immune System as You Age

What Is Immunosenescence and How to Boost Immune System as You Age

  • April 30, 2020

Every cold and flu season, and especially now during the novel coronavirus outbreak, we’re reminded that older adults tend to be hit harder by viral infections and other illnesses. That’s mostly because, as we age, our immune systems start to weaken.

Cooking more regularly at home and staying active are two ways to help slow immunosenescence.

Image Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/GettyImages

This gradual decline in immunity, known as immunosenescence, is one reason why older adults are at increased risk of health issues — from chronic diseases (such as heart disease and cancer) to dangerous complications (such as pneumonia) from illnesses like COVID-19. Immunosenescence even makes protective vaccinations, like the flu shot, less effective in older people, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

And while scientists agree that part of this process is natural and inevitable, studies suggest that there is also a lot that older adults can do to preserve and strengthen their immune systems.

Here’s what’s happening with the body’s natural defenses over time, and how we can protect ourselves well into our golden years.

The Science Behind Immunosenescence

Some of the most obvious signs of aging are physical: As we get older, we develop wrinkles as our skin loses its elasticity and we go gray as our hair loses its pigment. Some signs are mental: Memory loss becomes more common and some people develop degenerative brain diseases like dementia.

At the same time, something similar but less obvious is happening to the body’s aging immune system.

“It’s the same with every organ in the body,” says Nir Barzilai, MD, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Things begin to break down, and the body can’t repair it as quickly and completely as it once could.”

To a certain extent, that’s just a normal part of aging, says Jessica Lee, MD, assistant professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the University of Texas Health McGovern Medical School. “Unfortunately, the body just doesn’t produce immune cells the way it used to at a younger age,” she says.

B and T cells — two types of white blood cells that make antibodies to fight off outside pathogens — are produced less frequently in older adults, Lee says. “They’re also potentially of a lower quality,” she adds, “which makes it difficult for the body to mount an immune response when it’s attacked by something like a virus or bacteria.”

On top of that, levels of inflammation in the body tend to rise as we get older, as well — a phenomenon known as inflammaging, according to a July 2018 review in Nature Reviews Endocrinology.

“When we get an infection and we get a fever, that’s inflammation,” Barzilai says. “But if our inflammatory response is too high in these situations, it can be very dangerous.”

How to Support Your Immune System as You Age

Yes, a decrease in immunity over the years is normal. “But I don’t want to sound like it’s all doom and gloom, and it’s just too bad if you’re old because there are ways you can boost your immunity to help offset that natural decline that comes with age,” Lee says.

“Aging is a modifiable condition. It’s flexible — and if you can lower your biological age, you’re going to be better protected against viruses and other threats.”

Barzilai agrees, adding that there are really two types of aging: chronological, which keeps track of a person’s actual age, and biological, which takes into account how healthy people are compared with their peers.

“Aging is a modifiable condition,” says Barzilai. “It’s flexible — and if you can lower your biological age, you’re going to be better protected against viruses and other threats.”

Here are a few ways to do just that. Not only will these strategies help you feel younger, but they’ll do the same for your immune system as well.

1. Get Plenty of Vitamins and Minerals From Whole Foods

Eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, fiber and other important nutrients is one of the best ways to strengthen your immunity at any age, says Lee — but it’s especially important for older adults who are starting to lose those natural defenses.

“I recommend eating as many fruits and vegetables and whole foods as possible, and trying to avoid processed foods that are high in sugar and fat,” she says.

One nutrient older adults shouldn’t skimp on is zinc. Zinc deficiency is common in older adults, according to a 2012 review in Aging and Disease, and has been linked to impaired immune function and an increased risk of infection.

Shellfish, eggs, soy products, legumes and whole grains are all good sources of zinc. You can also get zinc from dairy sources such as milk, cheese and low-fat yogurt.

Or, you might consider taking a daily zinc supplement — but only do this under a doctor’s supervision, since too much zinc could also harm the immune system, per the Aging and Disease study.

Older adults might benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement, as well. The body depends on vitamin D to regulate the immune system, according to a December 2018 review in the Journal of Aging and Gerontology, and many older adults don’t get enough from sun exposure and diet alone.

Adults up to age 70 should get 600 IU of vitamin D daily and adults 70 and older get 800 IU a day, per the National Institutes of Health.

