© Lisa Haensch

COVID-19: Tips to stay healthy

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The  current news  is  all about  COVID-19. The challenge is to slow down the spread of the virus and to protect our healthcare system from overburdening. We have  found several studies which are dealing with viral infections. Our immune system is our protective shield against germs like viral pathogens. Our immune cells act as our body´s defense. Especially, spinal cord injured people are highly at risk to suffer from the coronavirus infection, as a spinal cord injury  per se  leads to a weakness of the immune system.  The following advices will help you to strengthen your immune system and to stay healthy.  

Balanced diet  
A huge part of the immune system is in the gut, so when it's healthy we can fight off a virus better. In general,  people should focus on the Mediterranean style of eating, which means a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats (found in foods such as fish, nuts and olive oil). It's also important to limit meat, while including fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso and kefir in the daily diet. Such a balanced diet should provide the body with all the vitamins needed to maintain a healthy immune system.  In the winter season, however, a vitamin D deficiency can occur due to the lack of sun exposure. This can be temporarily remedied by integrating supplements. Vitamin D supports our body´s immune system, metabolism, bone structure and mood. 

Enough sleep   
Sleep-deprivation increases the level of stress hormones. In order to keep your body at peak efficiency for the long term, the body needs enough rest. Numerous studies have linked the quality of sleep to the capacity to fight off diseases.  Limited stress   Under chronic stress or anxiety, the body produces stress hormones that suppress the immune system.  If stress hormones permanently affect our body, receptors become more resistant. This means that the body is less likely to react to potential inflammations. Setting up a daily routine, with fixed activities that also include breaks and sport are essential in staying mentally healthy as it reduces the production of stress hormones. Meditation or breathing exercises can also help if done regularly.   

Physical activity 
Sport activates various immune cells, reduces stress hormones and thus strengthens our mental health. Working out is a powerful way to get or maintain a healthy immune system. The usual recommendation is 30 to 60 minutes of exercise several times a week. However, after a spinal cord injury the recommendations for physical activity must be adapted to the se verity  and level of injury.  


Especially in these days, strengthening the immune system is extremely important in order to stay healthy, regardless of whether you had a spinal cord injury or not. 


Sources: Maijo M, Ivory K, Clements SJ, Dainty JR, Jennings A, Gillings R, Fairweather-Tait S, Gulisano M, Santoro A, Franceschi C, Carding SR, Nicoletti C. One-Year Consumption of a Mediterranean-Like Dietary Pattern With Vitamin D3 Supplements Induced Small Scale but Extensive Changes of Immune Cell Phenotype, Co-receptor Expression and Innate Immune Responses in Healthy Elderly Subjects: Results From the United Kingdom Arm of the NU-AGE Trial. Front Physiol. 2018 Jul 26;9:997. 
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