The importance of supporting our immune systems has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Google searches on how to improve immune health have spiked, vitamins are flying off shelves, and brands are marketing all sorts of wellness products.

But there are plenty of easy lifestyle adjustments you can make to help strengthen your immune response, which protects your body from infection by cells, organs and tissues working together. And New York doctor and autoimmune disease specialist Raphael Kellman, MD, told BK Reader, it is never too late to make those changes.

Dr. Raphael Kellman shares immune boosting advice. Photo: Raphael Kellman.

There’s definitely things that people can do, we don’t have to sit back and be as defenseless as we think we are,” he said.

Kellman, a leading doctor in microbiome health and the founder of Kellman Wellness Centre which focuses on holistic and functional treatment, said the top-three things we unknowingly do that compromise our immune system are drinking alcohol, which disrupts the gut barrier, not getting enough sleep, and not exercising.

He said the top three things you can do to improve gut health and the strength of the immune system are:

  1. Adding a powerful prebiotic to your routine – he recommends looking for acidophilus and lactobacillus and loading up on unsweetened Greek yogurt
  2. Eating natural prebiotic foods i.e. Jerusalem artichoke and Jicama
  3. Taking a vitamin C supplement and eating citrus (not juice)

By not eating the right foods, Kellman said we put ourselves on the back foot; and stress, smoking, excess antibiotics and a lack of sleep, fresh air and sunlight are also major contributors to weakening the immune system and increasing susceptibility to illness.

“A lot of people have nutrient deficiencies, it’s quite surprising, a lot people are deficient in zinc and vitamin D and even Selenium, and these are very crucial vitamins and minerals for a healthy immune system,” he said.

Kellman said he absolutely recommends everyone takes a low dose of zinc and vitamin D, “as basic preventative measures to keep your immune system strong,” and to look into herbal compounds and nutraceuticals that are supported by scientific research as playing “a role in counteracting various mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of Coronaviral infections.”

He said echinacea was good for general prevention, but not during infection, and there were different herbs and herbal compounds that helped during other stages of illness. He added that getting fresh air was very important to immune health, and highly recommended investing in air purifiers, and also making sure to get fresh air and sunlight.

“I do think there’s so much in nature that is so healing and beneficial, and there is a significant role that nature can play.”

Kellman said the current pandemic showed how disrupted our ecology was, and how that makes us much more susceptible to pandemic spread, and said if we restored that ecology we would lessen the chances of virulent and rogue viruses and bacteria.

There currently is no FDA approved treatment for COVID-19. And according to health experts, the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 is expected to take between 12-18 months.

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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