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Maintaining a Strong Immune System

On the whole, your immune system works by itself to fight infections - but between lifestyle changes, a healthy diet and dietary supplements, there are also things you can do to help support this first line of defence in battling diseases and defeating any invading pathogens.

And while no one health supplement can fight Covid-19, staying strong and healthy starts with your immune system - plus, maintaining a strong immune system is also important in fighting off other illnesses, and in turn, help you avoid unnecessary visits to the doctor.

One of the most well known ways to boost your immune system is by upping your vitamin C intake. You can do this in the food you eat, such as citrus fruits, red bell peppers, leafy vegetables and in high dosage daily dietary supplements. The essential vitamin has been found to have numerous health benefits, not least of which in protecting the immune system, reducing the severity of allergic reactions and by helping to fight off infections. Despite its benefits to our bodies, unlike most animals, humans are actually unable to produce vitamin C themselves internally, so factoring it into your system through food and supplements is essential.

Amongst its many health implications also lies one of the most widely accepted uses of vitamin C - in fighting the common cold. Studies have shown that while it doesn’t necessarily prevent infection, a high dose of vitamin C reduces the symptoms and duration of them while someone is infected with the common cold.

Even though it is most commonly associated with bone strength, vitamin D is arguably just as important in supporting your immune system. In fact, it’s actually essential for your immune system to function properly.

Not only does vitamin D strengthen the defence abilities of white blood cells, which are crucial to your immune system, but it also works to decrease inflammation, which also promotes your body’s immune response. At the same time, a lack of essential Vitamin D can leave you with an increased risk of infections, specifically to the upper respiratory tract, such as flu and asthma. While these are things you would want to avoid at any time, this is particularly relevant when the Covid-19 virus also triggers an upper respiratory tract infection.

A 2019 study found that people who were deficient in vitamin D, after taking vitamin D supplements, had a significantly decreased risk of respiratory infections, as well as creating a much lower risk in people that had regular vitamin D levels to start with. It goes to show that taking vitamin D supplements can generally protect against similar respiratory infections.

Recently, health bodies have even looked to vitamin D to help fight Covid-19 infections, with the UK government reportedly planning on supplying vulnerable people with vitamin D supplements as a Covid precaution. This is especially important to deliver in supplement form, as vitamin D is usually absorbed through the skin in sunlight, but this year, many people have not been outside and exposed to the sun as much as they normally would have been.

Add to this the fact that being able to fight off influenza and other infections means you can avoid the lifestyle-altering question of not knowing whether you have the Coronavirus, and taking immune system boosting supplements could have a huge impact on health.

You’d be remiss to discuss ways to maintain a strong immune system without looking at Zinc: another nutrient which the human body does not produce naturally, it is only found in food and supplements. Your body also doesn’t store the nutrient, which means you should have a constant, regular intake of it.

Zinc is required for many bodily functions, including wound healing, growth and development, and crucially in this instance, immune function. For this reason, you can often find zinc added to cold symptom treatments such as nasal sprays and lozenges. But you’ll also find the essential nutrient in many foods, including red meat, shellfish and legumes, as well as in zinc supplements.

On top of these supplements, and others such as B complex vitamins, curcumin, echinacea, propolis, and medicinal licorice to name just a few, you can also support a healthy immune system in your daily lifestyle choices.

The simplest thing you can do to keep your immune system fighting fit is by adopting an all round healthy lifestyle. Quitting smoking is a perfect example of healthy lifestyle choice to do so. Smoking has been proven to harm the immune system and make the body less effective at fighting off disease, as well as compromising the balance of the immune system. This actually makes a person more likely to develop several immune and autoimmune disorders - caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy cells, rather than invading pathogens.

You can also protect your immune system by maintaining a healthy weight, by eating healthily and exercising regularly. Excess body fat can unbalance the cells in the body’s immune, which can harm our bodies, but research has shown that people who are clinically obese can rebalance their immune system by losing as little as ten pounds. Likewise, being overweight has been shown to be a significant factor in being at greater risk from Covid-related illness.

Considering all this, perhaps the easiest way to maintain a healthy immune system is to adopt a diet which is high in fruits and vegetables - the most important thing is to keep yourself healthy, and your body’s immune system will do the hard work in fighting off infections. But giving it a helping hand with vitamin-rich foods, and some daily vitamin supplements, such as B, C and D vitamins, will also give it an extra boost. Because right now, these essential vitamins have never been more… essential.

Author
David J. Bauder, PA-C David Bauder, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant and the medical director at Weight Loss and Vitality in Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, DC. He enjoys helping patients optimize their physical and mental health to improve their overall well-being. He earned his physician assistant degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Afterward, he gained admission into the reputable graduate program for physician assistant studies at the University of Nebraska Health Science Center in Omaha. David has over 25 years of experience working as a physician assistant. He’s practiced in podiatry, family medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, urgent care, and functional medicine.

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