Finding a type of workout you love and sticking to it can help support your immune system.

Image Credit: shapecharge/E+/GettyImages

Regular physical activity is important, too.

A September 2013 literature review in the journal Maturitas notes that exercise has been shown to increase both the number and function of immune-system cells in older people, as well as reduce inflammation.

Only certain types of exercise have been studied in clinical trials. For example, a study in the March 2018 journal Aging Cell observed that older adults who cycled regularly had levels of T cells in their blood similar to young adults who weren’t involved in regular exercise.

And a 2012 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine & Doping Studies observed that a six-month tai chi program significantly increased immune-system activity in middle-aged and older women.

“Find the exercise that you like the most and feel like you’re going to stick with for the long haul. I don’t care what it is, as long as you’re moving.”

Cycling and tai chi are both smart choices for older adults to consider because they’re low-impact and easy on joints, which helps keep injuries away. But they’re also just two examples of physical activity that can help you stay safe from dangerous illnesses.

“The best thing for older people [for supporting immunity] is exercise — any type of exercise — so it’s important to find a way to do it on a regular basis” Barzilai says. Waking outdoors can be one way, he says. Or, if people are stuck inside due to weather or other obstacles (like social distancing protocol), a treadmill or exercise bike might be another option.

Lee says the most important thing to keep in mind when making an exercise plan is whether you’ll actually do it. “Find the exercise that you like the most and feel like you’re going to stick with for the long haul,” she says. “I don’t care what it is, as long as you’re moving.”

Get Started With These Low-Impact Workouts

3. Maintain (or Get to) a Healthy Weight

A healthy diet and exercise plan may directly support your immunity for the reasons listed above — but they may also have an indirect benefit, which is helping people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Overweight people and people with obesity tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies than their healthy-weight peers, which can make it harder to fight off infection and other threats.

In fact, a 5 percent loss of total body weight in overweight people and people with obesity was associated with lower levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood of older adults (average age 65), according to a February 2015 study in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.

Giving up cigarettes and other forms of tobacco will, first and foremost, reduce your risk of cancer and respiratory disease. But it can also have far-reaching effects on the immune system.

That’s because smoking contributes to inflammation not just in the airways, but throughout the entire body, Lee says.

It’s also been linked to frailty — a precursor to disability that includes an increased vulnerability to health problems — in older adults. Current smokers aged 60 and over were 60 percent more likely to develop frailty than non-smokers in the same age group, in a January 2018 study published in Age and Aging.

The good news? Former smokers had no increased risk of developing frailty compared to those who never smoked, regardless of whether they’d quit in the last 10 years or prior to that. In other words, it’s never too late to kick the habit and reap the health benefits.

5. Manage Stress and Emotional Health

Finally, it’s not just your physical health that affects your immune system; it’s also about how you deal with stress and your emotions.

Feelings like chronic sadness and loneliness have been linked to lower immune responses, according to the National Institute of Aging. And about a third of Americans aged 45 and older reported being lonely in a 2018 AARP survey.

Adults who are no longer working, are living alone after the death of a spouse or are physically unable to get out and about are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation. But maintaining social connections with friends and family members — or by taking part in organizations like book clubs, choir and religious groups — can help, according to the American Psychological Association.

Mindful practices can also help people of all ages manage feelings of anxiety and depression, Lee says. An October 2012 study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that an 8-week meditation and yoga practice was associated with reduced loneliness — and reduced markers of chronic inflammation — in older adults.

“Anything that helps you center yourself certainly has the potential to help your immune system,” Lee says.

“That’s especially important during stressful and uncertain times, and especially important for older adults who are more at risk.”

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Wellness speaker addresses immune system boosting tips

Wellness speaker addresses immune system boosting tips

  • April 30, 2020

Dr. Jordan Leasure
Dr. Jordan Leasure

LIBERTYVILLE – Long before COVID-19 became a household term, Dr. Jordan Leasure made it her life’s work to proactively optimize people’s health, including the all-important immune system.

A chiropractor since 2006, Leasure’s extensive additional training in functional medicine – she’s devoted to determining and addressing root causes of that which ails us – has made her a sought-after regional speaker since 2009.

