Supporting your body against viruses naturally

Written by Alexandra McPhee | 30 March, 2020

With the current global focus on contagious viral illness, taking measures to support viral immunity has never been more important. Luckily, precautions can and should be taken to improve your immunity against viral illness.

The main concern with novel strains of viral pathogens such as COVID-19, is that the immune system does not recognise the proteins that coat the surface of the evolved virus, leaving the body is more susceptible to infection.

Prevention is better than cure:

1. As with any respiratory infection, avoid coughing and sneezing into your hands – dispose of tissues properly and cough into your elbow

As many viruses and pathogens are spread via droplet transmission, proper hand hygiene is important. Some viruses can survive for days at a time on contaminated surfaces, so it is important to avoid touching your face and mouth or eating with unwashed hands.

2. As with any respiratory infection, avoid coughing and sneezing into your hands – dispose of tissues properly and cough into your elbow

Because viruses can affect individuals differently, you may only exhibit mild symptoms but could still be contributing to viral transmission. Practice proper infection etiquette and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

3. Avoid sugar and processed foods that can negatively affect immune health

White blood cells need plenty of vitamin C in order to act against pathogens like viruses. In appropriate doses, vitamin C has been found to be effective in both the prevention and treatment of many viruses1. One of the best ways to sabotage your viral immune response is to consume high amounts of sugar. Sugar competes with vitamin C, affecting how much vitamin C our white blood cells can take up and utilise2. Replace sugary foods with vitamin C rich fruits like blueberries, kiwi fruit, oranges and berries.

4. Zinc and vitamin C supplementation

Both zinc and vitamin C have demonstrated beneficial effects for the immune system response against viruses1,3. They are required by white blood cells as fuel and help neutrophils to clear up cellular debris during infections1,3. Acute supplementation can be effective – get personalised dosage advice from a Naturopath or Nutritionist to get the best results.

5. Eat medicinal mushrooms like shitake, reishi, cordyceps and coriolus

Pick up some of these culinary mushrooms from your local farmers market or Asian grocer and cook into your soups, broths and stews. The medicinal compounds in these fungi have the potential to stimulate immunity, inhibit viral enzymes and in some cases, absorption of viruses into the host cell4. Dried and powdered mushrooms are commonly available and can be added to juices, smoothies and hot beverages.

6. Kick back and relax – preferably outdoors in the sunshine

Stress is one of the most debilitating factors for immune system health5. Offset the panic surrounding viruses by focusing on what you can control – your diet, getting proper sleep, making time for fun and fresh air. Take the common sense precautions and consider getting individualised advice from a natural health practitioner who is in the know when it comes to immune system health.

Reference list:

  1. Colunga Biancatelli RML, Berrill M, Marik PE. The antiviral properties of vitamin C. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2020;18(2):99-101. doi:10.1080/14787210.2020.1706483
  2. Sanchez A, Reeser JL, Lau HS, et al. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1973. doi:10.1093/ajcn/26.11.1180
  3. Read SA, Obeid S, Ahlenstiel C, Ahlenstiel G. The Role of Zinc in Antiviral Immunity. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(4):696-710. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz013
  4. Rathee S, Rathee D, Rathee D, Kumar V, Rathee P. Mushrooms as therapeutic agents. Brazilian J Pharmacogn. 2012. doi:10.1590/S0102-695X2011005000195
  5. Fali T, Vallet H, Sauce D. Impact of stress on aged immune system compartments: Overview from fundamental to clinical data. Exp Gerontol. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2018.02.007

Alexandra McPhee

Alexandra (Lexie) McPhee is an Endeavour College of Natural Health Alumni and qualified, practising Naturopath. Her special interests include writing, communication with the natural world, the history of medicinal plant use and creating her own herbal oils and salves. 

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