- Stress reduction – chronic stress can negatively impact your immune system responses, making you more likely to get sick.
- Sleep – this has a major influence on your immune function, so it is essential to ensure you get plenty of it.
- Exercise – moderate, regular, physical activity helps boost the immune system function by raising the level of infection fighting white blood cells and antibodies, increasing circulation, and decreasing stress hormones.
- Nutritious foods/diet – brightly colored vegetables and fruits boost immunity better than most supplements. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, don’t forget to include fermented vegetables or other probiotic containing foods.
NATURAL MEANS OF BOOSTING IMMUNITY:
Most of the over the counter medications only treat symptoms of viral infections, most do not actually help the immune system fight the infection. We do not have the research to determine what is effective specifically for this particular coronavirus, the following are some natural modalities that will address symptoms as well as boost your immune system if you do come down with an illness:
- Self-care – get plenty of rest and hydration. Drink plenty of fluids – homemade vegetable or bone broths are extremely beneficial. Various herbal teas/hot drinks will help with hydration and reducing symptoms. Good choices included peppermint, ginger, eucalyptus, chamomile, and hot water with lemon, honey, and cinnamon.
- Sore throats – Saltwater gargles are excellent for loosening mucus and helping fend off bacterial throat infections. Hot teas and lozenges containing slippery elm are excellent demulcents (to relieve minor pain and inflammation of mucous membranes) for soothing irritated sore throats. Two tablespoons of honey in hot water can help to soothe and decrease throat inflammation and pain. Chamomile and peppermint teas are helpful for soothing irritated sore throats, as are teas or infusions made from marshmallow root and licorice root, both of which can act as soothing demulcents.
- Respiratory congestion and sinuses – for respiratory congestion, use a humidifier, vaporizers, steam inhalers, or spend time in steamy baths or showers. Vaporizers and inhalers can also be used with decongestants or essential oils such as eucalyptus, menthol, peppermint, or frankincense. Nasal xylitol sprays are beneficial, as is nasal irrigation using a neti pot or nasal irrigation bottle. Buffered saline is easy to make or can be purchased in packets and eliminates any irritation to delicate, irritated mucous membranes.
SUPPLEMENTS, NUTRIENTS, AND FOODS TO SUPPORT IMMUNE FUNCTION
There are several nutrients, plant-based botanicals, and supplements that can boost immune function and provide symptom relief during illness and may help to shorten the duration of illness.
- Vitamin C – This can help prevent infections, bacterial and viral. Regularly administered vitamin C has been shown to shorten cold durations, higher doses during an illness can also act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.
- Vitamin D – This is one of the most important and powerful nutrients for supporting the immune system. Numerous studies have shown that it helps reduce colds and flu. A high percentage of the population is deficient, so daily supplementation (ideally as D3) offers the best protection.
- Vitamin A – for short term use and those with moderate vitamin A deficiency, supplementation can be extremely helpful in supporting the body’s ability to fight infections, particularly with regard to respiratory infections.
- Zinc – This has a significant role in boosting immunity. It can help to reduce the frequency of infections as well as the duration and severity of the common cold when taken within 24 hours of onset.
- Selenium – This is a key nutrient for immune function, and also helps boost the body’s defenses against bacteria, virus, and cancer cells. It may be particularly helpful to protect against certain strains of flu virus. The richest food source is brazil nuts, two a day gives you the daily amount needed.
- Honey – In its raw form it is a good demulcent (relives minor pain and inflammation of mucous membranes), has antioxidant properties, and has some antimicrobial effects. It is helpful for coughs and sore throats and can be added to hot tea.
- Elderberry extract / syrup – Helpful in reducing cold duration and severity. With regard to flu, it has been shown to help prevent infection with influenza viruses as well as demonstrating potent antiviral properties that can aid in reducing duration and symptoms. However, caution in using elderberry may be needed with those with autoimmune disease due to the way it stimulates the immune system.
- Garlic – this has a variety of compounds that can influence immunity. Some studies have shown fresh garlic as well as aged extract and some garlic supplements may reduce viral upper respiratory infection severity as well as function in prevention of infection with viruses that can cause colds.
- Probiotics – contain “good bacteria” that not only support the health of the gut but also influence immune system functioning and regulation. Studies have shown probiotic use can decrease the number of respiratory infections, particularly in children.
- Curcumin – this had natural anti-inflammatory effects. Take a supplement or consider drinking it in its turmeric form. My favorite recipe is from Kara Fitzgerald, ND:
- 1 ½ cups milk (coconut, soy, or almond unsweetened)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp honey
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Combine everything and bring to a simmer, let it sit for 5 minutes, and drink.
- Oscillococcinum – This is a homeopathic remedy for the flu and viral illnesses. Prophylaxis is one packet (contains 3 vials) once a week. When you have a viral illness take it for 3 days (one vial every 8 hours).