Breastfeeding is an essential factor in reducing child mortality, high level of wasting, stunting, underweight, high levels of anaemia among children. An analysis of NFHS-4 shows breastfeeding within one hour is only 41.6% and exclusive breastfeeding (0-6 months) is only 54.9%.
It is noteworthy that in India institutional deliveries have increased almost up to 80% as per National Family and Health Survey-4 (2015-16) but irrespective of that, the rate of mothers breastfeeding within one hour of the birth or exclusively feeding their children is very low. This shows that somewhere we are missing on birth preparedness, counselling of mothers, weighing the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child. Exclusive Breastfeeding for the first 6 months followed by complementary feeding practices together can prevent almost one-fifth of deaths in children under five years.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year for the last 29 years across the world from 1st to 7th August. This year the theme of the campaign is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”. The newly mothers find themselves surrounded by a plethora of the myths and misconception associated COVID-19. Recently, the data from the states have reported a drop in institutional deliveries. The Main Reasons for Drop-in Institutional Deliveries has been due to lockdowns, fear of infections and thus people avoiding the physical contact or preference to go to small nursing homes or delivery at homes. Now since the lockdown is opened up, it is very essential to address the issue of myths and misconception.
The World Health Organization (WHO) endorses that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed. Mothers should be counselled that the advantages of breastfeeding significantly outweigh the potential risks for transmission. Breastfeeding is especially effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the system by directly transferring antibodies from the mother. Breastfeeding benefits baby’s Immune System. Mothers milk provides virtually all the protein, sugar, and fat your baby needs to be healthy, and it also contains many substances that benefit your baby’s immune system, including antibodies, immune factors, enzymes, and white blood cells.
BOZEMAN — Every day there seems to be more information and new things to learn regarding the coronavirus and how to keep yourself safe.
Following local and national guidelines like a wearing a mask is one thing, and now many people are considering supplements and vitamins in addition to the safety policies already in place.
People are looking for ways to boost their immune system and do all they can to prepare in the unfortunate event they do get the virus.
MTN News spoke with a few supplement suppliers, who say it should be considered as an addition versus an alternative.
“Obviously, we don’t make any claims. but nutrition’s a really big part of your health and your immune and some of the keys to your immune system that you’re going to get are through foods or through vitamins. mostly, the foods that we’re eating, they don’t have the nutrients that we need,” explained Ben Ziccarelli, the CEO of Complete Nutrition.
Supplements and vitamins have not been discussed as a safety recommendation by the Gallatin County Health Department.
Since the beginning of this outbreak holistic practitioners and the health conscious around the globe have been encouraging people to make better lifestyle choices and boost their immune system , and to be honest they have been for decades. Now Washington University appears to be joining that cause and is suggesting that boosting the immune system could be a treatment strategy for COVID-19.
“We think if we can make our immune systems stronger, we’ll be better able to fight off this coronavirus, as well as other viral and bacterial pathogens”
A large portion of research into this virus is focused on the immune system’s role in those who became seriously ill. One of the emerging theories suggests that the immune system works so hard at fighting off this virus that it can result in fatal organ damage, particularly in the lungs.
Researchers from Washington University St.Louis are pointing to another theory that is getting overlooked which suggests that patients become ill because their immune system is not able to do enough to protect them from the virus, and as such the team is suggesting that boosting the immune system could be a potential treatment strategy. The team has also been investigating a similar approach with sepsis, according to a release.
“People around the world have been treating patients seriously ill with COVID-19 using drugs that do very different things,” said Richard S. Hotchkiss, professor of anesthesiology, of medicine and of surgery. “Some drugs tamp down the immune response, while others enhance it. Everybody seems to be throwing the kitchen sink at the illness. It may be true that some people die from a hyperinflammatory response, but it appears more likely to us that if you block the immune system too much, you’re not going to be able to control the virus.”
Autopsy studies were used to show large amounts of the virus present in the organs of those who had lost their battle with the virus, which suggests that their immune system was not working well enough to fight the virus off leading to death.
