How to boost your immunity during Covid
4 min read
- Nutrition, sleep and stress play a vital role in our immunity.
- Discover the essential nutrients your immune system needs and how many hours of sleep you need a night to function optimally.
It's safe to say that our immunity has become more important than ever before in the middle of a global pandemic. Let's be clear, though. Having a strong immunity won't protect you from getting Covid, but it could help you recover much faster if you unfortunately catch the virus.
When it comes to our immune system, there are four main things that are in our control to strengthen it, and that is nutrition, sleep, stress management and exercise. Let's focus on these first three, since we'll address exercise often later on.
If you have been with us for a while, you'll already know how much we insist on nutrition being a key a foundation for our health. Yes, there are essential nutrients our bodies need to strengthen our immune system. To name a few, B9 (folate), B12, D, E or Iron. Surprisingly, some of these nutrients also happen to be common nutritional deficiencies –for example, it is estimated that over 60% of us could be vitamin D deficient, or iron, which, according to the WHO, over 2 billion people could be deficient in this mineral.
Folate (vitamin B9): To get your daily dose of vitamin B9, you would need to eat roughly 200 gr of beef liver or 300 gr of spinach. We know...it's not that easy!
Vitamin B12: To get your daily dose of vitamin B12, you would need to eat roughly >2 eggs, a tuna fish can or >2 cups of milk. Easy to reach... unless you are following a plant-based diet!
Vitamin D: Aim to get a few minutes of midday sunlight, several times a week, as vitamin D is the only vitamin that our bodies can actually 'make' from sunlight. When it comes to ingesting vitamin D, your daily recommended dose to cover your vitamin D levels are 5ml of cod liver or a steak of blue fish everyday. Not exactly easy to cover just through diet.
Vitamin E: To get your daily dose of vitamin E, you would need to eat roughly 85 gr of almonds, 3-5 tablespoons of sunflower oil, or 140 gr of hazelnuts. You'd literally go nuts!
Iron: To get your daily dose of iron, you could eat >300 gr of white beans, or 270 gr of oysters (we'd also love to afford it! )
As you can see, when it comes to immunity, nutrition is key. So, what about sleep?
Sleep also plays a fundamental role in our immunity. A study conducted by the University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine revealed that sleep deprivation suppresses immune function. Researchers took blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep patterns and discovered that the twin with shorter sleep duration had a depressed immune system, compared with his or her sibling.
Results seem consistent with studies that show when sleep deprived people are given a vaccine, there is a lower antibody response and if you expose sleep deprived people to a rhinovirus they are more likely to get the virus. The immune system is believed to function best when it gets enough sleep, that is, seven or more hours, as Dr. Nathaniel Watson states, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center.
Lastly, another factor that also affects our immunity is stress. Stress per se is good for us, in small dosages, as its function is to protect us from any alarming or threatening situation. The problem is that in many cases our frenetic and hectic lifestyles are driving us toward a state of chronic stress. And this is when we jeopardize our health.
Extensive search has suggested that chronic stress can lead to the immune system becoming "resistant". When we accumulate stress hormones, our immune system increases the production of several inflammatory cytokines –that is, compromising our immune response–.
We know it may be tough, specially during uncertain times, to avoid feeling anxious and stressed, but we do have tools at our disposal to try and mediate these symptoms. Meditation, exercise, yoga, being mindful and staying present, whatever works for you. We can't control the situations around us, but we can control our reactions to them.
Maintaining a healthy and strong immunity is something that is partly at our reach, in our power. We need to make sure we're meeting our nutritional needs, work on managing our stress levels and foster quality sleep. Doesn't sound too complicated, right?
Stay safe. Practice self-care.