COVID-19, what can we do to help our immune systems?

COVID-19, what can we do to help our immune systems?

The number of people suffering from ‘flu and other diseases is down, as a result of global mask wearing, hand sanitising and increased awareness of the spread of airborne viruses.

This fact has been attributed to the pandemic, mask wearing and increased, urgent greater understanding of good hygiene, especially in public places.

However, German virologist Sandra Ciesek described in March how we usually live in natural “balance” with viruses — but how that had been disrupted by the pandemic. Ciesek heads the Institute of Medical Virology at Frankfurt’s University Clinic.

Speaking in a podcast, Ciesek explained how children, in particular, had been cut off or sealed away from viruses and other illnesses.

“It just shows how we usually coexist with viruses. And it shows how artificial conditions, like limiting personal contacts, can influence [the spread of] viruses, and that rates of infection can get artificially moved from [one season to another],” said Ciesek.

This begs the question: Will kids have more severe infections after the COVID-19 pandemic if their immune systems missed out “training” during lockdowns?

We may see more infections, but not necessarily more severe ones. I was pleased to recently learn that the immune system is not like a muscle that’s become weak during the pandemic.

Our immune systems have had enough to do, even during lockdown, because germs also enter our bodies in other ways, such as through food.

And because of the various lockdowns, more people will gradually experience sickness as global lockdowns lift. We may well see more common colds, flu and other respiratory infection.

After a while, it’s just your turn again. You’re going to get sick. An unfortunate consideration, but it’s a truth of human existence. We must be thankful for our immune systems.

So, what can we do to our immune systems to avoid illness other than COVID-19? How can we help our immune system to fight off the constant barrage of attacks?

You can easily make several lifestyle and dietary changes today to strengthen your immune system.

These include reducing your sugar intake, staying hydrated, working out regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing your stress levels.

Exercise regularly

Our immune system is boosted by exercise. A scientific review from 2019 in the Journal of Sport and Health Science suggested exercise can improve your immune response, lower illness risk, and reduce inflammation.

Aerobic exercise is best, according to the experts – such as walking, running and cycling.

Eat healthy food

Just like exercise, this is an easy win, and something we all know we should be doing anyway.

Moving away from processed foods, fried foods and high salt and sugar intake is always a good idea, but I like to think of the body as a factory, and we need to invest in good raw materials to enjoy the best end result. Schedule your meals, and eat fruit and vegetables more than other foods each day.

Hydrate

Do we need to talk about the need for water? Especially here in the UAE, we all know the importance of water.

Through my research into fitness and hydration, I discovered the equation we all need to work out to know exactly how much water we need to consume each day.

Forgot the ‘8 glasses a day’ or ‘ten glasses a day.’ All you need to do is take your weight, then multiply that weight by 2/3 (or 67%) to determine how much water to drink daily.

For example, if you weighed 79kgs you would multiply that by 2/3 and learn you should be drinking about 3.5 litres of water every day. Of course, this amount needs to be altered according to your daily activity levels – add 350ml more water for every 30 minutes of working out.

Reduce stress

Over time, stress builds up into a range of health conditions. This allostatic load – the cumulative effect of long-term stress can lead to some serious illness.

So, a major step in ensuring a strong immune system and good long-term health is to simply reduce the stress in life.

I should perhaps recommend a meditation or relaxation app here, but sometimes it can be just as effective to talk things through with your closest friends and family.

Quit toxins – smoking and alcohol

I don’t need to say anymore on this subject. We all know the dangers of such toxic substances.

Although none of these suggestions can prevent COVID-19, they can enforce your body’s defences against harmful pathogens.

And let’s not forget, it is, of course, conceivable that many infections contracted in the last 18 months have gone undetected, because a lot of people have been avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor or the hospital during lockdown.

Whichever you decide, the pandemic, at least, has taught us all to be more aware of our immune systems.