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Maui Bigelow

Source: Daja Hadley / Maui Bigelow/ Instagram

Initial reports about the coronavirus fell on deaf ears. The virus hadn’t affected the United States yet and I was completely unbothered. Today, as cases of COVID-19 rapidly increase in every state and more we’re ordered to stay home, my anxiety has grown tremendously. There isn’t a cure for coronavirus or even confirmed treatment that’ll fight it. The fear of the unknown has induced, in me, a panic that is damn near crippling.

How can we not be fearful of a disease that is transmitted by the most common cough, lives on surfaces and caused the death of more 21,110 people around the world? While coronaviruses have existed for years, according to WHO, COVID-19 is a strain of the virus that has never been identified in humans. The coronavirus can cause symptoms that mimic the common cold or more severe symptoms like pneumonia and kidney failure.

Even though the Coronavirus isn’t a death sentence for everyone who contracts it, there are certain individuals that are considered high-risk and are more likely to succumb to their symptoms. The elderly, individuals severely obese, people living heart disease, AIDS and other immunocompromised illnesses like cancer, are all members of the COVID-19 high-risk community according to the CDC. This makes the coronavirus even scarier for women like myself.

As a woman currently living with blood cancer, Multiple Myeloma, I understand just how vital a strong immune system is. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, I made it a habit to consume food and supplements that boost the immune system. Prior to being diagnosed with cancer in 2017, I was experiencing many unexplained illnesses that should have been indicators that my immune system wasn’t in the best shape. However, it wasn’t until I learned that I had cancer that the small aliments made sense and I begin to educate myself on how I could give my immune system a boost.

The immune system is spread throughout the body and involves many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues and is essential for our survival. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. Although I am not cancer-free, my cancer is currently in a smoldering phase, this means that my numbers are extremely low and I am asymptomatic. Since the only treatment, I have received for Multiple Myeloma was iron infusions due to a deficiency caused by excessive bleeding (thanks to a huge fibroid), I am confident that my lifestyle change deserves full credit for what my oncologist consider a great report.

I know there are millions of women like me with preexisting illnesses that are ultra-sensitive about their health during this time. With the panic of COVID-19 in mind, I am here to offer a bit of information. Below you will find food and supplements great for building your immune system to assure that your body is capable of fighting off illness now and in the future.


  • Red Bell Peppers: rich in beta carotene, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. While boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help maintain healthy skin and beta carotene promotes healthy eyes and skin.
  • Broccoli: supercharged with vitamins and minerals, broccoli is packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber; because of this, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate.
  • Citrus Fruit: With almost all citrus fruits being high in vitamin C, it is no question why it is an automatic go-to during cold/flu season.
  • Yogurt: A great source of vitamin D, yogurt brands fortified with vitamin D regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases.
  • Almonds: Rich in vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin, is the key to a healthy immune system a half cup of almonds provides 100 percent of the daily recommended amount.
  • Shellfish: Many types of shellfish are packed with zinc and our bodies need it so that our immune cells can function as intended.
  • Papayas: Packed a digestive enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects, papaya is also loaded with vitamin C. The fruit is also has a decent amount of potassium, B vitamins, and folate, all of which are beneficial to your overall health.


  • Astragalus: A prominent herb in Chinese medicine, that contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties; the root can boost resistance to infection.
  • Turmeric: While turmeric is known as a spice, it can be purchased in pill form and is a proven anti-inflammatory commonly used to treat both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Green Tea: Green tea is packed with the antioxidant flavonoids, it is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine, which aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells.
  • Black Seed Oil: Studies show that this oil offers many health and cosmetic benefits, such as aiding weight loss, improving skin conditions, and even treating cancer, diabetes, and many other illnesses, thanks to the antioxidant thymoquinone.
  • Elderberry: One of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world, elderberry is most often taken as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms. Elderberry syrup is also packed with antioxidants and reduce the level of fat in the blood and decrease cholesterol while reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Sea Moss: Like chia seeds, aloe, and okra, sea moss is a mucilaginous food. It is great for healing/soothing mucus membranes in the body, including in the respiratory and digestive systems. Sea moss also increases fatty acids in the colon, gets rid of bad bacteria in the gut, and improves overall gut health and immunity.
  • Dandelion Root: Full of potent antioxidants, Dandelion root is also packed with vitamins A, C, and K. It fights inflammation, helps control blood sugar and reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.

Understand that eating just one of these foods won’t be enough to help fight off the Coronavirus or any other illness, even if you eat it constantly but, variety and proper nutrition play a major role. Pay attention to serving sizes and recommended daily intake so that you don’t get too much of a single vitamin and too little of others.

Lastly, be sure to do your research and consult with your medical team before beginning a regimen especially if they have you on prescription medicine. Not all medicines and supplements work well together.


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How Women With Cancer (Like Me) Can Build Their Immune System During The Coronavirus  was originally published on