The Libertyville-based practice that Leasure shares with her sister, Dr. Jade Dellinger, centers not only on how a properly aligned spine keeps all neurological systems robust, but also on the importance of excellent nutrition. The team at North Shore Pro-Active Health additionally works with clients on balanced fitness and – of especially key importance to so many right now – positive ways to cope with stress.

Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or being quarantined due to exposure should strictly follow their physician’s advice. For those looking to boost physical and mental well-being in advance of any potential illness, Leasure offers sound advice.

Q: What kind of things do we need to do all of the time to give ourselves the best shot at optimal health, including a ready-for-invaders immune system?    

A: I think we all need to relax. We need to allow our bodies to function as they were designed. Stress should be finite. If we’re being chased by a lion, either the lion is going to get us and that’s the end of it, or we’re going to get away. Either way, the stressor is going to end.

In today’s society, we’re so attached to our cellphones and we are always trying to do more and be more, so we don’t give the stress a chance to end.

We all need to be more purposeful in our relaxation activities. Turn devices off. Limit screen time. I’m also a big proponent of breathing exercises. Most of us don’t know how to breathe properly, especially women, who too often are holding in their bellies and breathing into their chests. We need to be breathing down into our belly buttons. It allows us to relax physically and emotionally.  

Also, keep a gratitude journal. It’s something everyone should do. There will be days when all you have to write down is that you woke up in the morning or you made it through the day, but that’s something to be grateful for.

If you can, get routine chiropractic adjustments. It’s all about removing interference and allowing the body to work as it was designed to work. … We want to make sure that the brain is able to communicate clearly with all organs and systems in the body and that they are able to send signals back to the brain.

Chiropractic is sort of like clearing a highway. Your body is far more productive in its utilization of energy.

Q: It’s pretty difficult for any of us to avoid stress right now. What can we do to stay as healthy as possible in the face of rising fears over this global pandemic?

A: Relaxation techniques are so key, which is why we should practice them under less stressful conditions so it’s second nature in a time like this. But it’s never too late, and today is better than tomorrow.

Fear of the unknown is what is really disrupting everyone’s life right now. I think that’s why some people are hoarding toilet paper. So many things are out of control that they are attempting to control what they can.

Many of us are frustrated about being unable to exercise at our local gyms. But there are some great free resources out there that I hope people will take advantage of – everything from virtual museum tours to free celebrity concerts and free college courses are coming out online.

Q: That means more screen time, doesn’t it?

A: It’s a delicate balance. People everywhere, no matter the weather where they are, should at the bare minimum go outside and take five deep breaths each day.

We should also minimize our sugar intake. There are a lot of memes floating around on the internet right now about stocking up on wine, but sugar actually impedes your immune response. It fights Vitamin C for priority within the cell, and you don’t want that. Alcohol basically turns into sugar in your body. If you want to keep your immune system in peak condition, you don’t want to treat your anxiety with alcohol.

Q: Any other advice for us as we muddle through the uncertainty of the coming weeks?

A: Be more deliberate. In more normal times, people may assume that they’re getting their steps in and that they’re eating well. When we’re stressed we’re more apt to grab for whatever’s closest, to eat the comfort food, drink the cocktail. Especially now, when people aren’t going to work and their gyms are closed, they’re not getting in their regular activities, and they may be more likely to reach for a sugary snack.

Sugar releases serotonin. But that short-term high is counterproductive to our immune response.

Get some physical activity. Find an online workout and join in. Jog in place. Run up and down your stairs.

If you have children and a partner or spouse at home, exercise as a family. Work regular breaks into your home-schooling routines, even if it’s just to get up and do some jumping jacks for a few minutes. And if you like yoga, include your kids. Children as young as 3 can learn to be mindful and meditative and will benefit from simple stretching and posing postures.

Drink lots of water. Keep taking your vitamins. And engage in some sort of social connection, whether it be sitting and having a conversation with your spouse or Facetiming with family across the country.

Overall, just be more deliberate in making those healthy choices. It’s more important than ever.

Find more healthy living information at drleasure.com, and find helpful tips and videos on the North Shore Pro-Active Health Facebook page.

Doctors explain ultra red light therapy and how it can strengthen your immune system

Doctors explain ultra red light therapy and how it can strengthen your immune system

  • April 30, 2020

We know we need to wash our hands often and stay 6 feet apart, but there’s another way to do our part in making sure we stay healthy.