“But when we actually looked closely at these patients, we found that their tires, so to speak, were underinflated or immune-suppressed,” said Kenneth Remy, assistant professor of pediatrics, of medicine and of anesthesiology at WashU. “To go and poke holes in them with anti-inflammatory drugs because you think they are hyperinflated or hyperinflamed will only make the suppression and the disease worse.”
Blood samples were gathered from 20 COVID-19 patients to test the activity of immune cells in the blood; the team compared those samples with blood of 26 hospitalized sepsis patients and 18 others who were very ill but did not have sepsis or COVID-19. Those with COVID-19 were found to have far fewer circulating immune cells than what is typical and the immune cells present did not secrete normal levels of cytokines. Cytokine molecules are suspected to be the cause of organ damage in death in COVID-19 patients.
Similar trials and studies focused on boosting immunity are underway in Europe and America which includes Washington University. According to the team finding ways to boost immune responses should help COVID-19 patients, and should also be helpful in avoiding another similar pandemic.
“We should have been geared up and more ready when this pathogen appeared,” said Hotchkiss. “But what Ken [Remy] and I and our colleagues are working on now is finding ways to boost the immune system that may help people during future pandemics. We think if we can make our immune systems stronger, we’ll be better able to fight off this coronavirus, as well as other viral and bacterial pathogens that may be unleashed in the future.“
For anyone interested in boosting your immune system, while it is not guaranteed to prevent you from becoming ill, it could help to give you a better chance of recovery. According to Harvard Health the first line of defense when it comes to the immune system is choosing a health lifestyle. Every part of the body functions better when it is protected from environmental assaults and is bolstered by healthy living strategies, such as what is promoted by here at WHN and the A4M.
Healthy lifestyle choices include:
Getting enough sleep
Keep levels of stress in check/minimized
Maintaining a healthy weight
Avoiding being sedentary
Going outside more
Eating a healthy balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables
Avoiding processed foods
Avoiding alcohol, and if you drink only do it in moderation
Being socially active face to face in person when possible
Thoroughly cooking meats
Limiting added sugars
Supplementing wisely as needed
Sandra Darling, DO who is a preventive medicine physician and wellness expert at the Cleveland Clinic says that while there is no magic pill, there are tried and true ways to take your immunity up a notch:
“Let’s start with the basics: Wash your hands for 20 seconds, don’t touch your face and take distancing seriously,” says Dr. Darling. “If you only do these three things, you’ll be well on your way to staying healthy.”
Dr. Darling prescribes 4 stay healthy strategies. “I believe in the power of immune-boosting foods,” says Dr. Darling. “Choosing whole, unprocessed foods does wonders for overall health.” She recommends garlic, prebiotics, vitamin C rich foods, antioxidants and natural immunity aids as immunity boosters in the focus on food.
She also recommends simple lifestyle improvements like managing stress, getting enough sleep, meditation, and exercise. “Exercise increases your resilience so you can fight off infection,” says Dr. Darling. “Our bodies function better when we’re physically active every day.”
Like many others Dr. Darling also suggests that a positive mindset is key to health and well being. Positive thoughts have been shown to reduce stress and inflammation while increasing resilience to infection. “The COVID-19 pandemic is scary, so it’s easy to spiral down in negative thoughts,” says Dr. Darling. “The story we tell ourselves is crucial. Change it from ‘It’s not going to be OK’ to ‘I am safe at home with the people I love.’ Start your day with a positive thought or even a mantra such as, ‘I am well.’”
“A lot of people are deficient (or low) in vitamin D, and a deficiency may increase your susceptibility to infection,” says Dr. Darling. “Get outside for fresh air and sunshine, but I also recommend taking a daily supplement of 1,000 to 2,000 IUs of vitamin D.”
According to healthline some studies indicate the following supplements may help to strengthen the body’s general immune response: vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, elderberry, echinacea, and garlic.
According to areview in over 11,000 people, taking 1,000–2,000 mg of vitamin C per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children. Yet, supplementing did not prevent the cold to begin with.
Vitamin D deficiency may increase your chances of getting sick, so supplementing may counteract this effect.
