Last Update: 4th April 2020.
COVID-19 or more commonly known as novel coronavirus, has sparked more debate on immune system response since its first outbreak in Wuhan. The global rise of coronavirus caused more than 1 million confirmed cases with more than 50,000 death globally.
Anthony Fauci, one of the leading US experts on infectious diseases told in a recent interview with Trevor Noah of The Daily Show — that he felt “really confident” that recovered coronavirus patients will have immunity.
“I am willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against re-infection.”
Now, what was more interesting is this — out of 212,000 patients recovered from coronavirus, there were some cases of re-infection after the lockdown. At the same, time there were cases of first-time patients fully recovered from COVID19 due to their immune system.
As researchers have yet to find a vaccine, this sparked continuous interest in our natural immune system response to fight the virus.
What do we know so far?
Here is a quick recap from the coronavirus statistics based on recent numbers in April 2020
- Fatality rate: 5%
- Recovery rate: 21%
Within the recovered cases, a 47-year-old woman in Melbourne who contracted Covid-19 made a remarkable recovery after her travel to China. Doctors and researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia found that her recovery was due to an unexpectedly strong immune response.
What was more surprising is the following.
- She received no antibiotics, steroids or antiviral drugs, and she did not need oxygenation on a ventilator throughout the three days.
- Her chest was clear 10 days after she was admitted to hospital and she was safely discharged on day 11.
- All symptoms related to COVID19 had disappeared by day 13.
You can read more about it here at Financial Times
What is becoming increasingly clear by most scientists is that our immune system plays a critical role in whether you recover from the virus or you die from it. This was evident based on the death cases — which were mostly related to older people and patients with past health conditions.
Most coronavirus-related deaths are due to the immune system’s inability to respond to the virus, not damage caused by the virus itself.
Your lung is the most vulnerable to coronavirus
According to WHO, coronavirus causes respiratory diseases. In short, COVID-19 virus begins to attack your lungs and two things can possibly happen – either it will end in your lungs or it can spread to other parts of your body (such as the liver or kidney failure). It is widely reported that once you have been attacked, it takes more than 12 months to fully recover.
There are three stages of the attack.
Flu-like symptoms with or without fever. At this stage it is hard to ascertain whether the coronavirus will continue to spread. It can stay dormant for at least 10 days before it goes to the second stage of attack. Hence why people are diagnosed with coronavirus can go pass the thermal scanners at the airports without any early warning signs.
Many patients diagnosed with coronavirus will develop pneumonia in both lungs and this are usually accompanied by symptoms like shortness of breath, fever, cough and other forms of breathing difficulties.
Lung damage continues to build—which can result in respiratory failure depending on your health condition and age. In severe cases, you will witness patients coughing blood and other extreme conditions. Some patients may survive this stage or recover with permanent lung damage.
What is immune system?
Our immune system is a defense mechanism in our body that protects us from viruses and germs. The immune system is a complex system made up of organs and vessel systems including a network of individual cells and proteins.
The main parts of the immune system are:
Do you know the immune system is “highly intelligent” that it keeps a record of every germ it has ever defeated so it can recognise and destroy the germ in future?
In fact, when you first become infected with a virus, your body will launch a standard innate immune defense. And this innate immune response is behind many of the symptoms you experience when you are sick.
You can read more about immune system here.
How can you boost your immune system?
The short answer lies in the secret of 70:30 rule. 70% diet and 30% exercise. This is the conventional wisdom to the secret of keeping fit, losing weight, longevity or achieving a healthy life generally.
Keeping strictly to this rule over a long period of time will enable you to have a strong immune system against most diseases.
Now, lets break it down into two parts.
Part 1: Start with right exercises
How many times have you heard this from health experts, nutritionists or doctors? The fact of the matter is exercise helps you build stronger immune system.
Exercise and keeping fit are undoubtedly effective to achieve a good health and subsequently assisting your body to develop a robust immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good blood circulation with fresh oxygen supply, which in turn allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and efficiently.
A more pragmatic question is how long should you exercise to boost your immune system?
The answer is — 20 minutes daily.
Researchers at the University of California-San Diego of Medicine found that 20 minutes of exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects that boost your immune system.
What if you don’t have the luxury of time to spend 20-minute doing exercises?
