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Immune-boosting tea brews and tinctures for cold and flu season

  • June 16, 2020

Give your system a fighting chance this cold and flu season with these immune-boosting tinctures, by herbalist Erin Lovell Verinder.

The coronavirus pandemic might be slowly settling, but cold and flu season has just started. To safeguard yourself and your family from nasty viruses, here are some immune boosting herbal tea recipes – plus tips and tricks on how to make the perfect blend.

While summer calls for sugary bubble teas and iced teas, in winter you can enjoy the warm infusion of various herbal tea combinations.

Happy brewing!

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A guide to brewing medicinal plants

Herbal teas

Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sieve and enjoy.


Add the plant material to a heatproof mason jar, fill with boiling water and infuse for three to four hours minimum, or leave overnight to deepen the strength. Simply strain out the herbs with a fine-mesh sieve and sip throughout the day. Infusions make a perfect iced tea; however, if you desire a little warmth, you can gently heat on the stove.

Measuring the medicinals

The recipes ahead are measured in parts. For instance, if the recipe calls for one part peppermint, this may equal one cup, one tbs or one tsp of peppermint. For a medium pot of tea, use a base of two cups of water for a regular-strength herbal brew in all of the following recipes.

Bronchial buster

A potent mix for the sinuses, persistent coughs, bacterial infections and asthma. These common kitchen herbs have strong antiviral, antibacterial and warming properties. Lighten the flavour with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or some raw honey.

Tip: Best prepared as a tea


  • 2 parts thyme
  • 2 parts oregano
  • 2 parts rosemary
  • 1 part cinnamon chips

Bye-bye flu

This power-packed combination of immune tonics and lymphatic-loving herbals works to shift an active flu and support an overburdened immune system. Brew strongly and be sure to sip frequently to alleviate symptoms.

Tip: Best prepared as a tea or infusion


  • 3 parts cleavers leaf/stem/flowers
  • 2 parts calendula flowers
  • 2 parts echinacea root/leaf/flowers
  • 2 parts elderflowers
  • 1 part cinnamon chips
  • 1 part elderberries
  • 1 part orange peel, fresh or dried
  • ½ part lemon balm


This is a beautifully supportive tea, high in immune-enhancing herbs and Vitamin C. It can be drunk daily to fortify immunity, or to combat the common cold. I like to add a touch of manuka honey when the tea cools to supercharge the immune-enhancing effects.

Tip: Best prepared as a tea or infusion


  • 2 parts elderberries
  • 2 parts echinacea root/flowers/leaf
  • 1 part rosehips
  • ½ part ginger pieces
  • ½ part cinnamon chips
  • Manuka honey (optional)

Deep breath

The demulcent actions of the herbs in this blend work together to combat a hoarse, sore throat and soothe relentless coughs, supporting the lungs and gently sedating any upper-respiratory irritation or spasms. As this brew cools, add an optional dollop of medicinal manuka honey.

Tip: Best prepared as a tea or infusion


  • 3 parts mullein leaf
  • 1 part sage
  • 1 part thyme
  • ½ part licorice root
  • Manuka honey (optional)

This is an edited extract from Plants for the People by Erin Lovell Verinder (Thames and Hudson) $39.99 from QBD Books. Photography by Georgia Blackie.

Polio vaccine could give temporary protection against Covid-19 by boosting body's defenses, hope scientists

Polio vaccine could give temporary protection against Covid-19 by boosting body’s defenses, hope scientists

  • June 12, 2020

The world is in urgent need of a Covid-19 vaccine. Even as experts are hoping to deliver one by January 2020, others think we need a temporary fix in the form of an oral polio vaccine that is over five decades old. A group of scientists believes that may protect people until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available and has called for large-scale testing.

“If it works, it really has great potential against future pandemics, not just this one,” Shyam Kottilil, director of the Clinical Care and Research Division of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told NBC News. “It takes a year, year and a half [to develop a new vaccine], and during that time, a lot of people lose their lives.”

