During this unprecedented and strenuous time, many people are wondering what exactly they can do in order to minimise the chances of contracting the still enigmatic disease, COVID-19, habitually known as Coronavirus. Many experts are now stressing the necessity of making sure people are nourishing and augmenting the strength of their immune system, which directly combats any infection and disease that exacerbates the health of an individual. Now more than ever, shops and supermarkets around the world are trying to more easily facilitate and make accessible the use of multivitamins and health supplements in order to consolidate our body’s defence against infection.
The notion of an ‘Immune System’ may be rather indefinite and obscure, as it is a concept that amalgamates a multitude of functions implemented by the body to ensure optimal health. The immune system is a host defence system comprising many biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. With this in mind, it is obvious why it is so important to make sure that our immune system is at peak strength, in order to make sure that one does not fall ill. Looking at the Coronavirus, it is evident that one of its most alarming factors is how contagious the virus is. Therefore, there is a higher likelihood of contracting the virus, and thus a greater emphasis should be made to strengthen your immune system. This is especially true for some specific demographics of people, as some are more prone to infection than others. The immune systems of the very old and the very young are weaker than most other people. People who are immunocompromised are also at risk. This includes people who have a disease or are taking a drug that suppresses their immune system such as those with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, and people who have had an organ transplant. If you are already fighting an infection, conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes may also put more load on your body's ability to cope. "It's not as if all the [serious illness from] COVID-19 we're seeing is caused by people who have got an inept immune system," Professor Pellegrini, an infectious diseases expert said. "It's probably more a spectrum of people who have got subtle immunosuppression ... but that is overlaid with a lot of people who've probably got a normal immune system, but have got damaged lungs or heart that just cannot cope with the stress of having an infection."
When contextualising the effect of the outbreak in China, researchers at the World Health Organisation found that the vast majority of cases in China — 87% — were in people aged 30 to 79 according to data from the China Centre for Disease Control reported last month based on data from all 72,314 of those diagnosed with COVID-19 as of Feb. 11. That probably reflects something about biology more than lifestyle, such as being in frequent contact with other people. Teens and people in their 20s also encounter many others, at school and work and on public transit, yet they don’t seem to be contracting the disease at significant rates: only 8.1% of cases were among those in their 20s, 1.2% were teens, and 0.9% were 9 or younger. The death toll skews towards old even more strongly. Overall, China CDC found, 2.3% of confirmed cases died. But the fatality rate was 14.8% in people 80 or older, likely reflecting the presence of other diseases, a weaker immune system, and simply worse overall health. By contrast, the fatality rate was 1.3% among those in their 50s, 0.4% of those in their 40s, and 0.2% in people 10 to 39. Youth, in contrast, seems to be protected. The WHO mission reported a relatively low incidence in people under 18, who made up only 2.4% of all reported cases. In fact, through mid-January, zero children in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, had contracted COVID-19. It’s not clear whether this is because children do not show signs of the illness even if infected. Even cases among children and teens aged 10 to 19 are rare. As of Feb. 11, there were 549 cases in that age group, 1.2% of the total, China CDC found, and only one had died.
There is an abundance of research and judicious evidence that corroborates the benefit of strengthening and supporting your immune system, especially if you are susceptible to the virus. A routine of exercise and a healthy diet, consisting of foods such as carrots, kale, apricots which are rich in a vitamin called Beta Carotene, is essential. Beta Carotene specifically gets converted into vitamin A once consumed in the body, which is essential for a strong immune system. It works by helping antibodies (defence mechanisms created by the body) respond to toxins and foreign substances, such as the Coronavirus. Moreover, experts recommend consuming a significant amount of vitamin C, which increases blood levels of antibodies and helps to differentiate lymphocytes (white blood cells), as well as helps the body to determine what kind of protection is needed. Some research has suggested that higher levels of vitamin C (at least 200 milligrams) may slightly reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms, which are of similar nature to those of the Coronavirus. You can easily consume 200 milligrams of vitamin C from a combination of foods such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, red and green peppers, broccoli, cooked cabbage and cauliflower. Additionally, vitamin D regulates the production of a protein that "selectively kills infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses," explained Dr. Michael Holick, an expert on vitamin D research from Boston University who has published more than 500 papers and 18 books on vitamin D. “Winter-associated vitamin D deficiency, from a lack of sun-induced vitamin D production, can weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of developing viral infections that cause upper respiratory tract infections, such as the Coronavirus,” said Holick.
Ultimately, it is clear why it is so important to keep your immune system in check, as well as to stay healthy in general during these trying times. Making sure you have a regular dose of vitamins and minerals, preferably through food and not pills is essential to making sure your body is in peak performance to defend against infections, which is especially true for those who are elderly, and intrinsically boast a weaker immune system. Making sure you self-isolate as well means your body, and thus your immune system, is not put under extra pressure to rid your body of the viral infection, and hence allows it to develop further and strengthen.
Stay healthy everyone!