Strengthening your immunity
There are many strategies that have been proven to strengthen the immune system. It is important that we make use of these natural strategies rather than failing to act and simply expecting God to heal or protect us by faith.
“If we neglect to do that which is within the reach of nearly every family, and ask the Lord to relieve pain when we are too indolent to make use of these remedies which are within our power, it is simply presumption.” (2SM 297.8)
Use natural and targeted immune enhancers to make your immune system as healthy as possible so that it is better able to fight COVID-19 and other viruses. Lifestyle, comorbidities and immune status appear to play a crucial role in COVID-19 severity and recovery.1
Strengthening your immune system across the 7 Dimensions of Wellness:
Nutrition has a significant impact on severity and susceptibility to COVID-19.1,2
Poor nutrition and higher energy intake weaken the immune system, increase general viral infectivity and increase risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19. This is particularly true for adults who are inactive or overweight as this increases their risk of a more severe COVID-19 outcome.1 Diets that are high in sugar, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, and low in fibre and antioxidants, promote low-grade inflammation and weaken the body’s defence against viruses and long-term recovery from COVID-19.1,2
Dietary patterns that support the immune system, prevent chronic inflammation and fruit, beans and legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats (and fish), while minimising or avoiding sugar, unhealthy fats and salt. These diets are rich in fibre, nutrients, antioxidants and flavonoids, and are low in proinflammatory foods.2
The role of physical activity in helping to prevent excess body weight and its associated comorbidities is well known.
Moderate-intensity activity also helps to strengthen the immune system, stimulating cellular immunity and the exchange of white blood cells between the blood and tissues.3 Up to one hour per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise can reduce systemic inflammation and improve immune defence, including against viral infections.2,3
Studies have found that increased moderate-intensity exercise is associated with decreased risk of infection, especially upper respiratory tract infections.2,3 However, prolonged, vigorous-intensity exercise can trigger decreased cellular immunity, so should be avoided by people with COVID-19 or at high-risk of exposure.2
Getting enough good-quality sleep helps to support healthy functioning of the immune system. Adults need 7 to 9 hours sleep per night to strengthen their immune system and fight infection.4
Nature’s Immune Builders – Sleep Source: AMEN (US)
Adequate fresh clean water is essential to metabolise, maintain electrolyte balance, regulate body temperature, remove waste and maintain healthy kidney function, avoid oxidative stress due to dehydration, and carry nutrients and other compounds in the blood supply. As such, it is essential for optimising your immune system and for effective hygiene.5
Regular intermittent fasting can reduce low-grade inflammation and strengthen immune function, while also assisting with diabetes (insulin sensitivity) and weight loss.6 Intermittent fasting, or daily time-restricted fasting, where all food is eaten in a 6-hour or 8-hour window, not only reduces systemic inflammation and oxidative stress; it also increases stress resistance and longevity.7
Researchers found that prolonged fasting triggered the immune system to start renewing and regenerating its white blood cells.8
Hydrotherapy has been widely used to improve blood circulation, stimulate the immune system and improve cellular immunity. Hydrotherapy using various temperatures and/or water pressures have also been useful in various other systems of the body to improve blood circulation, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions; pain; mental health; postural stability, fatigue, stiffness and physical function; gut function and rectal healing; labour and birth; and anxiety and stress management.9
The World Health Organization advises that alcohol should not be taken as it weakens the immune system and limits your body’s ability to fight infectious diseases like COVID-19.10,11
Alcohol increases the risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19; damages immune cells, particularly in the lungs; triggers inflammation in the gut and kills healthy bacteria that maintain immune system health; affects sleep quality; and worsens comorbidities that increase risk of serious illness from COVID-19.11
People who smoke have a greater risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. Smoking also increases the risk of various NCDs that increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19.12
People with comorbidities have a higher risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 than those without.13,14 Having multiple comorbidities increases risk further.14 Comorbidities that increase the likelihood of severe disease from COVID-19 include: hypertension, diabetes, over weight and obesity, lung disease, kidney disease, heart disease.15 To read about other medical conditions associated with high risk for severe COVID-19, go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html
Obesity and metabolic disease weaken the immune system, increase general viral infectivity and increase risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19. This is particularly true for adults who are inactive as this increases their risk of a more severe COVID-19 outcome.1
People with comorbidities should work closely with their doctor to manage their conditions, while learning how to make healthy lifestyle choices that will help them to halt or reverse these conditions.
Sunlight and Vitamin D
Studies have found that Vitamin D levels are related to the risk of COVID-19 infection, its severity and mortality.16 One study of 80,670 participants found that patients with Vitamin D deficiency were 2.3 to 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalised due to COVID-19 symptoms.17 Another study of 42 patients in a respiratory ICU found that patients who were extremely deficient in Vitamin D had a 50% risk of death after 10 days of hospitalisation, while those with adequate levels had only a 5% risk of death.18 These studies suggest that people should maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D via supplementation or sunlight on the skin, to reduce COVID-19 risk.
