Pandemic lessons on immunity

Health has never been a more prominent topic or concern than in the era of COVID. But for all of us, supporting our immune system is the cornerstone of our well-being, whether we’re living in a pandemic or not.

“Health is defined now by most medical establishments as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity,” says naturopathic doctor Brian Davies.

Immune system redux

To best support our immune system, it helps to have a sense of how it works. Put simply, its job is to defend against disease-causing microorganisms. It has two main components.

  1. Innate immunity, the immune system we’re born with, consists of physical barriers like our skin as well as cells that attack pathogens that enter the body, responding quickly via effects like fever.
  2. Adaptive immunity is the part of our immune system that learns to react to foreign agents. When it’s exposed to a new germ for the first time, it responds by trying to fight it off; we might get sick, but our immune cells remember the invader and mount a more rapid response when it returns.

Having a healthy immune system doesn’t mean never getting ill. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. And remember that not all viruses are created equal, as we’ve all learned with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

“Having symptoms such as fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, and the like are indications that your immune system is working to fight off infection, not the infection itself,” says Ashley Stapleton, naturopathic doctor. Nevertheless, the global health crisis may have led to a greater awareness of the importance of taking care of ourselves, a wake-up call of sorts.

Immune system support

“When looking at key support for general immune health, a healthy lifestyle is a critical part of supporting our immune systems,” Davies says. Some people who should consider modifications to their lifestyle to better support their immune systems are those who

  • eat highly processed foods
  • don’t sleep well
  • are under excessive emotional or physical stress from injury or overexercise
  • consume excessive amounts of alcohol
  • smoke cigarettes

All of these factors put excess stress on the body, which is known to suppress innate immunity and dysregulate our adaptive immune system.

Caring for your immune system

Here are some other approaches to providing your immune system with support.

  • Cut out sugar
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Get plenty of good sleep
  • Reduce stress

Supplemental immune support

Always check with your health care practitioner before trying a new supplement. Supplements that may help support your immune system include:

  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc

By Joanne Peters