In the context of the current pandemic, the words "virus", "contagion", and "outbreak" are often used. These words relate to our immune system, that is, to our ability to defend ourselves against infection. This is made possible by an army of cells that are activated when our lives are threatened by unwanted microbes.

To minimize the transmission of the coronavirus, there has been a lot of emphasis on preventive measures, such as hand washing and social distancing, which arguably have helped to better contain the spread of the virus and avert a more catastrophic scenario. However, public authorities do not mention anything beyond these measures to help everyone strengthen their immune system. And yet, there are other elements to consider and the population would greatly benefit from being better informed.

First, in tems of food, it is well documented that a healthy diet can help fight infections. Certain foods can have a greater influence in this regard1, as for example:

- Vitamin C (brocoli, red and green peppers, cauliflower, oranges, kiwis...)
- Vitamin D (salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, eggs, cow's milk...)
- Iron (red meat, fish and seafood, eggs...)
- Garlic, onions and leeks.

Regular physical activity can also help bolster our immune system. This is mentioned in several studies. The confinement experienced over the past few months has certainly not helped most of us stay in shape, but it may have highlighted the body's need to move in order to maintain optimal health.

The other aspect which is still neglected in terms of prevention is the psychological aspect. It is well documented scientifically that so-called "negative" thoughts can affect our immune system and make us more vulnerable to infection2. In other words, heavy emotions (sadness, frustrations etc.) as well as fears and accumulated stress can affect our immune system and impact our ability to defend ourselves against viruses. But how can we better manage our emotions and stress in the current context?

There are several therapeutic approaches that can help to better cope with the overwhelming anxiety that one can sometimes experience and that bring about a better internal equilibrium. These would include psychology, acupuncture, osteopathy and breathing-meditation techniques such as yoga, Qi Gong etc. These approaches help us become aware that the physical body can be affected when stress accumulates in our daily life. Our ability to defend ourselves against infections may consequently be reduced.

So, to strengthen our immune system, the following elements should be considered: a healthy diet, regular physical exercice and good stress and emotional management. Even though it can be difficult to integrate new lifestyle habits, given that our daily lives are often very busy, it is by making our health and well-being a priority that we can achieve this.

Martin Moisan, M.D.
Kanesatake Health Center
12, Joseph Swan
Kanesatake (Québec)

1. What foods should we consume to boost our immune system?

1. Foods that strengthen immunity

2. The study "Stress, Immunity, and Health: Research Findings and Implications" mentions that psychological stress suppresses various parameters of immune function and, consequently, causes diseases.

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