Looking to boost your immune system? With most of society currently staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19, many of us are wondering what we can do to strengthen our immunity to these types of viruses.
First, it’s important to understand that taking a mega-load of vitamins can’t boost your immunity in a matter of days. Rather, a healthy diet and habits build up and improve your immune system over time.
That said, it’s never too late to get started!
While there is no magic pill that will coat your immune system in an armor of protection, there are important ways you can take care of yourself and boost your immune system through diet, rest, exercise and stress management.
Foods and Vitamins that boost your immune system
A healthy, immune-boosting diet should be high in fiber and consist of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed and sugary foods. Each day, you should be eating a rainbow of color in fresh produce.
And, ideally, you’ll want to eat a variety of fresh veggies and fruits that supply your body with the following immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.
VITAMIN A: High in helpful carotenoids, you’ll find vitamin A in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash.
VITAMIN B6: Find it in salmon, tuna, leafy greens and chickpeas.
VITAMIN B12: While B12 can be found in salmon, yogurt, eggs and meat, it’s harder to get for vegetarians and vegans. If you avoid meat and eggs in your diet, be sure to supplement B12 with a quality supplement to avoid deficiency.
VITAMIN C: Long heralded as a friend to the immune system, Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, kale, spinach and broccoli. Try to get it through whole foods rather than a supplement.
VITAMIN D: Many Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, especially in regions that don’t get as much sunlight. What’s more, studies have shown that people who take in high doses of Vitamin D are 40% less likely to develop respiratory infections. Be sure to eat plenty of foods that contain Vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, fresh eggs and mushrooms. Cod liver oil is also an excellent supplement.
VITAMIN E: A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds and dark greens such as spinach and broccoli.
ZINC: Zinc is an important mineral to your immune system. Get this essential trace element in yogurt, salmon and eggs.
A high-quality probiotic is also a great way to keep your gut health happy and increase immune health. You’ll find it in fermented foods such as Greek yogurt, kimchi and kombucha. If you opt for a supplement, look for one in the refrigerated section at your local nutrition store, and be sure it has a wide variety of strains and cultures available.
And avoid alcohol and sugar whenever possible. Excess alcohol consumption wears down the immune system, as it reduces the number of microbes in the gut microbiome. And sugary and processed foods can really wreak havoc on your entire system.
The importance of rest, relaxation & exercise
Many studies have shown that stress and lack of quality sleep are major factors contributing to health problems and disease.
While the coronavirus outbreak has stress levels high for all of us, we don’t have to let that stress go unchecked. Now more than ever, it is crucial to have a solid stress management plan in place and to create healthy daily habits to foster a sense of peace and wellbeing.
Check in with yourself throughout the day to focus on taking long, deep breaths. Make a mental checklist of everything you are grateful for. Start or maintain a mindfulness meditation routine. And be sure to practice self care, whether that is a hot bubble bath or a morning yoga session.
It’s also incredibly important to get enough sleep each night. Aim for 7-8 hours per night for optimal health and stress management.
If you find anxiety keeping you awake, you can try a natural supplement like CBD or melatonin, or, do a yoga session and or exercise routine just before bed to tire your body and brain. If insomnia or restlessness persists, consult your physician.
And speaking of exercise — be sure to get at least 20-30 minutes of moderately strenuous activity per day. Whether that’s a brisk walk or job around your neighborhood (maintaining appropriate 6-foot social distancing), a run on the treadmill or a yoga session, keeping active is key to heart, lung and immune health. Plus, it’s a natural stress reliever!