In areviewin 575 people with the common cold, supplementing with more than 75 mg of zinc per day reduced the duration of the cold by 33%.
One small review found that elderberries could reduce the symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections, but more research is needed.
Astudy in over 700 people found that those who took echinacea recovered from colds slightly more quickly than those who received a placebo or no treatment.
A high quality, 12-week study in 146 people found that supplementing with garlic reduced the incidence of the common cold by about 30%. However, more research is needed.
This episode of ‘Show Me the Science’ details research findings that patients with COVID-19 often develop weakened rather than hyperactive immunity in response to the coronavirus
Medical staff in an intensive care unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital get into their protective gear before entering the room of a patient with COVID-19. New research from scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that the immune systems of such patients can’t do enough to protect them from the virus. The researchers are proposing boosting the activity of immune cells to treat some patients with COVID-19.
A new episode of our podcast, “Show Me the Science,” has been posted. At present, these podcast episodes are highlighting research and patient care on the Washington University Medical Campus as our scientists and clinicians confront the COVID-19 pandemic.
New research from scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that the immune systems of COVID-19 patients can’t do enough to protect them from the virus.
A popular theory has it that patients’ immune systems get so revved up fighting the virus that, after several days, a so-called cytokine storm ensues, resulting in potentially fatal organ damage, particularly to the lungs. But new findings from a team of researchers led by Richard S. Hotchkiss, MD, a professor of anesthesiology, and Kenneth E. Remy, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics, have found that many patients get very sick because their immune systems can’t do enough to protect them from the virus. They’re suggesting that rather than trying to dampen the immune response, a better treatment strategy for COVID-19 would involve boosting immunity.
“Exercise and Yoga is vital in helping fight viruses like Covid-19,” says Kathy McCready, owner of Providence Health and Fitness.
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Providence Health and Fitness is now into week 20 of the pandemic and so far has held over 540 classes thanks to all of their dedicated instructors. Click here for complete class schedule.
If you have never tried a class with Providence Health and Fitness, the first class is always free, and they currently are offering a summer special – 30 days of unlimited classes for just $64.99. “This gives you the opportunity to try out all the classes and get to know us,” said McCready. Providence Health and Fitness also offers free classes on Sundays where you can try out their fitness and yoga classes being offered.
Sign Up for New Providence Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.
You have successfully signed up for the TAPinto New Providence Newsletter.
“Exercise and yoga is vital in helping fight viruses like Covid 19 and Larry [Heisler] and I have made it our mission to help you all take measures to keep yourselves as healthy as possible and to strengthen your immune system,” said Kathy McReady, owner of Providence Health and Fitness.
Back in March when zoom classes began, McCready said, “This was a whole new thing for me and I have had to learn all kinds of new technology! Thank you for bearing with me as I got to grips with it all. There have been some bumps along the road but all in all things have gone well and most importantly we have kept you exercising.”
“We’ve also held a session on nutrition with Larry and his favorite immune boosting foods and strategies like meditation,” she said. They followed that up with a three part newsletter featuring practical immune boosting strategies like alkalizing your body, plant based nutrition and oxygen increasing exercise. “We are working on adding this information to the website for future reference.” Providence Health and Fitness has also offered twice a month non-denominational meditation classes.
And through this pandemic, their instructors continued to learn and attended online courses. “One of those was an educational meeting for MLD and Massage Therapists,” said McCready. In a time of forced closure, Providence Health and Fitness also adapted to teaching DIY techniques to clients for services they rely on. “We held a session on how to do Manual Lymph Drainage on yourself, to clean up your lymph – waste management system – a.k.a. our bodies built in detoxification system. MLD helps strengthen your immune function,” she said.
McCready added, “There has been an increased interest in ‘proning exercises’ or respiratory recovery exercises.” These are an exercise routine to enhance pulmonary function that help build strength back up and help you breathe more easily. “Interestingly, the exercises are similar to some of our Yoga Asana Poses,” she said. Those mentioned were cat/cow, child pose with hips extended back and chest reaching forward and downward facing dog. Also suggested are diaphragmatic breathing exercises where you lift your ribs and lungs and give space to your torso, getting the breath deep into your body, very similar to our Yoga, she said.
