Boosting Your Immune System Through Diet and Lifestyle
The outbreak of the infectious disease COVID-19 Coronavirus has many people paying closer attention to how to strengthen and maintain their immune system. Certainly your diet can play an important role in this.
“Unfortunately, there’s no form of food or supplement to prevent COVID-19”, says Bethesda North Hospital Registered Dietitian Karolin Saweres, RDN, LD. “However, it’s important to keep your immune system healthy. Good nutrition is vital for a strong immune system.”
How can you strengthen your immune system through your diet and a healthy lifestyle? Saweres recommends the following:
Priobiotics for Gut Health
About 70 percent of your body’s immune cells live in your gut. Therefore, it’s important to keep your gut in good shape. Probiotics have been known to benefit the gut microbiota. They are often called “good” bacteria. There are different forms of probiotics. Good sources of probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha and kimchi. Prebiotics are fibers which also support gut health and are found in onions, leeks, radishes, carrots, bananas, asparagus, flax and chia seeds.
Eat (Yes Eat) Your Vitamins
Certain vitamins such as vitamins A, C, D, and zinc play a role in supporting the immune system. Obtaining these vitamins from foods is preferred over the use of supplements.
- Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system by protecting against infections and can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach and eggs.
- Vitamin C supports the immune system by formation of antibodies and can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomato juice, and green and red peppers.
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of infections and can be found in fortified foods, fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms. Keeping in mind, our main source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure.
- Zinc helps the immune system work properly by balancing the immune response and can be found in lean meats, poultry, seafood, milk, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Get Some Sleep
Sleep also plays a role on health and immune system. During sleep, the body releases cytokines. Certain cytokines are needed to fight infections or inflammation. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night, while teenagers need 9-10 hours of sleep. School-aged children need 10 or more hours of sleep.
Multiple studies have demonstrated benefits of regular moderate exercise on the immune system. However, there’s no strong evidence to support how exercise fights specific viruses or infections. While exercise may help maintain your immune system, with COVID-19, reducing risk of exposure is most important, so be sure to get your exercise in ways in which you can maintain recommended social distancing and avoid contact with surfaces and equipment recently used by others.