While lockdowns are important to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, long-term quarantines can weaken the immune system, which is the key to fighting any viral infection. According to experts, too much time spent indoors, too few social interactions and unhealthy coping mechanisms can cause quarantine fatigue and reduce the strength of the immune system.
No doubt, taking daily precautions such as social distancing, wearing face coverings, constant and thorough hand washing with soap and warm water, in addition to exercising, getting enough sleep and even self isolation are the keys to protection against the coronavirus. But maintaining a healthy diet can also be better than vaccines and help you to boost your immune system to fight against viral infections.
Though healthy lifestyles should be practised at all times, during times of crisis like the coronavirus pandemic it is even more essential to do so.
Here are some tips that can help you to boost your immunity against the coronavirus.
A bit of exercise a day can help to relieve stress and boost endorphins in the brain. Studies show that regular physical activity helps get rid of bacteria in the lungs and airways, which may lower your chance of getting the flu, colds or other illnesses. Exercise also causes changes in antibodies and white blood cells, which are the body’s immune cells that fight disease.
Getting enough sleep:
Make sure you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep per night. Good sleep helps support the cells and proteins of your immune system to destroy and detect germs. Less sleep will leave you tired and impair your brain activity.
Negative thinking, stress and emotional states can have a negative impact upon the immune system. Too much stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which impairs the response to immediate surroundings and makes the body susceptible to infections. One way to manage stress, calm the nerves during anxious circumstances and boost the body’s response to fight viruses is to practise meditation.
Drink eight to ten glasses of water every day. Hydration will help flush out toxins from the body and lower the chances of flu.
Maintaining a healthy diet:
Unless you have a nutritional deficiency, doctors say that massive doses of vitamins are unhelpful and can be potentially dangerous. So, instead of buying lots of supplements, following a balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables can reduce inflammation in the body and strengthen the immune system.
Stock up on some of these immune-boosters:
Food rich in Vitamin C:
You can opt for strawberries, guava or citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and lemons. Vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, parsley, cabbage and other leafy greens, cauliflowers, red bell peppers and sweet potatoes all contain Vitamin C.
Food rich in Vitamin D:
In addition to getting some sun, you can eat fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon. Egg yolks, some dairy products and cereals, broccoli, mushrooms and beef liver all also contain Vitamin D.
Food rich in Omega 3 oils:
You can go for sardines, tuna, salmon, herring fish, mackerel, nuts and seeds.
Food rich in Vitamin A:
You can opt for eggs, milk, pumpkins, carrots, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, dark leafy greens and mangoes.
Food rich in Vitamin E:
You can eat nuts like almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts, vegetable oils like olive oil, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil and corn oil, whole grains, broccoli, spinach, avocados, mangos, tomatoes and sunflower seeds.
Food rich in zinc:
You can go for chickpeas, nuts like cashews and almonds, whole grains, eggs, dark chocolate, milk products, red meat and poultry, oysters and legumes.
Other foods to try:
Turmeric and garlic:
The golden spice turmeric boosts the immune function, while ginger contains many anti-viral elements.
Garlic and onions:
Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that enhance the body’s immunity. Onions are loaded with immune-boosting nutrients like sulphur compounds, selenium, zinc and Vitamin C.
Plain yoghurt is a great source of probiotics, which are good bacteria that can help promote a healthy immune system.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 June, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly