By now we all know the 3 W’s — wash your hands, wear a mask, and wait 6 feet apart.
But we get questions daily about what else we can do to protect ourselves against COVID and any other virus.
The key to fighting off any infection is having a working immune system. The immune system is a complex network of many different types of cells that require various nutrients to be able to properly recognize invading viruses, produce the materials required to fight off the virus, and maintain the body’s natural defenses.
The first three items are critical — sleep, proper diet and exercise.
Data suggests that getting enough sleep and maintaining a normal sleep schedule can help regulate our immune system. By allowing the body to rest, it is able to repair itself and keep natural defenses strong. It is also believed that getting enough sleep can help promote immunological memory and anti-inflammatory activity.
On the other hand, disruptions in our sleep-wake cycle can impair proper neural and hormonal signaling within the body. Talk to our pharmacist or your doctor today to discuss ways to improve your sleep habits.
A balanced diet that is rich in nutrients is necessary to ensure that cells are working properly. When the body is fighting off an infection, the cells require even more energy and nutrients to function.
While processed foods are usually convenient (and delicious), they are often lacking in nutritional value. Try to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet whenever possible, as well as lean meats and whole grains.
Regular exercise has a profound effect on our overall well being. In the short-term, exercise has been shown to increase levels of white
blood cells which help fight off infection.
Over time, exercise helps improve circulation, support heart health, maintain a healthyweight, and reduce stress levels. Even though gyms may be closed, there are still countlessways to continue exercising. Consider going for a walk (while staying 6 feet apart from others) or following one of the thousands of workout videos on YouTube.
Vitamin D has long been known to support strong bones, but it is involved with many otherprocesses within the body. Studies have shown
that Vitamin D supplementation can help protect against respiratory infections. It is thought to increase the production of certain white blood cells and improve their ability to fight infection. Recommended doses range from 1,000 to 4,000 IU daily.
Vitamin C is also an important nutrient for immune system function. It is a powerful antioxidant and is required for production of proteins that make up the body’s natural defenses.
There is also evidence that vitamin C deficiency may increase risk of infection, and is more common in elderly patients and chronic smokers.
In these patients, vitamin C supplements may reduce the risk of developing a cold or potentially other respiratory infections, and may shorten the duration of the cold.
Zinc may help prevent some viral infections and when taken at the first sign of symptoms may even reduce the severity and duration of
viral infections such as the common cold.
One study found that zinc inhibited replication of a different coronavirus (SARS-CoV) within cells in the lab. There are many different forms of zinc, so talk to your pharmacist about selecting a product. Zinc should not be given to children and should not be taken for long periods of time.
For most people, about 10 mg of zinc is recommended daily, ideally from the diet, and amounts above 40 mg per day may be harmful.
The gut microbiome, or the healthy bacteria that live in your digestive system, is closely linked with the immune system. The so called good bacteria provide a variety of functions including fighting off bad bacteria in our system, producing required nutrients, and helping with absorption of nutrients. Probiotics can help support the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the gut.