Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep your immune system healthy. With the world essentially on hold due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), protection is paramount to avoid the spread. This infectious disease, caused by a new virus, causes respiratory problems similar to the flu. Symptoms include a cough, fever, and troubled breathing. The best advice to protect yourself is frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your face, and social distancing. However, if you live with people, or need to go to the market, gas station or a job, those measures might not be enough. Boosting your immunity may help you avoid the illness, or lessen symptoms. Utilize this advice now, and during every cold and flu season.
Some of these tips are free, meaning, you only need to add, or modify certain behaviors. Others dive into supplements with the best reputations for helping boost the immune system. With regard to the lifestyle suggestions: don’t discount the little things. Go for walks, meditate, choose healthier meals. Small things add up!
Lifestyle Immune Boosting Tips
Aside from strengthening your heart, lungs, circulation and improving glucose sensitivity, exercise also boosts the immune system. Working out has anti-inflammatory effects on your body (1). It also mobilizes T cells (white blood cells) which help safeguard the body against infection (2). Too much high intensity training (like elite athletes training for competition) can actually halt these protective benefits, in part due to stress. However, daily moderate exercise, “promotes improved but transient immunosurveillance and, when repeated on a regular basis, confers multiple health benefits including decreased illness incidence and dampened systemic inflammation (1).”
Stress produces cortisol, a hormone that decreases the body’s lymphocytes. These key white blood cells help combat infection. When lymphocyte levels drop, you become more susceptible to viruses and common colds (3). The current climate of social distancing, 24-hour news reports and home quarantines make it difficult to remain calm. However, small practices like gratitude journaling, exercise, meditation and yoga really do help. Aim for a few minutes per day to start, and build up to more.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Hey, when times get tough, a glass of wine seems like the best medicine. A little something to take the edge off, right?! However, alcohol is a toxin, one that your body tries to metabolize immediately via your liver. Your digestive system and cells in your intestines become damaged, which affects nutrient absorption. So, the protective vitamins from your food don’t stand a fighting chance of protecting you as well.
Alcohol also disrupts the gut microbiome, altering the balance of good and bad bacteria. “Alcohol affects the way healthy gut microbes interact with the immune system (4).” The gut barrier becomes compromised, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood. This causes inflammation in the liver. Furthermore (and this is especially important for the Coronavirus, which attacks the respiratory system) “excessive drinking may impair the function of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, leading to increased risk for pneumonia (4).”
Eat a Healthy Diet
Look, when holed up in your home, pretzels and frozen dinners sound much more appealing than broccoli and mushrooms. But, you need the gut and immune boosting vitamins from fruits and vegetables! Vitamins A, B6, C, D and E help boost the immune system. Vitamin C, which many people know, helps a lot. Take in extra citrus fruits like oranges, lemons (sip on lemon ginger water!), spinach, strawberries, broccoli and bell peppers (5).
Lastly, inflammation weakens your immune system. Inflammation is the root cause of most metabolic disease. So, stay away from sugar, gluten and processed foods, all of which are inflammatory. For a detailed list of inflammatory foods, check out this article, or, join Phase it Up by 131 Method.
Supplements for Immunity
While you can get vitamin D from the sun, in colder months this proves challenging. This vitamin is actually a hormone that boosts the immune system by turning up or down immune cell actions. Try getting about 15 minutes per day of sun (the fresh air feels nice too), or, add this supplement to your diet.
Like we mentioned above, vitamin C supports cellular function of the immune system. This vitamin encourages the production of white blood cells, and helps them function more effectively. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant for the skin, providing extra barriers, which increases your defence mechanisms. People who suffer from pneumonia often show low levels of vitamin C. Since this particular virus affects the respiratory system, it makes getting enough vitamin C even more important. Avoid jugs of orange juice to get your vitamin C; the sugar dump does more harm than good. However, eat a range of fresh foods containing this super vitamin, and/or supplement with a capsule or powder for your water.
This mineral provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Deficient people tend to have severe dysfunction in their systems. Supplement with pills, lozenges, or eat a diet rich in eggs, seafood, legumes and nuts.
70% of your immune system resides in your gut! Probiotics help to feed the good bacteria in your gut, thus, providing immunity. These friendly microbes help protect you from bad bugs like disease-causing microbes. They also keep the lining of the gut healthy, which fights off inflammation.
Take as a capsule or tincture for a boost of antioxidants. “Oregano may also help keep your gut healthy by increasing the flow of bile (6).”
If you don’t like eating mushrooms, fortify with a concentrated supplement via capsule or tincture. The special structure of a mushroom’s carbohydrate profile helps immune cells fight infection. They also increase the production of “natural killer cells” (6). Try finding any of the following, or a blend: turkey tail mushroom, Maitake and Shiitake Mushrooms and Tremella Mushrooms.
Load up in your meals, or take a supplement. Garlic strengthens immune invaders, enabling you to better fight off common colds and the flu. If consuming it in high enough doses food seems daunting (or bad breath producing), find a good capsule, and take it daily.
This perennial bolsters the immune system and reduces some the symptoms of colds, flu and other illnesses, infections, and conditions. “Echinacea has a complex mix of active substances, some of which are said to be antimicrobial, while others are believed to have an effect on the human immune system (7).” Find echinacea in pill, capsule, liquid form or in tea.
Incorporate as many of these immunity-boosters as you can. Stay safe out there friends. This too shall pass.
Comment below on the things you do to stay in tip-top health!