The Family of The Coronaviruses and Immunity

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected most countries around the world, causing hundreds of thousands of people to get infected and thousands of deaths.

For the most part, patients of young age with competent immune systems experience mild flu-like symptoms when they get infected; however, older people and individuals with compromised immunity and/or co-morbidities are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening complications.

However, this is not the first time it happens!

COVID-19 belongs to a large family of viruses known as the coronaviruses, which were named after their structural resemblance to a crown (a.k.a. corona in Latin).

The first large outbreak caused by the coronaviruses occurred in 2002 in China and was termed SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome. This outbreak affected more than 8,000 people and killed 774 patients.

The second outbreak took place in the middle east, and more specifically, Saudi Arabia. The epidemic was referred to as MERS, which stands for middle east respiratory syndrome, and caused 866 related deaths.

Unfortunately, there is no curative treatment or a vaccine to fight the coronaviruses, hence the need to practice social distancing and higher hygiene standards (e.g. frequent handwashing).

If you are infected with the virus, the only weapon you have is your immune system’s ability to clear out the infection. 

So, let’s see how you can optimize your immune system for the best results.

How to optimize your immunity?

Eat these foods

Not all foods were created equal.

Some foods are loaded in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which make them perfect for optimizing your immune system.

Depending on the foods you consume, your immune system could be powered up or weakened. One classic study conducted by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that many compounds found in food carry immune-modulating properties.

Examples of foods that can enhance your immune system include:

Get moving!

Regular exercise is a well-established optimizer of the immune system.

According to a 2018 study, scientists found that “A single bout of exercise is known to stimulate immune cells during efforts and recovery.”

Researchers believe that this effect is due to the stimulation of the neuro-endocrine system, regulation of hormones, and the modifications of the cardiovascular system.

Improve your sleep

Sleep disturbances (e.g. hypersomnia, insomnia) can disrupt many of the body’s physiological functions, including cognitive abilities, hormonal balance, and immune regulation.

Getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night can suppress the metabolic pathways that release pro-inflammatory substances, which render your immune system more efficient.

Quit smoking

Nicotine, which is the major constituents of most cigarettes, is a potent immunosuppressant that makes your immune system weak and less effective in fighting potential pathogens.

Aside from the immune system, smoking is a detrimental habit that damages most organ systems.

Don’t stress it!

Chronic psychological stress is a common cause of relative immunosuppression. When you stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol, which is a hormone that has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.

Try to practice calming activities, such as yoga, meditation, and listening to music. These techniques will reduce your stress and boost your immune system.

Improve hygiene

While this tip might not influence the immune system directly, it will significantly reduce your risk of catching infections.

Try to wash your hands more often, seek medical attention when you first feel sick, and avoid contact with sick patients.

If you are specifically worried about the coronavirus outbreak, here is an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that discusses the measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting infected. 

Conclusion 

The coronaviruses are quite a hassle to deal with because of their rapid genetic variation and unpredictable outbreaks.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how to optimize your immune system to avoid all sorts of infections.

If you still any questions, however, feel free to ask in the comment section below.

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