DEADLY coronavirus is continuing to sweep across the UK – with cases surging every day.
And now people are desperately looking for ways they can keep their body's natural defences in tip-top shape in a bid to beat the bug.
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In particular, while there is currently no cure for coronavirus, there are some sensible steps which people can take to help support their natural defences against viruses, colds and flu.
The body’s immune system is what helps to fight off the pathogens which cause illness.
There are a number of ways in which you can support your immune system to make it as strong and effective as possible, including the following…
1. Reduce stress
Stress can suppress the immune system and make you more vulnerable to infection, according to experts.
Research has found that stress causes a release of the hormone cortisol, which can boost inflammation, a precursor to many diseases, in your body.
Chronic stress may also interfere with the infection-fighting ability of your white blood cells, making you more susceptible to contracting illnesses.
Dr Jenna Macciochi, one of the UK's leading Immunologists, said: "Stress is one of the major contributors to an unbalanced immune system and susceptibility to infections.
"It’s important to try and reduce as much as you can through breathing techniques or just taking a moment to have a good cuppa."
2. Eat plenty of fruit and veg
Eating plenty of fruit and veg every day can work wonders for your immune system.
Beth Warren, R.D., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl, told Prevention: "Fruits and veggies help arm your body with antioxidants it needs to fight oxidative stress, which includes contracting a sickness, in your body."
Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash and beetroot are rich in beta-carotene which our bodies convert to vitamin A.
We need vitamin A to keep the mucosal linings in our nose and lungs robust enough to defend against infection.
Other foods to include are orange and red fruits such as oranges, mango, apricots and melon.
3. Get some quality sleep
One of the easiest ways people pick up viruses is by allowing themselves to get run down.
When we are run down our body is not as capable of fighting off infection as it would normally be.
That's why is it so important to make sure you get plenty of sleep.
4. Wash your hands regularly
It may seem obvious, but keeping up good hygiene habits can really help when it comes to keeping healthy.
Washing your hands every time you visit the toilet, before and after preparing food and at other times during the day will really pay dividends.
Health bosses say the best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.
Happy Birthday takes about 20 seconds to sing twice and is said to be the perfect number to clean your hands to thoroughly.
5. Keep exercising
Everyone knows that exercise is a must when it comes to boosting overall health and wellness.
Frankie Brogan, Senior Nutritionist at Pharma Nord UK, said: "Regular exercise is a great way to support the immune system, and this may be due to various different mechanisms.
"As exercise can help support good circulation, this allows our immune cells to travel through the body more effectively.
"Furthermore, these immune cells seem to be stimulated by even mild exercise."
According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who exercise five or more days a week spend 46 per cent fewer days laid up with a cold or respiratory virus compared to those who work out only once a week or not at all.
Not only that, but fitter people also experience less severe symptoms when they do get a cold, and they recover more quickly.
6. Load up on vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for a healthy functioning immune system.
It's believed that vitamin D helps stimulate the production of peptide – substances in the body that are able to fight off bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Nutritionist Frankie Brogan says: "Dietary sources of vitamin D include eggs and fatty fish but it is challenging to obtain recommended levels from food alone, so many people choose to take a vitamin D supplement.
"Indeed the NHS recommends everyone considers a vitamin D supplement during the winter."
7. Ditch booze
Forget boozing through the coronavirus crisis, because heavy drinking is known to deplete our immune cells.
Sheena Cruickshank, a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester, told The Guardian: "Some studies have suggested that the first-line-of-defence macrophages are not as effective in people who have had a lot of alcohol.
Coronavirus warning signs
As Covid-19 is a new virus, experts are still working to understand it.
According to the NHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common symptoms of coronavirus infection usually include:
- A cough
- A high temperature
- Shortness of breath
Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea – but these are usually mild and begin gradually.
Developing these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the illness and they are similar to other illnesses, such as the common cold or flu.
Some people will not develop all of these symptoms – and some might not even show symptoms at all, experts say.
Around one out of every six who gets Covid-19 become seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing, according to the WHO.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
"And there’s been suggestions that high alcohol consumption can lead to a reduction of the lymphocytes as well.
"So if the bug gets into you, you’re not going to be as good at containing and fighting it off."
8. Quit smoking
Scientists have warned that smokers may face an increased risk of coronavirus and suffer worse symptoms.
Experts say that the habit weakens the function of the lungs and could leave people more susceptible to the deadly bug.
Britain's top doc, Professor Chris Whitty, said: "To be clear on smokers, my recommendation is that they stop smoking.
"If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it."
And Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University, told The Sun Online: "There is certainly a respectable body of medical opinion that thinks serious outcomes are more likely among heavy smokers.
"Basically any previous lung damage increases that risk.
"If you are an ex-miner with pneumoconiosis and a smoker you should definitely be concerned."
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