9 Ways to Support Immune Health in the Pandemic

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | February 10th, 2021

What can you do as an individual to better equip yourself throughout the pandemic? From the tips on Whatsapp to the conversations on Twitter, it is often difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Many self-proclaimed experts have disseminated information on concoctions, teas, and rituals that will help fight COVID-19. However, our immune system is quite complex, and there is much we still do not know about it. Nevertheless, there are certain behaviors you can implement to not only better equip you against COVID-19 but support your immune system when feeling ill. To be clear, the immune system can only be “boosted” if there is a nutrient deficiency or lifestyle alternation leading to immunosuppression. Examples include athletes, people that are already sick, and the elderly. Let’s take a look at 5 ways to support immune health during the pandemic.

1.  Adequate sleep. A step often neglected but highly fruitful, is adequate sleep! Sleep deprivation has been proven to be highly associated with illness. If you are a healthy individual, but continually sleep deprived you place yourself at greater risk for infection. Furthermore, sleep deprivtaion can prevent vaccines from being effective, indicating a reduction in immune response.

COVID-19, Coronavirus, group of viruses in a worldwide pandemic concept.

2.  Dietary strategies. Generally, a healthy lifestyle with a variety of frutis, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins can support immune health and healing. This is due to the array of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids present in a balanced diet. For example omega 3 fatty acids (EPA + DHA), zinc, and iron play a role in DNA and RNA synthesis and possess anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory functions. The direct role on immune function from fatty acids and minerals such as zinc is not strong, but may be beneficial to include in an optimal dietary approach.

3.  Limiting alcohol. Studies consistently reveal that alcohol alters the normal and desirable response of the immune system to infection via latering white blood cell fucntion. In addition, alchohol can results in a decrease in anabolic hormones altering protein synthesis and healing.

4.  Strategic supplementation. Supplementation with probiotics and prebiotics has been said to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory illness by 50% and reduce the duration of an infection by approximately 2 days. Additionally, vitamin C and D supplementation when ill has shown to be very useful.

5.  Adequate Protein and calorie nutrition. Protein and calorie restriction are associated with a decrease in immunity. This is due to the fact that there is a reduction in natural killer cells (key role in immune response) and antigen-specific immune cells. Furtheremore, protein calorie malnutrition can increase risk of infection by impairing CD4+/CD8+ (helper/suppressor cells) ratio and phagocytic cell response to infection. Determining adequate protein and calorie nutrition depends on your activity level. Apps like MyFitnessPal can make it easy to keep track of of protein and calorie intake.

In conclusion, there are certain behaviors one can take on to support immune health during the pandemic. Health is holistic, so relying on medications and vaccines can only get you so far. For those that are not able to get the vaccine, implementing these strategies can be useful to support your immune health before receiving the vaccine and even after.

Dr Joseph Taiwo

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