How to support your immune system during alarming COVID-19 times

Immune system support with covid

Topics Covered

  1. Eat a healthy balance diet
  2. Reduce stress levels
  3. Get sufficient sleep
  4. Additional Supplements

With COVID-19 becoming more prevalent in Australia, it is only natural that we are wanting to support our immune system to be the healthiest we can possibly be. Whilst there are no supplements or foods out there that can prevent you from getting COVID-19 or other viruses, there are steps you can take to support your immune system to minimise your risk of illness. This blog will discuss 4 areas of your diet and lifestyle that are key to supporting your immune system, and some natural supplements that evidence shows may be beneficial.

1. Eat a healthy balanced diet

You’ve heard it from us before (and you’ll hear it from us again!), eating a balanced diet rich in plant foods and minimal processed foods have been shown to be the best diet to support a strong immune system and decrease inflammatory responses. 

This can be practiced through following the Mediterranean diet which is high in healthy omega fatty acids, vegetables, lean protein, and fruit which leads to overall higher consumption of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants are a very important part of reducing oxidative stress and free radicals which can increase inflammation in the body. To get a large variety of these in the diet, make sure you are eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables from all colours of the rainbow. The number to aim for is 30 different plant foods per week.

This diet is also very gut friendly as it is high in fibre and antioxidants, and therefore allows the probiotics (gut bugs) that live in our digestive tract to thrive. New studies in the area of probiotics and COVID-19 are currently being conducted, and while information is still minimal there is some positive correlations between a healthy microbiome and reduced severity of infection in some people.

Immune system support in covid

2. Reduce your stress levels

Easier said than done, we know, but it is important to lower the burden that our immune system is faced with. When our body is stressed, there are several hormones in our body that are released, the two most important being cortisol and adrenaline. Being stressed is a normal response that the body can handle in small amounts throughout each day, however when cortisol levels are chronically high it can wreak havoc on the body leading to a variety of complications such as decreased immune function, sleep issues and anxiety. 

This is not ideal, particularly in a time when we need our immune system to be functioning at its best. So, managing your stress effectively by exercising, journaling, meditating or simply eliminating certain stressors from your life is important.

3. Get sufficient sleep 

Sleep should not be overlooked as it is a vital part of maintaining a healthy immune system. Whilst the recommended hours of sleep per day varies from person to person, most require 7 – 9 hours a night to function optimally and give their body time for rest and repair. 

Research shows that when a modest amount of sleep is lost, the immune cell activity is dramatically reduced, and further increases the number of inflammatory cytokines (cell signalling proteins).

Immune system support in covid

4. Additional supplements

Lastly in this blog, let’s go over some supplements that may be beneficial to support your immune system. There is no such supplement that can ‘boost’ your immune system, however there are some that may be beneficial in supporting your immune system for various reasons. For example, if you are deficient in these nutrients, can’t get enough from your diet or are taking certain medications that may interfere with absorption. 

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin D are the general immune supporting supplements that are the go-to for most people. These are typically safe but if you are on other medications, it is always best to check with your health professional. Additionally, if you already have adequate stores of these nutrients from a healthy diet, then taking these supplements may not provide much benefit.

Probiotics

Probiotics also get a mention here, as new research into COVID-19 infection has shown that more people with dysbiosis of the gut (an unbalance of good and bad bacteria) were more likely to get ‘long COVID’ post viral symptoms, or secondary infection.

The species that were studied were Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. This is where diet, stress and sleep practices all come together as these can influence the health and quantity of the probiotics that live in our digestive tract.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Other supplements with less but still promising evidence are medicinal mushrooms such as Shiitake, Reishi and Cordyceps. These can help with immune modulation and naturally contain Vitamin D.

In Summary

So, there you have it, 4 tips to support your immune system and minimise risk of infection from COVID-19. Whilst this is a stressful time for all of us, we need to be mindful of reducing our stress levels where possible, eat a healthy balanced diet with a diverse range of plant foods, and get adequate sleep for rest and repair.

Eve Nutritionist

Eve
Nutritionist

This blog post was written by Eve Bishop, Nutritionist at Nourish Health