During these 20 weeks, Providence Health and Fitness has built an extensive library of recorded classes for everyone to enjoy when their clients miss the zoom class. She added, “One of the perks of being a monthly member is you get these videos for FREE! If you are not currently a monthly member, now is a great time to join.”
Contact Kathy McCready at 908.898.0008 for more information regarding monthly memberships.
Editor’s Note: Are you a business interested in advertising with TAPinto? Our Special Introductory Packages provide our local businesses with social media marketing, content marketing, and brand awareness as well as the flexibility to market in neighboring towns. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3gi5QJ7.
Set on Spain’s Costa Blanca, SHA Wellness Clinic is one of the world’s premier wellness destinations. This health resort has been known to attract everyone from elite athletes, to Hollywood celebrities and Victoria’s Secret models, as well as assorted oligarchs and billionaires. They come to lose weight, detox, or participate in SHA’s Healthy Aging program. Others want to reset their minds and bodies, adopt new healthy habits, or simply get away from it all.
Devised by wellness guru Alfredo Bataller, the immensely successful SHA method is based on a holistic approach to wellness that combines the latest advances in Western medicine and progressive natural therapies, with a particular focus on healthy, balanced nutrition and exercise.
Since reopening in July, SHA has introduced a series of new services specially designed for the COVID-19 era. Immunotherapy and lymphocyte profile consultations have been added to all bookings to assess the state of the guest’s immune system, while a new immune system strengthening pack has also been developed. A comprehensive “SHA insurance” covers medical and related expenses in the event of positive COVID-19 test on arrival.
So, how can we apply the SHA method to our everyday lives to give our immune systems an extra boost in times of COVID-19? Here are some tips from Alfredo Bataller and his team of experts at SHA Wellness Clinic:
1. Choose seasonal fruit and vegetables
Alfredo Bataller, founder of SHA Wellness Clinic: A balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, vitamin C and antioxidants helps reinforce the immune system and prevent disease. It’s highly recommended to choose fruit and vegetables that are in season to ensure that they are as fresh and nutritious as possible.
2. Enjoy immune-boosting superfoods
Melanie Waxman, healthy nutrition expert: To keep the immune system in perfect working order, we should enjoy a diet based on fresh food that helps to maintain the balance of the intestinal microbiota. It should include whole grains, beans, seaweed (spirulina), nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, such as kale, onions, garlic, leeks and asparagus, and fruit, such as apples.
3. Take moderate exercise
Luis Ganso, personal trainer: Moderate exercise, such as 30 minutes of fast-paced walking, has been shown to improve the function of the immune system. This type of exercise strengthens our respiratory capacity, mobilizing antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more quickly, and detect and neutralize external attacks. Meanwhile, raising the body temperature helps to prevent the development of infection.
4. Exercise outdoors if possible…
Alfredo Bataller: It’s always a good idea to spend some time during the day walking outdoors—preferably in nature. Spending time outdoors is important for breathing fresh air and absorbing the vitamin D provided by the sun, which is so crucial to support calcium absorption and the proper functioning of the immune system.
5. …Even when you don’t feel like it
Alfredo Bataller: Exercise is always good, even if we may have lost motivation during lockdown or if we feel tired or low on energy. Exercise strengthens the immune system and makes our bodies secrete “happy” hormones, or endorphins, while reducing the level of the stress hormone, cortisol. Stress is harmful to the body, and, having less of it actually strengthens the immune system.
6. Use deep breathing to stimulate lymph flow
Rachel Rose, body and mind expert and yoga coach: Stable mental health is basic to managing stress, which, in turn, impacts the immune system. Lymphocytes are found in lymph nodes and organs, and in the blood. Lymph nodes are the body’s first line of defense against disease. Breathing is directly related to lymph flow, and lymph flow is directly related to immunity.
The diaphragm muscle, located between the lungs and the abdomen moves down when we inhale and up when we exhale. This movement causes a series of pressure differences that generate movement in the body. Lymph flow, or the mechanism that transports the lymph containing our infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body, is one of the most crucial movements supported by deep breathing.
