Powerful Role of Nutrition & Lifestyle in Supporting the Immune System

By Dr. Sasha Blissett

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused many of us to think seriously about our health. This infection can cause severe respiratory distress, stroke, kidney failure or even a heart attack. Sadly, it has proven fatal for many. Coronavirus can affect everyone, but the very young, those who are over sixty-five years of age, the overweight, and those with pre-existing illnesses are most at risk of a complicated infection. Nutrition and dietary sugar are known to have a direct impact our immune function. In this article I will discuss the effects of sugar on the immune system, the anti-viral and antioxidant effects of vitamin C; along with foods and lifestyle considerations to support the immune system.

Avoid Sugary Foods

The rampant use of sugar in the standard American diet is back in the spotlight because it wreaks havoc on our immune system. For some time, we have known that sugar consumption reduces the activity of our white blood cells. Our white blood cells help fight bacterial and viral infections and are our first line of defense against any infection. Excess dietary sugar and high blood sugar levels are related to a compromised or poorly responsive immune system, so needed to fight viral infections. Be aware of the various forms of sugar such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and fruit juices. Unfortunately, these fast-acting sugars are a staple in the standard American diet.

Get More Vitamin C

Since the early 1900s studies found a correlation between vitamin C deficiency in the alveolar cells of the lungs and increased death. This deficiency makes it difficult to combat infections, rendering our white blood cells incapable of mounting an immune response. So, having low vitamin C, with a diet high in fast-acting sugars can be detrimental to our immune system.
Vitamin C behaves as a super-antioxidant, protecting immune cells against the oxidative stress brought on by infections. For prevention of infection vitamin C is particularly useful owing to its affinity for the lungs and cells of the nasopharynx, so often attacked by respiratory viruses. Studies also show that overall vitamin C has an anti-viral effect. Orally, vitamin C in doses of 1000-3000 mg can be taken one to two times daily. A laxative effect may be experienced if taken in excess.

Eat More Immunity Boosting Foods

Our gut produces T-regulatory cells, special immune cells that stop the inflammatory response once it is no longer needed. The microorganisms of the gut, where our T-regulatory cells are located, thrives on the soluble fibers, inulin, and fructo-oligosaccharides. They are found in many vegetables and are metabolized into butyric acid by healthy gut microorganisms. Fiber is indispensable to a healthy microbiome, helping to control the inflammatory response and to support our immune system. Fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin are found in foods like Jerusalem artichokes, onion, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and kimchee for example. Another wonderful addition would be quercetin rich foods, such as goji berries and apples. Quercetin is a fantastic antioxidant, which helps block the entry of the viral endosomes into our cells. Endosomes are the entry vehicles into cells, blocking them helps prevent the replication of viruses in our cells. Eating foods rich in vitamin C like, fresh organic vegetables, beans, nuts, organic corn, and some fruit such as blueberries and blackberries will boost the body’s immune system.

Take advantage of anti-viral botanicals like Elderberry, Holy Basil, Oregano, Rosemary and Lemon balm for additional anti-viral and anti-microbial protection for the respiratory system.

Manage Stress, Proper Sleep, and Exercise to Support Your Immune System

To further support your immune system exercise regularly. Exercising helps reduce oxidative stress, improving the antioxidant capacity in our cells. It also removes waste by encouraging the movement of lymph fluid. Exercise also increases lung capacity, helping to increase our lung’s resistance to infection and slows the release of stress hormones to support our immune system also. Excess stress hormones like cortisol hinders our immune response. Next, get a good, restful eight hours of sleep each night to enhances your resistance to infections. Sleep encourages the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone, which helps regulate excess inflammation, suppresses free radical damage, and supports general immune function. You can further support melatonin production by getting twenty minutes of sunlight daily and turning off mobile phones, TVs, and computer screens at night.

To summarize you can immediately support your immune system during this Coronavirus pandemic, first eat more vitamin C rich fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as foods high in fructo-oligosaccharides. Next, stay far away from processed sugary foods which suppress the immune system. Also, supplement with vitamin C and anti-viral botanicals for their anti-viral and antioxidant properties. Remember to exercise regularly by going for a walk or jog, doing yoga, or performing an at home exercise routine of your choice. And finally, get a good-night’s sleep. Times like these gives us the opportunity to take care of our health by making self-care a priority.

Dr. Sasha Blissett is a California State licensed Naturopathic Doctor, who found her passion for Naturopathic Medicine while in college battling her own women’s health and skin issues. She specializes in women’s health and takes the time to listen to her client’s health concerns so she can understand and address the root cause of illnesses.

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