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How To Boost Your Immune System To Combat Coronavirus

If you're looking for ways to fend off coronavirus or other respiratory illnesses, the good news is, you don't need to fork out for fancy supplements.

Maybe you're already washing your hands a dozen times a day, or you're trying to stop touching your face.

Perhaps you're trying to avoid unnecessary physical contact like handshakes and awkward hugs.

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Despite the warnings from global health authorities, it can feel like an impossible task to avoid touching your face with your hands.

Thankfully, there's more you can do than crossing your fingers and chugging orange juice at every meal.

John Upham, a Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Queensland, told 10 daily the way to give our immune systems a much-needed boost is not hard, and only needs some pretty standard health advice.

You Don't Need Expensive Supplements

If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by the number -- and price -- of vitamins and supplements on your pharmacy shelves, you're definitely not alone.

Vitamins claim to do a variety of things from reducing stress to boosting hair growth, but Upham said it can be difficult to determine what actually works.

Experts say you don't need supplements to boost immunity. Image: Getty

“You get the same benefits from eating a healthy diet and variety of foods," he said.

“Most people probably don’t need supplements, unless you're elderly or have an illness that affects your immune system.”

He said people become "over-reliant" on supplements, and assume they can substitute a healthy diet for a pill.

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"Harder to get into a vitamin chemical plant that it was to get into a nuclear power plant."

But supplements or vitamins are necessary in some cases, according to Professor Julie Pasco, from Deakin University's School of Medicine.

"If you’ve got a healthy, varied diet than you shouldn’t need to supplement it with anything, but if you are lacking in something, that’s where supplements can be important," she said.

'Eat The Rainbow' And Feed Your Gut Flora

Upham said one of the most essential things is maintaining a healthy balanced diet.

He said a healthy diet may look different for everyone but it essentially involves consuming foods from a variety of food groups and keeping up proteins.

Image: Getty

“A variety of foods means eating a variety of colours," he explained.

“Eating well is the most sustainable way of getting your nutrition, which we know is incredibly complex.”

If you're looking to feed your gut flora and build healthy bacteria, fermented foods are usually a go-to.

However, Melanie McGrice, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, said it can be difficult to determine exactly which probiotics -- or particular strains -- are found in fermented foods.

Image: Getty

"If someone has a concern about their immunity I'd be looking for a probiotic supplement," she told 10 daily.

"And increasing our intake of prebiotic foods [which act as a fertilizer for good bacteria in your gut] such as pasta, onion, garlic or artichoke."

She also said vitamin C, omega 3 and zinc are essential. Vitamin C is found in potatoes, strawberries and citrus fruits, she said, while zinc is in meat and fish.

Lastly, you might want to swap your morning coffee for a green tea -- McGrice said it has antiviral effects.

Exercise Moderately But Avoid Burning Out

“We should be aiming to exercise about three or four days a week so we’re not overdoing it," Upham said.

"People who are couch potatoes should obviously be doing more but at the other end of the scale, such as elite athletes, they risk burning out."

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He said people need to find a happy medium -- between too much, and too little.

“A lot of people are burning the candle at both ends, which is not benefiting their general health," Upham warned.

Additionally, researchers at Harvard Health said exercise can directly contribute to immunity by promoting good circulation.

Exercise is key. Image: Getty.

Keep Up To Date With Routine Jabs

If there's one thing you should do before winter, it's getting your annual flu jab.

While a flu shot won't prevent coronavirus, it can help officials better respond to the outbreak.

Getting a flu jab will decrease the number of flu cases, giving more time for the health system to focus on treating coronavirus patients or the very sick.

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More than 90 people have been killed during one of South Australia's deadliest flu seasons on record.

Menno van Zelm, from the Department of Immunology and Pathology at Monash University and Alfred Hospital, said a flu shot is a great starting point.

"It is highly recommended to get the influenza vaccine, which contains three or four strains that are marked by the WHO as the most likely to be forming a risk during the influenza season," he told 10 daily.

Australians can boost their immunity by keeping up with vaccinations. Image: Getty

However, he anticipates a COVID-19 vaccine will take six to 12 months to become widely available.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard agreed the flu vaccine won't combat COVID-19 but said it would help reduce influenza, which can make someone susceptible to other illnesses.

"Last year was the longest flu season on record and now we have COVID-19," he said.

Remember Basic Hygiene

Good hand hygiene is by far the most important step to avoid sickness. Everyone should wash their hands regularly with soap, and carry hand sanitiser or wipes with them, especially while travelling.

“It’s vital to remember basic hygiene, like washing your hands," Upham said.

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As cases of coronavirus rise around the world, people are going to drastic measures to protect themselves, including stock-piling on household essentials.

Van Zelm said it is almost impossible to completely avoid getting infected, but that doing simple things like limiting travel, avoiding contact with others and washing hands frequently will help.

Contact the author: elyons@networkten.com.au