With the current situation our nation is facing due to coronavirus (COVID19), times are confusing and stressful for all of us. As the pandemic affects numerous facets of our society, it also impacts each person in different ways. The disruptions to daily life are already being felt by many. Schools and workplaces are closing and the comforting social gatherings that usually fill our weekends and free time are currently off-limits. We are all feeling uncertain about what could happen in the coming weeks. However, there are several steps we can take in order to reduce our risk of falling ill, boost our immune systems and help with worries and anxiety!
Not only do certain foods boost your immune system but most people will be surprised to know that they can also act as natural remedies for anxiety. Doctors and dietitians are starting to understand that there is a clear and important connection between the brain and the gut. When essential nutrients are not available, there is a direct effect on the production on neurotransmitters that can increase or lessen anxiety-related behaviours.
With all of this in mind, we have compiled a list of 10 simple ways to boost your immune system and reduce feelings of anxiousness during this confusing time!
EAT MORE GARLIC
Garlic has been used for centuries as both a food ingredient and a medicine. Garlic contains allicin which helps the immune system fight infection and germs. Allicin contains sulphur, which gives garlic its distinctive smell and taste, however, allicin is unstable, so it quickly converts to other sulphur-containing compounds thought to give garlic its medicinal properties. These compounds have been shown to boost the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses, such as the viruses that cause the common cold or flu.
Physical activity helps to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illnesses. Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells. White blood cells are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. Exercise also releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. If you exercise regularly, it can help to reduce stress and relive the symptoms of mental health conditions like depression.
REDUCE COFFEE AND ALCOHOL
Although coffee and alcohol can make us feel great for a short period of time, they also cause high levels of acid in the body resulting in disruption of the small intestine leaving you feeling dehydrated. This hinders the body’s ability to absorb nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. Alcohol and caffeine can also be harmful. Alcohol is a sedative that slows down the central nervous system and brain processes and caffeine, conversely, is a stimulant, and high doses can cause side effects like anxiety and nervousness.
LAUGH A LITTLE
Although we all struggle with our own worries and fears, it is important to remember to not take everything so seriously – learn to laugh at small bumps in the road, most of the time things will get better! Learning to relax and having a positive outlook on things can have a big impact on your mental health. Positive emotions associated with laughter typically decrease stress hormones and increase certain immune cells while activating others.
REDUCE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
Eating or drinking too much sugar restricts white blood cells that attack bacteria, further increasing the chances of developing a potentially dangerous infection. Sugar also causes hormonal imbalances – when you eat large amounts of sugar, your blood sugar increases. Insulin helps normalize those blood sugar levels, but over time, your cells become overwhelmed and resistant to the signals of this hormone. Too much sugar also has an impact on your mental health. Part of sugar’s addictiveness stems from its impact on your brain’s chemical messengers. Daily binging on sugar releases dopamine, associated with your brain’s reward centre. But that feeling doesn’t last — after the initial dopamine release comes the negative effects of sugar on the brain. Consuming food and beverages with refined sugar can also trigger depressive symptoms.
EAT MORE ORANGES
Oranges contain a huge amount of Vitamin C and E; both are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response. Sources of vitamin C also include red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes and lemons. Oranges help to keep your skin healthy, so that it can maintain a strong barrier that stops pathogens from entering your body. It also helps you make white blood cells and boosts white blood cell function.
Not getting enough sleep may lead to higher levels of stress hormones and quicker inflammation in the body. There is clear evidence that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on emotion and performance. A night of restful sleep may ‘reset’ brain reactivity in order to prepare for emotional challenges the next day. Sleep has an important restorative function in ‘recharging’ the brain at the end of each day, just like we need to charge a mobile phone battery after prolonged use. Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle allows the natural rhythm of the body to be reset every day and therefore optimises brain functioning.
EAT MORE YOGHURT
Yoghurt is so easy to include in your diet if you enjoy it! It’s great with breakfast and can also be frozen as a healthy dessert too. Yoghurt is rich in probiotics that free the gut and intestinal tract of disease-causing germs. Yoghurt is probably the best-known dietary source of probiotics that can give your immune system a boost, but it’s also high in protein. You’ll also get a bit of vitamin A and zinc!
SOAK UP SOME SUN
Although this can be difficult when we don’t see much sun in England, it doesn’t actually have to be hot for us to get the benefits! Day light and sunshine can help the skin produce vitamin D3 and T-Cells which destroy previously damaged cells and regulate several immune cells. Sunlight also triggers the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Try to make small changes daily like getting out of the office or the house for a walk during the day!
DRINK MORE TEA
There is evidence that green tea and chamomile tea can help strengthen the immune system. Even if the effect is minimal, you can’t go wrong, since both are loaded with powerful antioxidants unique to each tea. Tea also lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure which are key risk factors of heart disease and stroke. Studies also show that drinking tea protects the brain and reduces the risk of dementia while giving your immunity a boost by rebalancing bacteria that lives in your gut. It is also commonly known that drinking a hot cup of tea has the potential to simply make you feel comforted and relaxed – we all know there’s nothing like a warm cuppa at the end of a hard day!