Well, have you tried any of these unusual exercises at your workplace? It may not be as effective, but it is worth a try.
- Climb up the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator
- Walk to your office instead of taking the public transport
- Do 40 squats at your pantry during lunch hour
- Order and carry 10 lunch sets for your colleagues in the office.
- Jog to your office every morning and carry 5kg dumbbell with you daily.
Interestingly, we found many workouts which can help to boost your immune system. Our personal favorite workout can be found here.
Remember one thing. Do not over-exercise as your body will interpret as “stress”.
Part 2: Consume the Right Diet & Supplements
Here is the second part, i.e diet & supplement which is equally if not more important than your exercises.
Consensus by doctors, nutritionists and virologists is that having the right diet and supplements can increase your chance to boost your immune system.
From an article published by the Havard Medical School, there is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses.
For elderly people, the micronutrient deficiencies is also common as older people tend to eat less and often have less variety in their diets.
There are some excerpts from doctors and specialists on health supplements to boost your immune system against coronavirus.
“There’s a whole host of herbs from tons of countries, including Chinese medicine, that works really well and boosts your body’s ability to fight viruses,”
— Dr. Samantha Randahl of Keystone Natural Family Medicine.
“One of the most important vitamins that boosts the immune system is Vitamin C. Then we have Vitamin B6, which is vital in supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system, and thirdly, Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that aids the body to fight off infections.”
— Dr Ganabaskaran, President of Malaysian Medical Association.
Source article here
“Fruits and vegetables of various colours are important for the body to replenish and strengthen one’s immunity. Fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, E and antioxidants that can enhance the immune system to fight against infections and pathogens.”
— Nutritionist Dr Sareena Hanim Hamzah
Source article here
Superfoods & Herbs To Strengthen Your Immune System
Whilst off-the-shelf multivitamins and supplements are good addition to your diet plan, you may also consider “superfoods” or natural herbs to give that added boost to the immune system.
We shortlisted top natural superfoods and herbs that have a long history of anti-inflammatory properties and other bio-active compounds to boost your immune system.
Ask any nutritionists and they will highly recommend broccoli. It is superpacked with vitamin A, C, and E, as well as many antioxidants and fiber. And you can find it easily in any supermarkets and in western dishes too. Go and grab some now!
Garlic is found in most dishes around the world and blends well with any dishes you can think off. Garlic contains immune-boosting properties such as allicin and the secret to retain its health benefits is by not to overcook it! Garlic is used as herbal remedies in some parts of the world to treat minor illnesses.
In most parts of Asia, ginger is not just used in dishes but it is an ingredient many turn to after falling sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory-related illnesses.
4. Tongkat Ali (Malaysian Ginseng)
Tongkat Ali is a powerful herbal root (from a plant known as Eurycoma Longifolia) that is increasingly popular and widely researched by scientists around the globe.
Originating from Malaysia, this herbal root contains anti-inflammatory properties. Research by Tokyo Medical University and Life Science of Japan on 84 human test subjects showed positive improvement in cells related to our immune system. More potential science-backed health benefits of Tongkat Ali here.
5. Panax Ginseng (Korean Ginseng)
This herbal root is not an ingredient found in dishes, but if you have not heard of ginseng, you may have missed out on one of the potent herbs that are used for centuries to improve general health and treat illnesses.
It contains anti-inflammatory properties and touted to boost the immune system amongst elderly people. Both Panax Ginseng and Tongkat Ali are equally potent to protect your immune system. You can find a comparison between these two herbs here.
Prevention is better than cure.
That is the age-old wisdom that never goes out of fashion. In light of the coronavirus, prevention brings a new meaning to all of us. Beyond face masks, we need to face the harsh reality that all of us today are ill-equipped to fight coronavirus.
Just look around you. How many of us today are still puffing away in that corridor or struggling to manage our weight or keep up with our own healthy diets?
In retrospect, smoking has caused 480,000 deaths in the United States alone and that number is significantly higher than deaths caused by coronavirus.
If we love ourselves, we should address the fundamentals right from the beginning with clear objective to build a stronger immune system. To fight coronavirus or to achieve longevity, our bodies deserve the right treatment – from diet, supplements and exercises.
Prevention means relentless effort. And everything starts from within.
It begins with you.
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