Dr. Wiseman is a font of knowledge and shares his immune system tips here:
EMPOWERING PUNCH:With Covid-19 ever-rapidly spreading across the US and as Americans are getting back to business, how can we easily boost our immune systems?
In these uncertain times, all Americans should look for the simple things that they can do in order to optimize their health. Not only will this help your body deter infection from the novel coronavirus, but will help you stay healthy and away from a potentially overburdened hospital or healthcare system in your area.
Your immune system consists of a complicated interworking of different cells including macrophages, neutrophils and T-cell lymphocytes, each which play their specific role in the body’s defense system. These cells use a complicated system of cytokines and other hormones to communicate and maintain your body’s well-being. In order for this system to be operating at its optimal level, there are a few things we can do to make sure that it is at maximum capacity.
While there is technically no way to “boost” your immune system, there are easy ways to support it. The simplest ways for every person to optimize their immune response to infection are the things you already know: 1. Proper diet and exercise. Exercise helps us by reducing levels of certain stress hormones which in turn, reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. 2. A good regimen of high aerobic exercise promotes cardiovascular health as well as improves your body’s immune response. 3. Your body needs nutrition in order to support the complex inner workings of cells and proteins that make up your immune system. 4. A balanced diet along with a good supply of essential vitamins provides your body with the building blocks it needs in order to produce all of the essential components.
Giving your body what it needs will you give the best chance to fight off whatever might try to harm it. Just like a well-oiled machine, your body needs certain components to allow it to function at maximum capacity.
Which supplements are most effective in boosting the immune system? Are there generic counterparts you recommend? Can we purchase them online?
Great questions! First, I want to clarify one thing; from my understanding, there is no such thing as “boosting” the immune system. I don’t want us to think of this as something we can put into overdrive. However, we can do things to maintain our immune system in order to give ourselves the best opportunity at warding off any potential harmful pathogens.
The most crucial addition to your diet that I can recommend is vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a role in almost every physiologic process within the body and helps us maintain our overall health in many ways. Also, studies have shown that getting adequate vitamin D can help improve our immune response and help us fight off infections. In addition, vitamin D is one of the essential vitamins that most modern Americans are lacking.
Typically, the vitamin D that our body uses comes from a chemical process initiated by sunlight being absorbed within our skin. Americans aren’t able to get outside as much as they should, and therefore have a deficiency in this essential vitamin. This is even more significant during a pandemic, where we are forced to stay inside and unable to get our proper exposure to sunlight. Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, up to 42% of Americans had a significant vitamin D deficiency.
Supplementing this with oral vitamin D tablets can help this deficiency, although to-date, there is no replacement for natural sunlight. It’s also important to know that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means two things for you: 1. In order to properly absorb the supplements, they need to be taken with food and 2. It IS possible to overdose if you take too much of these, so be sure to check the label and be aware of how much you are ingesting.
Which simple exercises assist in boosting the human immune system?
Any exercise which increases your heart rate has been shown to improve your overall cardiovascular health. Many individuals believe that this is limited only to high intensity exercises like running and swimming; however, even simple things that you can do in your home can help.
A simple course of calisthenics or mild aerobic exercise which include things like sit ups, pushups and jumping jacks can elevate your heart rate. Even things like yoga, which require holding your body in certain positions, can activate the cardio-respiratory system and thus increase your heart rate.
It’s important to remember that this is a good type of stressor; exercise causes your body to respond, increasing your heart rate and respiratory rate. This then decreases the levels of stress hormones, increases blood flow to vital organs and then optimizes antioxidant activity within your body.
Can children boost their immune systems?
Of course! I will reiterate that “boosting” the immune system is a bit of a misnomer, however, there are absolutely ways to optimize health and immunity for children. Children in general are a bit more complicated, because of how quickly they grow and mature. This means that oftentimes, they can require proportionally more nutrients than adults.
Furthermore, we know that children often require more calcium and iron than adults, as they are using these components to build strong bones and healthy organs. A healthy staple of B vitamins can help optimize their metabolism and heart health.
In children, this can often be obtained with a healthy, well balanced diet. I recommend checking with your pediatrician to see if there are any specific additions you can make to maintain your child’s optimal levels of health.
How can parents take better care of themselves this fall and winter when schools open?
Aside from the typical social distancing and hand hygiene that we have been hearing about so frequently in the media, keeping yourself in optimal health is the best way to prevent any kind of infection.
At this time, there is no magic pill and nothing can guarantee 100% that you will not get sick. However, there are certain things that can be done in order to give yourself the best fighting chance. Fortunately, these are all things that you probably already know and can do easily from home: 1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of leafy greens to get all the essential nutrients. 2. Get exercise whether it is in the form of a quick run, staying inside doing jumping jacks or yoga to get your heart rate >120. 3. Stay well-hydrated.
These 3 things are essential to maintaining your body’s normal levels of homeostasis, which in turn, lead to a happy and healthy immune system. If your immune system is working at its peak levels, then it is more likely that it will be able to stop any invader before it even has a chance to get a foothold within your body.
Dr. Wiseman is a US physician trained in Emergency Medicine. He completed his MD degree at Drexel University College of Medicine before going on to complete his residency in Emergency Medicine at Drexel University’s Hahnemann Hospital. Dr. Wiseman currently works as a travelling physician responding to high need areas across the country. He is currently working in southern Texas in response to the coronavirus outbreak in that region. In addition to his normal duties, Dr. Wiseman has taken time to educate people about the novel coronavirus and operates a channel on YouTube that provides education on a variety of medical topics.
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