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Encouraging an optimally functioning immune system


***Please note this is not intended as medical advice. If you feel you are experiencing symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus follow the advice of your health authority, which at this point seems to be to self-isolate for at least 7 days. You can call NHS 111 for help and advice on what to do.***



We often assume that there isn’t much that we can do to help our immunity, but this isn't necessarily the case and knowing that we can do something can give us a sense of power and hope in times of uncertainty. Before you read further, I just want to point out that although we can help our body to have an optimally functioning immune system it doesn’t necessarily give us immunity against viruses like Coronavirus as there are many factors at play and a lot that is unknown about it.


Food

The food we eat is not only nutrition for our body to operate effectively but also information for our DNA and immune system. In order for all the systems of the body to function optimally we need to eat nutrients (vitamins, minerals), antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols, fibre - basically all the things found in vegetables, fruit, meat, diary, legumes, (70% chocolate), mushrooms and seaweeds. Most of these things are not found in high amounts in diets full of processed ‘dead’ food. We need to eat varied diets filled with lots of colour and flavour (but not of the made-made processed kind!). “The roles for nutrients in immune function are many and varied and it is easy to appreciate that an adequate and balanced supply of these is essential if an appropriate immune response is to be mounted. In essence, good nutrition creates an environment in which the immune system is able to respond appropriately to a challenge, irrespective of the nature of the challenge.”(1) There is also lots of evidence of the link between food and mood and immunity.


Nutrients

Below are some of the nutrients needed by your body to help the immune system. You can get these in your food or you can add them as a supplement if you think you need some extra support as a lot of people are depleted and low in some nutrients. Even though Coronavirus is not a cold or flu, the following supplements are thought of as helpful in a cold or flu situation and so may help to give your body some extra support. These supplements are also safe for most people to take.


Vitamin D

Foods containing vitamin D are fatty fish (mackerel, salmon), cheese and a small amount in egg yolks. It has been reported that people who have low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to respiratory infections and it is said to be one of the reasons that during the 1918 pandemic patients were treated outdoors and exposed to sunlight. It appears that vitamin D regulates the immune system. “Vitamin D intake is usually inadequate in most age groups worldwide, even in countries with mandatory food fortification, which can increase the risk of infection, especially respiratory tract infections”(2). We are in the lighter half of the year now, so trying to get outside as much as you can will really help to boost your vitamin D levels. Go for a walk, forage for some food, work in your garden if you have one. Supplementing - D3 is the most bioavailable form 1000-4000 IU/day, children’s doses are usually 400-800 IU/day. For best absorption take it with a meal that includes healthy fats or use a sublingual spray.