We can boost our immune systems. You can accomplish that by using the color red. It’s called ultra-red light therapy. 

It uses light to treat inflammation, wounds, aches and pains, and strengthen your immune system. 
This could potentially be the light at the end of the long tunnel we are all in – and that light is red.

Brooke Luciano and Jeff McKeever own two red light therapy clinics. 

Other than that red light, what’s happening to you is invisible but effective according to Dr. Joseph Leahy. 

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

“These wavelengths go into the body and penetrate the skin. They get absorbed inside the cells,” says Dr. Leahy. “That’s how cells repair faster produce more energy produce more proteins.”

The healthier we are, the stronger our immune systems, the more likely we can fight off any illness. O pets too! 

“We treat dogs cats and even horses,” says Brooke. 

Building a stronger immune system is helpful in fighting Covid-19, but can ultra-red light fight the bad guy directly? 
“It may actually be possible with the right frequencies but we don’t know enough to say it definitely yet,” says Dr. Leahy. 

For now we wait for a vaccine, physically distance and do our best to stay healthy. 

“The most important thing you can do to boost your overall health is to normalize or boost your immune system,” says Dr. Leahy. 

Ultra Red Light Therapy is not covered by insurance but at $50 a session it’s somewhat reasonable cost.

To boosts your immune system, Brooke suggests three sessions to see results and then maintenance sessions after that. And so far, there are no side effects to ultra red light therapy. 

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Five of the best natural ways to give your immune system a boost

Five of the best natural ways to give your immune system a boost

  • April 30, 2020

The best natural ways to give your immune system a boost have been revealed.

Although no evidence to suggest individuals cannot be infected with COVID-19 a second time, a boost to your immunity may help to protect you against this and other illnesses.

Cheryl Lythgoe, head matron at Benenden Health, has suggested how we can build up our immune systems effectively.

Rather than spend a fortune on commercial products that have unproven benefits, she recommends adopting long-term, everyday behaviours to give your immune system the right kind of support:

1) Practice good hygiene

Coming into contact with a surface, object or person that’s been contaminated, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes can lead to the spread of infection.

Wash your hands well before eating, after visiting the toilet, or when returning from a supermarket or other essential travel.

Hand hygiene remains vital for avoiding cross-infection, and drying hands well is also vital, as wet hands can help bacteria spread.

2) Eat a balanced and healthy diet

Ensuring your body gets the right vitamins and nutrients is a great way to boost your immune system.

By including seasonal fruits and vegetables in your food shop, such as tomatoes, rhubarb, berries and pineapple, you are more likely to snack on these, instead of foods that compromise your immune system, such as those heavy in sugar and salt.

During lockdown especially, it is easy to turn to ‘comfort foods’ such as chocolates, sweets and ready meals. However, the body will spend more time trying to process these foods instead of fighting any diseases.

3) Sleep well (and avoid stress)

A good night’s sleep will help you fight viruses. Lack of sleep can cause the body’s immune system to go into overdrive, much in the same way as stress affects our body.

Stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection – making you more susceptible to catching viruses, such as COVID-19 and the common cold.

Some of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep include having a set daily routine and optimising your sleeping environment by keeping it calm, cool and free of electronic devices.

4) Stop smoking

It is common knowledge that quitting smoking will help your health in innumerable ways. It has also been found that during a viral infection, smokers’ immune systems go into overdrive.

“It’s like smokers are using the equivalent of a sledgehammer, rather than a fly swatter, to get rid of a fly,” said Jack A. Elias, author of a Yale University study into the effect of cigarette smoke on viral infections.

COVID-19 is known to affect the respiratory system and in serious cases can make it hard for individuals to breathe. In addition to the serious respiratory side-effects of smoking that we already know about, it could also delay or alter your recovery of COVID-19.

5) Keep fitness levels up

Maintaining a healthy weight and level of fitness can improve overall health, as well as boost your chance of keeping infection at bay.
Under the current social distancing measures, it is still highly recommended to fit in 30 minutes of exercise per day if possible, while following government guidelines. This could mean running outdoors in permitted doses or joining online gym classes.


