At this uncertain time, whilst many of us try to remain sensible and level-headed in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is also important to be proactive in doing what we can to bolster our immune health – now and going forwards.
1) EAT WELL
It is always recommended you eat a healthy, well balanced diet to support your immune health, but certain nutrients are gaining more recognition for helping optimise immune functions.
Whilst it is well-established that nutritional deficiency or inadequacy can impair immune functions, there is increasing evidence to suggest that for certain nutrients increased intake – over and above currently recommended levels – may help optimise immune functions, including improving the body’s defence system and increasing resistance to infection.
Indeed data examining research on; n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), Micronutrients – Zinc, Vitamins D & E, and Functional foods, such as probiotics and tea components present promising findings. Data suggesting a clinical benefit of Vitamin D, n-3 PUFA, and green tea catechin EGCG in autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, and vitamin D, vitamin E, Zinc, and probiotics in the reduction of infection.1
Foods containing these nutrients include; chickpeas, lentils and beans, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds, salmon, mushrooms, canned fish, flaxseed meal, canola oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, spinach, Teavana Green Tea Gyokuro (which has been found to have the most EGCG, but is also one of the most expensive brands) or more readily available brands, Celestial Seasoning and Lipton green tea. Other foods recommended to help immune function include; Citrus fruits, Broccoli, Chicken, Garlic, Yoghurt, Bell peppers, Chillies and Elderberries.
1Wu D, Lewis ED, Pae M and Meydani SN (2019) Nutritional Modulation of Immune Function: Analysis of Evidence, Mechanisms, and Clinical Relevance. Front. Immunol. 9:3160. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.03160
Whilst exercise is known to improve your overall fitness levels and feelings of wellbeing, there is some compelling scientific and clinical evidence that regular, moderate-to-vigorous intensity exertion – for less than 60 mins – acts as an important contributor to stimulate the ongoing exchange of distinct and highly active immune cell subtypes between the circulation and tissues within the immune system.
Each exercise session you do improves the antipathogen activity of tissue macrophages in parallel with an enhanced recirculation of immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, NK cells, cytotoxic T cells and immature B cells.
What does this mean? This means that with near daily exercise, these acute internal changes that operate through a summation effect, enhance immune defence activity and metabolic health.2
So, try to keep moving! If you are not a gym or sports lover then try walking briskly for 20-30 minutes every day.
2(Nieman and Wentz 2019, The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system, Journal of Sport and Health Science,Volume 8, Issue 3, Pages 201-217)
3) TRY TO STAY CALM!
Research into the effects of stress on inflammation in clinical populations has demonstrated that stress exposure can increase the likelihood of developing disease, as well as exacerbating pre-existing conditions.3
3Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, Segerstrom SC. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;5:13–17. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007
When certainty is questioned, our stress response is instantly aroused and goes haywire, However, it is important to try and stay calm. Here are our tips to help:
- Stay connected – You are not alone – fear can be very isolating and so it is very important to speak to friends and family and know you are not alone.
- Manage Your media diet – There’s a fine line between staying informed and feeling overwhelmed by the news. In times like these, “the tendency is to really almost drown in [the news],” Morganstein says. Research shows that in natural disasters or terrorist events, as people’s media exposure increases, so does their distress.
- Make a new routine the norm – Your usual daily routine may be uprooted, but following a new one can be very calming, particularly when it feels as though all around you is changing.
- Look out for others – Looking out for your family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues can provide some relief, as supporting others gives us a sense of purpose.
- Talk about other things – Make sure you talk lots to your support network about other subjects than the Caronoavirus – by reaching out to people who will give you support as opposed to amplify your stress.
4) GET AMPLE SLEEP
Sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes. The basis of this influence is a bidirectional communication between the central nervous and immune system, which is mediated by shared signals (neurotransmitters, hormones and cytokines) and direct innervations of the immune system by the autonomic nervous system.
