5 things that can help to boost your immune system during the coronavirus outbreak, and 5 that won't
- Despite the constant misinformation on how to prevent the coronavirus, there's no miracle cure, food, or supplement that can cure or prevent COVID-19 or other diseases.
- Some so-called coronavirus cures are actually dangerous, including colloidal silver, miracle mineral solution and huge doses of vitamins.
- The best way to protect yourself is simple healthy habits like sleeping enough, exercising, eating well, and finding good ways to reduce stress.
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No single food can help protect you.
"If you're in contact with coronavirus, it doesn't matter how many oranges you eat, you're going to get it," Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center, previously told Business Insider.
It is true that malnutrition can impair your ability to fight off illness and infection,but if you eat an otherwise balanced diet, loading up on specific "super" foods like kale, berries, or anything else won't provide any additional benefits.
So, if you're not in the habit of eating a variety of fruits, veggies, and lean sources of protein, now is a good time to start. Following common-sense dietary advice is enough to keep your immune system in good shape, no superfoods required, according to Apovian.
Avoiding sugar won't boost your immune system.
While sugar and heavily-processed foods are linked to chronic health issues over time, there's no evidence that a single donut is going to increase your risk of catching a virus.
Research has also shown that over-nutrition, or an excess of empty calories, can have negative consequences for health overall, though, inlucindg inflammation, higher risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
In order to cut back on sugar (as well as sodium and trans fats that also dominate processed foods), consider stocking up on more healthy variations of long-lasting foods for quarantine, including frozen vegetables, oats, lentils, canned tuna, and nuts.
Massive doses of vitamins are unhelpful, and can be potentially dangerous.
Unless you have a nutritional deficiency, experts say no amount of vitamin shots, juices, or infusions will prevent you from getting sick if you come into contact with a pathogen like the coronavirus.
Recently, so-called wellness gurus have been recommending extremely high levels of vitamin supplements, enough to potentially become a health hazard.
Some popular Youtube naturopath have recommended IV doses of vitamins A and C that are up to 15,000 milligrams a day, 166 times the recommended daily amount for men, and shots of vitamin D3 up to 160 times the recommended daily dose, Insider previously reported.
These extremely high doses can cause serious side effects like dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Even more alarming consequences include damage to organs like the kidneys and liver, possible coma, and even death.
But getting enough vitamin D is a good idea.
There is an exception to the general rule that supplements won't really help prevent illness, and that's vitamin D (in moderate doses). Research has shown that the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off viruses — while it won't protect your from getting the virus if you're exposed, it could reduce the severity of the illness and help make recovery easier.
It's also a common cause of nutrient deficiency. You can get vitamin D naturally through sunlight, which many people have less access to during darker, colder months of flu season. It's also found in some foods, including fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, and in small amounts in beef liver, eggs, cheese, and mushrooms.
Sleeping is crucial for your body's ability to recover and defend itself.
One of the most evidence-supported ways to stay healthy, though, also happens to be free — getting enough sleep.
That means 7-9 hours each night for most people, according to Harvard Health.
While you're asleep, your body uses that time to do critical recovery and repair of essential functions, including your immune system.
Just one night of poor sleep can reduce your immune cells by as much as 70%, research shows.
Exercise can boost your mood as well as keep you healthy.
Exercise can also keep your body functioning well, since research shows that it reduces inflammation and supports infection-fighting cells.
If you're working from home or staying out of the gym, there are plenty of ways to still get your sweat on — body weight movements like burpees, lunges, push-ups and more can give you a quick full-body workout with no equipment.
As an added bonus, endorphins from exercise also reduce stress.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
During the stress of a viral outbreak, and the pressure of being stuck at home for long periods of time, it might seem natural to turn to some liquid courage and stress relief.
The occasional glass of wine in moderation is unlikely to be a threat, particularly if it has the benefits of helping you relax.
But avoid overdoing it — not only will you feel worse and need to rehydrate and rest even more, excessive alcohol use can also impair the immune system and the body's ability to heal itself, according to research.
Please wash your hands.
Experts consistently agree that the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to wash your hands, with soap and warm water, consistently and thoroughly.
Best practices include washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and drying them thoroughly.
No form of supplement or habit can replace good hand-washing, and that includes heaps of hand sanitizer, which can be a good substutite if you're in a pinch, but doesn't work as well as good old fashioned soap scrubbing.
Trying to manage stress — even during anxious and uncertain circumstances — is one of the most important ways to stay healthy.
Stress can also make a big difference for your immune system, particularly when there are alarming or uncertain events happening in the world around you.
Yes, this means managing fears about the coronavirus itself — good strategies include taking breaks from social media and relying on trust media sources for information, both of which can help you avoid panic and misinformation.
How you choose to relax will vary from person to person, whether that's taking a walk outside, curling up with a favorite book, or taking time to meditate or practice yoga or another soothing habit each day.
Companion animals can be one great source of stress relief and fortunately, current evidence suggests we don't have to worry about them getting or spread the coronavirus.
Colloidal silver isn't proven to cure disease and can cause health issues.
Colloidal silver, tiny particles of metal in liquid that's sold as a dietary supplement, has been advertised online to fight bacteria and viruses as well as treat diseases from HIV and cancer to herpes and shingles.
None of these claims are backed by any evidence, however, according to the National Institute of Health and the Mayo Clinic.
And the side effects include condition called argyria, or permanent blue-gray discoloration of the skin, and possibly kidney damage. Colloidal silver can also interfere with the absorption of certain medications.
The USDA and FDA have cracked down on sellers of colloidal silver who claim in can cure or prevent coronavirus infection, including televangelist Jim Bakker.
Don't drink bleach.
A substance called miracle mineral solution (MMS) has been advertised in some fringe communities as a cure-all, and is making the rounds again as a means to prevent or heal coronavirus.
In reality, MMS (sometimes called chlorine dioxide) is an industrial bleach, and people have severe vomiting, diarrhea, life-threateningly low blood pressure, and acute liver failure after drinking the concoction.
According to the FDA, there is no research that shows MMS to be an effective treatment, cure, or prevention for any illness, coronavirus or otherwise.
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