This is such an important topic right now that we’re doing two posts on the subject in one week and some great information has just come out in this article by Amy Fleming.
You can read it here or our summary below.
Sheena Cruickshank, a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester says our layers of defense are mucus, microbes, epithelial cells that make antimicrobial products including, most relevant to coronavirus, antiviral compounds that are quite hostile to viruses. “If a pathogen breaches these defences, it has to deal with our white blood cells, or immune cells. One type, called macrophages, inhabit all our body tissue” says Cruickshank
“We live in a symbiotic relationship with our gut bacteria,” says Prof Arne Akbar, the president of the British Society for Immunology and a professor at University College, London. “Having the right ones around, that we evolved with, is best for our health. Anything we do that alters that can be detrimental.” The article explains that “Not only do our microbes form protective barriers, they also programme our immune systems”
To feed your gut flora, Cruickshank recommends “eating a more varied diet with lots of high-fibre foods, the microbiome really likes fibre, pulses and fermented foods,” she adds.
Next up is gentle exercise and reducing stress as immune-boosting priorities. Stress hormones such as cortisol can compromise immune function otherwise.
Alcohol is out “Some studies have suggested that the first-line-of-defence macrophages are not as effective in people who have had a lot of alcohol,” says Cruickshank. “And there’s been suggestions that high alcohol consumption can lead to a reduction of the lymphocytes as well. So if the bug gets into you, you’re not going to be as good at containing and fighting it off.”
Sleeping well is also key – the article explains that “One study last year found that lack of sleep impaired the disease-fighting ability of a type of lymphocyte called T cells” – 8 to 9 hours needed!