The oral polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s to protect against polio disease which paralyzes children for life. The disease has since been eradicated in all countries barring Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, nations continue to vaccinate children as the virus is capable of striking again. Now, scientists, including Dr Robert Gallo, one of the researchers who discovered HIV, are popping a question in a Science Perspective: can oral polio vaccines provide short-term immunity against Covid-19? Though they are optimistic that they could strengthen the body’s defenses against the disease, other experts have their reservations.

To support their argument, Gallo and his colleagues cited an older study conducted on 60,000 individuals. It showed that oral polio vaccines were effective against other viral diseases such as the flu and genital herpes infections. This is because the vaccine activates our body’s first line of defense that seeks out intruders. In doing so, it might make the disease less severe. They think that a polio shot could orchestrate a similar attack on a foreign agent, such as the new coronavirus.

The oral polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s to protect against polio disease (Getty Images)

Commenting on the idea of repurposing the vaccine for Covid-19, Rachel Roper, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, told NBC News: “I do believe the oral polio vaccine would provide some protection against new viruses, but so would catching a cold. We won’t see safety concerns until we test it in large trials that include a lot of people,” she added.

Michael J Buchmeier, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of California at Irvine, expressed concerns over safety to the Washington Post. He feared it could over-activate the immune system, leading to more complications. Gallo and his colleagues are now hoping to raise money to fund a large human trial. If the results turn out to be positive, it could protect the most vulnerable populations, the team said. Additionally, it could shield people from unrelated emerging pathogens.

Meanwhile, the global polio eradication initiative, a public-private partnership that works with the World Health Organization (WHO), said: “There is no evidence that the oral poliovirus vaccine protects people against infection with the Covid-19 virus. A clinical trial addressing this question is planned in the USA, and the WHO will evaluate the evidence when it is available.” Until then, they add, the UN health agency does not recommend it to prevent the new coronavirus disease.

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here

Live Well: Grow backyard herbs to boost immunity, calm anxiety | Lifestyle

Live Well: Grow backyard herbs to boost immunity, calm anxiety | Lifestyle

  • June 9, 2020

It would not be wrong for you to feel caught in a web of stress and anxiety right now.

The hits seem to keep coming, even as that most carefree season of the year is upon us. Thank you, Mother Nature. What grand timing you have. We can take advantage of those extra hours of light and warmth to turn our backyard or windowsill gardens into havens of health and nourishment.

There are many easy-to-grow herbs available that are said to help boost our immune system and calm our nervous system. At the very least, some of them are delicious and all of them are hydrating.

Colorado Springs resident has a thing for plants and it shows

Anna Papini, a clinical herbalist and owner of Anna’s Apothecary in Manitou Springs, has a few suggestions for family- friendly herbs — plants that will be good for kids and adults with mostly zero contraindications. She recommends making the herbs into an infusion by steeping the leaves, flowers or roots in water for about 20 minutes and drinking it hot or cold. Avoid making a large portion and storing it in the fridge. Herbal teas are best when fresh. And keep in mind that using fresh herbs is no better than dried, Papini says. She uses primarily dried herbs in her shop.

• Lemon balm: If you’re looking for an easy to maintain ground cover that smells and tastes great, this is your herb.

“Lemon balm is an excellent anti-viral herb,” says Papini. “It makes the body an inhospitable place for viruses to hold on. It’s calming for the nervous system and good for mild depressions, sleep issues and low-level anxiety.”

Cut some of the fresh leaves and steep in water. Or dry the leaves in a glass jar so you have some during the colder times of year.

• Elderberry: The shrub has been used in Europe for cold and flu prevention for thousands of years. It grows well in Colorado and is a boost for the immune system. You can take the berry every day in syrup form, tea or tincture to help prevent illnesses. It’s a diaphoretic, which means it helps to release the heat of a fever, and is one of the better tonic herbs for children, Papini says.

