By Nico Strydom
The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic once again emphasised the importance of remaining healthy and strengthening our immune systems as much as possible.
The immune system is a complex network of cells and protein that defends the body against infection. It keeps track of every germ (microbe) that has been beaten, so that this microbe can be easily recognised and destroyed once it re-enters the body.
Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, Head of Operations at the medical aid, Bonitas, indicated that Covid-19 is a new pathogen, which means that our bodies does not have existing anti-bodies to defend us against it. “Therefore, it remains essential that we continue to wear our masks, maintain social distance and apply good hand hygiene and etiquette when coughing.”
There is no magic pill to immediately strengthen our immune system, but there are healthy lifestyle habits and different supplements to strengthen our immune system.
According to Mkhatshwa a combination of five essential vitamins and minerals are recommended for your general health:
Supplements with vitamin C can reduce the time and seriousness of infections in the upper airway, including colds. This vitamin can be found in oranges, grapefruits, broccoli, strawberries, peppers and tomato juice.
Vitamin D also fights infection and keeps one’s bones strong. According to Mkhatshwa a lot of research about vitamin D has been done regarding Covid-19 and studies show that vitamin D can speed up recovery and limit inflammation in the respiratory system. Foods such as salmon, mushrooms, milk, cereals and bread are rich in Vitamin D.
Vitamin A helps to regulate and protect the immune system by keeping your tissue and skin healthy. It can be found in sweet potato, carrots, apricots and spinach.
Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant that helps to fight damage to cells. Nuts and peanut butter are packed with vitamin E.
Zink works as an antioxidant and promotes metabolism and heals wounds. Meat, shellfish, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds are foods that are high in zinc. Zinc is necessary for the development and communication of immune cells and plays an important role in inflammatory response, said Mkhatshwa. A zinc deficiency affects the immune system’s ability to properly function, resulting in a higher risk for infections and illnesses.
Mkhatshwa also stated that the air we breathe are turned into chemicals we need to fuel our cells. “The way in which we breathe matters and even affects our body’s chemistry. To take slow and deep breaths, is one of the most effective things you can do for your well-being right now.”