KUALA LUMPUR: As international scientists and medical experts strive to find a cure and vaccine for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov), there is also a need for Malaysians to play their part by strengthening their immune system.
Boosting the immune system would help the body fight viruses and bacterial attacks, said Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N. Ganabaskaran.
He said Malaysians should practise good eating habits and choose food that strengthened the immune system.
He said a strong immune system could reduce the risks of viral and bacteria infections.
“The immune system can help the body fight infections caused by viruses and speed up the recovery process after an infection.
“The immune system is the body’s defence against infectious organisms and other invaders.
“The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect the body.”
However, Dr Ganabaskaran, said everyone’s immune system was different due to factors such as age, eating habits and lifestyle.
“Thus, it is important to make sure that our immune system is strong and fit to fight.
“One of the most important vitamins that boosts the immune system is Vitamin C.
“A lack of Vitamin C can make you more prone to getting sick.
“Then we have Vitamin B6, which is vital in supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system, and thirdly, Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that aids the body to fight off infections.”
He stressed the importance of getting enough vitamins for a stronger immune system.
He said a healthy diet and adequate consumption of vitamins were essential for a strong immune system.
Consuming food that boost the immune system was encouraged in light of the influenza and 2019 n-CoV outbreak, he said.
He said food that boost the immune system included green vegetables, dairy products, kiwi fruit, lemons and oranges, as well as nuts like almonds and cashew, which were high in vitamins and antioxidants.
“Even cooked poultry and shellfish are important immune boosters due to the protein and zinc they provide. It is also advisable to avoid consuming half-cooked or raw food for a while.
“Shellfish that are high in zinc include crab, clams, lobster and mussels. However, observe the daily recommended amount (11mg for men and 8mg for women). Too much zinc can inhibit the immune system. Deficiencies in Vitamin D may lead to poor bone growth, cardiovascular problems and a weak immune system.
“Choose supplements that contain D3 (cholecalciferol), since it’s good for raising your blood levels of Vitamin D.”
Nutritionist Dr Sareena Hanim Hamzah said a balanced diet comprising carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, as well drinking enough water, were essential to boosting the immune system.
“Fruits and vegetables of various colours are important for the body to replenish and strengthen one’s immunity. Fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, E and antioxidants that can enhance the immune system to fight against infections and pathogens.”
She said citrus fruits and berries were among the best for strengthening the immune system. For vegetables, she recommended bell peppers, broccoli and spinach.
“However, consumption must be in moderation.
“Generally, people without any underlying health issues will not be affected by slightly higher intake, but for people who may have pre-existing health conditions or have had medical procedures done, for example to the heart, it’s best to consult a nutritionist for a customised regime.”
Sareena said besides fruits and vegetables with high Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, seeds were also essential for boosting the immune system.
For instance, she said, sunflower seeds had phosphorous, magnesium and Vitamin B6.
“Vitamin E is important for regulating and maintaining immune system function. Other foods with high Vitamin E include avocados, dark leafy greens and nuts.
“Based on scientific research from around the world, garlic, ginger, dark chocolate and green tea are also good for the body,” she said, adding that Vitamin D and probiotics from yogurt improved the immune system.
Vitamins B6 from poultry and foods with Vitamin D were recommended, she said.
Sareena urged people to practise good eating habits and stay away from processed food.
“Same thing applies to high-sugar food and drinks as they may act just the opposite and accumulate unnecessary fats or lead to other medical problems.
“To stay fit and have a strong immune system, people should complement a good diet with frequent or regular exercise for the best results.”