During these unprecedented times, I have begun to pay more attention to information that boosts your immune health. This article aims to give you a brief overview of the nutritional value of vitamins and the importance of social interactions for the immune system. Many of you will be concerned about how the future will look. For instance, will social distancing become a normality? Or will this eventually blow over and we go back to our old ways? For now, the latter seems uncertain. But as you start to get used to the new norms, there is invaluable knowledge on the internet that can help you feel less anxious and get on with life as we live with a new virus – Covid-19.
Firstly, It is not the virus itself that attacks and kills us, but the overreaction of an immune system that is compromised and thus does not operate at its full capacity. This results in your own body attacking its cells, tissues and organs. Most commonly, the term underlying pre-existing condition is used when defining a dysfunctional immune system. The pre-existing health conditions include conditions such as obesity, heart disease, smoking and diabetes. The reality is that if you do not put the right things in your body, you are making yourself more vulnerable to protecting your body against pathogens. With that said, there are specific vitamins that can help you fight and protect yourself against viruses.
Starting with Vitamin D. There are over 80,000 research papers that convey the power of this type of vitamin. There is a large number of people that are deficient in Vitamin D, which has been proven to “prevent acute respiratory tract infections”. It is recommended to get around 15-20 mins of sunshine a day to get the dose that is needed to boost your immune system and is something that should be considered.
Vitamin Cmodulates the immune system and disrupts viral replication. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant, so when your body is under attack, your body produces anti-oxidants and helps lower inflammation. This can be taken from citrus fruits, or you can purchase supplements.
Zinc can inhibit the virus and stop the viral replication process.
Vitamin A helps support and build a wall around your cells
But lastly, social distancing not only impacts people psychologically but the immune system too. One of the fundamental reasons people live longer is due to social interactions and connections with people. A landmark study from House et al., (1988) showed that deep social connections support your health, and that lack of social connection is a greater detriment than conditions such as obesity and smoking.
Furthermore, there was a study that touched on the subject at a genetic level too. According to Cole et al., (2007) there was a phenomenon called “conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA)”. To put more simply, it is how your genes respond to up-regulate and down-regulate certain molecules. So your genes are not just static and based on different inputs coming in, they will turn on and off certain genes. But when you are socially isolated, you up-regulate inflammatory genes and down-regulate the anti-viral response, thus too much isolation influences inflammation. Therefore, although it is essential to follow government guidelines, when possible, you should seek to socialise and interact as much as possible as we are fundamentally social beings. And you should understand that your body is a system and needs to stay in sync internally through your input. Remember, your health is your wealth.
(If anyone would like to learn more about the immune system, the inventor of email, Dr Shiva, is an excellent place to start)