Nature’s Immune Builders – Vitamin D Source: AMEN (US)
Forest bathing (spending time enjoying nature and breathing in forest air) is associated with an increase in natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell), and reduced inflammation. Spending time in rejuvenating natural environments and using essential oils like eucalyptus oil may help activate the immune system.19
People are designed to be together. Being actively involved in a faith community and having strong social relationships are associated with better health outcomes, including better quality of life and longevity, and less anxiety and depression.20
Social connection may reduce inflammation and build antiviral response.21
A large meta-analysis of 308,849 individuals found that people with strong social relationships had a 50% greater chance of survival than those with poor social relationships.22
Social isolation and loneliness may cause inflammation and suppress antiviral immunity.21 People who are lonely experience genetic changes that increase inflammation and make the immune system less responsive to viruses. Loneliness may also stimulate flight-or-fright stress signalling, leading to even deeper loneliness.23
Serving and being a blessing to others benefits your mental state as well. Volunteerism provides a sense of purpose and meaningful connections.24 People who volunteer and identify strongly with a religious group receive additional mental health benefits. Reading religious literature and praying together adds further meaning to voluntary work.25
The immune system may impact cognition and the rate of cognitive decline, so make sure you maintain a healthy immune system to help prevent or delay dementia.26,27
Use this time to keep learning. Choose wisely what you are reading; not everyone is a reputable source. Look for peer-reviewed scientific literature, from reputable health professional and government sources, and ask questions if you are not sure. If you are considering vaccinations, consider the options, and weigh up the risks and benefits to yourself and others. Ask your doctor if you are unsure.
Religion and Spirituality
Religious faith can be a powerful resource for people suffering from anxiety and fear. Engaging in religious rites and practices can reduce negative emotions and build positive emotions that benefit the immune system. Religious or spiritual activity is associated with improved immune function, lower inflammation, lower risk of infection, lower viral load once infected and better health outcomes (in pre-COVID-19 studies). Studies have shown that immune function may also improve with religious activity or spiritual interventions.28
A large study of 74,000 women found that attending religious services was connected to stronger social support and optimism, lower rates of depression and smoking, and a 33% decrease in all-cause mortality.29 Religiosity and religious attendance also predicted slower disease progression30 and lower viral loads of HIV.31
Private prayer significantly reduced levels of depression, anxiety and confusion and improved optimism and coping.32
Cortisol, a stress hormone released in response to chronic stress, can suppress the immune system, disrupting immune regulation and lowering the body’s response to infections. Up to one hour per day of moderate-intensity physical activity helps reduce stress and anxiety levels.2
Nature’s Immune Builders – Stress Source: AMEN (US)
The information provided was current as of 23rd August 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic is a dynamic situation in which medical and public health advice has been changing according to further understanding of the nature of the pandemic. We acknowledge that trials on the vaccines are ongoing and full safety data will emerge with time. It is thus important to keep up to date with current advice given by the Government Health Departments and Public Health Units, which may change rapidly. The information is generic in nature and is not intended as a substitute for consulting with your doctor. If you have existing medical conditions and/or require specific advice, consult with your doctor.
- Mortaz E, Bezemer G, Alipoor SD, Varahram M, Mumby S, Folkerts G, et al. Nutritional impact and its potential consequences on COVID-19 severity. Front Nutr. 2021 July;8:698617.
- Monye I, Adelowo AB. Strengthening immunity through healthy lifestyle practices: Recommendations for lifestyle interventions in the management of COVID-19. Lifestyle Medicine. 2020 Jul;1(1):e7.
- da Silveira MP, da Silva Fagundes KK, Bizuti MR, Starck É, Rossi RC, deResende e Silva DT. Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature. Clin Exp Med. 2021;21:15-28.
- Pratt E. How sleep strengthens your immune system [Internet]. Healthline; 2019 Feb 20 [cited 2021 Sep 07]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-sleep-bolsters-your-immune-system
- Özkaya Í, Yildiz M. Effect of water consumption over the immune system response given during Covid-19. MSARR. 2021 May;2(1):40-44.
- Ealey KN, Phillips J, Sung HK. COVID-19 and obesity: fighting two pandemics with intermittent fasting. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2021 Sep;32(9):706-720.
- de Cabo R, Mattson MP. Effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease. N Engl J Med. 2019;381:2541-2551.
- Cheng CW, Adams GB, Perin L, Wei M, Zhou X, Lam BS, et al. Prolonged fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression. Cell Stem Cell. 2014 Jun;14(6):810-823.
- Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. N Am J Med Sci. 2014;6(5):199-209.
- Neufeld M, Ferreira-Borges C, Monteiro M. Alcohol and COVID-19: what you need to know. World Health Organization Europe. 2020. Available from https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/437608/Alcohol-and-COVID-19-what-you-need-to-know.pdf
- Ries J. How alcohol can affect your immune system [Internet]. Healthline. 2020 Apr 22; [Accessed 2021 Sep 10]. Available from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/can-alcohol-hurt-your-immune-system-during-covid-19-outbreak
- World Health Organization. WHO statement: Tobacco use and COVID-19. World Health Organization. 2020 May 11. Available from https://www.who.int/news/item/11-05-2020-who-statement-tobacco-use-and-covid-19
- Sanyaolu A, Okorie C, MarinKovic A, Patidar R, Younis K, Desai P, et al. Comorbidity and its impact on patients with COVID-19. SN Compr Clin Med. 2020;2:1069-1076.
- Guan WJ, Liang WH, Zhao Y, Liang HR, Chen ZS, Li YM, et al. Comorbidity and its impact on 1590 patients with COVID-19 in China: a nationwide analysis. Eur Respir J. 2020 May;55(5):2000547.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with certain medical conditions [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Updated 2021 Aug 20; Cited 2021 Sep 9]. Available from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html
- Yisak H, Ewunetei A, Kefale B, Mamuye M, Teshome F, Ambaw B, Yitbarek GY. Effects of Vitamin D on COVID-19 infection and prognosis: A systematic review. Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2021:14:31-38.
- Jude EB, Ling SF, Allcock R, Yeap BXY, Pappachan JM. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with higher hospitalization risk from COVID-19: A retrospective case-control study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021 Jun;dgab439.
- Carpagnano GE, Di Lecce V, Quaranta VN, Zito A, Buonamico E, Capozza E, et al. Vitamin D deficiency as a predictor of poor prognosis in patients with acute respiratory failure due to COVID-19. J Endocrinol Invest. 2021 Aug;44(4):765-771.
- Peterfalvi A, Miko E, Nagy T, Reger B, Simon D, Miseta A, et al. Much more than a pleasant scent: A review on essential oils supporting the immune system. Molecules. 2019 Dec;24(24):4530.
- Mueller PS, Plevak DJ, Rummans TA. Religious involvement, spirituality, and medicine: Implications for clinical practice. Mayo Clin Proc. 2001 Dec;76:1225-1235.
- Leschak CJ, Eisenberger NI. Two distinct immune pathways linking social relationships with health: Inflammatory and antiviral processes. Psychosom Med. 2019 Oct;81(8):711-719.
- Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010 Jul;7(7):e1000316.
- Lewis D. What the health effects of loneliness say about illness and cell activity. Campus and Health News. 2016 Mar 21. UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Los Angeles.
- Hood S, Lu YYYF, Jenkins K, Brown ER, Beaven J, Brown SA, et al. Exploration of perceived psychosocial benefits of senior companion program participation among urban-dwelling, low-income older adult women volunteers. Innov Aging. 2018 Jun;2(2):igy018.
- Wakefield JRH, Bowe M, Kellezi B. Thy will be done: Exploring the longitudinal rewards of religious group membership enactment during volunteering. Br J Soc Psychol. 2021 Jun. Online ahead of print.
- Kinney JW, Bemiller SM, Murtishaw AS, Leisgang AM, Salazar AM, Lamb BT. Inflammation as a central mechanism in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement (N Y). 2018 Sep;4:575-590.
- Beydoun MA, Shaked D, Tajuddin SM, Weiss J, Evans MK, Zonderman AB. Accelerated epigenetic age and cognitive decline among urban-dwelling adults. Neurology. 2020 Feb;94(6):e613-e625.
- Koenig HG. Maintaining health and well-being by putting faith into action during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Relig Health. 2020 May;14:1-10.
- Li S, Stampfer MJ, Williams D, VanderWeele TJ. Association of religious service attendance with mortality among women. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(6):777-785.
- Ironson G, Stuetzle R, Fletcher MA. An increase in religiousness/spirituality occurs after HIV diagnosis and predicts slower disease progression over 4 years in people with HIV. J General Internal Medicine. 2006;21(Suppl 5):S62-68.
- Van Wagoner N, Elopre L, Westfall AO, Mugavero MJ, Turan J, Hook EW. Reported church attendance at the time of entry into HIV care is associated with viral load suppression at 12 months. AIDS and Behavior. 2016;20:1706-1712.
- Anderson JW, Nunnelley PA. Private prayer associations with depression, anxiety and other health conditions: an analytical review of clinical studies. Postgrad Med. 2016 Sep;128(7):635-641.