Protecting Your Immune System (infographic)

There are a lot of myths out there about how to fight the novel coronavirus, and many of them are going to prove to be really harmful. It’s important to ensure you have access to accurate information before making any decisions about your health or well-being, especially during a pandemic. If something sounds too good to be true, investigate. But even if something sounds reasonable, investigate that, too. Right now it’s important not only to protect and bolster your immune system, but also to understand how your immune system actually works so you can make reasonable adjustments to your lifestyle and diet to protect it.

What Does Novel Mean?

You may have noticed some people calling the new coronavirus “novel.” This doesn’t mean it’s special or amusing, but rather it means it’s a brand new virus that has never occurred within humans before, so humans have zero immunity to it at this point. That’s an important distinction because it’s not like a strain of influenza that looks like other strains of influenza that we’ve been exposed to in the past and our immune systems have at least some blueprint for fighting off. This is a virus that our immune systems have no blueprint for, which is one of the reasons it is so virulent and so deadly.

How Does Immunity Work?

Your immune system works to block antigens like bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses from entering your body and making you sick. When one of these antigens does successfully get through, your body produces white blood cells to fight them off. After your immune system fights off an antigen, it produces antibodies as a sort of blueprint to fight off similar things in the future. For some of the population, COVID-19 will result in antibodies in their immune system that could help them fight off future mutations of this virus (it’s too soon to tell, though). For people with compromised immune systems, however, the risk of death or serious complications is very high.

What Does Immunocompromised Mean?

For some people this is an especially scary time because they have an immune system that has been damaged or compromised. Problems with your immune system can come from certain diseases, such as diabetes, which can cause your wounds to heal more slowly and infection to set in more easily. People with autoimmune disorders have immune systems that overreact to normal stimuli, which can lead to exacerbations in their disorders if they aren’t being treated. If they are being treated, oftentimes the treatment is to suppress the immune system to prevent exacerbations, which leaves them open to more infections and more severe infections. A similar thing happens when someone undergoes an organ transplant - in order to ensure their body doesn’t reject the transplanted organ, they have to be immunosuppressed for the rest of their lives, which also makes it easier and more devastating for infections to take place. Diseases like AIDS and HIV, cancer, and anything that requires chemo or radiation therapy can decimate a person’s natural defenses, leaving them extremely vulnerable to viruses like COVID-19.

Keeping Your Immune System Strong

The myths about your immune system are persistent. No, heavy doses of vitamin-C aren’t going to make everything better. Your immunity is about achieving balance. Too much stress, too much sugar, too little water, and too little sleep can all affect your immunity. Too many or not enough nutrients can affect your immunity, and not getting the right combination of nutrients can affect your immunity.
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Something else that is important, especially right now, is to make sure you are up to date on vaccinations. This isn’t because a flu vaccine can help you fight off COVID-19, but rather there are two more important reasons. First, preventing other illnesses right now takes strain off the medical system. Second, not being sick already when you come in contact with COVID-19 gives your immune system one less thing to fight off.

Learn more about protecting your immune system below.

Boosting Your Immune System: Fact Vs. Fiction - infographic

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