Gardens can help your immune systems in the fight against Coronavirus!
For some of us, this week sees a slight lifting of lock-down restrictions and we are looking forward to extending the duration and variation of our exercise choices. For others by choice, by age or by vulnerability remaining at home is at the only option. Staying healthy is I expect at the forefront of all our minds.
How can our gardens help? Looking specifically at immunity, gardening provides a boost to our immune system in many ways.
There is strong scientific evidence that being physically active can lead to a healthier life, with an NHS recommendation of 150 active minutes/week. Gardening activities even at a gentle pace contribute towards these exercise minutes. In turn this helps develop a strong immune system that can more effectively fight off illness-causing pathogens. Specifically, exercise increases the rate of circulation and the number of immune cells
Our body needs about 7-8 hours of sleep daily to help ward off infectious diseases. Lack of sleep may prevent our body from producing infection-fighting antibodies and proteins. Not only can a lack of sleep make us more susceptible to illness, but it can also slow down our recovery. Physical exercise in the garden makes our bodies tired which in turn promotes good sleeping patterns and boosts our immune systems.
Stress and anxiety
If we are stressed or anxious our body produces a hormone called cortisol and overtime having too much cortisol in our bloodstream decreases the bodies immune responses. Stress also decreases the body’s production of infection protecting white blood cells.
Simply viewing your garden through the window and even better stepping out into your garden for a stroll around has been shown to reduce stress. Even better still, having the opportunity to create and develop one’s own garden has been shown to further decrease stress and boost immunity!
Unproven but much talked about is the link between vitamin D and a reduced risk of Coronavirus. We can, however, be certain that increased exposure to sunlight increases Vitamin D levels and in turn, this bolsters the immune system by lowering levels of cortisol. So not only can your fruit and vegetables benefit from a daily dose of garden sunshine, but so can you!
Studies have found that gardening produces health benefits by exposing gardeners to a non-pathogenic bacterium in the soil called Mycobacterium Vaccae. These bacteria activate serotonin in the brain, as well as infection-fighting T-cells and cytokines. Regular exposure to harmless soil bacteria supports a healthy immune system, by training the immune system to ignore harmless bacteria in the body and target illness-causing pathogens, instead.
Grow your own food!
Finally one of the best ways to boost immunity and protect against illness is to eat well. Foods that contain vitamins such as A, B-6, C, E and Zinc all improve our immune responses. Not too tricky to grow and tasting fantastic fresh from the garden broccoli, garlic, spinach, cabbages and peppers are all great contributors to a healthy immune system diet.
So gardens can help boost our immune system, maybe small individual steps that we can take to turn the tide on Covid 19 and support our nationwide resolve to Stay Alert and Stay Safe.