• Echinacea: The purple garden flower grows like crazy in these parts, and also is a boon for the immune system. Research shows it can increase white blood cells, according to WebMD.com. You’re not after the green or flowering parts of the plant, though. It’s the root you want, which you can harvest in fall after the first freeze, says Papini. After you dig it out, you can cut a chunk and brew it in tea form, or dry it and grind it for use throughout the year.

Exercises for stressful times, reader feedback | Live Well

You can use the echinacea flowers or other parts to brew tea, but it won’t be as strong as the roots. There is one contraindication: Echinacea is not safe for those with HIV. The herb can replicate white blood cells, but it can also replicate an HIV cell, says Papini.

• Marshmallow: While many consider this a “waste plant,” says Papini, she can’t get enough. Every part can be used, including the roots and the leaves. It’s known for its high mucilaginous properties, which creates a thick and slimy tea.

But drink up, because that liquid can help break up and expel tightness in your lungs. It’s really good for sore throats and other such ailments as urinary tract infections. Research suggests the mucilage of the plant forms a coating over skin and the digestive tract, and may help with skin irritation and digestive issues, such as ulcers, according to MedicalNewsToday.com.

“It’s not horrible tasting, but it’s not the most awesome tasting,” says Papini. “Lemon balm and elderberry are great tasting. Echinacea and marshmallow have an earthy taste to them.”

• Burdock root: This wild plant isn’t typically found in gardens, but loves to grow in alleys and stream beds. It’s cooling and alkalizing for your liver and cleansing to your blood. It also has good mucilage properties and is often used to help detox the body.

You want to harvest the root after the first frost in the fall. Papini warns it has a soapy taste to it that might take some getting used to.

Colorado Springs residents love their bidets — especially now

• Linden tree: Prevalent throughout the Pikes Peak region, these trees sprout fragrant flowers in July. Cut some of them, along with the leaves, and brew them into a tea that’s good for nervous tension, stress, insomnia and other sleep problems and generalized anxiety.

“People dealing with the woes of the world right now, this is a good one to keep things calmed down and to keep freakouts from happening,” says Papini.Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Immune-boosting foods that fight the flu | Features

Immune-boosting foods that fight the flu | Features

  • May 14, 2020

We are all interested in keeping our immune systems healthy right now. Certainly getting enough sleep and some exercise will help, but health experts say what you eat has lot to do with it too.

The experts say you want to concentrate on foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and nutrients to keep your immune system strong. Look for foods with vitamin B6 like bananas and foods with probiotics like yogurt.

Oranges and grapefruits get all the Vitamin C glory when it comes to boosting your immune system. But did you know one cup of strawberries or raw broccoli gives you nearly 100 percent of your daily Vitamin C? And, a medium size red bell pepper contains nearly double the daily value.

Gena Lewis is a doctor at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

“I’m a medical doctor, and I prescribe medicine,” Lewis said. “But I always like to take the natural approach whenever possible, and food is medicine.”

Garlic and olive oil have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties which help fight off infection.

“There’s so much evidence that the more we eat that’s plant-based, that’s not processed, so fresh from garden to kitchen is the direction to lean in,” said Richard Seidman, chief medical officer at L.A. Care Health Plan.

You can also drink bone broth which contains a more concentrated dose of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. To give it some flavor, simmer it with ingredients like ginger or cayenne for an extra immune boost.

With ways to keep your immune system healthy and kick sickness to the curb, knowing foods to stay clear of is just as important. Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, crunchy crackers and chips, which aggravate a sore throat, and processed foods which all weaken the immune system.

Flu season: Best foods to prevent you from getting the flu, immune-boosting foods

Flu season: Best foods to prevent you from getting the flu, immune-boosting foods

  • May 2, 2020

I know that the last thing you want to hear about right now is yet another virus you need to try to avoid, but our annual flu season waits for nothing – even the coronavirus – and the festival of the fever is once again upon us.

