“I have become increasingly anxious about contracting coronavirus. I don’t think I have any underlying health issues, but I still feel very vulnerable and it’s stopping me from going out. How can I help to improve my immunity so I can get on with my life in a more normal way? I’m 45 years old.”
Suzie Sawyer, Clinical Nutritionist answers.
I’m sorry to hear about your concerns but you are not alone – many people are fearful right now, which is understandable. The good news is you seem to be in good health, so your risks are generally low. However, it’s important to ensure your immune system is on fighting form and certain nutrients can really support immunity.
First up is vitamin D; it’s not just about strong bones and teeth, vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system. Public Health England has advised everyone to continue with supplementation at a level of at least 10 micrograms daily. However, many people may have discontinued this during the summer months because there’s been more sunshine around. Do ensure you’re taking the minimum amount, although 25 micrograms daily is advisable.
Vitamin C helps uprate production of white blood cells that specifically work within the immune system. Most fruits and vegetables, especially the berry fruits, broccoli, peppers and watermelon are rich in vitamin C.
Make sure you’re eating the minimum recommended five a day portions of a variety of fruit and veg; try for nearer 10 if you can. Additionally, the mineral zinc is a key worker within the immune system and is found in whole grains, meat, seafood (especially oysters), chicken and nuts and seeds so include plenty of these foods in your diet.
Interestingly, much of the immune system sits within the gut so you need to work from the inside out to gain maximum protection. Probiotics, otherwise known as friendly bacteria that naturally reside in the gut, are key. Natural yoghurts and fermented foods such as tofu, kimchi, natto and kefir all help to feed the good bacteria. It is also worth taking a probiotic supplement during these times for additional protection. These are readily available in health food shops; look for products that contain lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains.
Lastly, the herb oregano is a natural antimicrobial that helps protect against unwanted invaders to the gut. In turn, this should also help protect your immune system. Oregano is the delicious herb that’s often used on pizza. It’s also great in many other traditional Italian pasta dishes.
Sleep, alcohol and sugar
Lastly, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, avoid drinking too much alcohol and ensure sugar-intake is low. All are key factors in keeping the immune system in great working order.
I hope that’s helped and you now feel a bit more comfortable about the steps you can take to help yourself and your immunity.