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  • Alexandra Inman, RD & Stephanie Dang, RD

Immunity 101: Tips for Staying Healthy

For up to date information on COVID-19:

The world is currently experiencing unprecedented times. You may be wondering how to optimize your health and immune system to minimize your risk of becoming sick, as well as prevent others from getting sick. The best way to beat this virus is prevention, so what should you be doing?

  1. See below for nutrition tips

  2. Wash your hands frequently - this cannot be stressed enough. Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the gold standard for preventing transmission of COVID-19, above hand sanitizing.

  3. Social Distancing - this doesn't mean stop talking to friends and family! With current technology, you can easily get some virtual face time with friends and family. Pick up the phone to check on your loved ones during this stressful time.

  4. Self-Isolation - if you think you have come in contact with someone with COVID-19 or start feeling symptomatic (fever, cough, headache), call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and isolate yourself at home for 14 days.

  5. Sneeze or cough into a facial tissue - and then wash your hands. If you can't access a tissue, cough/sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands.

  6. Adequate rest - this can improve immunity, and help your body recover more efficiently and effectively if you are sick.

  7. Manage your stress - these are challenging times for everyone, so try to take care of yourself as much as possible. Start meditating, find a yoga class on YouTube, take a bath, do some reading. Whatever helps your mind unwind during stressful times.

  8. Exercise - there are many online exercise classes available to do at home. For example, @movement108 on Instagram is doing free Live Video exercise classes, YYoga is offering subscription online yoga programs, and Class Pass is offering online classes as well. There are also many programs on YouTube, just search "at home workouts"!

  9. Avoid smoking - because COVID-19 causes respiratory symptoms, you want to keep your lungs healthy.

Nutrition tips to improve immunity, and reduce the duration and severity of illness:

1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, plays a key role in many body functions including the immune system. Researchers found that people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood were significantly more likely to develop a respiratory illness. It is likely that a supplement is needed in order to reap all of the benefits of vitamin D, supplement doses vary from person to person. Click here to read our blog post all about vitamin D and book an appointment with us to talk about supplementation.

2. Vitamin C

It’s been a long standing piece of advice if you’re sick, reach for some vitamin C! Finally, there is emerging research to back this claim up. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and plays a vital role in immune defense mechanisms to help your body fight off infection. To ensure you are getting enough, fill ½ your plate with vegetables and/or fruit at all meals. Remember frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh!

3. Flavonoids

Flavonoids, which provide vegetables and fruit their colour, have been found to reduce your chance of getting infections, especially infections of the upper respiratory tract. A review found flavonoids are effective in boosting immune system function due to their anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-oxidant properties. Flavonoids are found in vegetables and fruit, but particularly rich sources include blueberries, dark chocolate, and green tea.

4. Try echinacea

Echinacea extract has been shown to help with recovery from illness as well as preventing the common cold. Recommended adult dosage for echinacea is 2400 milligrams per day* for prevention and 4000 milligrams per day* for treatment. You can purchase echinacea as a tablet, liquid, cough drop, and even as a tea!

*It is important to discuss with your healthcare practitioner prior to starting or changing any supplements to ensure that they are safe and effective for you.

5. Drink extra fluids

It can be easy to become dehydrated when sick, especially if you have a fever. Not only that, but adequate fluid intake can help with thinning out/loosening mucus and making it easier to get rid of. Water, tea, coffee, milk or alternatives, soups, smoothies, etc. all count towards your daily fluid intake!

6. Try hot fluids with honey

Hot fluids can help relieve a sore or itchy throat and the steam from the mug can help clear nasal congestion, as well as counting towards your overall fluid intake for the day. Honey has both antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which can help your immune system fight off unwanted bacteria and viruses. In one study, reviewed by The World Health Organization, they found that kids (already sick) who were given honey, showed more improvement than the kids who were not given honey as a treatment. (It is important to remember that honey should be avoided in children less than 1 year of age due to risk of botulism.) Honey can also act as a great cough suppressant and can help soothe sore throats. Feeling nauseous? Try adding fresh ginger to your hot tea, as ginger is a natural anti-emetic!

We hope everyone stays safe during these critical times, and tries their best to keep others around them safe as well.

If you have further questions, Vancouver Dietitians is offering online consultations via phone, FaceTime, Skype, or E-mail us to book your appointment today!


1. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials (Ernst, E., Pittler, M. H., 2000)

2. Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study (Cohen, H., Rozen, J., Kristal, H., Laks, Y., Berkovitch, M., Uziel, Y., Kozer, E., Pomeranz, A., Efrat, H., 2012)

3. Vitamin C and Immune Function (Carr, A., Maggini, S., 2017)

4. Effect of Flavonoids on Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Immune Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (Somerville, V., Braakhuis, A., Hopkins, W., 2016)

5. Cough and Cold Remedies for the treatment of Acute Respiratory Infections In Young Children (World Health Organization, 2001)

6. Self-Care for Common Colds (Rondanelli, M., Miccono, A., Lamburghini, S., Avanzato, I., Riva, A., Allegrini, P., Faliva, M., Peroni, G., Nichetti, M., Perna, S., 2018)

7. Zinc for the common cold (Singh, M., Das, R., 2013)

8. The common cold in adults: Diagnosis and physical features (UpToDate, accessed October 1, 2018).

9. Clinical manifestations of seasonal influenza in adults (UpToDate, accessed October 1, 2018)



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