Last year more than 3000,000 Aussies were struck down with the flu. So what are the best ways to protect yourself from the dreaded flu?

Now, a flu shot is one option, of course, and it’s a good one. But like in previous years, there’s no iron-clad guarantee that it will work. Remember, the vaccine generally covers just a single strain of the virus, and they don’t always protect against the right one. That said, a flu shot is a great idea, and should be your top priority this year.

Eating healthy will help keep your body fighting fit. Picture: iStock
media_cameraEating healthy will help keep your body fighting fit. Picture: iStock

But be aware, flu shots are hard to come by this year. With the government suggesting everybody get one, there has been massive shortages across the country, with plenty of doctors and pharmacists running out as early as the beginning of April.


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So what are some other simple things we can do to stop the flu. Well getting enough sleep is key with research showing that our immunity is severely hampered from a lack of sleep and our chances of getting sick greatly increased.

But your best defence may actually be in your fridge. Yes food is our best medicine and you should be filling your plate with immune system-boosting superfoods to help stop the flu in its tracks.

So here’s what you should be filling your trolley with:


Yes, there are plenty of reasons to not eat chocolate, but this is your chance to indulge, guilt free. Dark chocolate (as in higher than 70 per cent cocoa), is rich in magnesium, which is vital for helping the various proteins of your immune system function.

Studies have found that magnesium both strengthens your antibodies to remove an invading virus from your system.


Chopped or crushed garlic produces an enzyme called alliinase, which has both antiviral and antibacterial properties, both of which boost your immune system. So embrace that odour, because now you know it wards off more than just vampires.

Mushrooms are classed as superfoods.
media_cameraMushrooms are classed as superfoods.



Mushrooms are one of nature’s true superfoods, and they’re even more important at this time of year, because they give your immune system a much-needed boost.

It’s thanks to a protein called cytokine, which studies have shown to “promote innate immunity”, which is essentially the first defence mechanism your body has when it comes to warding off a virus.


A handful of nuts is more than just a healthy snack, because they’re filled with magnesium, much like dark chocolate, as well as vitamin E and the immune system-boosting mineral selenium

In fact, one study found a single Brazil nut has more than your total daily need of selenium.


We’re learning more and more about how much of our health is controlled by the health of our gut, and it’s here that yoghurt steps up to the plate.

The probiotic-rich snack has been proven to boost immune function by increasing your body’s ability to produce virus-fighting antibodies.

Yoghurt and berries are also very good for you.
media_cameraYoghurt and berries are also very good for you.


Berries, and blueberries especially, are packed with something called flavonoids, which is a particular microbe found in our gut that stops the flu virus attacking lung tissue.

What’s more, when those flavonoids meet another microbe, clostridium orbiscindens, it produces interferon, another protein designed to fight off viruses.

* Send your health questions to adam@themanshake.com.au


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Image: iStock

15 weird ways to boost your immunity

  • April 29, 2020

Given current circumstances and with winter just around the corner, try these new tricks to keep sickness at bay.

‘How to boost your immunity’ is one of the most searched terms on the internet, given the fact that Australians are heading into winter and battling the current coronavirus health crisis.

But instead of just dosing up on vitamin C, eating your greens and wearing warm clothes, there are actually a myriad of lesser known ways you can boost your immunity.

Here are 15 proven ways.

1. Eat more yoghurt

Aside from the buzz around their effect on gut health, fermented foods can also get your immune system buzzing. The process that turns milk into yoghurt causes the production of lactic acid bacteria, a substance that researchers have found stimulates immune activity in your body.

2. Watch a scary movie

You know that fright you get when the scary clown jumps out of the dark in a horror movie? Turns out it’s good for your health. When researchers took blood samples from people watching a horror, they found the levels of germ-busting white blood cells increased.

