As England takes a huge step this weekend to open up pubs, bars and cinemas, I thought I would share a practise that I believe has helped me to support and boost my immune system over the last 20 years, when I have felt I have needed it.
As a Personal Trainer and general health and fitness geek (I consume myself in research, data, science), I very much appreciate (and preach) that a healthy, non-processed, varied diet is crucial to provide our bodies and immune systems with the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive.
I am also very aware that exercise exerts stress on our bodies (and nervous /immune systems in turn). Overtraining, can lead to repeated bouts of colds and illnesses. Indeed, many competitive athletes will be walking a tight rope between pushing themselves to the extreme and not breaking down ill. So as someone who also trains hard, I have always been intrigued by immune system research, and experimented on myself!
First, getting the basics right is key. Diet, as mentioned above is one key foundation. Others include ample rest, relaxation, sleep and recovery.
However, there have been times when I have felt my immune system can do with some help. These have been times when there are colds and bugs around my workplace, in my family, at my kids school, or generally around the area in which I live. I have also over the last 20 years been aware of times when I have been run down, exceptionally busy, training hard or when I have been going to places which will have a lot of people and taken proactive steps to protect myself.
In these periods (and around them, not all the time I must add) I will supplement with a Vitamin C, plus Zinc tablet and Vitamin D. I will also take Echinacea for a few days too.
I am convinced that it has worked well for me. I can recall times when I have been in workplaces, sports teams etc and batted away bugs that have infected others and taken them out of action for days.
Why might this work?
First, vitamin C encourages the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection. Zinc further supports the immune system, but it also plays a vital role in the transfer of vitamin C into our systems, so together they are a powerful duo! If you look up Vitamin C and immune system trials too, there does seem to be evidence that supplementation can shorten the symptoms and prevalence of a cold and viruses.
Vitamin D is also known to play a key role in T cell production that activate the immune system when a threat is there. It is also understood that a deficiency of Vitamin D can in effect lower an immune systems response to any threat. It is therefore wise to make sure you have enough. In the UK, where we do not enjoy year round Sunshine, it is logical to suspect that the population may be short in Vitamin D levels. Here is an interesting link https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/vitamin-d-immune-system-boost/ . Furthermore, it seems that a link between Vitamin D optimisation and a better response to COVID 19 is being reported https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2020/05/strong-circumstantial-evidence-suggests-vitamin-d-could-improve-covid-19-outcomes/.
With regards to Echinacea, this natural herb has been linked for years with supporting the immune system and reducing the prevalence of viruses after contraction: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/echinacea#antioxidants
So, as a write this, the weather is typically British, overcast, cloud covered and raining. Many of us will not be getting the exposure to sunlight that we need to get our Vitamin D. It is also the weekend when many will be venturing out for their first drink, haircut or meal, perhaps it is a very important time to make sure you are doing all you can to eat well, sleep and possibly boost your immune.
Clearly it will be very important to research and take medical advice on the amounts that you should consume. This tip by no means makes you bullet proof either, whilst I am sure this tip has helped me in the past, I am also someone who washes his hands at every opportunity and has tried for years to not touch my face in public places to avoid germs. Obviously, everyone needs to stay safe and adopt the guidelines as they look to enjoy new freedoms this weekend, but maybe, just maybe this little extra precaution could help you at times ….