Boosting the immune system could help fight COVID-19 effects, says chief medical officer – ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation

  • April 30, 2020

Basseterre, St. Kitts, April 29, 2020 (SKNIS): The immune system performs a remarkable job at fighting off foreign cells to protect us against illnesses. Against this backdrop, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Hazel Laws appealed to citizens and residents to boost their immune systems to help fight the effects of COVID-19.

“While there is currently no cure for the Coronavirus there are some steps everyone can take to help support their natural defenses against viruses like this one. The body’s immune system is what helps to fight off those pathogens. There are several ways in which you can support your immune system to make it as strong and effective as possible,” said Dr. Laws.


In giving the health report at the April 29 edition of the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) Daily COVID-19 Briefing, CMO Laws encouraged persons to eat right, sleep well and get enough natural vitamins to name a few.

“Eat more fruits, vegetables and leafy greens. Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants and nutrients which boost the production of cells which support the immune system. Aim to consume at least three (3) servings of fruits and vegetables daily,” said the CMO. “Get more sleep. While we sleep our body repairs and builds our immune system to fight off viruses so aim to get at least six (6) to eight (8) hours of sleep daily.”

Dr. Laws encouraged persons to aim to get one (1) to two (2) hours of direct sunlight daily preferably at the beginning and end of each day as “sunshine increases Vitamin D. Our body creates Vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin when we are outdoors. Studies show that Vitamin D activates the cells which help to fight infection,” she added.

The CMO reminded citizens and residents of the importance of good hygiene and health practices.

“Proper hygiene such as washing hands regularly, using a disposable tissue when blowing nose or coughing into your flexed elbow will help to decrease the spread of viruses. Aim to wash your hands after touching contaminated surfaces,” said Dr. Laws. “Reduce stress levels. This can be done by developing coping mechanisms such as keeping in contact with close friends and relatives who produce positive emotional support to reduce stress levels and avoid unnecessary worry about things you have no control over. Stay positive, a positive attitude can improve your immune system and may help you to live longer.”

She appealed to the general public to continue to “engage in the social distancing measures” currently in place and reiterated the need to eat well, boost immune systems and engage in effective hand-washing practices. Dr. Laws implored all to wear their masks in public spaces, noting that by “adhering to these practices we will see positive outcomes and win the fight against this invisible enemy.”

Doctor's Note: Fasting during Ramadan can boost your immunity | Ramadan 2018

Doctor’s Note: Fasting during Ramadan can boost your immunity

  • April 30, 2020

This year, the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan will be like no other; it will occur in the middle of a global pandemic.

Ramadan, which began on the evening of April 23, will see a month-long period of fasting, worship and devotion to Allah. It commemorates the Quran being first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims who are fit enough to do so are expected to fast (not eat or drink fluids at all) between the hours of sunrise and sunset for four weeks. As well as being a month of reflection, Ramadan traditionally brings people together in the evening for food and prayer.

Mosques around the world are usually at their busiest during this month, but many now remain closed and social distancing and self-isolation to prevent the spread of coronavirus have become mandatory in many countries. As a result, this year Ramadan will feel very different for a lot of Muslims around the world as families are separated.

But what about the health implications of observing Ramadan under lockdown and during a viral pandemic?

Can fasting affect a person’s chances of contracting the coronavirus?

In fact, fasting is believed to be beneficial to the body in a number of ways, including through the effect it has on boosting our immune systems. It is possible that our ancient ancestors recognised the benefits of fasting: As well as during the month of Ramadan in the Muslim calendar, fasting is also observed in the month of Lent in the lead-up to Easter for Christians, and during Yom Kippur in Judaism.

There is also evidence that the ancient Egyptians fasted for long periods to purge their bodies of ailments and disease.

Perhaps they were all on to something?

More recently, studies have shown that fasting can actually have beneficial effects on the immune system by reducing the amount of general inflammation that can occur in cells around the body.

More Doctor’s Notes:

Fasting is thought to put the body into an “energy conservation mode” due to the lack of nutrients coming in. In an effort to save energy, the body recycles many of its old or damaged immune cells, which later promotes the generation of new, healthier immune cells when the fasting period ends.

These new cells are quicker and more efficient at fighting infections so overall immunity improves.

The key thing that sets a religious Ramadan fast apart from diets that promote weight loss through intermittent fasting regimes is the abstinence from drinking water. This may make all the difference.

