There is a lot of misinformation around, with unscrupulous companies trying to sell items with claims of ‘miraculous’ anti-coronavirus or immunity-boosting properties. To make things a bit clearer, we have pulled together the following guide, highlighting proven ways to try to keep your immune system working well.
Remember the main things to do to try to prevent coronavirus infection are still:-
- Maintain safe social distancing of at least 2 metres
- Wash your hands frequently with soap & water, and use other good hand hygiene measures when you can’t get to a sink.
- Catch your coughs and sneezes in a tissue and dispose of it straight away
There are a few other things you can try to keep yourselves well too. Some of these ideas may help keep you generally healthier and therefore more able to fight off infection:-
- Eat well, including thinking about Vitamin D
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Stopping smoking
Reduce the amount of fatty, sugary, processed food you eat and try and increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. This will give you a better balance of the micronutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs.
You may need to look at portion sizes if you’re using less energy than normal whilst you’re staying at home.
If you have specific questions about nutrition and COVID-19, you may want to take a look at the BDA (Association of UK Dieticians) website with Q&A’s https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html
One vitamin that you may want to think about is Vitamin D. This can be difficult to get enough of from food sources, and spending a lot of time indoors can also contribute to Vitamin D deficiency – your body gets most of its Vitamin D from direct sunlight – it doesn’t take much, but there is not a current recommendation about how long to spend outside to benefit. More details can be found here:- https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphate from your food, so is important for your bone health. Recent studies have also shown it plays a role in various immune responses, so it is helpful in fighting off infection.
The UK Food Standards Agency says:-
“Since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including children and pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.This advice is especially important for people who are indoors all of the time.”
This amount of Vitamin D is present in many multivitamin supplements too, if you want to give yourself a more general top-up. Some special groups require different doses (see above link), and the advice may change as the ‘lockdown’ period gets longer.
We all know by now that exercise is good for us in so many ways! Aside from the major benefits to your heart, lungs, joints and mental health, a moderate daily exercise routine of up to 60 minutes helps your immune system too. It promotes the movement of cells and immune system chemicals between the bloodstream and your body tissues – the ’information exchange’ of your immune system. The better that communication, the better your immune system will function. Because of the current limits placed on time outdoors (one form of exercise, once daily, either alone or with members of your household, and staying at least 2 metres away from anyone else), you may need to look at some indoor exercise too. There are lots of great free options on various channels and on social media, with a wide range of different types of exercise and intensity to try out. You may well find something a bit different, that you hadn’t thought of trying before, that you really enjoy!
Stress & Anxiety
Too much stress can damage your immune system. There are many things at the moment that can increase your stress levels in different ways than you may have experienced before, and anxiety can result from situations over which we have no control. NHS Inform again has some great resources
Getting enough sleep is very important for your wellbeing. The right amount of sleep varies from person to person, but it is really good to get yourself into a good sleep routine, particularly at the moment when all your other routines may have changed! There’s a lot of activity taking place in your immune system as your body rests, so adults should aim to get 7-8 hours sleep each night, teens and adolescents 9-10 hours and school age children might need at least 10 hours.
Smoking makes you more likely to get respiratory tract infections, and the inflammation in your airways that smoking causes means that your body may not deal with any respiratory infection very well. We can help you stop smoking, if you go to our website /smoking-cessation-support/ complete the online form and one of our trained staff will be in touch to start you on your journey. The service has had to be slightly adapted to allow us to follow infection control due to COVID-19, we cannot take your carbon monoxide reading and your consultations may be by telephone, you can just pop into the branch to collect your chosen treatment. There are still many things you can try yourself to reduce the amount you are smoking or stop completely. Take a look at our Smoking Cessation section of our website /smoking-cessation-service/
Again, NHS Inform has some great ideas and links to get you thinking about it. https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/stopping-smoking