Boosting the immune system
A strong healthy immune system is key to staying well, fighting off germs and avoiding illness. In addition to practicing social distancing and proper hygiene, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are huge factors to keeping germs at bay.
1. Eat a healthy diet
-Use spices such as turmeric, garlic and ginger. You may already know that these spices can reduce inflammation and ease chronic pain, but they also support immune system function.
recipe: Ginger Garlic Salmon
-Eat more vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables and brightly colored antioxidant rich vegetables. recipe: Cauliflower Risotto
-Try a variety of mushrooms, especially the Asian variety such as shiitake, maitake and oyster
-Eat antioxidant rich fruits, keeping higher sugar fruits to moderation (tropical like bananas and pineapple, and dried fruit
-Have a nutrient rich breakfast that includes protein
-Eat foods rich in zinc and selenium, such as fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, nuts, seeds and beans. recipe: Shellfish Paella
-Insure with supplements – take a good quality multivitamin and additional vitamin C daily.
2. Get some sun and take vitamin D
Since it’s now springtime, get outside! Even though we are practicing social distancing, take this time to enjoy outdoor activities. Getting just 15 minutes of sun on face and arms daily can help give you a boost. If you plan to be in the sun longer than that, make sure to use sunscreen, sleeves and a hat for protection from harmful UV rays.
In addition, take 1000iu of vitamin D daily. Depending on where you live (pretty much north of Florida) you may still not be able to make enough vitamin D from sunshine alone.
3. Manage stress
A pandemic can be scary. But panic buying, hoarding and watching the news all day won’t do your immune system any favors. The mind/body connection is very powerful, and if you stress about getting sick, chances are you will get sick. You may have genuine things to be concerned about, such as loss of income due to shelter in place, so don’t add to your worry by stressing over things you have no control over. Instead, try to make contingency plans to help solve your temporary issues and then move on. Having a plan can make things a lot easier.
In addition, practice stress management regularly, even if you don’t think you are stressed. Here are some ideas:
-have family members give each other mini-massages / shoulder rubs
-listen to music, and sing!
-take a warm bath with Epsom salts and/or aromatherapy. Essential oils like lavender and chamomile can help you relax
-laugh! Studies have proven that laughter is awesome medicine! You are isolating at home, so put on a funny movie and giggle away!
4. Sleep and rest
Sleep is when your body and mind heal. Getting enough rest is crucial to a strong immune system. Maintain a bedtime routine in a comfortable serene bedroom, and turn off electronics an hour before bed, allowing your brain time to "power down".
And if you need it, take a catnap! You’re home anyway so enjoy!
5. Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water. Try herbal teas with herbs that strengthen the immune system, such as echinacea, ginseng and dandelion. Don’t consume echinacea daily unless you are sick – you want more “bang for your buck” when you need it. If you have any medical conditions or take prescription medications, always check to make sure there are no contraindications when using herbs.
6. Get regular exercise – this is the perfect thing to do when you are outside getting your vitamin D, or you can dance while you are listening to music to reduce your stress. You can also try an exercise video or do strength training. Don’t have equipment? Use household items for weights! Also try yoga and tai chi – these will give you exercise but help with stress as well.
7. Keep your gut healthy! Your gut plays a role in your immune system. Eat well, take probiotics and consume fermented foods. recipe: Tutti Frutti Tummy Love Smoothie
8. Don’t smoke and avoid alcohol. There are many jokes going around about stocking up at the liquor store on essentials for quarantine. This is not a time to stay home and drink. Alcohol and smoking can and will wreak havoc on your immune system, making you more vulnerable.
9. Avoid sugar. Don’t panic buy junk food. Sitting around the house eating junk will surely pack on the pounds. Sugar is also a well known immune system depressant. You cannot possibly stay your healthiest when you are feeding your cells sugar.
10. Practice good hygiene and food safety. Wash those hands and store and cook your food properly! Now isn't the time to take chances!
Stevie Winsborrow is a professional chef, functional and integrative nutritionist and holistic health coach, as well as a published author, TV and radio personality and Editor In Chief of Align Body & Soul magazine.