Amid stocking up on hand sanitiser and shooting dirty looks to anyone failing to vigorously wash their hands, the coronavirus panic is likely making you ponder the state of your immune system.
While usually your propensity to catch a cold would be no big deal, now keeping your body in tip-top illness-fighting shape seems of the utmost importance.
So while there’s no cure, quick fix, or guaranteed way to prevent yourself from getting coronavirus, there are steps you can take to ensure your immune system is in peak condition.
We spoke to Hannah Richards, nutritionist and author of The Best Possible You: A Unique Nutritional Guide To Healing Your Body, for her tips on boosting your health.
Hannah said: ‘There is no vaccination. We are told that increased hygiene and regular and thorough hand washing is the only recommended course of action.
‘But how else can we best defend ourselves against the virus?
‘The immune system lives in our gastro-intestinal system and so there is a strong relationship between our diet, gut bacteria and immunity.
‘A healthy diet builds a healthy gut and therefore a strong immune system, which makes our health more robust and our body less susceptible to infections, infection pathogens, viruses and pathogenic bacteria.’
Here are Hannah’s tips.
Eat fresh, healthy food you’ve cooked at home
Cook from scratch, incorporating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, rather than relying on frozen food, takeaways or ready-made meals.
Make sure you’re getting high quality sleep
Sleeping will restore health and our immune system.
Remember that the body repairs itself when we’re asleep, so we need to make sure we’re getting at least eight hours sleep each night.
‘Taking zinc within 24 hours after the onset of common cold symptoms has been proven to reduce their duration,’ Hannah says.
Take vitamin C
Make sure your diet is rich in vitamin C or take it as a supplement.
‘Research has revealed that animals who are able to make their own vitamin C are more resilient to viral infections,’ says Hannah.
When and how to use hand sanitiser
‘Viruses use an enzyme called neuramidase to attack cells. In response, the immune system produces a protein called Interferon to tackle the virus. Vitamin C can both inhibit neuramidase and increase the amount of Interferon produced.
‘Unfortunately, our human bodies aren’t able to naturally make vitamin C, so we need to make sure we ingest it through our food or as supplements.
‘We can’t store this vitamin either, and a 40mg supplement taken in the morning will no longer be in our system by home time, so it may need to be topped up through eating more fruit and vegetables and drinking freshly squeezed grapefruit or orange juice.’
Avoid drinking and smoking
You know how you feel all weak and fragile after a boozy weekend?
Alcohol and cigarettes don’t do great things for immune system, so you might want to avoid them while we’re in a pandemic.
Look after your digestive health
‘Enzymes help to speed up chemical reactions and digestive enzymes help us to digest food more efficiently, when we are under viral attack,’ says Hannah.
Go easy at the gym
Now is not the time for extreme workouts – and not just because gym equipment is likely filthy.
Hannah advises: ‘Swap the gym or the HIIT for some Thai Chi, massage or a long walk to avoid increased cortisol levels and inflammations which lower the defence of the immune system.’
Easier said than done, we know, but stress hinders immune function.
Make sure you’re looking after your mental health amid coronavirus panic.
What is the coronavirus and where did it start?
Coronaviruses are a family of diseases which include the common cold and the virus which caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which originated in China in 2002 and killed nearly 800 people around the world.
The virus causing concern now is a new strain which has made the jump from animals to people, named Covid-19.
It causes fever and a cough and can make it hard for people to breathe, causing viral pneumonia in severe cases.
Over 2,700 people worldwide have now died after contracting the illness.
How does it affect the lungs?
What are the symptoms of the virus?
The virus is more likely to progress into a severe illness or prove fatal among older patients or those with weakened immune systems.
As it is a viral illness, antibiotics will not help and there is no known cure or vaccine.
To avoid the illness, take usual hygiene precautions, such as using a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes, and making sure to wash your hands.
Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth after touching things like poles on public transport and avoid close contact with people suffering an acute respiratory infection.
You should also avoid unprotected contact with wild or farm animals.
So far, 13 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK.
Hundreds have been tested for it here, with most of the tests coming back negative.
The virus originated in the city of Wuhan in China, where it is believed to have made the jump from animals to people at a seafood market.
Wuhan is the capital of China’s Hubei province, a landlocked province in central China.
It is built along the Yangtze river, and is around 500 miles west of Shanghai and 690 miles north of Hong Kong.
It is the largest and most populous city in central China, although estimates over its population vary.