While a study has shown that prolonged water fasting beyond 12 to 24 hours can have a slight detrimental effect on the immune system, putting you at a slightly increased risk of catching any kind of infection, it also showed that immunity returned to a better state soon after eating and drinking again.

Granted, these studies were not looking at the specific fasting that takes place in Ramadan but separate studies show that the religious fasting of Ramadan has comparable health benefits to other types of fasting. This comes with the caveat of having a healthy diet in the periods between fasting: We all know there is a tendency to overindulge in fried foods such as samosas and pakoras during the breaking of the fast, and that certainly will not help the immune system.

Fasts will vary in length depending on where a person lives in the world and what time of year the month of Ramadan falls in, but the evidence suggests that abstaining from both food and water for up to 12 hours can have an overall beneficial effect on your immune system.

It is important to stress that the Muslim faith only expects fasting from those who are healthy enough to do so, and fasting must not be used simply as a way to boost your immune system.

As this will be our first Ramadan during a coronavirus pandemic, it is impossible to know whether fasting may offer some level of protection against getting the illness itself and, although it is not beyond the realms of possibility, it is important to stick to the things that we do know work: social distancing, hand-washing, hygiene and self-isolation.

man in nature, looking pensive

Your Brain Has an Immune System, and You Can Boost It

  • April 30, 2020

You’re probably familiar with your immune system — your physiological immune system, that is. It’s the one that sends white blood cells to dispatch with pathogens. But what about your psychological immune system? This is an especially important idea to think about now, in the time of COVID-19 and social distancing.

The term “psychological immune system” was coined by psychologists Daniel Gilbert, who is probably best known for his book Stumbling on Happiness, and Timothy D. Wilson, who is known for his research on self-knowledge. But the basic concept goes back to Sigmund Freud and his ideas regarding defense mechanisms, which were elaborated on by his daughter, Anna Freud, in her book, Ego and Mechanisms of Defense. In fact, “ego defense” is, at least for our purposes, a mechanism to protect the self, or self-image, from whatever threatens it.

A good way to think about the psychological immune system is provided by Emily Rosenzweig, senior behavioral scientist at Ochsner Health, a nonprofit academic health care system in Louisiana: “A range of mental processes triggered by a threat to our sense of self-esteem, self-worth and self-concept.”

What can threaten a person’s self-image, or their self-worth? How about being referred to as a “nonessential” worker?

What can threaten a person’s self-image or self-worth? Here’s an example: being referred to as a “nonessential” worker and told to stay home, losing a significant amount of income in the process.

Positive Self Talk

Here’s where you can use your psychological immune system to help. You can tell yourself that you are valuable to society, the current pandemic situation is temporary and the lives of many others are diminished, even if just a little bit, by your absence.

You should also admit to yourself that people can still live meaningful lives without you, and that’s OK, too. It doesn’t diminish your value as a human being.

Positive self-talk can be quite helpful. However, don’t overdo it.

For example, you wouldn’t want to tell yourself that without you being there, the lives of others are completely devoid of meaning and those people are just miserable. Knowing that’s probably untrue would likely make you feel worse.

“There’s a sweet spot,” says Rosenzweig. But, she adds, “you can’t deny existing negative emotions.” If you try to completely obliterate those negative emotions, however, you’ll probably wind up feeling worse as your brain produces counterarguments that undo your attempts to make yourself feel better.

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Less-Than-Ideal Coping Mechanisms

Being aware of your psychological immune system means you’ll be better able to recognize when it kicks in.

Think about the coping mechanisms you use in a stressful situation or when dealing with the difficulties life throws at you. Do you feel better when you pour yourself a glass of wine or three? Do you avoid dealing with things by binge watching Netflix?

Avoidance is one of your psychological immune system’s tactics, even though it may not be good for you in the long run. Like your physiological immune system, your psychological immune system can opt for the short-term fix over long-term wellness.

Not that drinking one glass of wine or watching two episodes of your favorite show are counterproductive. We all need some downtime. Both are easy to overdo, however, and that undermines the effectiveness of your psychological immune system.

Once Again, Exercise Is Key

So, what can you do to bolster optimal functionality of your psychological immune system?

First of all, you need to feel motivated.

Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of the bestselling book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, has a suggestion: Exercise.

“Exercise reduces stress and anxiety, and promotes a better mood — all factors that go into motivation,” Ratey says.

Of course, you also need to feel motivated to exercise and in the tug-of-war between staying fit and Netflix, that motivation can be hard to come by.

Ratey suggests doing something easy, like going for a walk every day, preferably outside, even if it’s just a short walk.

Can’t go outside? There’s an app for that. Ratey suggests downloading the free 7 Minute Workout app on your phone. “It’s all bodyweight exercises, and it activates all major muscle groups.” There are many other workout apps you could try as well.

Developing Goal-directed Behavior

There’s also something you can do to maximize the effectiveness of exercise, at least when it comes to your brain and your psychological immune system: Use exercise to help you turn goal-directed behaviors into healthier new habits while making progress towards your goals.

Having a goal is a good way to motivate yourself, but also a way to focus on those behaviors you need to make progress towards that goal.

For example, getting out of debt and becoming financially solvent requires a series of smaller steps to achieve. A good first step in that direction is to create a household budget, which is something you can work on a bit each day while social distancing.

Here’s how exercise fits in: Stress can impair your ability to undertake goal-directed behaviors by making you fall back on normal habits. If your habits are binge-watching Netflix, drinking alcohol or eating cereal late at night, stress may reinforce those less-than-ideal behaviors.

But exercise reduces stress and increases motivation. So, it’s a behavior you might undertake to achieve the goal of better cardiovascular fitness, losing weight or both. In that way, it’s a goal-directed behavior all by itself. But exercising will also help you stay motivated and focused on your other goal-directed behaviors, by reducing stress and increasing motivation.

By Stephen L. Antczak

Stephen L. Antczak is a freelance writer,  specializing in articles about money, work, volunteering, education and aging.

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Strong immunity is a key weapon in the fight against Covid-19

Strong immunity is a key weapon in the fight against Covid-19

  • April 30, 2020

One of the crucial shields against Covid-19 is immunity. Research reports suggest that patients with good immunity levels are able to fight the infection better. Scientists and doctors have said that a fair dose of millet intake would help people boost their immunity levels, which would come in handy in their fight against the virulent Novel Coronavirus.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) point out that the most important elements that maintain our immune system is a healthy balanced diet, which contains all vitamins and minerals in balanced proportion. Millets, which contain minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, would fit the bill.

There are many sources of foods that are known as immunity boosters, and being a staple cereal, millets may prove to be a promising source, especially relevant to the times of Covid-19 virus pandemic situation, they said.

Millets (lately known as nutricereals) are nutritionally superior to major cereals (wheat and rice) for carbohydrate and energy, and serve as a good source of protein, high dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, antoxidants and micronutrients, VA Tonapi, Director of IIMR-ICAR, has said.

“Finger millet grains contain essential minerals such as calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P) and vitamins. Pearl millet grains contain Fe, which is the highest (6.4 mg/100 g) among various cereals. It is rich in resistant starch, soluble and insoluble dietary fibres, minerals, and antioxidants,” he said.

“The rich source of vitamins and minerals of millets perform different functions in our body to boost our immune response towards pathogens,” Raj Bhandari, Senior Paediatrician, and Member, National Technical Board of Nutrition and Health at NITI Aayog, has said.

“Immunity provides protection to life, mediated through cellular response, and humoral immune response. And the body promotes systematic immune processes by regulating the formation of T lymphocytes, antibodies, and cytokines,” he said.

Finger millet is rich in calcium (364 mg/100 g), more than double that available in milk. The protein content of proso millet was significantly richer in essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and methionine) than wheat protein. Thus, the presence of all the required nutrients in millets helps to maintain the body’s immune system.

Health benefits of millets

Millets have nutraceutical properties in the form of antioxidants which prevent deterioration of human health. “The alkaline nature of millets offers natural protection against many diseases including cancer. Another emerging health problem is metabolic syndrome, a condition characterised by increased insulin resistance and visceral adiposity,” Tonapi said.

B Dayakar Rao, Principal Scientist and Chief Executive Officer of Nutrihub, lists out the attributes of millets that help boost immunity.

