by: Angie Spuzak – Nutritionist & Health Coach
We live in a world where many people don’t give priority to their health. But a time has come that you are now required to look back and ask yourself whether you’ve been doing things the right way.
Have you ever taken time to think about ways of boosting your immunity?
Are you aware that a robust immune system can make you less vulnerable to attacks by viruses that now cause anxiety and panic globally?
By focusing on your health, you will reduce your chances of contracting viral infections.
Getting enough rest/sleep is a natural way of boosting your immune system. If you’ve not been getting enough sleep, then you need to change your sleep cycle.
Teenagers should sleep for about 8 – 10 hours per day. Young adults/adults of ages 18 – 64 years should sleep for about 7 – 9 hours a day. Those who are 65 years and above should sleep for between 7 – 8 hours a day.
If you have difficulties falling asleep, the following tips can help you out:
* Make sure you sleep in a dark and cool bedroom.
* Follow a regular sleep routine, i.e., set regular times for going to bed and waking up.
* Switch off your Wi-Fi before going to bed. Wi-Fi harms your circadian rhythm.
* Do away with any electronic devices in your bedroom including alarm clocks, mobile phones, TVs, etc. If you must have an alarm clock, then buy the one that uses batteries and does not have flashlights.
*Immediately you wake up, open your curtains to expose your eyes to UV light. You can go for a walk after having breakfast.
* Try to manage your stress level by reducing anxiety. This will improve your sleep.
Stress is known to aggravate the symptoms of coughs and flu. So, to fight these symptoms, you need to stay calm. When you are anxious, your body will produce stress hormones which will, in turn, will suppress your immunity. Here are a few steps you can take to manage your stress level:
*You can exercise to help reduce the effect of anxiety on your immune system.
*If you have any hobbies, this is the right time to get immersed in them. Whether it is painting, watching movies, swimming, playing with your pets, just get something to keep you busy.
*Some herbal medicines like Eleutherococcus senticosus, Astragalus membranaceus, Withania somnifera, and Bacopa moniera are very good at reducing stress levels by relieving anxiety. They are also good at boosting the immunity system.There are also breathing and meditation techniques that can help in reducing anxiety by calming your nervous system.
Many researchers have found that exercising can boost your immunity. However, you don’t need to over-do it. Over-exercising may impact negatively on your immunity. That’s why many athletics are immuno-compromised; they over-exercise.
The trick here is to exercise in moderation. You can take 20 minutes every day to do cardiovascular exercises that make you sweat and huff. That will aid your body in metabolizing the stress hormones that compromise your immunity.
If you have never exercised before, then you can start slowly, even by exercising for only five minutes a day, then increase the time as you get fitter. Since you’ll be required to social distance yourself, you can use the many exercise videos available online to help you exercise on your own.
Apart from reducing anxiety levels and lowering stress, herbal medicines can also help your body fight viral infections. They can also be used by those already infected to reduce the symptoms and to assist in the recovery process.
However, you need to choose the correct herbal medicine for your condition. If you have to use herbal medicine, ensure you get it from a reliable and trustworthy source. Some of the herbal medicines that can help you fight infections include:
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Glycyrrhiza glabra has been used by the Chinese for centuries. Licorice extracts can boost the immunity system and help in fighting viral infections. It can also help to soothe dry coughs. Glycyrrhiza glabra isn’t suitable for everyone, and it is not recommended for those with hypertension.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
For many years, garlic has been used by many cultures to treat and prevent a variety of diseases. When it is crushed or chopped, an enzyme called alliinase gets activated to produce allicin, which is the most active ingredient of garlic. Even though little has been done to ascertain its antiviral properties, the few studies that have been conducted have proved that it has many important medical properties. Garlic can fight viral infections and it also has immunity-boosting properties. Garlic has vitriol activity against viral infections.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Many studies have shown that echinacea has antiviral properties. It can help you combat several viral infections. Studies are still going on, with some trying to find out whether Glycyrrhiza glabra can act as prophylaxis.
What you eat matters a lot when it comes to your susceptibility to viral diseases, and even to their severity in case you get attacked. Adequate nutrition boosts the functioning of your immune system and results in low susceptibility to viral attacks. A balanced diet is necessary for good health. Some of the important nutrients that shouldn’t miss in your diet include:
Vitamin A has a greater influence on the immune system than any other known micronutrient. It is the most studied nutrient when it comes to the effects of nutrition on viral infection. Many researchers have focused more on how the deficiency of vitamin A is connected with infection by measles. They have also studied the severity of herpes simplex, rotavirus and other viral infections in the absence of vitamin A. All these studies have proved that vitamin A is very important in combating viral infections.
Vitamin C is found in fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s great at boosting immunity. Vitamin C deficiency can affect many organs in your body, resulting in poor immunity and a higher likelihood of infections. One study to demonstrate an antiviral effect of vitamin C in rats gave positive results. The study showed that vitamin C triggers an antiviral effect during the initial stages of an infection by a virus.
Vitamin D is another nutrient that’s good at modulating the immunity system. In its absence, the body will be susceptible to viral infection.
Vitamin E works together with selenium to scavenge on free radicals. When you are deficient in vitamin E, your body will be pro-oxidative. This means the oxidative stress in your body will be high and this may result in your susceptibility to viral attack.
Zinc is known to boost the immune system. Zinc will help your body fight viruses because it has antiviral properties.
In the face of the health challenges we are facing now, it is prudent to follow the guidelines laid out by health officials. Ensure you catch up with all the information from the health officers. This will help you reduce the rate of spread of the virus or stop it altogether.
For example, you are reminded to wash your hands regularly with soap and to practice social distancing. You also need to teach your children to follow these guidelines. And in case you develop any symptoms of viral attack, or you’ve returned home from overseas, do not mingle with your family members, but self-quarantine. This is particularly important if you got into contact with people who have tested positive for the virus.
The lifestyle changes described above should go a long way in helping you to combat viral infections. If you abide by them religiously, you’ll keep many viruses at bay. You can also use the herbal medicines mentioned but is good to consult your medical practitioner first. This is because some herbal medicines have adverse side effects that may end up aggravating your condition.
Ensure you eat a balanced diet comprising a lot of fruits and vegetables, plus the minerals mentioned. If you experience any unusual cough, fever, or shortness of breath, you have to seek medical attention as soon as possible. And if you have been exposed to victims of viral infection, please practice self-quarantine.