We all need to be on our top immunity game right now. The changing seasons, stress at an all-time high, it all adds up to one thing – we need to ensure our immune systems are in their best working order. Here are 3 easy ways (and a few extra tips) to support your immune system at home.
Eat the rainbow in fruits and vegetables
If you want a fighting chance at warding off illness, you need to supply your body with the tools needed to protect you from outside toxins. Your immune system needs a variety of vitamins, essential nutrients, and minerals to protect healthy cells, to support the growth of new cells, and to create antibodies (1). Like a car without gasoline, oil, or transmission fluid, your system – without these basic pillars of nutrition – cannot run like a fine-tuned machine.
If you know you or your family will struggle with a diet overhaul and will derail before you get momentum, don’t go with a drastic change. There are many ways to insert nutrition into your day without upending your life. Work in one vegetable, one fruit, or one lean meat at a time. Start taking a supplement to help boost your immune system. Drink an immune-boosting tea. Grab a glass of water and mix in a vitamin drink mix. There are plenty of options for you and your family. Also, try as hard as you can to reduce your intake of sugar and processed foods. They won’t help to protect your immune system and could throw off your gut balance (1).
Move your body
It can be tough to work out when you’re used to using a gym, participating in group sports, or when you don’t have a working knowledge of fitness. You’re not alone. But this is where you must make the choice for yourself. If your health is a priority and you want a strong immune system, it’s very important to start including some movement in your day (4). If you’re not a beginner and just need the extra push, here it is! Call a friend and make a plan to get consistent. If you’re a beginner, here are a few ways you can start.
- Set an alarm for a time when you would normally be sitting around – and plan for at least 30 minutes of movement.
- Set a goal and start low and slow. Fitness isn’t achieved in one day, one week, or one month. It takes time – so choose a realistic and concise goal and stick to it. Examples: Work out 4 times a week by walking around the block. Complete 3 days of online yoga a week and 2 days of jogging in the yard.
- Stretch and massage out sore muscles. It’s inevitable that when you start pushing your muscles, they will feel sore. Don’t quit. Drink lots of water, stretch without straining after your workout, and massage sore spots. This too shall pass.
- Create variety. Start with walking, jogging, or another low impact exercise like yoga. As you get more comfortable with working out, you can venture into working out each muscle group. You can choose if you want to do body weight exercises that don’t require extra weights, or if you have access to weights you can try weight training. If you don’t feel comfortable with starting this on your own, look online for a trainer, tutorial, or program like Insanity® or P90X® that can guide you.
Tune-in that circadian rhythm
When we spend more time indoors and aren’t getting outside as often, it may be easy to slip into late nights, even later mornings, and a bit too much lounge time. That can really impact your natural sleep/wake cycle AKA your circadian rhythm (2). The use of artificial light may trick your brain into thinking it’s not yet time to produce melatonin, the natural sleep-inducing hormone (2). To prevent issues with sleep and exhaustion, set some boundaries and rules around sleep. Go to bed around the same time each night, avoid using your phone in bed, and wake around the same time each day. Getting good rest is extremely crucial for a healthy immune system because your body and brain repair themselves while you sleep (3).
This advice may seem basic, and well… it is. That’s because if we’re being honest, many of us aren’t following the basic principles of wellness. It can be tough to put health first when we are distracted with the stress of the world, our community, our families, or even our own lives. Forgive yourself and start new each day to build your immune system and give your health a fighting chance.
While these tips are great for supporting a balanced immune system, it should be noted vitamins and supplements cannot prevent you from contracting COVID-19 (or most other common viruses) nor can they treat or cure them. It’s important to keep social/physical distance, quarantine if possible, wash your hands thoroughly, and refrain from sharing food or beverages with others. Combining these immune-boosting tips with government recommended advice on COVID-19, a balanced diet, consistent sleep patterns, and daily acts of self-care will have you performing at your very highest level.
1: Nutrition and Immunity – Harvard School of Public Health
2: Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood
3: The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease
4: Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions