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Posted On: 31 March 2020 03:10 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 09:11 am

Building your immune system during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Qatar

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With most of us staying at home during this critical time when Qatar and countries around the world are trying to control the coronavirus (COVID-19) from spreading, anxiety is high and people are stressed. We all need something to relieve the stress and we all need a way to stay healthy during this time when we can’t go out to exercise, play or just breathe in some fresh air.

Do you know your health comes from within? Well, if you don’t, let me tell you that it does, and it’s important for us all to know that we are responsible for our own health and our immunity. And, if we want to protect ourselves from contracting the coronavirus (COVID), then it’s important that we take control and do something to build up our immunity against this virus and also other illnesses.

So, where can we start?

Let’s start with what we eat!

Eat healthy food

With stress (like the stress of staying home and self-isolating, or being in quarantine), comfort eating is quite common. Most of us are staying home, working or studying, and since it’s not something we are used to all the time, some of us tend to eat, more than normal. Not only that, we often start to eat unhealthy and snack on sugars and foods with preservatives, foods that are high in fats and low in nutrition. Really not a good idea, especially right now, in the current scenario when we can’t go out like we did before, and since we don’t know how long we will have to stay at home as Qatar tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.

According to Dr. Christine Bradstreet in her post for Medium.

“The quality of your food will determine the quality of your health, and the typical diet (in Qatar) is not helping you. Nutrition is linked to your immune system directly by supplying the building blocks your body needs to function at peak performance, and indirectly by influencing your gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome is responsible for communication between your brain and your immune system. The gut microbiome also influences how much cortisol you produce. As mentioned above, too much cortisol weakens the immune response. The health of your gut biome influences the health of your intestinal wall, and that wall is a physical first line of defense against disease.”

In truth, if you’re not eating enough zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, or vitamins A, B6, C, D or E, you’ll end up with a weaker immune system that will not be able to protect you from falling ill.

Here’s how you can build up your immune system in a country where you are lucky to get a large variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, meats poultry and dairy products from different parts of the world. By eating a variety of different and colourful fruits, vegetables and berries on a daily basis, you can help get a good supply of vitamins and essential nutrients so your immune system can fight off the virus.

Boost Vitamin D

It's important to have healthy levels of Vitamin D in your body to fight off illnesses like cold, flus and respiratory illnesses. Though its well known that your body can make Vitamin D if exposed to the sun, in light of the current situation when we are all trying to stay indoors as much as possible, we are definitely not getting enough Vitamin D, especially those of us who live in apartments in and around Doha.

Food sources that include eggs, fish along with some milks and margarine brands may be fortified with Vitamin D.

According to Jillian Kubala, MS, RD in her article in Healthline:

“Vitamin D plays many important roles in your body, including promoting the health of your immune system…which is your body’s first line of defense against infection and disease. This vitamin plays a critical role in promoting immune response. It has both anti-inflammatory and immuno-regulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses. That said, some research shows that having healthy levels of vitamin D, as well as taking a vitamin D supplement, can help keep your immune system healthy and may protect against respiratory illnesses in general."

This does not necessarily mean that Vitamin D can help prevent the risk of getting the coronavirus (COVID-19), but it will help to boost your immunity nonetheless

Try meditation

At a time like this when most of us are feeling anxious, fearful and feeling stressed, we need practical ways to manage these feelings and cope with them, so they don't overtake us. Meditation is a good way to rid oneself of these negative feelings and feel peaceful. In other words, it's a great way to clear your head and increases immune helper cells (CD-4 cells) which act as a communicator to alert the system that pathogens are present.

Even five minutes of meditation is good to start with, and you can increase it gradually. Keep it all very simple; all you need is a quiet space where you can sit comfortably and some soothing, gentle meditation music in the background. There are a number of apps available for meditation along with YouTube videos as well, so take your pick and let the feelings of peacefulness take over you.

Practice yoga

According to the an article in the Times Now News written by Salome Phelamei:

"Sohan Singh, an expert in couple yoga and the founder of Sohan Yoga Internationa, (belives) the practice of yoga is essentially helpful for maintaining the digestive and respiratory systems, which can help improve your immunity. Here are two yoga poses to help strengthen your immune system, relax your mind and body."

1. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

3. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

If you've never tried yoga before, now is a great time to start. Yoga helps to reduce anxiety and stress, along with increasing your immunity and strengthening your resistance. It's a great pick me up and helps you relax and strengthen your body.

Do exercise

Too much exercise may actually weaken your immune system, but if you do moderate exercise of 30-45 minutes at least 4-5 times a day, this will help boost your immunity against illnesses. Not only does exercise get rid of the pathogens in your airways, anti-bodies and white blood cells tend to circulate much better and to even the farthest parts of the vascular system, and the release of stress hormone called cortisol is also reduced. When your body temperature increases during exercise, this can kill some viruses and bacteria.

Since, you have to stay home, exercise indoors. You can pick a bunch of videos off of YouTube and get your body moving. And, if you need some extra inspiration check out how Red Bull Qatar's Qatari high jumper Mutaz Barshim and Qatari squash player Abdulla Al Tamimi are continuing their workouts at home:

Mutaz Barshim:
Abdulla Al Tamimi:

Sleep well

Thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has taken over the world with Qatar having reported over 600+ cases to date, our lives have changed. some of us are home more than we ever thought we'd be; some of us can't see our family and friends; all of us have had our normal everyday routines turned topsy turvy, and that also includes are sleep. Now that many people are home, sleep patterns may have been disturbed and maybe some of you are sleeping late and getting up late, maybe because of stress that keeps you up, or just because you don't have to wake up as early as you did when our normal routines were intact.

Since most of us are stressed from staying indoors all the time and because we really don't know when this crisis will be over, it maybe affecting our sleep patterns, which will pull down our immunity levels. hence, it's important to maintain a good sleep pattern so we can keep our immunity up and protect ourselves from catching this virus.

Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, have put together tips to protect your sleep for students, however it can also apply to the general population in a time when their mental health and sleep may be suffering like now amidst this epidemic.

  1. Science says 7–8 hours per night is needed for optimal health.
  2. It's best to sleep around the same time and get up around the same time.
  3. Deficient sleep not only increases the chances of you getting sick, it also prolongs your recovery.
  4. Your body produces and releases cytokines when you sleep. Cytokines are proteins that target inflammation.
  5. Sleep also affects your immune system indirectly via your gut microbiome (and your gut microbiome affects your sleep).

Quit smoking

Did you know many of the deaths in China due coronavirus (COVID-19) were related to smoking and people with cardiovascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Specialists at Hamad Medical Corporations (HMC) Tobacco Control Center are advising smokers to quit the harmful habit, saying that all forms of smoking can reduce the respiratory systems ability to fight viral and bacterial infections. Dr. Ahmad Al Mulla, Head of HMC's Tobacco Control Centre, said the Centre will continue to offer support to those who are wanting to quit smoking by providing telephone-based consultations and treatment.

Dr. Al Mulla explained that residents seeking support to quit smoking can call +974 4025 4981 or +974 5080 0959 to book an appointment. He said patients will be called by one of the Centers doctors who will conduct an assessment to determine the patients level of nicotine dependence. From there the doctor will develop a treatment plan and may prescribe medication that can be collected from one of HMC's pharmacies using the automated medication dispensing system.

Dr. Jamal Abdullah, Smoking Cessation Specialist at HMC's Tobacco Control Center, said that all forms of smoking weaken the respiratory systems natural defense mechanism and make smokers more vulnerable to viral infections. He said smoking can also lead to a slower recovery from these infections. He urged all smokers to quit the unhealthy habit to experience the benefits of smoking cessation and to boost their immunity against viral infections.