Boost immune response from the jab
Heading for a Covid jab this weekend for Super Saturday? Wouldn’t it be nice to have the best jab experience possible? A common query to Taupo¯ family doctors is how people can support their immune system before being vaccinated against Covid-19, says Taupo¯ Medical Centre general practitioner Dr Glen Davies. October is set to be a big month for Covid-19 vaccinations, with 33 per cent of those 12 and over lining up for their second vaccination. Dr Davies says some helpful advice has come from an Australian organisation, the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, where Associate Professor Nicolas Wood found healthy diet, movement, sleep and rest, hydration and breathing fresh air are relevant factors, leading up to and following vaccination. Professor Wood also says there is robust evidence to show the immune system’s response to vaccination is weakened by depression, stress, loneliness and poor health behaviours. He says a vaccination stimulates the immune system to mount an antibody response, so if the individual meets a virus the illness will be prevented or minimised. “There is a balance between an over and under-reaction. There is not a great deal of science on this topic of getting the ideal response,” said Professor Wood. Dr Davies says the general principles of lifestyle medicine are to assist and support the immune system in generating the right amount of immune response. He says what you eat regularly is an important factor in how your body responds to a vaccine. Dr Davies is an advocate of an anti-inflammatory diet with a focus on unprocessed foods. “Aim to eat fresh produce from a garden. Meat should be unprocessed and from animals that were recently swimming, flying or running.” Dr Davies says fresh food is typically low in sugar and high in minerals, vitamins and natural fats. “Personal favourites are olive oil, avocado, fish and pasture-fed beef.” Being well hydrated before you are vaccinated, and staying hydrated for the following two days is also important, and relatively easy to achieve. Dr Davies says there are no set rules about how much each person should drink. “At a minimum, drink when you are thirsty. And if the vaccine brings on a fever, then you should drink more.” Movement is essential for wellbeing, and Dr Davies recommends gentle exercise after being vaccinated. “You don’t want to overstress the body. A hard gym workout or long run within 48 hours would probably be ill-advised.” Before a vaccination, you should be well-rested and have had a good night’s sleep. He says the body uses extra energy mounting an immune response, and sleep and rest in the 48 hours following vaccination are important. “Using stress relief techniques like breathing and mindfulness may help reduce side effects.” A study in England has shown the Covid-19 vaccine was less effective in elderly people who were malnourished. The 2021 study published by The British Journal of Nutrition also concluded elderly people living in residential care facilities were more likely to be malnourished. Dr Davies says if malnutrition is a possible issue, then a good workaround is to take a multimineral and vitamins in the weeks leading up to and after vaccination. He says vitamins A, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E, zinc, copper, selenium and iron are all important to the immune system mounting an appropriate response. “The study showed 27 per cent to 66 per cent of elderly were found to be deficient in one or more nutrients.” Dr Davies says many people are tempted to manage pain from the jab by taking paracetamol or ibuprofen before they are vaccinated, but that is not a good idea. “There is concern that prophylactic pain relief might reduce the immune response.” He said the recommendation is to use pain relief medicine after vaccination if there are side effects such as headache, fever, chills, fatigue, and aching arm at the injection site. Dr Davies says it will help your body amount an ideal immune response if you can take into account lifestyle factors before being vaccinated against Covid-19.