7. Get enough rest
Alfredo Bataller: Getting quality sleep is essential to reinforcing our immune system, while not getting enough sleep can cause our immunity to decline, making us more prone to infectious diseases. Adults should sleep at least seven to eight hours a day.
8. Rethink breakfast
Maria Romeralo, healthy nutrition expert: When we start the day with sugary coffee and a pastry, we instantly feel good and full of energy. However, after a while, our energy levels drop and our bodies demand more sugar. This is why it’s important to avoid refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and honey at breakfast.
At SHA, we serve miso soup for breakfast. Miso soup is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. You can make it even richer by adding wakame seaweed, onions, tofu, carrots or pumpkin. It’s a wonderful way to cleanse the body while providing quality nutrients. Miso is a fermented food and therefore a source of probiotics that also help strengthen our immune systems.
9. Keep in touch with friends and family
Alfredo Bataller: Confinement can lead to loneliness, sedentariness and depression, all of which are detrimental to the proper functioning of the immune system. Contact with our loved ones helps calm the mind, enables us to cope with the stress of these uncertain times, and also reduces the risk of obesity and alcohol and tobacco abuse.
10. Look for lasting lifestyle change, not quick fixes
Melanie Waxman, healthy nutrition expert: It’s important to transition to a healthy lifestyle gradually, with a view to maintaining it long term. At SHA, we give our guests the necessary tools to start leading that lifestyle once they leave: healthy cooking classes, yoga classes, outdoor exercise, nutrition and medical advice on everything from quitting smoking, to sleeping, and strengthening the cognition. Once back in their routine, they’re encouraged to adopt these activities until they become habits.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives around the world, much research has focused on the immune system’s role in patients who become seriously ill. A popular theory has it that the immune system gets so revved up fighting the virus that, after several days, it produces a so-called cytokine storm that results in potentially fatal organ damage, particularly to the lungs.
But new findings from a team of researchers led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis point to another theory and suggest that patients become ill because their immune systems can’t do enough to protect them from the virus, landing them in intensive care units. They suggest that boosting immunity could be a potential treatment strategy for COVID-19.
Such a strategy has been proposed in two recently published papers, one published online in JAMA Network Open and the other published online in the journal JCI Insight.
“People around the world have been treating patients seriously ill with COVID-19 using drugs that do very different things,” said senior investigator Richard S. Hotchkiss, MD, professor of anesthesiology, of medicine and of surgery. “Some drugs tamp down the immune response, while others enhance it. Everybody seems to be throwing the kitchen sink at the illness. It may be true that some people die from a hyperinflammatory response, but it appears more likely to us that if you block the immune system too much, you’re not going to be able to control the virus.”
The Washington University researchers have been investigating a similar approach in treating sepsis, a potentially fatal condition that also involves patients who simultaneously seem to have overactive and weakened immune systems.
Hotchkiss points to autopsy studies performed by other groups showing large amounts of coronavirus present in the organs of people who died from COVID-19, suggesting that their immune systems were not working well enough to fight the virus. His colleague, Kenneth E. Remy, MD, the JCI Insight study’s first author, compares efforts to inhibit the immune system to fixing a flat tire by letting more air out.
“But when we actually looked closely at these patients, we found that their tires, so to speak, were underinflated or immune-suppressed,” said Remy, assistant professor of pediatrics, of medicine and of anesthesiology at Washington University. “To go and poke holes in them with anti-inflammatory drugs because you think they are hyperinflated or hyperinflamed will only make the suppression and the disease worse.”
After gathering blood samples from 20 COVID-19 patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis, the researchers employed a test to measure the activity of immune cells in the blood. They compared the blood of those patients to 26 hospitalized sepsis patients and 18 others who were very sick but had neither sepsis nor COVID-19.
They found that the COVID-19 patients often had far fewer circulating immune cells than is typical. Further, the immune cells that were present did not secrete normal levels of cytokines – the molecules many have proposed as a cause of organ damage and death in COVID-19 patients.
Instead of trying to fight the infection by further interfering with the production of cytokines, they tried a strategy that has been successful in previous studies they have conducted in sepsis patients.
Hotchkiss and Remy collaborated with researchers in a small study conducted in seriously ill COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized in Belgium. In that study, which was reported on in the JAMA Network Open paper, the COVID-19 patients were treated with a substance called interleukin-7 (IL-7), a cytokine that is required for the healthy development of immune cells.
In those patients, the researchers found that IL-7 helped restore balance to the immune system by increasing the number of immune cells and helping those cells make more cytokines to fight infection.
The research did not demonstrate, however, that treatment with IL-7 improved mortality in COVID-19 patients.
“This was a compassionate trial and not a randomized, controlled trial of IL-7,” Remy explained. “We were attempting to learn whether we could get these immune cells working again – and we could – as well as whether we could do it without causing harmful effects in these very sick patients – and there were none. As this was an observational study involving a small number of patients who already were on ventilators, it wasn’t really designed to evaluate IL-7’s impact on mortality.”
Studies focused on boosting immunity and improving outcomes among the sickest COVID-19 patients are just getting underway in Europe, and similar trials are starting in the U.S., including at Washington University.
Hotchkiss said that finding ways to boost the immune response should help not only in COVID-19 patients but when the next pandemic arises.
“We should have been geared up and more ready when this pathogen appeared,” he said. “But what Ken and I and our colleagues are working on now is finding ways to boost the immune system that may help people during future pandemics. We think if we can make our immune systems stronger, we’ll be better able to fight off this coronavirus, as well as other viral and bacterial pathogens that may be unleashed in the future.”
Your body’s immune system fights off foreign invaders – bacteria, viruses and fungi – that cause infection. Even if you do get sick, a healthy immune system helps you recover faster. The immune system includes these interconnected parts:
Innate immune system. This is the part you’re born with, which immediately responds to invaders using white blood cells.
Adaptive immune system. Also called the acquired immune system, it develops antibodies after a first exposure from a disease-causing invader. Antibodies can then recognize and defend against future exposures.
Bone marrow. This spongy tissue within bones contains stem cells, some of which mature into infection-fighting white blood cells.
Lymphatic system. Lymph fluid, vessels and lymph nodes help clear away infections.
Spleen. This abdominal organ can detect and produce cells to defend against unwanted invaders.
Skin. Your skin acts as an all-over, first-line barrier against germs and other invaders. In addition, dendritic cells help trigger the body’s immune response to viruses, bacteria and fungi.
Organs such as your heart, lungs and brain also play a supporting role by keeping you – and therefore your immune system – healthy.
Healthy habits and a strong immune system work together to help keep you disease- and infection-free. Experts offer tips for shoring up your immune system with these approaches:
Keeping up with recommended immunizations – such as flu shots and shingles vaccines – provides a powerful assist to your immune system. Ask your doctor about the HPV vaccine or any vaccines you’ll need before you travel.
“Vaccinations impart immunity by exposing our bodies to small dose of the microbe – virus or bacteria – which leads to production of the antibodies against that microbe,” says Dr. Yufang Lin, an integrative medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic. “When we are exposed to the same microbe in real life, our bodies can produce antibodies to fight it off quickly, thus avoiding a full-blown illness,” she says. “Vaccinations thus increase the body’s ability to fight off infection.”
Your body’s response to stress can affect your immune system both directly and indirectly, says Lindsay Jernigan, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Vermont.
“When we are under stress, our bodies release a cascade of hormones that are designed to help us survive the stressful moment, particularly adrenaline, cortisol and glucosamine,” she says. “This is a healthy and adaptive response,” explains Jernigan, who is also a writer for Psychology Today. However, excess levels of these fight-or-flight hormones build up and increase systemic inflammation and decrease the body’s white blood cell response.
Chronic stress increases depression and anxiety, which in turn further promote inflammation and the release of corticosteroids, Jernigan says. “To add salt to the wound, emotional distress also impacts our health-related choices,” she says, which indirectly affects the immune system.
