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How to Boost Your Immune System and Fight Off Infections & Viruses

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 13 March 2020
Hits: 5513

There is no doubting the Coronavirus has created a lot of fear, hysteria, and panic around the world and there is so much information being spread it is hard to get a handle on what is accurate and what we need to be aware of. When we hear about deadly diseases our minds tend to race and jump to conclusions and fear makes us believe there is nothing we can do. While some things may be out of our control, there are many things that are not and by placing a stronger focus in these areas you can give your body the best possible chance to build resilience and strength to withstand infections and even overcome illness, injury, and even disease. The most important thing you can do to is boost your immune system to fight off any potential infections. In this article we show you how.

The Immune System Is Your First Line of Defence

 

I don't want to use this article to discuss my opinion or talk about all things to do with the Coronavirus which like most of us I know little about or understand, so I will leave the science and the talk about the disease to the experts. However, what I will do is talk about the things I do know a lot about when it comes to building good health and hopefully share with you some of the many secrets I have learned from 15 years as a trainer. Over the last 10 years of my career in particular I have spent considerable time researching into complex areas of injury and disease. This came about as I began working with many complicated cases I knew little about such as cancer, MS, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few. But it was not just the research that provided me with great insight and knowledge, many of the best lessons and wisdom came from the clients themselves.

I have seen some amazing things over the last 15 years and learned a lot from the experiences of working closely with people who had been dealt a bad hand (see testimonials). There were many people who were so positive in their outlook on life and I was so impressed with their attitude and how they did not waste time worrying about things they could not control. Instead they placed all their energy and focus into things they could control which were nutrition, rest, and exercise. It is one thing to read about things like this but it has a dramatic effect on you personally when you are working with a person like this week in and week out and see results you never thought were possible. Some things you cannot read in books you have to experience it to believe it. I know it changed me forever.

Before we move on make sure you grab our FREE info-graphic you can print out and place on your desk or on your fridge to remind you of the things we are about to discuss.

Something we tend to forget is just how complex the body is. It really is an amazing design and a system of many systems as the picture below clearly shows.

If one system is not functioning well it compromises the health of the others in order to bring it up to the level it should be. This is why someone who works out all the time but ignores the quality of good nutrition and rest never achieves great results. (See article why you cannot out-exercise a bad diet for more on this. It also explains why someone who tries to lose weight by only changing their nutrition and not exercising, will also achieve moderate results and not be as healthy as they think.

The thing to really understand is this - Each system is dependent on the other to run optimally and efficiently.

How healthy is Your Digestive System?

One of the most important systems to our health, and especially when we talk about viruses, colds and infections is what happens in our DIGESTIVE TRACT. The health of our digestive system plays a MASSIVE role in how well you’re able to fight off these nasty germs. And what you eat or don't eat can have a direct impact on how quickly you recover from an infection and whether you catch the bug in the first place.

To help explain this I am going to display some of the great info-graphics I found on the Precision Nutrition website that jump out at me when I talk about the immune system. I love their info-graphics as they really simplify what can be very confusing and complex topics to explain. This first one gives a very clear example of how important our digestive system is to our health and providing us with the ability to fight off bugs. 

One of the first things to take good notice of in this chart is what happens when we eat food and create saliva. Saliva is very important to our digestive system and why it is so important to eat slowly. When you eat too fast you take larger bites and chew less than you should. This is bad news for your digestive system as your stomach has a hard time trying to break down big chunks of food into chyme—the sludgy mix of partially digested food, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and water that passes from your stomach into your small intestine.

When food isn’t properly broken down into chyme, it can cause indigestion and other GI problems. Large food particles make it difficult for the small intestine to absorb food molecules and nutrients we need. This type of eating depletes our body of valuable vitamins and minerals which now exposes you to bugs and infections as the body's defence system is significantly compromised.

Make sure you read our detailed article we published late last year on this - Are you ruining your health by eating too fast?

According to the experts at Ohio State University, you should chew softer foods 5-10 times, and more dense foods like meats and vegetables up to 30 times before swallowing. One thing you will notice is how you begin to eat smaller portions without even trying!

This next picture explains why the immune system needs plenty of nutrients and how a poor diet can lead to constant illness.

It is ironic that when you are sick you lose your appetite and as a result eat less meaning you starve your body of the very nutrients you need to get well. This is why it can hang around a long time if you have a poor diet and neglect the value of good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. This brings us to defining what are the best foods to eat to prevent this from happening?

Why Nutrition Is So Important For Fighting Viruses

To emphasise just how important nutrition is to our immune system here is a recent article posted on the Mercola website relating specifically to the Coronavirus. Nutrition is often undervalued in terms of the role it plays in preventing diseases and we tend to forget that there are many foods that contain several nutrients known for their immune-boosting properties and ability to ward against viral infections.

Here is a press release from February 24th 2020 from the US:

"In a compelling article27 in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases … Mark McCarty of the Catalytic Longevity Foundation, San Diego, CA, USA, and James DiNicolantonio, PharmD, a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO, propose that certain nutraceuticals may help provide relief to people infected with encapsulated RNA viruses such as influenza and coronavirus. COVID-19 is around 30 to 60 times more lethal than the typical annual flu. Both influenza and coronavirus cause an inflammatory storm in the lungs and it is this inflammatory storm that leads to acute respiratory distress, organ failure, and death. Certain nutraceuticals may help to reduce the inflammation in the lungs from RNA viruses and others may also help boost type 1 interferon response to these viruses, which is the body's primary way to help create antiviral antibodies to fight off viral infections."

This is very important information to understand as it tells you it is the inflammatory response if you did happen to get the infection that is the main concern. And the stronger your immune function the stronger your ability to defend your body from this inflammatory response. And like most things what cures you is also great as a preventative measure. Let's start with two of the easiest things you need to do to improve your immune system.

#1: Drink Water

 

Water is one of the easiest ways to cleanse your body of toxins and purify your digestive system. Dehydration is a big problem with digestion and people who are not drinking enough water, combined with eating too fast, are destined for big problems with their health. When your body is dehydrated it will scavenge water from vital organs, and water from the mucus membrane in the stomach and intestines. This eventually leads to build up of bacteria and a host of health problems as a result.

Many people are very ignorant to the value of water and not drinking anywhere near enough throughout the day. This means their body is in a constant state of dehydration and ultimately stress. Too much stress is the release of stress hormones whose side effect is tired, lethargy, weight gain, headaches. The body's hormonal reaction to not drinking enough water is the same as any other stressful situation which can set off a chain reaction of many problems.

Just a tiny 2% drop in our body's water supply is enough to completely disrupt our hormonal balance and create a chain reaction of problems.

In our article 16 ways to improve your health & fitness this tip came ahead of all food and exercise tips for it is that important to get right.

#2: Vitamin D

There are only 30,000 genes in your body and vitamin D has been shown to influence over 2,000 of them and is one of the primary reasons it influences so many diseases. Interestingly Vitamin D really isn’t a vitamin at all, but a potent neuro-regulatory steroidal hormone. It has become very clear that Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across the world and is contributing to many of the chronic debilitating diseases seen in modern society.

According to results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2011-2012 in winter, rates of Vitamin D deficiency were particularly high for those living in the south eastern states of Australia, like us in Melbourne Victoria, where nearly one in every two people (49%) were Vitamin D deficient in winter compared with only 16% and 13% respectively in summer. By comparison, Vitamin D deficiency remained relatively low in winter for those in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The simplest way to get more Vitamin D is to get outside in the sunlight. As many of us spend so much time indoors with office jobs it is no surprise to see people become Vitamin D deficient exposing your body to risks of illness and infection. There are many great sources of food that can contain vitamin D that you should be eating to boost your intake such as fatty fish, flaxseed oil, egg yolks, and beef liver to name a few.

#3: Bone Broth with Turmeric

I would say this has been the number one best thing I have added to my diet in the last 10 years! I always liked bone broth and new about its medicinal properties but I very rarely consumed it for it was often hard to find, it can be very expensive to buy, and very time consuming to make and difficult to get right for a terrible cook like me.

Late last year I found this brand of bone broth shown above from Cannings butchers in Kew that was in a granulated form making it easy to drink and it didn't cost too much either. It also combined Turmeric which is a powerful food in its own right as it contains the anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin which has been used for everything from wound healing to cancer treatment. This was one of our best foods to include for speeding up recovery from training.

Anyway after a week of drinking this every 2 or 3 days my digestion, energy and overall vitality was the best it had been for years. Remember how important digestion is to our health? Well, I can say without a shadow of doubt I can never remember my guts feeling this good EVER after drinking bone broth regularly!

If your digestion is not functioning correctly there is a chance, partially undigested food, toxins, viruses, yeast, and bacteria have the opportunity to pass through your intestine and access your bloodstream.

When your intestinal lining is repeatedly damaged due damaged cells called microvilli become unable to do their job properly. They become unable to process and utilize the nutrients and enzymes that are vital to proper digestion.

Eventually, digestion is impaired and absorption of nutrients is negatively affected. As more exposure occurs, your body initiates an attack on these foreign invaders. It responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms we relate to a variety of diseases. In my case poor digestion affects my skin causing psoriasis and even causes joint inflammation.

Bone broth contains a variety of valuable nutrients of which many people like me are lacking, in a form your body can easily absorb and use. These include things like;

  • Calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals
  • Components of collagen and cartilage
  • Essential amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate

These nutrients account for many of the healing benefits of bone broth and there is tons of science that now supports the use of cartilage, gelatin, and other components found in homemade bone broth to prevent and sometimes even reverse osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, digestive distress, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer.

