Coronavirus & how you can support and strengthen your Immune System

We’ve all been hearing from every news outlet and the CDC about the Coronavirus or COVID-19. Understandably, there is a tremendous amount of fear and confusion surrounding this global pandemic that we've all been feeling. While the advice we've been given to protect ourselves is extremely helpful, I would also like to suggest that you consider supporting and strengthening your body's first line of defense -- your immune system. Our immune system's job is to protect us and keep us healthy, and the foods and nutrients we put into our bodies can either build up our immune system or weaken it. Here are some things you can do to build and strengthen your immune system to help protect your health.


  1. We are well aware of the importance of hand washing and to wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. How can you measure 20 seconds? If you sing through the lyrics of Happy Birthday twice, that should take about 20 seconds. It’s also important to wash between the web of each of your fingers, under the tips of your nails, and all the way up to your wrists. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the bathroom door knob.

  2. As a Functional Nutrition & Weight Loss Coach, I like to use a food first approach. Our bodies need nutrients from food to support our immune systems. This is where vegetables are so important. While only containing a handful of vitamins and minerals, they contain hundreds of phytonutrients and phytochemicals that are part of the plant’s immune system. When we consume plants, we’re getting those immune benefits too. Some of the most potent include leafy greens (spinach, romaine, red & green leaf lettuces, swiss chard, NOT iceberg lettuce which is mostly water), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts) and allium vegetables (garlic, onions, leeks). These also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that help support your immune system. Cook, steam or roast these vegetables, eat your leafy greens raw in a salad or toss some into a smoothie with some fruit to easily increase your intake.

  3. On the flip side, there are foods that weaken our immune system. We want to avoid processed and refined sugar (i.e. white sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup) as these not only cause inflammation, but also weaken our immune systems (see #8). This can be difficult as we crave comfort foods to relax us in times of stress, but these foods aren't doing us any favors. Fruit can help to satisfy a sweet tooth (try a banana with some nut butter or a bit of raw honey). Try to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains (not flour), healthy fat (olive oil, avocado, raw nuts & seeds) and clean protein to protect your health and support your immune system.

  4. Zinc is a key mineral to support & boost your immune system. Dissolving zinc lozenges in your mouth may be effective in blocking viruses from multiplying. I like plain zinc lozenges or zinc with elderberry lozenges. A word of caution – do not take zinc on an empty stomach as it can cause nausea. Food sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, pumpkin seeds and whole grains.

  5. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for our immune system and is key for healing. It is also an extremely common vitamin deficiency. We absorb Vitamin D into our bare skin from the sun, but only when the sun is strong enough (which in the Northern Hemisphere is between May – September). Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection. Good food sources include fish, milk, egg yolks and liver. Vitamin D supplements can also be helpful since so many people are deficient. I prefer Vitamin D3 over Vitamin D2 (which many fortified foods & cheap supplements contain) as the latter needs to be converted by the body into vitamin D3, the usable form, which some people do not convert well. For women over 40, I like Vitamin D3 with K2 to help with bone mineralization. You can get your Vitamin D level checked by your physician with a simple blood test. If you don't know your Vitamin D level, 2,000 IUs a day with a meal is a good baseline protective dose.

  6. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant to help boost your immune system. Vitamin C helps our white blood cells to fight an infection.  Good sources include: citrus, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, peas, tomatoes and Vitamin C supplements. If supplementing, consider Vitamin C with bioflavanoids or Liposomal Vitamin C. Be careful with fruit juices as they often contain a lot of added sugar which weakens our immune system (see #8).

  7. Vitamin A is a key nutrient to support our immune system, skin, mucus membranes and eye health. Beta carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A) is found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, eggs, and liver. Beta carotene is converted in our bodies into Vitamin A.  Again, some people make this conversion better than others. If you don't do this conversion well, 10,000 IUs of fully-formed Vitamin A can be taken once a day with a meal.

  8. Even though this is #8 on my list, it is SUPER important!! Most of your immune system (60-70%) lives in your gut. We want a diverse population of good bacteria in our gut to protect us from viruses and infection. Substances that kill our good gut microbes include antibiotics, sugar and processed, refined, chemical-laden food. I always say if you can’t pronounce an ingredient or don’t know what it is, do you really want to put it in your body? You can feed the good bacteria in your gut with prebiotics (onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas) and probiotics. Prebiotics are food for the probiotics. Good probiotic sources include: fermented sauerkraut (I like Bubbies or Real Pickles brands), kimchi, kombucha, yogurt & kefir (buy plain & add your own fruit as these often contain a lot of sugar), raw apple cider vinegar & good-quality probiotic supplements.

  9. Even though this is last on my list, it is not the least important. This is critical for your immune system. We need to make sure we’re getting adequate sleep every night because this is when our bodies clean, heal & repair themselves. Without a good night’s sleep, our bodies literally do not have the energy to keep viruses and bacteria at bay. Most people require between 7-8 hours each night. The best way to tell if you’re getting enough sleep is to go to bed early enough that you don’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning.


I hope these tips are helpful to you and that you implement at least some of these suggestions into your daily routine to support your health and strengthen your immune system. 




P.S. I'm hosting a health-promoting, life-changing free online series: Secrets of Sustainable Weight Loss.  The series begins on Wednesday, April 1st. There's still time to sign up and share this information with your friends and loved ones HERE  

BodyHeal Health Coaching

 1057 Poquonnock Road

Groton, CT  06340


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