With all the concern around the Coronavirus, we want to optimize our immune system to keep ourselves healthy and less at-risk. There are 3 fundamental ways that will have a big impact:

1. Nutrition

2. Sleep and,

3. Our relationship to stress


Nutrition is a critical determinant of the immune response. Immunity functions better when it has the building blocks it needs to do its work. Protein deficiency is associated with significant impairment of immunity, particularly for healing and recovery. Eating a variety of protein foods including seafood and fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and legumes, raw nuts, and seeds or other plant-based proteins will keep your body functioning optimally. The coronavirus creates an immune inflammatory response in your body that can wreak havoc which is why eating an anti-inflammatory diet can also be supportive by reducing or avoiding foods that induce inflammation in your body. Albeit these foods can vary with each individual the most common inflammatory foods are gluten, dairy, alcohol, processed foods, fats and oils, and sugar.

Nutrition tips:

Here are some of the nutrients that support your immune system. Always start with food first. We are only at the preliminary stages of knowing exactly which supplements and herbs are supportive and they may also vary between prevention, acute phase, etc. So unless advised by a health care practitioner, we recommend that you always consult a health care practitioner before starting or stopping supplements.

Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy. Get this immune-boosting vitamin as the preformed Vitamin A (absorbable form) from the liver, cod liver oil, eggs, and fatty fish and in the beta carotene form from sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, and red bell peppers.

Vitamin D is essential to your immune function. Food sources are Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, eggs, and mushrooms (maitake, shiitake, morels, chanterelles).

Vitamin C helps protect you from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Include more sources of this healthy vitamin by choosing citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines, or red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, leafy greens, Bok choy, and broccoli.

Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, neutralizes free radicals, and may improve immune function. Include vitamin E in your diet with sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter.

Zinc helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, sea vegetables, whole grain products, beans, seeds, and nuts.

Omega 3’s our immune cells are literally lined with omega fatty acids which are called “essential” because we need to take them in since the body can’t make them itself. Found in plants like hemp, flax, chia seeds, walnuts, and wild-caught salmon and sardines. Other healthy fats are found in deep-sea fishes, grass-fed beef, eggs, raw nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut, and olive oil.

Other nutrients, including vitamin B6, folate, selenium, and iron, as well as prebiotics and probiotics, also influence immune response, even when the deficiency is mild. By now we know how important our gut health is to our immune health thus supporting your gut health by eating prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, chicory root but also resistant starches such as green banana, cold rice or mushrooms such as shiitake and maitake which are also great for their immune-modulating properties mainly due to beta-glucans (can also found in oats).

Avoid or limit:

Sugar is a food that works directly against the immune system. It is best to avoid added sugar in general, but especially if you’re trying to fight or avoid infection.

Dairy is a mucous-forming food even for those without sensitivity, so is best to be avoided during illness or for prevention.


Allowing your body to get enough sleep and rest will support repair. If we are not getting adequate sleep, we can impact our defenses.

Sleep tips:


We know that cortisol, the primary stress hormone, has 2 primary jobs, to manage inflammation and to respond to physiological and/or emotional stress. Because the flight or fight response is more related to survival, our bodies will preferentially push cortisol down the stress pathway if given the choice. The inflammation cascade is part of the immune system. So, if stress and worry are a constant part of our day, we simply have fewer physiological tools for a healthy immune response. Fear is a natural response to something that feels threatening – like the Coronavirus however, stress is a huge contributor to immune suppression which is why it’s important to find ways to support our nervous system and not spiral into anxiety. By eating healthy foods, getting good sleep, and managing stress in whatever way works for you, you are supporting your immune health.

Tips on stress management:

Breathing tips:

Quick anxiety relief: Block your right nostril and breathe for your left nostril only. Breathe until you feel calm. Repeat as many times as necessary throughout the day.

Abdominal breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is a powerful way to decrease stress by activating relaxation centers in the brain. The abdominal expansion causes negative pressure to pull blood into the chest, improving the venous flow of blood back to the heart.

Caroline Sabbah is a clinical nutritionist and life and wellness coach with training in holistic and functional nutrition, functional medicine, genomics as well as human potential, positive psychology, and cognitive behavioural approach coaching.

Yours in Health,

Caroline, Holistic Nutritionist

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