For instance, Jernigan notes that while under stress, you may be more prone to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, social isolation and physical stagnation.
According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Life Stress Inventory, a well-known scale created by two psychiatrists, these are the top five stress-inducing events:
Death of a spouse.
Detention in jail or other institution.
Death of a close family member.
Marriage, job loss and pregnancy are also major life stressors.
In general, consuming a well-balanced diet with at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables will help promote a healthy immune system, says Tiana Carey, a registered dietitian with UC Davis Health in Sacramento, California.
In particular, Carey recommends foods rich in the following nutrients for their healthful effects:
Vitamin A (beta carotene). Assists with the health of your intestines and respiratory system. Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, sweet potato, spinach, broccoli and red bell peppers.
Vitamin C. Helps stimulate antibody formation. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, strawberries, red bell pepper and kiwi.
Vitamin E. Promotes the neutralization of free radicals by working as an antioxidant. Vitamin E-rich foods include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and avocado.
Zinc. “There are many zinc-dependent enzymes in our body and deficiency has been linked with immune dysfunction,” Carey says. Zinc-rich foods include beans, seeds, nuts, meat, poultry and seafood.
Protein. Specific amino acids found in protein are essential for T-cell functions. Protein-rich foods include meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds.
“These nutrients have been shown to help your immune system work most efficiently and effectively, but too much of a good thing can be harmful,” Carey says. “Eat these nutrients in moderation and don’t go overboard – if you eat too many carrots, you may just turn orange.”
Tweak your diet as needed. “Diets high in highly processed food, sugar, trans fat and salt have been associated with an increased risk of inflammation and chronic illness,” says Lin, who points to familiar spices with helpful antimicrobial properties such as ginger, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, peppermint and lemon balm.
Staying hydrated helps your immune system stay healthy. “Water comprises 70% of our body weight and is involved in most of the metabolic process in the body, including energy generation and detoxification,” Lin says. “When we don’t drink enough water, these processes can become sluggish and function poorly.”
“Exercise is our superpower when it comes to stress management,” Jernigan says. Any form of physical movement can be helpful, including:
Getting the right amount of exercise can bolster your immune system by strengthening physical health, increasing flexibility and coordination and improving mental health, Lin explains. Just don’t overdo it.
“Excessive exercise – beyond one’s ability in duration or intensity – can suppress and weaken immunity,” Lin says. “Proper exercise has been shown to improve the immune system; however, strenuous exercise outside of one’s comfort zone can weaken (it).”
Adequate sleep at the right time is critical for a healthy immune system, Lin emphasizes. “At night, our bodies rest, recover and regenerate,” she says. “Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, depression and chronic pain via increased chronic inflammation and a suppressed immune system.”
Sleep timing is important, Lin adds. “Our body functions based on circadian rhythm, which is a natural, internal biology clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, hormone regulation, digestion and immune response.”
Unhealthy Habits to Lose
Some habits can sabotage your immune system. Changing behaviors like these will also improve your overall health:
Eating a lot of processed, sugary or junk foods.
Sitting too much (being sedentary).
Staying indoors continually.
Overreliance on over-the-counter supplements also can be unhealthy.Although many over-the-counter supplements claim to have positive effects in combating illness, be aware that not all claims are regulated or true, Carey advises.
When contagious illness is rampant, whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic or flu season, take extra precautions to stave off infectious organisms (and protect others around you). Avoid sick people when possible.
“In general, when a person is infected with a viral illness, such as a cold, they are most likely to be infectious to others in the first few days of illness, as their body is in the early phases of mounting an immune response to fight off infection,” Lin says.
Use barriers like face masks. If contaminated air is filtered through a mask, infection risk is much lower, Lin says.
Keep up with hand hygiene. Consistent hand-washing and hand sanitizing clearly help.
Seek fresh air. “Risk is also lower in a well-ventilated, outdoor environment,” Lin says.
Disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home and work. “Another way the microbe can be transmitted is through shared working space,” Lin cautions. “As someone coughs or sneezes into their hand and then touches a tabletop, that tabletop now has the virus or the bacteria.”
