COVID-19, coronavirus, health, healthy

While there is no diet, no miracle cure and no substance that completely guarantees that you will stay safe from disease, there are steps that you can take to boost your immune system which, makes it more likely that you can fight against disease. 

However, knowing exactly how to do that is difficult because the internet is awash with claims that certain vitamins or foods will prevent you from getting the virus. 

I don’t believe in miracle cures. Like anything in life, maintaining a healthy diet takes effort and work. There is no one pill that will make – and keep us well. If only.

However, most medical experts agree that those who maintain healthy lifestyles, with regular exercise are more likely to be well equipped to fight off disease.

But how do we know which online recommendations actually work?

That’s a difficult question to answer, mainly because the immune system is not “one thing” that can easily be measured. It’s an intricate and delicate system with many different components. Helping one section might impair another, or boosting a certain section may have nothing to do with fighting viruses.

In other words, knowing what to do is challenging. But there are certainly tried and tested methods of maintaining general health and keeping yourself as well as possible.

Get plenty of sleep

The body does most of its healing work during the sleep cycles. Research published in PubMed revealed that you’re more likely to become ill after being exposed to a virus. This is because your immune system releases proteins that you need in order to fight off an infection or inflammation. According to research, most adults need between 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. 

Reduce Stress

mindfulness meditation

Reducing stress can be more difficult than it sounds these days. If we’re not receiving scary news from the media, then the everyday stress of demanding jobs, taking part in the rat race and dealing with family and health issues can very quickly take its toll. The problem with stress is that it lowers activation of systems that the body considers non-essential to, say, fighting off danger. It also lowers the immune response and over time, it can reduce the number of white blood cells in the body. 

However, one way to reduce stress is to take up meditation, yoga, tai chi or something similar. All of these different practices can help reduce the toll that stress takes on the body.

Reduce Sugar & Simple Carbs

diet

This is a tough one. Sugar seems to be in everything nowadays. Moreover, other common food products that do not necessarily taste sweet convert into sugar within the human body. This includes white potato, white bread white rice, white pasta, fries and similar food products.

The whole wheat versions of those foods do that too – but at a much slower rate.

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and the above-mentioned foods also fall into that category. Simple carbs convert very quickly into excess glucose that the body cannot use and this is what leads to health problems.

A separate study published in PubMed revealed that a high sugar diet not only induces diabetes and obesity, it also reduces the immune system’s ability to fight off pathogens and parasites.

Other reports suggest that sugar puts white blood cells into a ‘temporary coma’ – meaning that those cells are deactivated and therefore, leaves room from pathogens to make their way into the body.

For this reason, it is best to avoid sugar as much as possible.

Exercise Often

Did you know that moderate physical activity reduces your chances of getting a virus? Don’t take my word for it. A study published in the Journal of Sport and Health showed that exercise can help the immune system to fight off diseases. It highlighted a clear link between moderate exercise training and illness risk. Moreover, exercise training has an anti-inflammatory influence mediated through multiple pathways, may decrease the rates of infection for viruses (including the flu and pneumonia) and bacterial diseases (though more research is needed in this area). 

Stock Up on Vitamins

vitamins, healthy living, supplement,

While vitamins alone won’t help you fight off every disease out there, it can certainly go a long way towards giving your immune system a helping hand to fight off viruses and bacteria.

For example, vitamin C is known to be a powerful antioxidant, which enhances immune cell functions. Foods high in vitamin C include (in order from the highest) include: red peppers, oranges, kiwifruit, green pepper, broccoli (higher when cooked), strawberries, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.

Other powerful antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamins include vitamin D, Vitamin K, selenium and a whole host of others.

Healthy Eating

diet, salad, smoothie

It is no secret that eating fruits and vegetables can give the body the nutrition it needs to maintain health. 

But not all fruits and vegetables are created equal. For example, overcooked vegetables reduce a lot of vital minerals and vitamin content. Eating raw vegetables gives you the most enzymes, vitamins and minerals needed for good health.

There is also some emerging evidence that eating raw food may be associated with better mental health. Research published by the Department of Psychology at the University of Otago showed that cooking or processing may reduce the availability of the micronutrients that raw fruits and vegetables contain. 

If you must cook them, then gently steaming them for 10-15 minutes can help to limit the reduction of vitamins and minerals that occurs during cooking.

Moreover, organic fruits and vegetables that are free from pesticides are less likely to contain toxins that can inhibit the beneficial effects of vitamins and minerals. Organic food is often fresher because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer.

Manuka Honey

manuka honey, health,

While there has been no scientific evidence that shows manuka honey is effective in killing viruses, it has been shown to be extremely effective in killing bacterial infections – including secondary infections that may arise from serious diseases such as COVID-19.

According to the NHS website, honey has long been known to have antibacterial properties and is sometimes included in licensed wound-care products.

In 2011, researchers from Wales created a paper that demonstrated how manuka honey can stop bacteria from attaching to tissue at the molecular level. They also found that combining honey with certain antibiotics may make them more successful against drug-resistant MRSA.

This was supported by another study published in PubMed, which found that it contains medicinal and antibacterial properties.

Stay Hydrated

drinking water

Imagine if you could just flush the bad stuff out of your system? Well, one easy way to do that would be to drink plenty of water. Several studies show that water is effective in washing out toxins and pathogens from our cells, which in turn helps to boost our health.

Gargle Salt Water

salt water gargle

Gargling salt water cannot cure a flu, but it can be helpful for several reasons. For example, a saline solution can draw excess fluid from inflamed tissues in the throat, making it hurt less, according to Dr. Philip T. Hagen, editor in chief of the “Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies.” This can help remove irritants like allergens, bacteria and fungi from the throat.

Furthermore, research published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2005 followed almost 400 healthy volunteers and followed them for 60 days during cold and flu season.

Some of the subjects were told to gargle three times a day. At the end of the study period, the group that regularly gargled had a nearly 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections compared with the control group, and when they did get sick, “gargling tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms.”

Other studies showed that gargling salt water can help against sore throats and infection.

According to the Mayo Clinic, for best results, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a full glass of warm water and gargle the solution for a few seconds before spitting it out.

Keeping Bugs at Bay

Let’s be clear: the above guidelines do not constitute a miracle cure nor do they guarantee that you will never catch colds, flus or other diseases. But the evidence is clear: maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of exercise, and avoiding unhealthy sugars and processed foods can significantly reduce your chances of getting a disease. Even if you do end up getting a cold, flu or the dreaded COVID-19, taking the above tried, tested and scientifically proven steps leaves you in a much better position of fighting off the bugs.

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