These are the five best natural ways to boost your immune system

It is still so important at this time of the coronavirus to keep your immune system in check.

With no evidence to suggest individuals cannot be infected with COVID-19 a second time, a boost to your immunity may help to protect you against this and other illnesses.

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Cheryl Lythgoe, head matron at Benenden Health, suggests how we can build up our immune systems effectively.

Rather than spend a fortune on commercial products that have unproven benefits, she recommends adopting long-term, everyday behaviours to give your immune system the right kind of support:

1) Practice good hygiene

Coming into contact with a surface, object or person that’s been contaminated, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes can lead to the spread of infection.Wash your hands well before eating, after visiting the toilet, or when returning from a supermarket or other essential travel. Hand hygiene remains vital for avoiding cross-infection, and drying hands well is also vital, as wet hands can help bacteria spread.

2) Eat a balanced and healthy diet

Ensuring your body gets the right vitamins and nutrients is a great way to boost your immune system. By including seasonal fruits and vegetables in your food shop, such as tomatoes, rhubarb, berries and pineapple, you are more likely to snack on these, instead of foods that compromise your immune system, such as those heavy in sugar and salt.During lockdown especially, it is easy to turn to ‘comfort foods’ such as chocolates, sweets and ready meals. However, the body will spend more time trying to process these foods instead of fighting any diseases.

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3) Sleep well (and avoid stress)

A good night’s sleep will help you fight viruses. Lack of sleep can cause the body’s immune system to go into overdrive, much in the same way as stress affects our body. Stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection – making you more susceptible to catching viruses, such as COVID-19 and the common cold.Some of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep include having a set daily routine and optimising your sleeping environment by keeping it calm, cool and free of electronic devices.

4) Stop smoking

It is common knowledge that quitting smoking will help your health in innumerable ways. It has also been found that during a viral infection, smokers’ immune systems go into overdrive. “It’s like smokers are using the equivalent of a sledgehammer, rather than a fly swatter, to get rid of a fly,” said Jack A. Elias, author of a Yale University study into the effect of cigarette smoke on viral infections.COVID-19 is known to affect the respiratory system and in serious cases can make it hard for individuals to breathe. In addition to the serious respiratory side-effects of smoking that we already know about, it could also delay or alter your recovery of COVID-19.

5) Keep fitness levels up

Maintaining a healthy weight and level of fitness can improve overall health, as well as boost your chance of keeping infection at bay.Under the current social distancing measures, it is still highly recommended to fit in 30 minutes of exercise per day if possible, while following government guidelines. This could mean running outdoors in permitted doses or joining online gym classes.

For more information on how to stay physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic, visit Benenden Health’s COVID-19 hub.

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