Brush your teeth regularly. Avoiding oral infections is important.
Follow respiratory etiquette. Cough into your sleeve or a tissue – not into the air or your hand.
Maintain physical distance. Respect distancing guidelines during disease outbreaks.
Shower or bathe at night instead of – or in addition to – morning bathing or showering, Lin suggests. “As we move about during the day, we pick up dirt and germs, dusts, pollens and other allergens, which can cling to our clothes, skin and hair,” she says. “We spend one-third of our life in bed. Without washing these off, we may have prolonged exposure to these particles while we sleep and an increased risk of developing illness or allergic symptoms, which can increase risk of sinus infections.”
Tend to Your Emotional Well-Being
Make the body-mind connection and take positive steps to further support your immune system:
Stay connected with family and friends. “Studies show resiliency is in part dependent on social connections with others,” Lin says. “Isolation and loneliness have been connected with increased risk of chronic diseases.”
Have a purpose in life. A sense of purpose is critical for emotional well-being, Lin says.
Have fun. “Our emotions are intimately connected to our physical health,” Lin notes. “Having fun brings about happiness, recharges our emotional batteries and supports a healthy immune system.”
Be grateful. Gratitude for what you have is another positive emotion that reduces stress and supports emotional well-being.
Help others. “Altruism boosts emotional wellness, thereby boosting physical wellness,” Jernigan says. “Helping others releases feel-good hormones that counter the effects of stress hormones.”
Spend time outdoors. “Right-size your stressors by spending time outdoors,” Jernigan advises. “Mother Nature is a master at stress reduction.”
Don’t wait until you get sick to get started. “Promoting a healthy immune system at baseline is key,” Carey says. “Unfortunately, most research shows that there is not much you can do once you are already sick, but having a healthy immune system can help prevent becoming sick in the first place.”
Immunity, then, is usually a matter of degrees, not absolutes. And it lies at the heart of many of the COVID-19 pandemic’s biggest questions. Why do some people become extremely ill and others don’t? Can infected people ever be sickened by the same virus again? How will the pandemic play out over the next months and years? Will vaccination work?
To answer these questions, we must first understand how the immune system reacts to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Which is unfortunate because, you see, the immune system is very complicated.
It works, roughly, like this.
The first of three phases involves detecting a threat, summoning help, and launching the counterattack. It begins as soon as a virus drifts into your airways, and infiltrates the cells that line them.
When cells sense molecules common to pathogens and uncommon to humans, they produce proteins called cytokines. Some act like alarms, summoning and activating a diverse squad of white blood cells that go to town on the intruding viruses—swallowing and digesting them, bombarding them with destructive chemicals, and releasing yet more cytokines. Some also directly prevent viruses from reproducing (and are delightfully called interferons). These aggressive acts lead to inflammation. Redness, heat, swelling, soreness—these are all signs of the immune system working as intended.
This initial set of events is part of what’s called the innate immune system. It’s quick, occurring within minutes of the virus’s entry. It’s ancient, using components that are shared among most animals. It’s generic, acting in much the same way in everyone. And it’s broad, lashing out at anything that seems both nonhuman and dangerous, without much caring about which specific pathogen is afoot. What the innate immune system lacks in precision, it makes up for in speed. Its job is to shut down an infection as soon as possible. Failing that, it buys time for the second phase of the immune response: bringing in the specialists.
Amid all the fighting in your airways, messenger cells grab small fragments of virus and carry these to the lymph nodes, where highly specialized white blood cells—T-cells—are waiting. The T-cells are selective and preprogrammed defenders. Each is built a little differently, and comes ready-made to attack just a few of the zillion pathogens that could possibly exist. For any new virus, your body probably has a T-cell somewhere that could theoretically fight it. Your body just has to find and mobilize that cell. Picture the lymph nodes as bars full of grizzled T-cell mercenaries, each of which has just one type of target they’re prepared to fight. The messenger cell bursts in with a grainy photo, showing it to each mercenary in turn, asking: Is this your guy? When a match is found, the relevant merc arms up and clones itself into an entire battalion, which marches off to the airways.