What are the 10 tips to strengthen the immune system? What can I do to boost my immune defences against the virus?

Here are some tips to strengthen the immune system and increase your body’s defences:

 

What is the immune system?

The immune system is the body’s natural defence mechanism to fight viruses, bacteria and other pathogenic micro-organisms.

It consists of a complex network of organs, tissues and cells that can effectively distinguish between pathogenic and harmless substances.

It is found throughout the body but is particularly concentrated in the mucous membranes of the respiratory system and in the intestinal mucous membrane.

1- Eating healthy

Food is undoubtedly a factor that can most alter our natural defence system.

Fill your pantry with fresh seasonal, organic and local fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and legumes.

Give priority to eating fish and white meat over red meat and sausages. Reduce ultra-processed foods rich in refined sugar, salt and processed fats (cookies, pastries, soft drinks, potato chips, etc.).

 

2- Good hydration

Keep yourself well hydrated by drinking water, tea, herbal teas, broths and soups.

Avoid alcohol and drinks containing caffeine.

Dehydration is associated with increased body temperature, mental confusion and headaches.

And remember that the sensation of thirst decreases with age. Older people should, therefore, be especially careful, especially if they have a fever and a cough.

 

3- Practise regular physical exercise

Move and exercise!

Although the possibilities are limited, spend a little time each day doing some sort of exercise to tone your muscle tissue, joints, ligaments, internal organs, through movement.

Look for classes online and don’t neglect your workout, toning class, Pilates or yoga.

 

4- Manage stress

Stress has a negative effect on the immune system. The state of alert we are experiencing these days due to the coronavirus outbreak has forced us to stop our activity in its tracks.

Manage your time and give yourself new opportunities to read, learn, play, cook…

 

5- Take a vitamin D supplement

Vitamin D3 improves the immune system’s response to viruses and bacteria.

Our bodies can make it from sunlight. However, many people in our regions are deficient in vitamin D and require supplementation or intake through diet.

Unfortunately, it is found in very few foods, mainly in fatty fish.

It can, therefore, be practical to take a vitamin D3 supplement to improve our defences.

 

6- Antioxidant vitamins and minerals

They will help the cells of the immune system to function better. They include vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and minerals such as zinc and Selenium.

Vitamin C is found in raw red pepper (it contains twice as much as oranges), strawberries, currants, papaya, kiwi, watercress and all citrus fruits (orange, tangerine, grapefruit, lime and lemon).

Vitamin E is found in virgin olive oil, nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds and avocados.

Beta-carotene is found in orange-coloured fruits, vegetables and berries such as carrots, squash, mangoes, papayas, medlars, peaches and apricots.

Zinc is found in meat, fish, oysters, legumes, mushrooms and nuts. Zinc is also very good for mucous membranes and the prevention of respiratory infections.

 

7- Beta-glucans: Brewer’s yeast, reishi, shitake and maitake.

Reishi, shitake and maitake are widely used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for their medicinal properties.

They contain beta-glucans, a type of polysaccharide with immunomodulatory activity.

These three mushrooms are marketed as extracts in food supplements.  But shitake and maitake can also be bought fresh or dehydrated and cooked with miso soup, vegetables or rice.

Another source of beta-glucans are extracts of brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).

 

8- Probiotics

Between 70 and 80% of our immune system is in the intestine.

Probiotics are living microorganisms that confer a health benefit when administered in sufficient quantities.

In addition, they help to balance the intestinal microbiota and strengthen the immune system. They promote the barrier function against pathogenic microorganisms. It is important to know that the activity of probiotics is strain- and dose-dependent.

 

9- Fermented foods

These types of foods and beverages contain certain live bacteria that continue to work once they are in our bodies. Thus, they provide diversity in the intestinal microbiota, which is beneficial to our health.

Among the most popular are kombucha, kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or miso.

To preserve their properties, it is very important that they are not pasteurized.

 

10- Prebiotic fibers and Postbiotics

This type of fibre is food for the bacteria of the intestinal microbiota.

Examples include carrots, apples, oats, barley, mushrooms, chia and flax seeds, seaweed, chicory root, leeks, onions, asparagus, artichokes, bananas and legumes.

Another prebiotic fibre is resistant starch obtained from tubers. It is found in potatoes and sweet potatoes when they are cooked and then cooled in the refrigerator.

Postbiotics like butyrate can also contribute to strengthening the immune system.

 

All of the mucous membranes in our bodies are connected to each other.

Acting on the intestinal mucous membrane can improve the immune system not only of the intestine but also of other body tissues such as the lung mucous membrane.