The Science Behind the Recommendations – Boosting Your Immunity During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The most important thing you can do right now, for yourself, others, and the NHS, is to stay healthy, and hopefully not contract a deadly disease. 

Failing that, your body has a vicious procedure for dealing with threats, but because you can’t see a virus, it’s easy to slip into the mindset of believing there’s nothing you can do to help your body fight. However there is plenty of research to suggest some lifestyles favour a healthier immune system.

Cold Showers 

A colleague once told me he takes cold showers every morning because it’s the worst part of his day, therefore it can only get better from there. While he may be onto something, there is actually a better reason to practise cryogenesis on yourself. 

One study shows a 29% reduction in sickness absence¹ from work for participants who took cold showers for up to 90 seconds a day.

One explanation for this is cold showers reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone released when we feel stressed. Its job is to contain the immune response, however increased exposure can make the immune system resistant, resulting in reduced function².

The ideal solution would be to get rid of stress altogether, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Vitamin C Rich Diet

It’s important for vitamin C to feature in our diets daily, as our bodies are unable to produce or store it themselves. 

Amongst other things, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, fighting what’s called free radicals. No, free radicals are not an indie band and neither are they religious extremists. Free radicals are unstable molecules, and can cause damage to healthy body cells, being responsible for some forms of cancer and heart disease.

They result from normal metabolic processes, however they can also come from exposure to x-rays, ozone, smoking, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals³.

Thankfully, there are plenty of foods that provide vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries, lemon, broccoli, sprouts, and tomatoes.

Get Some Sleep

A recent study by researchers from the University of Tübingen⁴ has shed some light on exactly why sleep is so good for our immune systems. 

T cells are a type of white blood cell involved in the body’s immune response. They work by activating proteins called integrins when a foreign body or a virus infected cell is detected. This allows the T cell to bind to the target and eliminate it.

There is another protein called a Gs alpha subunit. While it has its uses in cell signaling, it can also block the activation of these integrins, interfering with the function of T cells. 

T cells from participants who spent the night asleep showed significantly higher binding of T cells when compared to participants who spent the night awake.

It became evident that sleep had an inhibitory effect on Gs alpha proteins, allowing the T cells of the immune system to work more productively.

Move Your Body

The NHS recommends ‘at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity’⁵. Considering most of us are out of a job at the moment, it wouldn’t hurt to make it an hour a day. 

Not only will it do you good, but it will prepare you for all the alcohol that’s going to be consumed once you’re allowed out again. Unless you’re one of the people involved in the 22% increase in alcohol sales statistic⁶. If that’s the case then well done for being ahead of the curve.

The jury is out on exactly why exercise is good for the immune system, but theories include; flushing pathogens out of the lungs and airways, raising body temperature to a level where the immune system works better, slowing down the release of stress hormones, such as the before mentioned cortisol, and contributing to improved circulation, allowing components of the immune system such as T cells to move through your body more efficiently⁷. 

Conclusion

Bar the cold showers, all of this is stuff you could have easily figured out for yourself, I just hope the explanations give more reason to follow up on this advice from health professionals.

As you can see there are connections between the methods, which emphasises the importance of balance. Choose one method of improvement and you may see a difference, but the strongest change will come when it is supported by many areas of your life.

PLEASE NOTE: In no way are these a substitute for proper hygiene and social distancing. Remember, you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

Also note, I want to give a shout out to some friends at Vitamind. They run a one stop shop for vegan vitamins and supplements, with a focus on energy, immunity, and recovery. 

If you find their products at a lower price, message them and they’ll beat it, so if you use any of these products you’ve got everything to gain from checking out vitamindstore.co.uk

References

  1. US National Library of Medicine: The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work
  2. US National Library of Medicine: Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function
  3. US National Library of Medicine: Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health
  4. Journal of Experimental Medicine: Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells
  5. NHS: Exercise
  6. BBC News: Coronavirus: Shoppers stock up on alcohol amid lockdown
  7. Harvard Health Publishing: How to boost your immune system

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