It’s thought that adrenaline released when you’re scared causes your body to go into fight-or-flight mode — and your immune system, which doesn’t know you’re just on the couch, turns on in case you’re injured.

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3. Chew your food well

Not only will chewing make it easier for your body to digest the nutrients in your food, the act of chewing also releases ‘Th17’ immune cells in your mouth. These cells act as one of your body’s first defences against infection, protecting against harmful pathogens.

4. Turn your shower to cold

When researchers in Amsterdam asked people to take cold showers for 30 days they reported a 29 per cent drop in how often they got sick. “Cold increases levels of your white blood cells, the soldiers of your immune system,” explains Laura Hof, from The Wim Hof Method, a program that promotes daily cold exposure.

“The first few times can be a challenge as your body gets used to the cold, so start by just turning your shower to cold for the last five to 15 seconds of your normal shower.

And just expose yourself to the water from the neck down — leave your head out.”

5. Get on a group chat

You may not be able to see your friends in person right now, but don’t drop contact completely — the genes that control the part of your immune system that fights viruses don’t work as effectively if you feel lonely, say US scientists.

6. Master the basics

“Avoiding infection is a race between replicating microbes and your immune system’s response to them,” explains immunologist Professor Cassandra Berry. “A daily practise of keeping calm, sleeping well, exercising, maintaining hydration and good nutrition will assist your body in fighting these invaders in the best way it can.”

7. Snack on licorice

“Licorice’s main active ingredient, glycyrrhizin, has many effects that are useful for supporting the immune system,” says Australian Nutrition Centre head practitioner James Jensen. “One is that it blocks the ACE-2 receptor in the airways that some viruses, including COVID-19, use to enter the cells.” Avoid if you have high blood pressure, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, though.

8. Put down the salt

You already know it’s bad for your blood pressure, but a new German study suggests that too much salt also weakens the immune system by reducing the ability of cells called granulocytes to destroy bacteria. Just one more reason to stay within the recommended 5g a day (that’s about one teaspoon), says researcher Dr Christian Kurts.

9. Get outside

Just five to 10 minutes in the garden or on your balcony can rev up your immunity. As well as the sunlight helping in the formation of vitamin D, “blue light in sunlight also triggers a chemical reaction in protective T-cells that stimulates their movement”, says pharmacology Professor Gerard Ahern, who discovered this extra link between sunlight and immunity.

10. Eat more mushrooms

While white foods tend to be demonised in the quest for good health don’t tar them all with the same brush. Natural, unprocessed white foods have many positive attributes. Mushrooms in particular have been shown to support immunity in a number of trials. And you don’t need expensive ones to get results either — in one US trial, just four button mushrooms revved up the activity of natural killer cells that attack viruses.

11. Smear Vegemite on your toast

Tom Hanks was on to something! A Victoria University study links eating Vegemite to lower levels of stress and anxiety (well-known immunity sappers). “The high levels of B vitamins found in Vegemite may explain why it has a positive impact on mental health,” says nutritionist Rick Hay. “Vitamin B12, for example, supports the normal functioning of your nerve cells, while B3 plays a crucial role in the synthesis of serotonin, which helps with anxiety.”

12. Look on the bright side

It may seem a little tricky right now, but research shows that summoning up positive feelings about the future will trigger a temporary bump in your immunity. It can be as simple as planning some fun things to look forward to when lockdown is over, or doing just one thing a day to keep your spirits up (our positivity planner on page 15 will help with this).

13. Tone down the HIIT

While it has many benefits, too much high-intensity exercise can put your immune system on the back foot. In fact, a Brazilian study found that two days of back-to-back HIIT exercise compromised the immune system, leading researchers to suggest at least one rest day — which can also be low-volume or low-intensity sessions — between workouts.

