Immune Boosting Health Tips
With flu season already upon us and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, many people are looking for ways to strengthen their immune systems.
“Now, more than ever, we need to focus on staying healthy and keeping our immune systems working efficiently. This is a great time to take steps towards living a healthier lifestyle to protect you from the common cold, the flu and other viruses,” says Avni Jain, MD, family medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group. “Having a healthy immune system will also better help your body fight COVID-19 if you were to be infected with it.”
The immune system is a complex network of organs, antibodies, cells and proteins that work together to help the body fight infections and diseases. By staying physically active, eating a balanced diet, and taking care of your body, you can help it fight off viruses you may encounter. Check out some of our top health tips to see where you can improve your immune system.
Eat a Healthy Diet
“If you’re looking to improve your immune system, rethinking your food choices is a good place to start. Having a balanced and nutritious diet plays a critical role in your immune system’s ability to prevent illnesses and fight off infections,” says Dr. Jain.
Here are some essential vitamins and minerals that you should incorporate into your diet and where you can find them:
- Vitamin C is known for being a potent antioxidant and has positive effects on skin health and immune function. Humans don’t naturally produce vitamin C, making it a necessity for any healthy diet. It can be found generously in citrus fruits, red bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries and brussels sprouts.
- Vitamin A is essential for supporting many functions of the body, including vision, cell growth and immune function. Foods that are high in vitamin A are carrots, sweet potato, spinach, kale, cabbage and red bell peppers.
- Vitamin D works to build resistance against certain diseases while improving strength in teeth and bones. Your body produces vitamin D naturally when exposed to sunlight, but it’s also found in foods such as salmon, sardines, egg yolks, and fortified milk and yogurt.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage. You can find good sources of vitamin E in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, spinach and broccoli.
- Zinc helps your immune system and metabolism function, as well as being important to wound healing and is required for a proper sense of taste and smell. Beans, seeds, nuts, meat, poultry, seafood are all foods that contain high amounts of zinc.
Get Enough Exercise and Physical Activity
Staying active brings a lot of benefits, including improving your mood, lowering stress levels and increasing your metabolism. While it may be difficult to access the gym right now due to COVID-19 restrictions, you can still get adequate physical activity at home. Fit in 10, 20 or 30 minutes, however, and wherever you can. Try some of the below tips to get moving:
- Walk up and down the stairs for 10-15 minutes, two or three times a day.
- Put on some music and walk briskly (or dance!) around your house.
- Lookup a free exercise video online and follow along.
- Try muscle strength training. This can include push-ups against a wall, squats from a sturdy chair, or lunges on the stairs.
- If the weather is warm enough, take a walk or jog around your neighborhood.
Get Enough Sleep
Quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy functioning immune system. Getting enough hours of shut-eye enables your body to fight off illnesses and respond better to vaccines. Conversely, a lack of sleep can disrupt the immune system and make it easier to get sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends seven or more hours of sleep for adults, eight to ten hours for teens, 9-12 hours for school-age children, 10-13 hours for preschoolers, and 11-14 hours for toddlers in a 24-hour period. It may be hard to get that much sleep but there are some ways to help create a bedtime routine that will help.
- Disconnect from electronics 30 minutes before bed.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Use your bedroom for sleep only.
- Avoid caffeine or surgery drinks before bedtime.
Reduce Your Stress
As the pandemic continues, many people are experiencing increased levels of uncertainty, stress and anxiety. Whether it be from work demands, managing online learning, finances or the disruption of your daily routine, it can all feel overwhelming. Stress is easily overlooked and the amount you experience directly impacts your immune health. Dr. Jain’s tips that can help you manage your stress levels are:
- Try a deep breathing exercise. There’s a variety of free apps available for download that will guide you through deep breathing exercises to calm nerves and anxieties.
- Take a break from the media. Seek out trusted, reliable news sources such as the CDC or your state health website for the latest updates on COVID-19. Too much information can increase your stress levels. Try to limit it to once or twice a day.
- Schedule a virtual visit with friends or family. Fear of spreading the disease is valid but isolating yourself for too long can make you feel lonely. Keep up your socialization with phone calls or text messages, or use Facetime, Skype or Zoom to see your family and friends safely.
- Get creative with your hobbies. If you have extra art supplies laying around the house, use them to create something special.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help when needed. If you’re feeling like you’re unable to manage the stress you are feeling, there are many experts available to provide virtual support.
Take Steps to Prevent Infection
It’s important to note that no diet or supplement will give you immunity or cure COVID-19. It will make your body better prepared to fight infection, if you were to get it. Until a vaccine is readily available and most people have been vaccinated, continuing to follow health and safety precautions is essential. This includes:
- Proper social distancing – staying six or more feet apart from each other.
- Avoiding large gatherings.
- Wearing your mask in public and doing so properly, making sure to cover both your nose and mouth.
- Practicing good hand hygiene and avoid touching your face.
- Practicing cough etiquette, including coughing or sneezing into your elbow.
“COVID-19 is a novel pathogen, meaning that people who contract it have no existing antibodies to defend themselves. Because of this, it’s critical that we do what we can to keep ourselves healthy and practice prevention by practicing social distancing, good hand hygiene and mask-wearing,” says Dr. Jain.