Prolonged sleep curtailment and the accompanying stress response invoke a persistent, unspecific production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, best described as chronic low-grade inflammation, and also produce immunodeficiency, which both have detrimental effects on health. By impacting negatively on immune functions and general health.4
4 Besedovsky et al (2012), Sleep and Immune Function, Pflugers Arch – Eur J Physiol (2012) 463:121–137
But getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done when you are worried.
Hopefully these few steps will help:
- Stick to a sleep schedule with the same bedtime and wake up time, even at the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime, conducted away from bright lights, helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep.
- Exercise Daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of sleeping environment.
5) TAKE A SUPPLEMENT WITH ACTIVE INGREDIENTS TO SUPPORT IMMUNE HEALTH
There are a number of products on the market offering blends of vitamins and minerals to help strengthen immune health, but award winning Ellactiva Collagen& IMMUNITY delivers this unique combination in 5 powerful immune boosting nutrients;
Ellactiva Collagen& IMMUNITY come in a delicious soft chew format and contain 3g Prebiotic Fibre, 7.5mg Zinc, 0.04mg Selenium, 60mg Vitamin C and 2.5g of Bioactive Collagen Peptides® providing a promised formula that is full of everything required to boost your immunity. Here’s why:
is a water-soluble vitamin linked to many impressive health benefits that must be obtained from the diet or supplements. One of the main reasons people take vitamin C supplements is to boost their immunity, as vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune function. Firstly, Vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection.
(Huijskens et al. J Leukoc Biol. 2014 Dec;96(6):1165-75. doi: 10.1189/jlb.1TA0214-121RR. Epub 2014 Aug 25 ).
Secondly, vitamin C helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Third, vitamin C is an essential part of the skin’s defence system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers.
(Fuchs, and Kern, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Volume 25, Issue 9, 1998,Pages 1006-1012,ISSN 0891-5849).
is an essential mineral that your body does not make on its own. Zinc is essential for cell growth and division (keeping your immune system strong), enzyme reactions, DNA synthesis and protein production. Zinc may effectively reduce inflammation, boost immune health, reduce your risk of age-related diseases, speed wound healing and improve acne symptoms. What’s more, zinc supplements significantly reduce the risk of infections and promote immune response in older adults.
(Haase H, Rink L. The immune system and the impact of zinc during ageing, Immun Ageing. 2009;6:9. Published 2009 Jun 12. doi:10.1186/1742-4933-6-9)
is an essential mineral, meaning it must be obtained through your diet. It’s only needed in small amounts but plays a major role in important processes in your body, including your metabolism and thyroid function. Selenium is crucial for the health and proper functioning of your immune system. Higher levels of selenium may help boost the immune systems of people with HIV, influenza, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C.
(Hoffmann PR, Berry MJ. The influence of selenium on immune responses. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008;52(11):1273–1280. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200700330).
Inulin and Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) fibre
are a type of soluble fibre derived from chicory root, a carbohydrate made from a short chain of fructose molecules that your body doesn’t digest. Both inulin and FOS exhibit prebiotic properties, principally the selective stimulation of colonic bifidobacteria, meaning that they feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Because of the recognised inhibitory effects that bifidobacteria can exert against gut pathogens, one of the most important aspects of prebiotic fibre ingestion is fortification of the gut flora to resist acute infections.Not only these helpful bacteria play a role in fighting harmful bacteria, but also in reducing inflammation, fighting harmful bacteria, and improving mineral absorption.
(Lomax and Calder, 2008, Prebiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence. British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 101, Issue. 5, p. 631).
is the major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles and has many important functions, including providing your skin with structure and strengthening your bones. Most of us already know that intake of collagen peptides is great for the skin, tissues and bones, but less known is that collagen may help reduce inflammation and contribute to optimum gut and digestive health, which is essential not only for our digestion but also for our immune function, mood and energy levels.
(Chen et al, Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions Food Funct., 2017, 8, 1144 ) ; (Chen et al. 2018 Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities of collagen peptides from milkfish scales. J Food Sci Technol 55, 2310–2317).