SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As coronavirus cases are multiplying each day globally, it’s more important now than ever to have a strong immune system to protect yourself from the outbreak.
News 3 spoke with SouthCoast Health dietician Rebekah Laurance to find out how to make our immune systems as strong as they can be.
Laurance emphasized that it is a common misconception that there are things we can do to strengthen our immune systems. She says there aren’t any steps you can take to physically boost your immune system— but there are measures you can take to support it.
“Unfortunately there isn’t any particular type of food or supplement that we can take that’s going to boost our immune system,” Laurance said. “But general healthy eating is going to help support the normal function of your immune system.”
She says don’t waste your money stocking up on supplements at the grocery store. Instead, head for the produce aisle.
“If you’re eating a varied intake you’re going to be getting most of those vitamins and minerals anyway,” Laurance said. “Now, there is some evidence showing that antioxidants can help, so your vitamins A, C, and E. But unless you’ve been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, it’s generally not beneficial to take those things.”
She recommends leafy greens, citrus fruits, and whole grains for a natural way to incorporate these vitamins into your diet.
“Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate should be lean proteins, and another quarter should be your whole grains like rice,” Laurance said.
Some popular items on the market for “boosting” your immune system include ginger shots and elderberry gummies. But Laurance says the more you can get these vitamins and antioxidants from your food, the better.
“Ginger is healthy and there is some research showing that it is possibly anti-inflammatory, but there is no real research right now that shows that it is protective for COVD-19,” Laurance said. “And elderberry is fine, but there is no good scientific research right now to support claims of boosting immune function.”
“Another thing to note is that the supplement industry is not well-regulated, there have actually been reports that many supplements may be contaminated or have ingredients not listed on the labels,” she added. “People would be better off getting their nutrients from real food, whether it be canned, frozen or fresh.”
Laurance also advises getting rid of bad eating habits during this time to support a healthy immune system.
“Avoid stress eating,” she said. “You know these are very stressful times.”
Laurance also says getting adequate sleep is vital for keeping your body’s defenses up to par.
“Normal stress, day-to-day stress, we tend to reset at night,” Laurance said. “We all kind of calm down. You can do some exercises and that sort of thing. But during this time, it’s almost chronic stress, which isn’t good for our immune systems. So we want to do some of those exercises to help like deep breathing.”
“Getting enough sleep is going to help your immune system because it kind of gives your body time to deal with the stress that it had to go through during the day and kind of reset,” She added. “Usually, try to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.”
Alcohol has been proven to lower your immune system if more than five drinks are taken in a short period of time. Laurance says red wine can be another good source of antioxidants.
“Don’t overdo it,” Laurance said. “Everything in moderation, right?”
Laurance advises following the hygiene guidelines that the CDC recommends as the number one way to protect yourself from coronavirus.