Viruses are everywhere. There are an estimated 380 trillion viruses inhabiting our bodies (here’s a very interesting article about the human virome). There’s a lot of talk about treating viral disease at the moment, and about developing vaccines, but generally in the mainstream media there is very little information on our own innate resources. I feel compelled to redress the balance a bit, and give some information on how we can protect ourselves.
There are two aspects to not contracting symptoms of a virus. On the one hand it’s about minimising exposure… hand-washing, wearing a mask, avoiding contact… But just as importantly, on the other hand it’s about optimising our immune system. So how do you do that?
IMMUNE SYSTEM 101
1) Get enough good quality sleep. This is so important. Complete darkness and as quiet as possible: get blackout blinds; don’t have electrical equipment on in your bedroom, especially with LEDs; turn your phone off…not just on silent; if your partner snores, consider sleeping in another room. Many couples do this… probably more than you’d imagine
2) Avoid sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system. If you find yourself with the flu, don’t reach for the cake. It will prolong the duration of the illness. Refined carbohydrates (flour-based products) also break down to simple sugars, so aim for a low carb, high good fat way of eating
3) Eat the rainbow 🌈: get as many different colours of vegetables in your diet as possible. Different colours of foods are associated with different phytochemicals that have many protective effects on the body.
4) Get enough good protein. We need protein to produce glutathione, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants around…and it’s made by our own cells.
5) Supplement with a high quality, high potency multinutrient. The immune system relies on highly complex interactions with numerous nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, B12, zinc, selenium and folic acid, although that’s not an exhaustive list. Other nutrients are needed to interact with some of these, like cholesterol (to make vitamin D if you’re getting it from sunshine, which we’re not in the winter months), and magnesium, as this is needed for all cellular functions involving vitamin D. This is the one I use myself and highly recommend: *
6) We also need to be taking in good quality fats in order to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. We should increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory, and reduce intake of the pro-inflammatory omega-6. Supplementing with a pure fish oil with a good EPA/DHA profile is the easiest way to do this. The one I use and recommend is double-distilled under pharmaceutical manufacturing conditions – a rare thing in the supplement industry. *
7) Look after your gut bacteria. Around 70 percent of the immune system is in the gut, and the microbiota in the gut play a huge part in keeping us healthy. Maintain a good balance of gut bacteria by eating plenty of fibrous prebiotic vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, kiwi, konjak), yoghurt and fermented foods if you are not sensitive to histamine. Take probiotics to increase biodiversity of gut flora and encourage the good ones. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is one that also helps to seal a leaky gut, which is essential for a normally functioning immune system. Here’s my recommendation for this, from the cellular nutrition company that is rated #1 in the Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements. *
8) Nurture your spirit and give yourself time to chill and do things that you love to do. Spend time with people who are positive. Meditate, be creative, spend time in nature. Laugh a lot.
9) Minimise stressors. Even watching a horror film will increase your cortisol levels and put your body in fight or flight mode, which means it must concentrate on surviving rather than thriving.
10) Do resistance training (weights) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This has so many positive effects on the body, including increasing production of glutathione, creation of mitochondria and mitochondrial turnover.
Happy immune boosting! Get in touch if you would like any more info on anything here. Always happy to chat 😊 Please share if you would like to balance out the sensationalist media reports.
* I work with and use these supplements because of the company’s pharmaceutical-grade manufacturing practices and their commitment to research (80+ scientists, 18 with PhDs). I get a small commission from all sales. The company markets its products through referrals and is not on the high-street. It therefore spends its “marketing” budget on commissions rather than billboards, because the people using and having good results from the products are the best advertisement.