Maggy Doherty, MS RD LD; George Savaricas, Founder 20/20
Maintaining a healthy immune system in this COVID-19 era is at the forefront of everyone's mind.
For good reason, your immune system serves as the line of defense against disease-causing microorganisms. This complex system consisting of many structures protects against disease, infection, and helps you recover after an injury.
If you want to strengthen your body's ability to fight off illness and disease, then you need to start by ensuring your immune system is functioning properly. This vast network of cells and tissues comprises many biological processes, but simply put - its job is to prevent and limit infection to our bodies.
With the 2019 coronavirus outbreak now spread across the globe, people are seeking out ways that may potentially protect them from the virus or alleviate its symptoms once caught.
One such way that is being touted online and in the media is
Vitamin C intake.
A recently published random controlled trial carried out in the USA in 167 patients with sepsis-related acute respiratory distress syndrome indicated that administration of ~ 15 g/day of IV vitamin C for 4 days may decrease mortality in these patients (Carr, 2020).
Furthermore, a new clinical trial is investigating vitamin C infusions for the treatment of severe Coronavirus infected pneumonia has begun in Wuhan China- which is one of the first trials to test the effects of IV vitamin C in patients infected with this virus. We’ll have more on the importance of vitamin C later in this article.
By making changes to your diet and lifestyle you can:
Here are five ways to naturally boost your immune system:
1. Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
While 8 hours of sleep may seem like a pipe dream to some, the negative ramifications of what recurring sleep deprivation can do to the immune system are ALL TOO REAL. Although more sleep won't necessarily prevent you from getting a cold, missing out on hours can adversely affect your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick. A Univ of Washington sleep study showed that "chronic short sleep shuts down programs involved in the immune response of circulating white blood cells” (Gharib, 2017).
What makes hitting that all-important number of 7-8 hours of sleep so vital to maintaining your immune system?
Cytokines are a diverse family of small proteins or glycoproteins which participate in many physiological processes, including the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses. These proteins are produced and released during sleep - meaning your body misses out when you skimp out on shut-eye, making you more susceptible to illness with a weakened immune system.
"If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things."
— Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Mavericks
2. Vitamin C
You suddenly get a cough or a chill or that first runny nose of the season and you immediately think I NEED VITAMIN C! Many of you have taken a vitamin C tablet once you have a cold...but by this point you're already fighting a losing battle.
Did you know supplementing with vitamin C at the onset of a cold doesn't actually help?
Instead, research shows regular supplementation of vitamin C prior to any symptoms of a cold can decrease overall cold duration by 1-4 days and frequency of catching colds (Varaday, 2014).
One study looked at vitamin C supplementation in athletes (runners and skiers) and non-athletes. After three months of taking 200 mg/day of vitamin C, the athletes decreased the incidence of colds by 40-90% while those non-athletes were not affected (Varaday, 2014). Therefore, regular vitamin C supplementation can help mitigate the frequency and duration of colds so this preventative maintenance needs to be ongoing. Once a cold has started, it's already too late so make sure vitamin C is an integral part of your diet and routine.
Vitamin C plays a crucial role in our immunity as an antioxidant, role in wound healing, resistance to infection, production of collagen, and increases iron absorption (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2019). The highest dietary sources of vitamin C include:
Red and green bell peppers: One ½ cup serving of raw red bell peppers contain 95 milligrams of Vitamin C, while the same amount of green peppers contain slightly less at 60 mg. Eat bell peppers with hummus as a snack, serve sautéed as a side with fajitas, or dice into your stew.
Orange and orange juice: One ¾ cup serving of orange juice contains 95 milligrams of vitamin C,while one medium orange contains 70 milligrams per serving. Eat an orange as a snack or pour some orange juice into a smoothie. The 20/20 Immunity Booster shot has 135mg of Vitamin C, which is 150% of your daily value.
Kiwi: One medium kiwi contains 64 milligrams of Vitamin C. Toss into a fruit salad, smoothie, or enjoy on its own for a sweet snack.
Broccoli: One ½ cup serving of cooked broccoli contains 51 milligrams of Vitamin C. Serve with salmon, mix into stir fry, or dip raw into ranch.
3. 3 Steps To A Balanced Diet:
A well-balanced diet, such as one high in whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, is a good idea for everyone - especially those wanting to fight off colds, infections and stay healthy during flu season. A healthy diet provides you with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for all cells to function optimally, and this includes the cells in the immune system (Childs, 1933).
Emphasize and maintain healthy foods choices in your diet, including:
Eat more healthy fats: Unsaturated fats are known as "healthy fats," which have anti-inflammatory components and are linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases. Changes in immune system activity are identified as a hallmark feature of many chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, and cancer (Rubinow, 2017). Examples of healthy fat sources include avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and salmon.
Eat more fermented foods: Probiotics are "live microorganisms, which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit of the host" (Hill, et al., 2014). These are known as the "good" bacteria that promote health and build a healthy gut microbiome. Natural probiotic sources include fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso soup, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, and tempeh.
Balance calories in versus calories out: Undernutrition is known to impair immune function and lead to malnutrition (Childs, 1933), conversely overnutrition and obesity can also reduce immune system health (Chandra, 1997). Balance calories in versus calories out to maintain a healthy body weight.
Regular exercise contributes to peak health and an optimal immune system. It helps decrease your chances of developing chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart diseases, which can make you more susceptible to illness and infection. Furthermore, its contribution to blood circulation may help cells of the immune system move more freely and function more efficiently.
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both spread throughout the week.
Combining training with school or work can overtax your resources, stress your body, and compromise your ability to fight infection. This is why we specially designed our Immunity Booster wellness shot to help the modern athlete reach optimal performance, this formula helps minimize the chances a compromised immune system will keep you on the sidelines.
5. Optimal Nutrients For Immune System Support
Nutrition is a critical determinant of immune system responses and deficiency of a single nutrient results in altered immune system responses- even when the deficiency is relatively mild.
Nutrients that have an essential influence on immune response, include:
Aloe Vera: is a natural plant product that plays a vital role in the immune system by increasing cell viability of macrophages and functioning in the first line of defense against pathogens (Rahmani, 2015).
Ginseng: is an oriental medical herb that has been used for health-related purposes for at least 2,000 years- including immune support. It's been shown to have beneficial effects on controlling inflammatory diseases, microbial infections, and boosting the immune system (Kang, 2012).
Green tea: contains a variety of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, especially flavonoids such as catechins, which may reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and modulate immune system function.
Immunity Take Away:
To naturally boost your immune system, be sure to emphasize and maintain a healthy diet, understand which foods prevent colds, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and obtain optimal nutrients for immune system support.
To ensure immune system support, add Immunity Booster into your daily routine to get 150% of your daily value of vitamin C which is more Vitamin C than an orange! This Immunity Shot also contains our proprietary immunity blend consisting of aloe vera, ginseng and green tea along with Vitamins D + E to help ensure your immune system is functioning properly. If you're a busy athlete on the go, throw it in your gym bag to guarantee an immune system boost today.
1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Food Sources of Vitamin & Mineral." Eat Right. Accessed August 15 2019.
2. Carr AC. A new clinical trial to test high-dose vitamin C in patients with COVID-19. Crit Care. 2020;24(1):133. Published 2020 Apr 7. doi:10.1186/s13054-020-02851-4
3. Chandra R.K. Nutrition and the immune system: An introduction. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1997;66:460S–463S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/66.2.460S.
4. Childs, Caroline. "Diet and Immune Function." MDPI. Nutrients 2019, 11, 1933.