5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System for Further Protection from the Coronavirus
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (don’t forget the fingertips). Cover your coughs and sneezes, though not with your hands. Stay home if you’re sick. Self-quarantine if you’ve been exposed. Disinfect.
This is all good advice and we’re hearing it repeatedly as the coronavirus is spreading.
But what’s missing from many media reports is information on how to boost and support our immune systems so that, if we are exposed to the virus, our chances of getting sick are decreased or, if we do experience symptoms, they will be milder and lead to a quicker recovery.
Below are five key ways to best support our own immune systems and those of our loved ones.
1. Don’t Panic and Manage Your Stress
I’m not going to lie. The idea of a surging pandemic that could shut down life as we know it and potentially kill the people that we love is scary stuff. That the information we are being given is often conflicting doesn’t help. However, it’s important to not obsess about the updates, take the appropriate precautions suggested by the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, and keep in mind that most people who do get the virus (provided they don’t fall into a high risk category) will most likely experience mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover.
Managing your stress can take different forms and is an important asset to maintaining a strong immune system. Why? Because each time our fight-or-flight response is set off, our immune system takes a hit. Even before the Coronavirus struck, most of us were walking around chronically stressed. Now that the virus has arrived, stress levels are also, understandably, rising. So regularly employing stress management techniques throughout the day becomes even more important.
Some steps to consider:
- Limit the news: stay updated about what’s going on, especially in your area, but once you have the information you need, turn it off.
- Practice mindfulness techniques: mindfulness is present moment awareness. What we are so good at is mindlessness. However, when we are fully in the present moment, anxiety subsides. You can do this by taking breaks throughout the day to find five blue (or whatever color you choose) things in your environment; rubbing your hand along your arm, paying attention to how the cloth beneath it feels; or focusing on how the sky outside your window looks. The options are endless, and your mind and body will thank you.
- Breathe: taking several deep breaths at various times throughout the day can be grounding and get you out of fight-or-flight mode. I like to do this while I’m waiting for the light to change as I’m out and about. If you’re home or in your office, set a timer on your phone to remind you to check in and breathe.
- Relax, laugh, and have fun: play games with your family, watch a comedy or funny videos on YouTube. Personally, I love watching animal videos on YouTube. When I’m feeling stressed, a five-minute video of their crazy antics quickly sends my body into relaxation mode.
2. Make Sure You’re Getting Your Zzzs
A good night’s sleep is necessary for our health on many levels, including our immune systems. Ensuring that you’re getting a solid 7-8 hours a night is ideal. If you aren’t, consider what’s preventing you from doing so and take steps to address it.
Avoid watching the news right before bed and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Keeping your bedroom on the cooler side and free of cell phones, computers, and televisions giving off blue light can help. If caffeine has a negative effect, consider abstaining altogether or limiting to having none beyond noontime. Follow up with your health care provider if pain or hormonal issues are playing a role in disrupted sleep. If light and noise is an issue, consider a sleep mask and ear plugs. Warm baths before bed, meditation, and following the other suggestions throughout this article can also be beneficial towards improving sleep.
3. Clean Up Your Diet
If you’re like most Americans, your diet could probably be improved at least a bit. Most of us know that we should be limiting processed foods and sugar or, even better, not eating them at all, and including more vegetables and healthy fats into our diets. Given our busy, stressful lives, it’s easy to go to whatever’s quick and simple to make or grab. But loading our bodies up with processed foods and low-quality foods increases inflammation in the body and our immune systems take a big hit.
Just taking steps to remove or severely limit sugar (it’s in everything) and adding some additional servings of non-starchy vegetables each day can go a long way to improving the immune system.
4. Get Moving
I know. I know. We hear it all the time but regularly fitting it in can be challenging for some. But exercise is an important and necessary activity for our overall health. Among its many benefits, it helps to strengthen the immune system and manage the effects of stress. Finding an activity that you can engage in regularly will go a long way to boosting and maintaining your health.
You don’t have to train for a marathon. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the store or your office building, or dancing around as you clean the house can be helpful. Like to binge watch Netflix to unwind? Why not add some stretching, lifting light weights, or jumping on a mini trampoline? Our bodies were made to move and yours will be happy when it does.
5. Consider Supplementing
There are a number of supplements on the market claiming to boost the immune system, so do your research and talk with your medical provider before taking anything to make sure they aren’t contraindicated for any medical condition you have or interact with any medications that you are taking.
Some to consider:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
As is so often the case in life, there are no guarantees that taking the above steps will fully prevent you or your family from coming down with the Coronavirus or any other illness for that matter. However, making daily decisions that best support our immune systems can potentially make a big difference as to how severely we are affected by any illness.
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