These days, our concerns about “sick season” have grown beyond dreading a simple cold or flu. While nothing can make us totally invulnerable to viral attacks, strengthening the body’s nasal immunity can help, asserts physician-scientist William W. Li, M.D. “Think about your immune system as super soldiers. Different special forces do different things,” he explains. “Coronavirus enters the body by inhalation, so most of the battle is fought in your nose. If you have strong immunity, the soldiers in your nose ought to be able to tackle the infection right there.”
But how do we build nasal immunity? It’s easier than you’d think — and you may already have what you need at home. “When it comes to immunity, everyone talks about what you should be avoiding, but you can add things to your diet to boost the body’s defense systems.” Here are three top suggestions.
Best Drink: Green Tea
Everyone has heard that drinking green tea can boost metabolism — but it turns out it’s also a great way to protect the body against viruses like COVID-19. Japanese researchers report that green tea can increase the body’s production of nasal-protecting antibodies by 70 percent.
“Each day, I’m drinking green tea, which is rich in anti-inflammatory properties and shown to prevent respiratory infection,” asserts integrative physician Aviva Romm, M.D. Another plus: University of Oklahoma scientists found that drinking four eight-ounce cups of green tea daily increases the production of glutathione — an antioxidant that boosts immunity to speed recovery if you do become sick — by a whopping 134 percent!
Best Food: Mushrooms
You might be surprised to know that one of the best nasal immunity boosters is already in your refrigerator! “Mushrooms contain a soluble fiber called beta-D-glucan that activates the antibodies that protect your nasal tissues,” asserts Dr. Li. Indeed, a clinical study of people eating 1.3 cups of mushrooms per day for a week showed a 55 percent increase in protective virus-fighting antibodies in their saliva. “Most edible mushrooms contain beta-D-glucan, and the golden chanterelle, one of my favorites, has the highest levels,” says Dr. Li. Raw or cooked mushrooms deliver the same benefits. Try them sliced in a salad, sautéed as a side dish, or pureed into soups and sauces.
Best Nutrient: Vitamin D
This powerful vitamin is known to do many things that boost health — not the least of which is helping keep viruses from attacking the cells lining the nasal cavity. Studies show that ample vitamin D can reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections and pneumonia by 64 percent, and researchers in The Irish Medical Journal suggested lifting levels to enhance resistance to COVID-19.
“I am currently taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day,” shares gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D. “Taking it supports my immune system and diminishes my likelihood of severe illness should I become infected.” Dr. Bulsiewicz suggests a supplement like Life Extension Vitamin D3 5,000 IU (Buy on Amazon, $7.50), but you can get a boost from vitamin D–rich foods like salmon and whole eggs.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.