“Vitamin A, which is found in abundant quantities in millets, is involved in the development of the immune system and plays a regulatory role in cellular immune responses and humoral immune processes. Vitamin B9 plays a role in immunity enhancement,” he said.

“Several traditional household food processing and preparation methods, including soaking, fermentation, germination and malting, can also be used to enhance the bioavailability of micronutrients,” Dayakar said.

Probiotic, gut microbiota

Millets are also good to promote probiotics, the micro-organisms that are quite helpful for digestion. “Probotic foods from millets are rich in phytochemicals including phytic acid and phytates, which are known to have lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer,” he said.

The gut microbiota includes bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses. “Trillions of bacteria colonize the gut. They have a big role in prevention of leaky gut syndrome caused due to disruption of the gut barrier by pathogens and opportunistic fungal infection,” he said.

“The anti-inflammatory property of millets could well be suited to prevent environmental enteropathy and inflammatory bowel disease,” he said.

“The gut microbiota plays an important role in the normal functioning of the host organism. The benefits are mutual ― the micro-organisms are supported by the food that the humans eat and play a key role in (maintaining good) health throughout human life,” Dayakar said.

They also play a good role in strengthening the immune system and building defences against pathogens.

“The gut microbiota provides essential capacities for the fermentation of non-digestible substrates like dietary fibres and endogenous intestinal mucus. This fermentation supports the growth of specialist microbes that produce short chain fatty acids,” he said.

“The high levels of tryptophan in millets produce serotonin, which is calming to our moods,” he added.

“Adequate and appropriate nutrition is required for all cells to function optimally and this includes the cells in the immune system. The immune system’s demands for energy and nutrients can be met from exogenous sources such as millet diets,” Bhandari said.

Some micronutrients and dietary components of millets have very specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system throughout the course of life, as well as in reducing chronic inflammation.

Tags: immunity, Indian Institute of Millets Research, IIMR, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, ICAR, Covid-19, Novel Coronavirus, cereals, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, Hyderabad.

Heat Bio COVID-19 vaccine's potential 2-way benefit: Clear virus, boost immunity

Heat Bio COVID-19 vaccine’s potential 2-way benefit: Clear virus, boost immunity

  • April 30, 2020

MORRISVILLE – For those feeling the health and economic heat from COVID-19 – and that’s just about everyone – Heat Biologics says it could soon offer up a potential solution.

The Morrisville-based clinical-stage biotech company specializes in disease-fighting therapies that activate patients’ immune systems. So it is working on a vaccine that tackles the COVID-19 coronavirus on two fronts. Heat’s gp96 platform triggers the human immune system to both attack the coronavirus and then protect against its reoccurrence. Heat said its vaccine will clear virus infected cells and promote long-term cellular immunity to prevent re-infection in high-risk patients.

Heat Bio photo

Heat Bio CEO Jeff Wolf

The company said it is working with the University of Miami on the therapy, which is targeted toward the elderly and others with underlying health conditions. Plans are to complete development this year, while also producing proof-of-concept data to show that the vaccine can work. Heat said it will apply for several grants to support clinical development. It is considering other collaborations as well.

The gp96 technology already has undergone rigorous mouse and primate trials as a vaccine against SIV/HIV, malaria, zika and other infectious diseases, according to the company. These trials have shown antiviral activity in the lungs and a strong immune response in several disease models.

Heat’s main focus has been on therapies to treat cancer. But it has also begun to use its technological know-how to pursue treatments for coronavirus and other infectious diseases. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center provided the biotech firm’s first outside funding, a $225,000 Strategic Growth Loan after attracting the company to North Carolina in 2011 and supplying its original offices in the Center’s Landing Pad area.

“We’re making progress advancing our COVID-19 vaccine program and remain encouraged by the potential of our platform to provide broad cellular and humoral (antibody) protection against COVID-19, as well as possible future mutations of other coronaviruses,” Heat CEO Jeff Wolf said. “We are finalizing completion of the vaccine and plan to commence preclinical testing this quarter…We expect to report our preliminary data shortly thereafter.”

Heat also recently added a rapid point-of-care COVID-19 diagnostic to its product development pipeline. It is working with the University of Miami to develop the patient-friendly throat swab test that will deliver on-the-spot results in less than 30 minutes. The test will use molecular recognition to detect exposure to the virus.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center