14. Try self-hypnosis

Poor sleep can knock your immune system, so anything that improves sleep should enhance it. Using self-hypnosis as a sleep aid may create a double whammy as studies at the University of Zurich have found it specifically increases the amount of slow-wave sleep you get, which is the stage at which your immune system restores and regenerates. Try an app like Relax & Sleep Well Hypnosis (free on iTunes and Google Play) to get you started

15. Take care in the AM

Because infection happens when the virus replicates faster than your body can fight it off, you may want to be extra diligent about your hygiene in the morning. Researchers from the UK’s University of Cambridge found viruses multiply 10 times faster in the morning, which means if everything else is equal and you’re exposed to a bug at night or in the morning, it’s more likely to take hold in the morning.

How Blood Sugar Can Trigger a Deadly Immune Response in the Flu and Possibly COVID-19

How Blood Sugar Can Trigger a Deadly Immune Response in the Flu and Possibly COVID-19

  • April 25, 2020

Many of the people dying in the novel coronavirus pandemic appear to be harmed more by their own immune system than by the virus itself. The infection can trigger a cytokine storm—a surge in cell-signaling proteins that prompt inflammation—that hits the lungs, attacking tissues and potentially resulting in organ failure and death. But this phenomenon is not unique to COVID-19; it sometimes occurs in severe influenza, too. Now a study sheds light on one of the metabolic mechanisms that help orchestrate such runaway inflammation.

Scientists have long known that viral infections can affect human cellular metabolism, the system of biochemical reactions needed to provide energy for everything cells do. In the new paper, researchers showed that in live mice and human cells, infection with an influenza A virus—one of two types that typically cause seasonal flu—sets off a chain of cellular events, or a pathway, that boosts the metabolism of glucose. This action, in turn, triggers the production of an avalanche of cytokines. And blocking a key enzyme involved in the glucose pathway could be one way to prevent a deadly cytokine storm, according to the study, which was published last week in Science Advances.

Although the research was not focused on the novel coronavirus, the team says the same mechanism is likely at play in the illness it causes: COVID-19. This connection could explain why people with diabetes are at a higher risk of dying from the virus.

When a virus infects a cell, it steals resources in order to make copies of itself, explains Paul Thomas, an immunologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., who was not involved in the new study. Infected cells have to boost their metabolism to replenish these resources, and healthy cells must also do so in order to mount an effective immune response, he says.

Prior research had shown that an influenza infection increases the metabolism of glucose, the sugar molecule that fuels most cellular activities. And in previous work, the authors of the new paper had identified a pathway, involving a signaling protein called interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5), in which a flu infection can lead to a cytokine storm.

In its latest study, the team revealed, at a detailed molecular level, how a glucose metabolism pathway activated by flu infection leads to an out-of-control immune response. During such an infection, high levels of glucose in the blood cause an enzyme called O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine transferase (OGT) to bind to, and chemically modify, IRF5 in a process known as glycosylation. This step enables another chemical modification, called ubiquitination, that leads to a cytokine inflammatory response.

The researchers infected mice with influenza A and then administered glucosamine, a sugar that kicks off this glucose metabolism pathway. They showed that doing so increased the production of cytokines. Next, they genetically engineered mice that lacked the gene that enables OGT production. These mice did not develop an over-the-top cytokine response when exposed to glucosamine.

Finally, the scientists analyzed blood collected from flu patients and healthy individuals in Wuhan, China, between 2018 and 2019. They found that the flu-infected subjects’ blood had higher glucose levels—and correspondingly higher levels of immune system signaling molecules—than that of the healthy patients. That result further supports the idea that glucose metabolism plays a role in flu infection.

The findings suggest that interfering with this pathway could be one way to prevent the cytokine storm seen in flu and other viral infections. Such an intervention would need to be done carefully, however, to avoid shutting off the body’s ability to fight the virus altogether.

