If one thing has been made very clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the importance of a healthy immune system. While vaccinations will go a long way toward providing the defenses you need, let’s remember that these vaccines are designed to work with your body’s natural defenses.
While we wait for widespread vaccination and the “herd immunity” that will keep most people safe, it’s more important than ever to ensure your own immune system is strong.
To that end, the team of experienced medical experts here at Forest Urgent Care thought we’d pull together a few tips you can use to help keep your immune system strong and healthy.
What is the immune system?
To better understand how you can strengthen your immune system, it’s important to understand what this “system” is. Your immune system is a complex network of specialized cells, proteins, tissues, and organs that work together to protect you against foreign invaders, such as:
When your body encounters a potentially harmful invader (antigen), it creates antibodies that latch onto the antigen. This acts as a sort of marker for your body’s T cells, which then come and destroy the antigen.
Food is the best medicine
Since your immune system involves so many different cells, proteins, tissues, and organs, there are many ways to approach strengthening your immune system, starting with what you eat.
Millennia ago, Hippocrates stated, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” which is certainly true for your immune system.
Your immune system needs the right nutrients to perform optimally, and certain ones are especially important for immune function, including:
This vitamin helps your immune system produce antibodies. Great sources of vitamin C include berries, kiwifruit, and citrus fruits, as well as bell peppers.
Also called beta carotene, this vitamin supports lung and gut health and can be found in great quantities in carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and spinach.
This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant. Good sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts, and avocados.
Low vitamins D levels have been linked to more severe cases of COVID-19, so making sure your levels are optimal is key. Vitamin D is found naturally in egg yolks and mushrooms, and your skin can make the vitamin when it’s exposed to sunlight.
Many enzymes in your body rely on zinc, which can be found in abundance in seafood, nuts, and beans.
To strengthen your T cells, we recommend plenty of protein, which can be found in beef, poultry, fish, and eggs. Vegetable foods that contain some protein include beans, quinoa, nuts, and seeds.
Outside of eating the right foods and avoiding empty calories like sugary and processed foods, there are a few other steps that will go a long way toward strengthening your immune system, including:
- Exercising to improve your circulation and the flow of resources
- Getting adequate, quality sleep to help your body repair and regenerate
- Reducing stress to balance your metabolic system
- Drinking water so body processes work properly, including transporting immune cells
Outside of this list, if you engage in a habit like smoking, we urge you to quit or cut down. Smoking not only weakens your immune system, it also compromises your lungs, which are in the direct line of fire when it comes to a respiratory infection like COVID-19.
If you’d like to learn more about how to boost your body’s immune system to fight off COVID-19, please contact one of our two New York offices in Forest Hills or Hunters Point in Long Island City. Please note that we offer COVID-19 testing as well as telehealth services to keep our patients as healthy as possible.