Frequent handwashing and social distancing are just a couple of the many safety measures the world has taken on to ensure our safety during the pandemic. Living with a pandemic has taught us many things, including improving our sense of hygiene. Studies show that handwashing practices in both male and females have increased by 8 times or more per day (24).
However, good hygiene practices can only do so much in preventing illness. It is important to ensure that our immunity remains strong. This can be done through healthy lifestyle practices, and making sure your body gets the nutrients it needs to shore up its immune system.
Good hygiene supports immunity
Frequent handwashing is an important measure against the possible spread of infectious diseases (24). Handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is our first line of defense in stopping the spread of infection (25).
Nowadays, it’s important to be aware of what you’re coming in contact with, and what your body is being exposed to. Aside from frequent handwashing, practicing social distancing and masking up can help support your immune system’s defenses in the new normal.
On top of these safety measures, keeping our immune system healthy is vital in making sure we’re protected from the pandemic.
How does your immune system work?
The immune system is a network of cells and proteins that are tasked to defend the body against any infection1. It is a complex system among whose components are white blood cells, antibodies, and the bone marrow (1).
The best way to boost your immune system is to make healthy lifestyle choices: getting enough sleep with the right balance of physical activity, a healthy diet and sticking to a vitamin and mineral-rich diet can keep your immune system in great shape (2).
You can support your daily diet by taking supplements to help maintain a functioning immune system. If you need some ideas on where and how to start choosing the right vitamins and minerals to suit your body’s needs, read on.
Supplements to help boost immunity
This mineral is essential in our body’s many functions, including the production of energy, and fighting infections and healing wounds (3). Benefits of including zinc supplements in your diet include additional support and maintenance of your immune system through its antioxidant properties (4). Zinc deficiency can lead to the deficiency of T and B cells, which are essential to our immune system (5).
Iron is an important mineral that helps the body transport oxygen to different parts of the body (6) and is a component of enzymes critical to immune cell functions (7). Iron contributes to maintaining the immune system functions of the body by taking part in the proliferation and maturation of immune cells, generating specific responses to any infection the body might encounter (8).
*Iron should only be taken if prescribed by your doctor.
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (9) that can help boost and maintain a healthy immune system. Due to its soluble state, astaxanthin’s structure makes it a potent carrier of antioxidant enzymes that can help promote healthier immune system functions (10).
Probiotics are made up of live beneficial bacteria and yeasts that naturally live in our bodies (11). This collection of good bacteria makes up the body’s microbiome, which is a diverse network of organisms that work on keeping the body healthy (11), helping boost our immune system’s health.
Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B complex is a collection of water-soluble vitamins that are essential for a lot of bodily functions, including detoxification (12). These vitamins can help maintain a healthy immune system as the combination assists in the proper activation of the body’s adaptive immune responses, and boosting healthy immune functions (13). Most of these immune system booster vitamins can’t be stored in the body, making regular consumption through food or supplementation is important (13).
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that is involved in keeping the body healthy. It boosts the process of generation and repair of body tissues, as well as preventing the body from getting infections (14). Vitamin C benefits include maintaining and supporting a healthy immune system by promoting various cellular functions in the body, such as wound healing and microbial killing (15).
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that has various roles in the body, ranging from bone and muscle-building to reducing cancer cell growth (16). Vitamin D benefits include maintaining healthy immune system functions by boosting our immune cells: B cells, T cells and antigen presenting cells (17). If you feel that you are not getting ample amounts of vitamin D through your diet or exposure to sunlight, you can consider supplementation.
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is an essential water soluble vitamin that is important in maintaining healthy cells (18). It takes part in the production of DNA and RNA, our body’s genetic material. Vitamin B12 assists in healthy red blood cell production which can lead to sustaining healthy immune system functions in the body (19).
Fish oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed by the body for many functions, including cell growth and muscle activity (20). These fatty acids cannot be manufactured in the body, and must be obtained from food (20). Omega-3 fatty acids boost immune functions in specific immune cell types (21).
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is a crucial vitamin due to its role in cellular metabolism and survival (22). Biotin helps maintain the immune system by taking part in the immune system functions, boosting the maturation and responsiveness of immune cells (23). While biotin naturally occurs in the body, biotin supplements can help make sure you increase your intake of the nutrient.
These are just some of the vitamins and minerals that you can incorporate into your everyday diet. It’s important for our body to be able to adapt to the new normal. While the world may be practicing frequent handwashing and social distancing, our bodies still need a combination of consistent hygiene habits, exercise and a balanced diet.
You can help complement your healthy diet with subscription vitamins from Vitable vitamins. You can personalise your daily vitamin packs according to your needs, including immune health. Vitable offers door-to-door vitamin delivery in Australia.
Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
- Better Health Content Team. “Immune system explained”. Better Health Channel: BetterHealth.Vic.Gov.Au. Published December 17, 2017 on https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/immune-system. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Nutrition Australia Content Team. “Supporting your immune system”. Nutrition Australia: NutritionAustralia.Org. Published on https://nutritionaustralia.org/division/qld/supporting-your-immune-system/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Health Direct Content Team. “Zinc”. Health Direct: Healthdirect.Gov.Au. Published on https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/zinc. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Shakoor, H., Feehan, J., al Dhaheri, A. S., Ali, H. I., Platat, C., Ismail, L. C., Apostolopoulos, V., & Stojanovska, L. “Immune-boosting role of vitamins D, C, E, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids: Could they help against COVID-19?” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published August 9, 2020 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7415215/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Prasad, A. S. “Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published April 3, 2008 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Nutrition Australia Content Team. “Iron”. Nutrition Australia: NutritionAustralia.Org. Published October 2014 on https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/iron/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Pronschinske, J. “Support your immune function with good nutrition”. Mayo Clinic Health System: MayoClinicHealthSystem.Org. Published June 24, 2021 on https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/support-your-immune-function-with-good-nutrition. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Soyano A, Gómez M. “Participación del hierro en la inmunidad y su relación con las infecciones [Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections]”. National Library of Medicine: Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov. Published September 1999 on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10971835/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Davinelli, S., Nielsen, M., & Scapagnini, G. “Astaxanthin in Skin Health, Repair, and Disease: A Comprehensive Review”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published April 22, 2018 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946307/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Fakhri, S., Nouri, Z., Moradi, S. Z., & Farzaei, M. H. “Astaxanthin, COVID ‐19 and immune response: Focus on oxidative stress, apoptosis and autophagy”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published August 4, 2020 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7436866/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Cleveland Clinic Content Team. “Probiotics”. Cleveland Clinic: My.ClevelandClinic.Org. Published November 3, 2020 on https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Better Health Content Team. “Vitamin B - Better Health Channel”. Better Health Channel: BetterHealth.Vic.Gov.Au. Published May 14, 2020 on https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vitamin-b#vitamin-b-supplements. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Shakoor, H., Feehan, J., Mikkelsen, K., al Dhaheri, A. S., Ali, H. I., Platat, C., Ismail, L. C., Stojanovska, L., & Apostolopoulos, V. “Be well: A potential role for vitamin B in COVID-19”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published August 15, 2020 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7428453/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Health Direct Content Team. “Vitamin C”. Health Direct: HealthDirect.Gov.Au. Published March 2020 on https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vitamin-c. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Carr, A., & Maggini, S. “Vitamin C and Immune Function”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published November 3, 2017 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Harvard School of Public Health Content Team. “Vitamin D”. Harvard School of Public Health: Hsph.Harvard.Edu. Published March 2020 on https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Aranow, C. “Vitamin D and the Immune System”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published August 1, 2012 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Mount Sinai Content Team. “Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)”. Mount Sinai: MountSinai.Org. Published on https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-b12-cobalamin. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Tamura, J., Kubota, K., Murakami, H., Sawamura, M., Matsushima, T., Tamura, T., Saitoh, T., Kurabayshi, H., & Naruse, T. “Immunomodulation by vitamin B12: augmentation of CD8+ T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cell activity in vitamin B12-deficient patients by methyl-B12 treatment”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published April 1999 on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10209501/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Mayo Clinic Content Team. “Fish oil”. Mayo Clinic: MayoClinic.Org. Published on https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-fish-oil/art-20364810. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Gutiérrez, S., Svahn, S. L., & Johansson, M. E. “Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published October 11, 2019 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834330/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Harvard School of Public Health Content Team. “Biotin - Vitamin B7”. Harvard School of Public Health: Hsph.Harvard.Edu. Published March 2020 on https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/biotin-vitamin-b7/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Agrawal, S., Agrawal, A., & Said, H. M. “Biotin deficiency enhances the inflammatory response of human dendritic cells”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published July 13, 2016 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5129763/. Accessed November 6, 2021.
- Dwipayanti, N. M. U., Lubis, D. S., & Harjana, N. P. A. “Public Perception and Hand Hygiene Behavior During COVID-19 Pandemic in Indonesia”. Frontiers in Public Health: Frontiersin.Org. Published May 13, 2021 on https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.621800/full. Accessed November 7, 2021.
- Alzyood, M., Jackson, D., Aveyard, H., & Brooke, J. “COVID‐19 reinforces the importance of handwashing”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Nih.Gov. Published May 14, 2020 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7267118/. Accessed November 7, 2021.