As we enter the cold and flu season while we are still trying to navigate the coronavirus pandemic your best shot at staying healthy this winter may lie in boosting your immune system. Here are few easy-to-implement strategies for giving your body a fighting chance to defend itself against viral infections.
The first strategy comes from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases and arguably the most widely-known doctor these days. Dr. Fauci says: Get more Vitamin D. In an interview with Business Insider he pointed out, "Sometimes people, when they don't get out in the sun a lot, they're deficient in vitamin D. [Those with low levels of vitamin D] have more of a propensity to get infected when there are infections around." He added that taking numerous multivitamins and herbs "really doesn't boost immunity." To increase your store of Vitamin D get outside to soak up sunlight when you can and when it’s too cold, too rainy, or too snowy sit by a window facing the sun. Eat more foods that are high in Vitamin D like oily fish (salmon, fresh tuna, sardines), eggs, mushrooms, and fortified orange juice.
Another good habit for bolstering your immune system is to learn to relax. We are living in stressful times. Stress floods your body with corticosteroids which suppress your immune system. AARP Magazine suggests: “Consider taking up a mind-activity such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation. If the Zen arts aren’t for you then painting or hands on hobbies can also work.” Among other stress-reducing options try practicing deep breathing, relaxing in a hot bath, listening to music, spending time alone, and hanging out with your favorite person.
While we’re on the subject of hanging out with your favorite person, there is a growing body of research that indicates that social isolation and loneliness can increase inflammation in your body. In this time when we are encouraged to social distance it may seem counter-intuitive to encourage contact, but of course there are safe ways to connect with others like video chats, Facetime, or Zoom while we wait for this pandemic to pass.
Scientific research shows that immune cells circulate in our bodies during exercise and for two to three hours afterward. Additionally, According to the National Institute of Health, physical activity may help flush bacteria from the lungs and airways, reducing your chances of getting illnesses. Choose sports or physical activities that you enjoy and every day shoot for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise that’s invigorating enough to make you breathe hard. Your immune system will thank you for it.
How you start and end your day can also help or hinder your immune system. In the morning start your day right with a high fiber cereal like Cheerios, All-Bran, or Grape-Nuts (to name just a few). AARP Magazine reports that “Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that feeds good bacteria in your gut. When the little buggers are happy, they help keep the immune system ready when needed.”
At night hitting the sack a little bit earlier can also be an immune system strengthener. Our bodies need enough sleep—at least seven hours a night—to stay healthy. Studies show that people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Getting adequate sleep time can also mean you will recover faster if you do get sick. Poor quality sleep can be just as harmful to your immune system as not enough sleep. Turn off your phone, tablet, or other electronics at least three hours before you turn in. Digital devices emit blue light which can play havoc with the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Of course there are no absolute guarantees in life but doing what you can to boost your immune system now will mean that you are much more prepared to defend against whatever bugs winter may throw your way.
This article provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information.