The best part is it is in a drink form so it is so easy to include. I like to have it late in the afternoon before going back to work for the night and it gives me a huge boost of energy. If you do nothing else I have mentioned in this article other than this you will still be much better off than ever before. It is that good.

Click here to read more about bone broth.

#4: Green Vegetables

Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else. Plant chemicals called phyto-chemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells and maintain DNA.

Green vegetables are also a major source of iron and calcium for any diet. Green leafy vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which can also be converted into vitamin A, and also improve immune function. Millions of children around the world have an increased risk of blindness, and other illnesses because of inadequate dietary vitamin A from green leafy vegetables.

Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in dark-green leafy vegetables, are concentrated in the eye lens and macular region of the retina, and play a protective role in the eye. They protect against both cataract and age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in the elderly. Some studies suggest that lutein and zeaxanthin may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast and lung cancer, and may contribute to the prevention of heart disease and stroke. Green veggies contain a variety of carotenoids, flavonoids and other powerful antioxidants that have cancer-protective properties.

You can read more about the incredible benefits of these foods in this article - Are you eating enough green vegetables?

#5: Elderberry Supplements

This is a food I really did not know a lot about years ago and had never actually seen one yet alone eaten it. When you look into this you realise that it is not a new thing and in fact elderberries have been used for hundreds of years for their health benefits dating back as far back as 2000 BC where there is records of the Swiss natives using it as a medicine. Many believe the high number of antioxidants in the berries contribute to its ability to fight the flu, support the immune system and relieve colds.

In recent times scientific researchers have found compounds in the elderberry could directly inhibit a flu virus’s entrance into cells and subsequent replication.

Although there are several different types of elderberry plants, the most commonly known and studied is the Sambucus nigra. You may find it very difficult to actually buy elderberries for while they possess great medicinal properties they are also very poisonous. They must be cooked thoroughly before use as they contain a poisonous cyanide-producing chemical. For this reason the safest way to get this unique plant into your diet is via supplements.

Supplements are available in the form of syrups, lozenges, pills and even tea, and you should be able to find these in your local health food shop.

You can read more about elderberries by clicking here.

#6: Spirulina

Imagine a plant that can provide a huge dose of protein that you need for health, help prevent the sniffling and sneezing of allergies, reinforce your immune system, combat inflammation, help you control high blood pressure, and protect against stroke and cancer. Many would argue that food does exist and it is called spirulina.

Just like the elderberry we just discussed you can find this in many health food shops in a powdered form that you can easily add to a fruit juice or drink. Be careful though when you first try it as it can have a laxative effect if you drink too much, which I found out the hard way many years ago. I don't have any preferred brand as such, the picture below is just an example of one you could try.

The proteins in spirulina are of a highly digestible type meaning the net protein utilisation is very high (between 53 and 61 percent). Studies confirm a very high "protein efficiency ratio" for spirulina, meaning your body will be able to efficiently use these amino acids. Studies also confirm that GLA — a powerful anti-inflammatory — is rarely this high in any food and normally has to be synthesized by your body from linoleic acid. GLA is a precursor to important biochemicals such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes and thromboxanes, which serve as chemical mediators for inflammatory and immune reactions. Spirulina has about the same calcium, phosphorus and magnesium content as milk, with a vitamin E level comparable to wheat germ.

You can read more about spirulina here.

#7: Sleep & Quality Rest

Let's say you are eating all of these foods we just listed and also exercising but you are going to bed too late or you simply cannot get a good night’s rest. Your body will still be at risk of illness and you will not be at your 100% best.

We need our sleep to perform all the necessary building and repairing of damaged tissues, organs, muscles, digestion and thousands of other tasks that are ONLY DONE AT NIGHT! Trying to catch up in the afternoon does not work either, for we are meant to sleep at night not during the day. This is why night shift workers are often sick and are would not make elite athletes!

Along with stress, lack of sleep creates a big hit to our immune system and overall health during times of illness and as a result our body forces us to stop and rest so it can repair itself. If we take care of our bodies all the time by never compromising our sleep we give our body the best chance of keeping bugs away.

These topics are massive as I am sure you would agree and this article could be another 10,000 words long if we wanted to go into detail of what to do if you have issues with stress or sleep. If you are struggling with either of these areas I suggest to see a qualified therapist for assistance. You may also want to check out the 2 articles below that provide some great tips of how we help our clients to improve their sleep and reduce stress.

Special Report On Heart Health

And for tons more ideas about nutrition, stacks of recipes, and everything you need to know about improving your overall immune system, heart health and lung capacity make sure you grab the PDF report pictured below. Given the heart's never-ending workload, it can easily be brought down by a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and illness caused by neglect to other parts of our body. This report explains everything you need to know about improving not just your heart health but your overall health. Click here to download your instant PDF copy.

