By Dr.Nethi Weerasinghe
The world is overwhelmed by coronavirus or COVID -19 at the moment. Initially identified in the city of Wuhan, China, this virus is spreading rapidly all over the world. People are anxious and stressed as many of the countries are going into lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
The good news is there are many things we can do to avoid catching this virus and boost our immunity and give our immune system the best possible chance of working at its optimum level to fight coronavirus.
What is COVID – 19?
According to WHO (World Health Organization) Coronavirus disease (COVID - 19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus.
Similar to flu but more aggressive. Spread from person to person through droplets of an infected person (Saliva from coughing, sneezing etc.)
If your immune system fails to fight off the infection, soon it turns in to pneumonia and often fatal.
Signs and symptoms
Shortness of breath – in severe cases
Prevention is better than cure
Coronavirus is a newly identified virus therefore no vaccine to prevent this disease. But you can protect yourself and prevent spreading the virus by practicing,
- Regular hand hygiene (Wash your hands with soap and water, Rub alcohol base sanitizer on to your hands.)
- Social distancing (Maintain 1.5 m distance with each other)
- Regular respiratory hygiene (Cover your cough and sneeze on flexed elbow)
- Avoid touching eyes, mouth or nose
- Strengthening your immune system by following healthy lifestyle
What to do to strengthen your immune system?
Immune system is the defense system in our bodies that fight against infections. However, some people have weaker immune systems which makes them more prone to infections. As we grow old our immune system weakens and that’s why elderly people are more vulnerable to coronavirus.
The first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of the things you can do to naturally strengthen your immunity.
Smoking is known to compromise the immune system which makes you susceptible to infections such as pneumonia.
When stress hormones like cortisol elevated, it depresses our immune system. It’s difficult to keep a cool head during this troubling times. But it is crucial.
Yoga and meditation
One of the proven ways to destress is regular practice of meditation and yoga.
Yoga is a mind-body practice which is a combination of physical poses and controlled breathing. Many studies have found that practicing yoga helps to relax your body and reduce stress. Which of course leads to a healthier immune system.
Eat a diet high in fruits and veggies
Generally, fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamin, minerals, fibre and water, which are immune-boosting nutrients.
Vegetables like broccoli, spinach and kale help immune cells in the gut and skin, function properly. Whereas, citrus fruits like orange, lemon, grapefruit contain vitamin C which thought to increase immune health.
Get adequate sleep
Sleep deprivation causes our bodies to produce fewer cytokines, a protein that fights against infections and creates an effective immune response. Try to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep regularly.
Exercise reduces the stress hormones and may flush out germs of the lungs and airways which helps to prevent getting flu or other infections. Both less exercise and too much exercise depresses the immune system. Do it in moderation.
Maintain a healthy weight
Studies have found that people affected by obesity have impaired immune response, leading to increased risk of infections. Therefore, maintaining healthy weight is very important.
Limit alcohol consumption
Regular excessive alcohol consumption impairs the functions of immune cells. Which makes you more susceptible to infections.
Drink plenty of water
Dehydration reduces the volume of blood lymphatic fluids which affects healthy immune response. Drinking the recommended amount of water which is 2-3 litres per day, helps to flush toxins from your body and improves immunity.
Herbs and medicinal plants
Herbs are plants which have medicinal values. Alternative medical systems like Ayurveda, uses a variety of herbs to boost immunity and even to treat infectious diseases. Herbs like garlic, ginger, turmeric and cumin are very effective in enhancing immunity and also,often used in cooking. Herbal tea is another way that we can consume these herbs. Green tea, ginseng, milk thistle and licorice are also popular herbs that have been reported to have immune-enhancing properties.
According to researches, deficiency of vitamin D is associated with increased susceptibility to infections. Get enough sun exposure, eat vitamin D rich food and take supplements if needed.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID -19, these are some of the things you can do to keep your immune system in top shape and give it the best chance of fight against infection.
Coronavirus is spreading rapidly and if not slowed, this could affect millions of humans all around the world in a very short period of time. We are all in this together and it’s time for us to play our part in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Please be safe and take precautions.