Viruses: why your general health is so important
Monday, 9 March 2020 | Editor
Viruses: Why general health is so important
By now most of us will be aware that Coronavirus thrives, as do other viruses, on the health of those unfortunate enough to contract it. The elderly, the very young and those with underlying health issues will be more susceptible to having difficulty fighting it just as with the common cold or any other type of influenza.
Much has been published about the need to bolster your immune system and there has been such a demand for immune health supplements that many suppliers are running short or even out of stock.
To take a longer term view, whether coronavirus exists or not, isn't the real issue that many of the problems revolve around general health? Coronavirus will not be the last of such viruses to emerge; the common cold and influenza will continue to affect us in the future. So isn't it time to seriously consider your general health and that of your immune system?
The first stop has to be eating a healthy, balanced diet. But most of us, for a number of different reasons, do not. A busy lifestyle often forces people to snatch quick meals while on the go; that often means pre-packed meals from the supermarket shelf, a quick portion of pasta or even less of a hassle, a take-away delivery. This often means a lack of important vitamins and minerals with inadequate fruit, vegetables and fibre. Underlying this is gut health. It is well know that the health of your gut bacteria is vital for both physical and mental health and an unbalanced gut leads to too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria to fight it. All this leads to general health issues and a challenge to the immune system.
Vitamins and minerals are nutrients your body needs in small amounts to work properly and stay healthy. Most people should get all the nutrients they need by having a varied and balanced diet, it is often said, but as many of us know and as stated above, this is often not as easy as it seems. Therefore many people may need to take extra supplements. The easiest way to do this is to use a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. You can see them all here.
But there is more to it than this. Different people need different nutrients: Women different from men for example; the more advanced in age different from younger people. For older people this is important because older people are more susceptible to bad outcomes if they catch a virus.
Here's some examples of multivitamin products designed for the older individual:
In the same way women and men differ in their requirements.
Multi-nutrients or women:
Multi-nutrients for men
This busy and less than optimal lifestyle often also results in a lack of exercise, which is also of course important to health.
Exercise: Good or bad for immunity?
Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. But does it help to boost your immune system naturally and keep it healthy? Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Throughout life, we are constantly exposed to new things in our gut, nose and lungs, via our food and environment, such as food additives, pollen in the air or non-pathogenic microorganisms in dust or dirt. But thankfully, most people have healthy immune systems that handle all of these invading objects with ease.
If it didn't, it would result in an inflammatory response every time you tried a new food or visited a new country with different types of trees. This would be a highly ineffective and unnecessary use of energy.
The essential task of the immune system is to maintain a balance and a diverse gut flora established in early life with many types of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, is crucial for this, as it teaches the cells of the immune system that not everything is bad.
Since balance of bacteria in our gut influences the balance of our immune system, an unbalanced bacterial flora can shift the immune system to an increased inflammatory state with a so-called "leaky gut". This inflammatory state may then affect other body systems and increase the risk of obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes and even depression.
Bad gut bacteria can lead to disease
Most bacteria are beneficial, but some are responsible for disease.
It is obvious that gut bacteria play a significant role in diseases directly related to the gut, such as inflammatory bowel diseases. Today, treatments are available to correct this and aid recovery of beneficial bacteria. Most people are also familiar with the use of probiotics especially during exotic vacations. An example would be:
Bacteria are survivors in the best Darwinian style, and they will to some extent adjust to the environment they are in. This is, for instance why resistance to antibiotics occurs. This also means that if good bacteria are removed due to for example diet or medication, some of the opportunistic commensals, or pathogens, will immediately move in and try to fill the gap. There are probiotics specifically designed to help for people on antibiotics:
Probiotics are fed by fibre. Thus, if you want your gut health to be optimum, think about fibre. There is a useful article here.