Although laboratories around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, and some treatments are helping to improve recovery time in hospitalised patients, there is currently no available pharmacological cure. If infected, our best weapon against COVID-19 is our immune system. We know that lack of sleep, stress and bad habits such as smoking can have a negative impact on how our bodies fight viruses. So, what can we do to improve our immune system?

Sleep: Make sure you are getting the hours you need to allow your body to heal. Results from a study published in an American journal —in which 153 volunteers were inoculated with a common cold—showed that those who slept for less than seven hours a night were three times more susceptible to developing cold symptoms than the group who slept for more than eight hours.

Cut the Binge: We know the word ‘pandemic’ can drive stress levels up, and stress can lead to reaching for that glass of wine too often. Be mindful of your alcohol intake! A published study found that heavy drinkers have an increased risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)—and this syndrome is the most life-threatening complication caused by COVID-19.

Eat for Nourishment: Like most of us, you probably have quite a few packets of pasta sitting in your pantry right now. That—combined with around the clock quarantine snacking—is the perfect recipe for a high-sugar diet. Be mindful of our choices. A healthy immune system needs regular micronutrients and nourishment. It is proven that deficiencies in zinc, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E alter immune response in mammals.

Feed Your Gut: The microbes in our intestines are an important barrier against infection. To make sure your flora is balanced, doctors recommend eating a varied diet that is high in fibre, with some fermented foods added to it. Some good options are kefir yogurt and pickled foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut.

Keep Moving: You can’t hit the gym right now but that’s no excuse to become a couch potato. An optimised immune system requires a fit body. Search on YouTube for ‘home workout’ and you will see endless options. Breaking a sweat in your living room will reduce stress by lowering hormones such as cortisol—the same hormone which in high levels can compromise immune function.