How to Boost Your Immunity Against Viral Infections

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Most of us are concerned about the fast-spreading coronavirus from China. However, experts believe that viral infections are less likely to have an impact on people with higher immunity levels. Read on to learn 7 science-backed ways to boost your immunity and fend off virus infections.

Infection from China’s coronavirus has spread to more than 10,000 people globally as of this blog's writing. CDC has now confirmed a total of 7 cases for coronavirus in the USA so far. While we are far from reaching pandemic proportions, the spread of the disease across the world is causing increasing concerns. It's natural to feel anxious and ask questions such as, "What are the best steps I can take to minimize my risks?"

It helps to follow CDC's basic recommendations - wash your hands hands, don't touch your face, and if possible, stay away from infected people. 

But what if you could have a more robust defense against catching viral infections like coronavirus? Good news. According to Harvard Medical School, experts believe that infectious viral diseases are less likely to affect people with higher immunity levels. 

So, we scoured through tons of published studies. We came up with a list of 7 effective ways that will help you build better immunity, particularly against viral illnesses.

1. Eat right:

1. Ginger: This study supports ginger's anti-viral capabilities against respiratory viral infections. But ginger is far more than that, especially when it comes to building your immunity. If we were told to pick only one single herb/food to take with us to a forlorn island for the rest of our lives, it has to be ginger! Ginger, especially fresh ginger, has amazing antioxidant , antiviral, and anti-inflammatory healing properties. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Study after study has proven this fact. You can chop some raw ginger and eat it with sea salt. If eating raw is not your thing, you can mix it during cooking, or enjoy a cup of ginger tea.

2. Blueberry: Blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants among fruits. Specifically relevant to this article is the fact that blueberries rich in flavonoids. This study shows that flavonoids reduced incidence of upper respiratory tract infection, a common factor in diseases like coronavirus, as compared to the control group.

3. Bell pepper: Fun fact: A cup of chopped red bell pepper contains almost three times vitamin C than an orange! Studies (here, and here) show that bell peppers have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds protecting us against oxidative stress and inflammation-related pathological processes

4. Wild Salmon: Wild salmon boosts immunity against respiratory illnesses because it is rich in omega-3 and zinc. Research shows that Omega-3 helps reduce inflammation in your body.  A meta-analysis of several studies shows that zinc can be an effective antiviral agent for several respiratory viral infections. We would like to make an honorary mention of other zinc-rich foods like oysters, legumes, and nuts.

5. Turmeric: If turmeric wasn't a natural spice, some pharma company would have made a trillion dollars by packaging and marketing it by now. Turmeric is one of the most studied spices, often with surprisingly favorable results. The main beneficial compound in turmeric is called curcumin. There are several studies (here, here, here, and here, just to name a few) that reinforce antiviral, antifungal, and the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Want to know another cool thing about turmeric? It is a member of the ginger family. Guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree :-) (Caution: If you are sensitive to high salicylate or oxalate-rich foods, reduce or avoid eating whole turmeric. Instead, try curcumin extract-based supplements). 

2. Reduce stress:

A couple of researchers studied over 300 independent published studies and came up with a hard conclusion - stress weakens your immunity system. Worse, stress of any meaningful duration - a few days to months or years forced immunity to go downhill. The study showed that people who are older or already sick, are more prone to stress-related immune changes. So, please take stress seriously. Wait a second. Please don't stress about reducing stress! That would defeat the purpose :-). This post gives some practical and effective tips to reduce stress. And this post offers 29 science-backed ways to increase your happiness levels and reduce stress.   

3. Move your body:

Elbert Hubbard once said, "Cure for grief is motion". Truer words could not have been spoken, and at more levels than we could imagine. Even if you leave the whole mental angle aside, any kind of exercise that involves moving your body is the best form of immunity booster. Even better than most supplements and diet changes. A recently published mega research study looked at research discoveries from 1900 through 2019 on the relationship between exercise and immune system. Their conclusion was clear - exercise substantially contributes to improved immunity. One of their conclusions that is especially relevant to the current environment is, "...physical activity is associated with decreased mortality and incidence rates for influenza and pneumonia." Question then arises - what kind of exercise would be best to fend of viral infections? This study found evidence "to support the hypothesis that moderate intensity exercise reduces inflammation and improves the immune response to respiratory viral infections." 

4. Hydrate:

Simply drinking lot of water doesn't directly help in fighting viral infections.  However, lack of hydration can severely affect your ability to fight them. So drink enough water, but no need to go overboard. Water increases immunity by delivering oxygen to cells, balancing blood volume, and boosting lymph fluid volume.

5. Get Proper Rest:

Insufficient sleep has been directly associated with increased likelihood of upper respiratory infection. In general, studies (here, here, and here, to name a few) show that lack of a meaningful amount of sleep can significantly affect your body's ability to regulate its immune functions. Equally important is the quality of sleep. Unless you won the genetic pool lottery and belong to a very small fraction of population whose genetic mutation allows them to get by with less sleep, the bottom line is clear and simple. Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep and your immune system will thank you for years to come. 

6. Fast:

If there was one trick that could do justice to the now-overused term "biohacking,” it would be fasting. But there is a big twist that decides if and when you should fast to fight viral infections.

If you are building your immunity while you are healthy (which is the major focus of this article), fasting is good! It boosts your immune system. In fact, this study came up with a remarkable conclusion. It showed that the immune system could be regenerated by simply fasting for three days. If starving for three full days isn't quite your thing, look into intermittent fasting as a more practical substitute. 

However, if you already have a viral infection, then you should avoid fasting. This study shows that fasting does not work for and worsens viral infections. Fasting works best for bacterial infections if a person already has it. For viral infections, once contracted, it is better to listen to your body's cravings and feed yourself with healthy non-refined carbohydrates. Which brings us to our last recommendation.


7. Avoid refined carbohydrates:

Refined carbohydrates degrade your body's natural immune functions. In fact, according to this study, a western diet comprising of refined carbs can make the body's immune system hyper-responsive to inflammation triggers. Not only that, consumption of such diet could permanently change the immune system for worse. We would be the first to admit that it is hard to avoid refined carbs in today's world. They are in our faces all the time! But there are practical ways to eliminate or significantly reduce addiction to refined carbs. This answer on Quora by our team gives you a step-by-step and practical approach to end your addiction to refined carbs. 

Bottom line:

Don't wait until it is too late. Build your immunity now with the practical and easy-to-manage recommendations given above. These recommendations are well supported by published studies, specifically geared towards fending off viral infections.

Important Disclaimer:

The above article does not replace medical expertise or urgent medical care. It is prevention-based, offering a long term strategy based on published studies. If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus, please seek immediate medical attention.

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  • Hi Curtis, thank you for noticing and for your kind words! We put in a lot of work to come up with recommendations very specific to viral infections. Glad it is helpful :-)

    Krish Rathi
  • Nice work, Krishna. Thank you for a timely and reassuring article

    Curtis Moran

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