SINGAPORE - As we strive to keep ourselves clean from the coronavirus, it may be surprising to find out that humans actually breathe in tens of thousands of micro-organisms a day.
A robust immune system is vital to long-term good health. Should one catch a cold or the flu, one would display milder symptoms and recover faster.
Here's some advice from Ms Josephine Ng, a certified nutrition therapist from The Nutrition Mentor, and Mr Chu I Ta, a traditional Chinese medicine physician from Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution, on how to boost your immune system the natural way:
1. EAT FRUITS AND LEAFY VEGETABLES RICH IN VITAMIN C
Vitamin C is a crucial vitamin that cannot be made by the body. One must frequently replenish one's body with the vitamin, which is water-soluble.
Vitamin C is also a type of antioxidant which can help to reduce excessive inflammation in the body.
Fruits rich in this vitamin include citrus fruits, pineapple, kiwi fruit, guava, and papaya. Vegetables topping the list include broccoli, bell pepper and kale.
2. GET PLENTY OF VITAMIN D
Sunlight can help to boost one's immune system because of vitamin D formation. The best time for sunlight exposure, says Ms Ng, is from 7.30am to 9am for around 20 to 30 minutes on as much bare skin as possible. Both Ms Ng and Mr Chu agree that heat from the sun can kill airborne viruses.
3. ENRICH YOURSELF WITH VITAMIN B6
Vitamin B6 strengthens the immune system by supporting the formation of antibody-secreting immune cells. Antibodies neutralise harmful substances in the body.
Sources of vitamin B6 include chicken, pork, eggs and cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna. Vegetarian vitamin B6 sources include whole-grain foods, chickpeas, carrots and sweet potatoes.
4. TAKE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS
Anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger and turmeric help reduce chronic inflammation. Studies show that fresh ginger has anti-viral properties against respiratory viruses. It also relieves sore throats and contains plenty of antioxidants which help remove toxins.
Turmeric contains a medicinal compound called curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Ms Ng also recommends extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil which can be used in cooking or unheated as a dressing for vegetables or in shakes and smoothies.
She advocates drinking teas such as echinacea tea, green tea, elderberry tea and liquorice root tea, which inhibit the replication of viruses. Ms Ng also notes that mushrooms like shiitake and maitake contain beta-glucan, a substance that activates the immune system.
5. HAVE YOUR FILL OF PROBIOTICS
Probiotics, live bacteria beneficial for the gut, promote the formation of antibodies.
Fermented products like yoghurt and kefir are good sources of probiotics as well as food such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso paste and tempeh. But Ms Ng warns that not everyone can handle such foods, such as those with histamine sensitivity or gut bacteria imbalance.
6. EAT A VARIETY OF FOODS AND HERBS
Ms Ng's recommendation is to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, with at least 10 different types of vegetables daily. A variety of foods builds immunity, as each one has its unique beneficial effects.
Fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, mint, sage, garlic and ginger are also great sources of anti-viral nutrients, Ms Ng says. Similarly, Mr Chu suggests taking more Chinese herbs, such as astragalus, wolfberry, red date (Jujube), chrysanthemum and liquorice.
7. AVOID INDULGING IN ACIDIC FOODS
Too much acidic foods nurture an acidic environment in the body, as well as a suppressed immune system. These make for conditions conducive for the coronavirus.
Ms Ng suggests consuming sufficient alkaline foods for balance. Acidic foods comprise of grains, processed foods, red meat and sugary foods; alkaline foods include fresh vegetables and mushrooms. Studies also show that processed meats advance inflammation in the body.
Sugary food, Mr Chu warns, creates conditions ripe for viral replication in the body.
A diet rich in natural foods and low in processed foods also helps improve emotional and mental health.
8. GET SUFFICIENT SLEEP
Mr Chu says this is the best medicine for the body, and builds up one's immune system.
Research has shown that sleep builds up one's arsenal of T cells, the body's immune cells. Organs like the liver and lungs go through a detoxification process during this period. Good quality sleep allows time for the body to self-repair, says Ms Ng.
Conversely, poor sleeping habits induces the formation of stress hormones which discourage immune cell activity.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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