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Your immune system is a gateway that either protects you, or leaves you vulnerable to illness. When your immune system is running well you won’t even notice it. If it weakens or you encounter an aggressive germ, then you can become ill. Most germs only make you feel ill the first time you meet them, as your body has a memory for fighting them afterwards.

The usual fear of flu season is currently greatly amplified by concern about coronavirus (COVID-19). You can control your own level of hygiene but not necessarily your chance of exposure – as your location, contacts and travel will determine this.

In a situation where everything feels largely out of control, is it possible to boost your immunity and lower your risk of infection? There is no guarantee against catching any virus and nothing substitutes following current Public Health England guidance regarding hand washing, social distancing and exposure control. However, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can start implementing now to give your immune system a fighting chance.

Dr Louise Wiseman shares her expert tips on how to boost your immunity to ward off nasty infections and get the very best from your health:

How does your immune system work?
Humans have a multi-layered defence thanks to a network formed by the lymphatic system, specifically designed organs (eg spleen and thymus gland) and circulating cells and proteins. The body is also cleverly designed to ‘stop bad things getting in’ in the following ways:

Skin: your skin provides a great barrier (unless you have cuts or abrasions).
Bugs: bugs that enter the nose trigger cells to make more protective mucus.
Sneezing: sneezes and coughs force invading microbes out.
Stomach acid: acid in your stomach destroys pathogens that you swallow.
Gut lining: your gut has a whole mucosal defence team onboard.
Tiny hairs: small hairs in the airways known as cilia keep mucus moving to remove infections.

Can you boost your immunity to beat coronavirus?
Harper’s Bazaar
Dr Louise Wiseman MBBS, BSc (Hons), DRCOG, MRCGP
Harper’s BazaarMarch 15, 2020
Photo credit: JGI/Jamie Grill – Getty ImagesView photos
Photo credit: JGI/Jamie Grill – Getty Images
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From Harper’s BAZAAR

Your immune system is a gateway that either protects you, or leaves you vulnerable to illness. When your immune system is running well you won’t even notice it. If it weakens or you encounter an aggressive germ, then you can become ill. Most germs only make you feel ill the first time you meet them, as your body has a memory for fighting them afterwards.

The usual fear of flu season is currently greatly amplified by concern about coronavirus (COVID-19). You can control your own level of hygiene but not necessarily your chance of exposure – as your location, contacts and travel will determine this.

In a situation where everything feels largely out of control, is it possible to boost your immunity and lower your risk of infection? There is no guarantee against catching any virus and nothing substitutes following current Public Health England guidance regarding hand washing, social distancing and exposure control. However, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can start implementing now to give your immune system a fighting chance.

Dr Louise Wiseman shares her expert tips on how to boost your immunity to ward off nasty infections and get the very best from your health:

How does your immune system work?
Humans have a multi-layered defence thanks to a network formed by the lymphatic system, specifically designed organs (eg spleen and thymus gland) and circulating cells and proteins. The body is also cleverly designed to ‘stop bad things getting in’ in the following ways:

Skin: your skin provides a great barrier (unless you have cuts or abrasions).
Bugs: bugs that enter the nose trigger cells to make more protective mucus.
Sneezing: sneezes and coughs force invading microbes out.
Stomach acid: acid in your stomach destroys pathogens that you swallow.
Gut lining: your gut has a whole mucosal defence team onboard.
Tiny hairs: small hairs in the airways known as cilia keep mucus moving to remove infections.
Photo credit: Claudia Totir – Getty ImagesView photos
Photo credit: Claudia Totir – Getty Images
More
Can you boost your immunity?
With all these processes in place, is it possible to strengthen your existing immunity and keep your health in tip-top shape?

‘It’s never too late,’ says immunologist and author Dr Jenna Macciochi. ‘Taking care of your lifestyle including any small benefits towards managing stress, daily movement, balanced diet and quality sleep are important.

‘They may not shift the dial on your health in an immediate, noticeable way but over time, small things add up. In fact, your immunity is reflected in the consistency of these lifestyle practices.’

Lifestyle tips to boost your immunity
To give your immune system a leg-up, implement the following lifestyle tips into your routine:

✔️ Quit smoking
This is a no-brainer. Smoking affects many systems of the body and immunity is not spared. It reduces the function of cilia (delicate hairs that move mucus around the respiratory system). But why do smokers suffer more with viral infections?

‘Some evidence suggests the antiviral responses in smokers is hyperreactive and overshoots causing more severe damage to the delicate airways and compromising the main function of the lung to get oxygen,’ says Dr Macciochi.

‘There are other factors too: smoking may change the respiratory microbiome (healthy bugs protecting us) as well as the general airway barrier such as mucus,’ she adds. ‘These are all part of our immune defences. Increased oxidative stress from smoking may provide the right environment for selection of more virulent species of a virus as it uses our own genetic machinery to replicate. It may also permit faster replication.’

⚠️ If you’re struggling to quit smoking, ask your family for support and if needed a healthcare professional. Read more

Read also: Coronavirus spreading fastest in UK in London