“It could be relevant to interfere with glucose metabolism using chemical inhibitors and [to] modulate the cytokine production,” says study co-author Mengji Lu, a professor at University Hospital Essen’s Institute of Virology in Germany. “But it needs to be said that energy metabolism is essential for our immune cells [to fight a] virus. It may be important to combine antiviral treatment and metabolic inhibitors—suppressing the virus and reducing the overshooting immune reaction at the same time.”

A similar process of runaway cytokine production has been observed in COVID-19, Lu says. But there are no specific drugs that target the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease, he adds, so “interference with energy metabolism alone may result in breakdown of our immune defense and does not provide a benefit.”

Other researchers praise the study. “This paper does a nice job of proposing and validating one mechanism by which metabolic changes can feed forward to inflammatory responses,” Thomas says. Previous studies had shown more broadly that glucose metabolism plays a role in the response to flu infection. But this one details what is going on at the molecular level and how interfering with this process could prevent uncontrolled inflammation, he adds.

The findings confirm what Haitao Wen, now an assistant professor of immunology at Ohio State University, and his colleagues found in a 2018 study of the same metabolic pathway using a different RNA virus. A 2019 study by another group also came to similar conclusions. All three studies show that the OGT enzyme involved in this pathway is required to initiate the host’s stress response to a viral infection. “The initial point of this stress response is to build up an antipathogen immune response and try to fight against virus,” says Wen, who was not involved in the new paper. “But if the inflammatory response keeps going, it will cause collateral damage.”

Given the role of glucose in the pathway, could a person’s diet have an effect on his or her response to a viral infection? “That’s a very good question,” Wen says. “At this moment, I think it’s too early to make a judgment [about whether] a special diet can fight against virus infection.” What scientists do know is that people with type 2 diabetes are more susceptible to severe flu infections. But that risk is not because they have higher glucose levels in their blood. The real reason, Wen says, is that they cannot use glucose effectively—and thus cannot initiate a proper antiviral response.

Ultimately, the hope is that by interfering with this glucose metabolism pathway, we might be able to stave off the deadly cytokine storms seen in severe cases of flu or COVID-19. But Lu’s team has not yet done studies in people. “At the moment, we do not have data in patients demonstrating the effect of interference with energy metabolism,” he says. “It is too early to make a conclusion about the potential clinical use.”

How doctors say you can boost your immune system to protect against flu, coronavirus

How doctors say you can boost your immune system to protect against flu, coronavirus

  • April 9, 2020

As coronavirus and flu concerns continue, many people are looking for ways to protect themselves and stay healthy. While doctors say training your immune system is something people need to be doing all year long, there are some steps people can take right now.

“As we know with the coronavirus, it is affecting elderly and immunocompromised individuals more. We do know that in our community older individuals do have micro-nutrient deficiencies. We’re seeing deficiencies in B vitamin, folate, zinc and that’s due to the lack diversity in the foods that they’re eating,” said USF Endocrinology Doctor Crystal Jacovino.

As always, doctors say washing your hands is the first line of defense.


“Taking enough vitamin C, B vitamins, the micro-nutrients like selenium, folate, things like that are things that really we need to be doing all year long,” said Jacovino.

Experts say to stop smoking and avoid alcohol, fried foods and sugary foods immediately.


Foods that are high in sugar can stifle the immune system response, meaning immune cells can’t get to where they need to go.

Doctors say people should start adding fruits and vegetables into their diets that are high in antioxidants. Adding spices like ginger and turmeric can also help with inflammation.

“Eating a variety of different types of foods will help assure that you get the proper amount of vitamins and antioxidants and micro-nutrients that we all need to help our immune system function. It helps make our white blood cells work,” said Jacovino.


Experts say eating the right foods isn’t the only thing that can build immunity and help restore the body.

“Sleep and exercise really help boost the immune system. It allows you rest and rejuvenate and to allow your body the chance to heal. So making sure that you’re getting an appropriate amount of sleep, that you’re getting good sleep hygiene is very important to fighting off illnesses,” said Jacovino.