Covid-19 is a new virus, and so we don’t have any immunity to it. Right? Well, yes and no.
There are two sides to the immune system. One, known as acquired immunity, makes antibodies against specific infections. The first time it meets a new bacterium or virus it takes a few days to work out how to make antibodies against it. That gives the infection time to take hold and make you ill. The next time though, it knows it and gets straight to work, pumping out antibodies to beat the infection off before it can get started. Because covid-19 is a new virus, it’s true that we don’t yet have that type of immunity to it.
But there’s a second side – innate immunity. This is our rapid, general response to any kind of infection, not as precise and targeted as acquired immunity but much faster acting. As the name suggests, you’re born with it, and it acts against any infection, whether or not you’ve met it before. Boosting this part of your immune system makes you less likely to get any kind of infection. How to do it? Try this six point plan.
- Eat loads of veg, fruit, seeds and nuts. Just eating an apple a day has been shown to improve lung health and reduce the likelihood of chest infections. Eat a wide variety of fruit and veg to get the benefit of all their different immune boosting properties. Even better, dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa has many of the same benefits, so treat yourself.
- Spice it up!Herbs and spices have all sorts of medicinal properties, including many that are antiviral. Garlic is one of the best, especially taken. Turmeric, ginger, chilli and cinnamon are also potent, but almost any herb or spice you can name will have some benefits. Use in cooking or herbal teas.
- While you’re eating more veg, cut down on refined sugar, and carbs such as white bread, white rice and pasta.These pump a lot of sugar into your body, which has a dampening effect on your immune system.
- Get plenty of zinc, from food, supplements or both. Zinc helps to keep the lining of your mouth, throat and lungs healthy, which in turn makes it harder for viruses to take hold. If supplementing, go for 15mg a day while you’re well, rising to 30mg if you get symptoms. Good food sources include nuts, seeds, red meat and hard cheeses.
- Supplementing Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of catching colds and flu, especially for people with low levels. Most of our Vitamin D is created when sunlight hits the skin, so levels drop during the winter and are low at this time of year unless you supplement. Look for a supplement with a substantial dose of at least 1,000 i.u. per day.
- Use probiotics to support your gut bacteria, which are an important part of your immune system. Chinese researchers are finding that many of the people hit hardest by covid-19 have imbalanced gut bacteria. Look for supplements containing Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium strains.