Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

Coronavirus: How to boost your immune system

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The coronavirus has taken over the lives of many people all over the world. Depending on how strong your immune system is, you may be affected on a higher or smaller scale - or not at all. It’s essential that we maintain a strong immune system all throughout the year, but if you want to know how you can protect yourself now that the coronavirus has hit the world then read on.

Maintaining a strong immune system

There are more things which work together in maintaining a strong immune system. People usually tend to only think about what they can eat. The usual recommendations you hear are “drink lots of tea, use honey and chop up some ginger”. But there is more to maintaining a healthy and strong immune system than that. There are a few elements which work together to ensure that you are operating at full capacity and using all your resources efficiently.

A key factor to remember when maintaining a strong immune system is to keep your stress levels down. It’s understandable that with the new coronavirus spreading, you may be worried about that as well. You may not be thinking about it, but stress actually hurts your immune system. Try to engage in relaxing activities daily, such as 10 minutes of meditation. Reading daily is also a great destresser! Also, if you know the coronavirus is causing you stress, avoid reading coronavirus news as soon as a notification pops up. Reserve a certain amount of time every day, be it in the morning or afternoon.

Exercise is another absolute key player in maintaining a strong immune system. Try doing low or moderate exercises daily. Exercising naturally lowers cortisol levels and helps your immune system to function properly. The best way to exercise at the moment is by running or cycling outside. Try to avoid going to the gym. If you enjoy mat exercises such as pilates, continue to do them in the comfort of your home. Be careful not to overexercise. This can actually weaken your immune system.

While it’s important to have good mental health and keep active, rest is also a key player in maintaining a strong immune system. Remember to get a good night’s sleep. Doctor’s orders are between 7 and 8 hours per night. A good tip is avoiding using your phone right before bed and turning off the TV. You will wake up feeling refreshed and rested!

Eating healthy to boost your immune system

Your immune system needs nutritious food in order to be strong and function at full capacity. It’s recommended to have a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables. By eating fruits and vegetables you ensure that your body receives all the nutrients that it needs such as vitamins and minerals. If you maintain a healthy diet, you won’t need to resort to supplements.

Eat lots of green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale. Berries are very important as well, as they contain lots of antioxidants. And don’t forget about your nuts and seeds, which are full of protein! Plain yoghurt is also recommended for a healthy diet, as they boost your probiotics. Yoghurt supports the good bacteria which lives in your body, which in turn fights the bad bacteria and other viruses such as the coronavirus.

Moreover, if you are a smoker, you should try to stop or at least reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke every day. Smokers have a higher rate of illness or complications from the coronavirus. Smoking puts pressure on your lungs and if a virus attacks your lungs, they won’t be able to cope as well if you are a non-smoker.

The foods you should eat to boost your immune system

There are certain super-foods which you should introduce in your daily diet. They will help strengthen your immune system and give your energy to battle the days ahead. One of these is citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which your immune system needs. Vitamin C is not something which your body stores, so it’s important to include it in your daily diet. You have lots of citrus fruits to choose from such as oranges, clementines, lemons, grapefruits or limes.

Red bell peppers are a vegetable packed full of vitamin C! They have double the amount of vitamin C compared to citrus fruits. So if you want to boost your immune system really good, add a bell pepper into your salad next time. Red bell peppers are also rich in beta carotene.

Broccoli is an amazing vegetable which is full of vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and E. It also has fibre and antioxidants. Broccoli is one of the most healthy and versatile vegetables, so why not add it to your lunch or dinner? Try to cook it as little as possible in order to keep all its wonderful nutrients.

Garlic is another key vegetable which can greatly boost your immune system. It’s well known how garlic can fight infections. Garlic can easily be introduced in your cooking. Garlic can also lower blood pressure and help the arteries from hardening.

You may or may not know, but spinach is packed with vitamin C. Spinach also contains antioxidants and beta carotene which helps your immune system fight infections. The best thing about spinach is that you can eat it raw for breakfast, lunch or dinner, thus keeping all its beneficial properties intact. If you do want to cook it, you can wilt it in the pan, which will actually enhance its vitamin A.

All in all, if you want to protect yourself from the coronavirus or any other infections it’s imperative that you maintain a strong immune system. A healthy immune system will help you navigate through life and battle all unseen viruses to come. For the time being, remember to stay safe and stay inside.

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