This book is designed to help you understand the truth about nutrition, cut through all the confusion, and enable you to employ some SIMPLE and highly effective methods we use in our studio every day with people recovering from injury, disease or looking to reach a fitness goal. Click here to get your copy.

8: Exercise

 

Lastly we cannot forget the value of exercise. Without the activity from exercise the body is unable to complete many of the functions needed to sustain optimal health with our essential organs. When we exercise the effect on the heart creates a series of changes to the system that increase oxygen absorption and energy production, lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, resulting in less inflammation and significant efficiency of the body as a whole. It is fair to say exercise is a powerful drug in its own right!

One of the key health benefits of exercise is that it helps normalise your glucose, insulin, and leptin levels by optimising insulin/leptin receptor sensitivity. This is perhaps the most important factor for optimising your overall health and preventing chronic disease. 

You don’t need to go crushing yourself and depleting your body with intense exercise every day, you just need to remain active challenge the body wisely. A good week could be 3 strength workouts and 2 light cardio days of approximately 30-45 minutes in length. In addition to walking 10,000 steps each day your body will respond by building and repairing muscle tissues to become stronger than it has ever been. Quality of training is more important than simply doing more. Too much is just as bad as not enough.

If I was to choose only type of workout it would be strength training and here a list of reasons why.

  • Muscle is the biggest influence on your metabolic rate. The more you have the faster your metabolism and the easier it is to lose weight
  • Muscle regulates hormones and prevents disease like diabetes and cancer often caused from insulin resistance
  • Muscle improves bone density and prevents bone fractures, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, and can even reverse arthritis.
  • Muscle prevents injury and improves stability across all joints to improve how you move.

Great articles to read about the value of exercise for treating chronic disease are in the links below

For more help with workout ideas and exercise instructions make sure you grab a copy of our Functional Training FREE Report below. Click here to grab your free copy.

Bonus Tip: Make Sure You Wash Your Hands

Lastly we could not finish this article without addressing one of the best ways to prevent catching any type of infection, not just the Coronavirus, and that is to WASH YOUR HANDS frequently and avoid touching your face. Really we should all be doing this anyway as part of our personal hygeine to prevent things like gastro and food poisoning.

There has been a lot of attention given to hand sanitizers as people have been buying up on these products when science proves that soap is much more effective.

I suggest to read the article "Deadly viruses are no match for plain old soap" published recently by the Weston A Price Foundation that explains in great detail why this is the case. Here is a great quote that summarises this for you.

"Soap dissolves the fat membrane, and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and “dies,” or rather, it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive. Viruses can be active outside the body for hours, even days.

Disinfectants, or liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol (and soap) have a similar effect but are not as good as regular soap. Apart from alcohol and soap, antibacterial agents in those products don’t affect the virus structure much. Consequently, many antibacterial products are basically just an expensive version of soap in how they act on viruses. Soap is the best, but alcohol wipes are good when soap is not practical or handy, for example in office reception areas."

Summary

As I mentioned in the introduction and several times throughout this article there is many things out of our control with regards to the Coronavirus but there is still many things we can do. Just like all other viral infections, eating quality nutrition and practice of good hygiene are the best ways to boost your immune system to fight off any potential infections. The best part is these things do not cost a lot of money or take a lot of effort and time. You just have to change some bad habits and make some changes to your current nutrition and lifestyle habits to give your body the best possible chance.

I will leave you with this analogy from a movie called Wind River I watched a few years ago. There was a scene in the movie where a hunter hired to kill predator animals killing livestock says, "Wolves don't kill unlucky dears, they kill the weak ones". And when it comes to immune system it is almost the same thing. Those with a strong immune function will be able to fight off infections and nasty bugs whereas those with weak systems are vulnerable to severe illness, disease and unfortunately in some cases death.

If you enjoyed this article, live in Melbourne, and would like to organise a Free Consultation to discuss how we can help you improve your strength and movement click the image below to fill in a contact form and I will be in touch within 24 hours to schedule a time.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 14 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.

References:

  • WHO -World Health Organisation
  • Heart foundation
  • CSIRO
  • Precision Nutrition
  • Mercola 
  • Nutrition & Physical Degeneration - By Weston A Price
  • Big Fat Lies - By David Gillespie
  • How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek
  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • Corrective Exercise Solutions - by Evan Osar
  • Athletic Body Balance by Gray Cook
  • Diagnosis & Treatment Of Movement Impairment Syndromes - By Shirley Sahrman
  • Motor Learning and Performance - By Richard A Schmidt and Timothy D Lee
  • Assessment & Treatment Of Muscle Imbalance - By Vladimir Janda