In 2020, a significant threat to public health emerged. This COVID-19 pandemic has affected thousands of peoples, who are either sick or are being killed due to the spread of this disease.
According to Worldometers data, there are more than 100.83 million confirmed cases worldwide and 2.16 million deaths. While in Malaysia, total covid-19 confirmed cases has surpassed the 200,000-mark and yet the daily confirmed new cases still remains at four figures. It is still a long way for us battling with the novel coronavirus. (1)
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by coronavirus that can spread from person to person. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (through coughing and sneezing), and by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, eyes.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness like fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache and sore throat. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease and diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness. (2)
Besides precautions like hand-washing, social distancing and wear a mask, what can we do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses that we may be exposed to?
The Answer is : Our Immune System!
Our immune system is a central player in the fight against COVID-19. It protects our bodies from all sorts of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and other organisms that we touch, ingest and inhale every day. Thus, we definitely need our immune systems to be in the best shape to fight off diseases. We need to be healthy and fit enough to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boosting Immunity to Prevent COVID-19
Healthy living strategies you can do to keep your own immune system functioning at top capacity include:
1. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables. The immune system need all the vitamins and minerals in our food to function well.
- A simple way to balance diet is to follow the Malaysia Healthy Plate method (#QuarterQuarterHalf).
– ¼ plate grains or grain products, preferably whole grains such as brown rice or wholemeal bread
– ¼ plate fish or, poultry, meat, or egg
– ½ plate of fruits and vegetables
2. Get enough sleep.7-8 hours sleeping time is the best way to help your body build immunity. Lack of sleep will impair other body functions that will have a direct impact on your immunity.
3. Exercising regularly. Moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes per week is recommended by experts. Regular exercise improves metabolism, which has a direct correlation with body immunity.
- Some example home workouts we can do to keep us moving while staying at home during this pandemic:
– Run 20 times round your dining table
– Jog 10x around home compound
– Clean the house or wash the car
– Watch and follow exercises on YouTube
– Do stretches or ride a stationary bike while watching TV
4. Avoid smoking and alcohol . Smoking (nicotine) , vaping and alcohol consumption can cause weakened body immunity and cause respiratory illnesses.
- The effects of smoking on the respiratory system makes it more likely that smokers contract the COVID-19virus and face a greater risk of getting a severe infection as their lung health is already compromised.
- Excessive alcohol around 14 drinks per week or more than five to six drinks at a time does directly suppress the immune system, and increase risk of infectious diseases.
*1 drink = 300 ml Beer/ 150ml Wine/ 30ml Distilled Spirit(rum, whisky, vodka)
5. Manage your stress. Stress can suppress the immune system. Boredom, job loss, financial insecurity and lack of outdoor activities during movement control are affecting our psychological, mental and physical wellbeing.
- Try to take time to relax and include activities that help you handle stress like yoga and meditation.
Immunity Support Supplements
While all the above-mentioned tips will definitely help, the need of the hour is a quick boost to your immunity system to keep it fighting fit. Here are a few common supplements and superfoods that can help.
1. Vitamin C, the army of immunity. It acts as a powerful antioxidant, natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. It helps prevent viral , bacteria infections and shortening the duration of common cold.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended dietary intake of Vitamin C ranges from 75 mg for adult women and 90 mg for adult men. For example, 1 small orange contains 50mg Vitamin C.(3)
2. Vitamin D is one of the most important immune system strengthening nutrients that can reduce the risk of colds and flu.
- Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D. Aim to get 10–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm at least twice a week (4)
3. Zinc is a vital component to white blood cells which fights infections. It can help reduce the number of infections and the duration of the common cold.
4. Yeast Beta-Glucans have shown to stimulate activity against viral attack, which cause a decrease in cold and flu symptoms and upper respiratory tract infections.
5. Elderberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that boost the immune system. They have antibacterial and antiviral properties which help fight viruses, infections, cold and influenza.
While you may not be able to completely avoid getting sick, a strong and healthy immune system can be your first line of defense. Focusing on your immune health can definitely help your body be better prepared to fight and minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection.
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.