How to Boost Your Immune System
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With COVID-19 still a threat and the flu, common cold, and other bugs lurking, you want to make sure your immune system is ready to mount a strong defense and keep you from getting sick. The best strategy at this point is two-fold: both prevention of infection and strengthening the immune system.
The following are the top immune-boosting habits doctors recommend to their patients. Some of these help block the initial infection; others fire up your system so you’re able to get better faster if you do come down with something. All can be easily incorporated into your day-to-day routine.
Eat foods rich in antioxidants
While no food or supplement can ‘cure’ or even 100% prevent you from catching a virus like the coronavirus or the flu, some foods have been shown to help bolster immunity. Citrus fruits, red bell peppers, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, beans, and garlic all have research behind them to back up their immune-boosting claims. You can also focus on color, dark green, red, and yellow veggies and fruits will help fortify your system with antioxidant phytochemicals that research suggests fight viruses.
Work up a sweat regularly
Consider this the extra push you need to step away from the couch and onto the yoga mat: a 2019 scientific review in the Journal of Sports and Health Science found that moderate to vigorous exercise can power your immune response, lower your risk of illness, and reduce inflammation. Exercising regularly and eating healthy are some the most significant factors for your immune system.
Score consistent sleep
Maybe you’re giving sleep short shrift because you’re overwhelmed by working from home while prepping all your meals. Or you find yourself unable to nod off because of the heart-racing anxiety so many people are feeling right now. Not prioritizing your shut-eye can have serious health ramifications. There’s an association with lack of sleep and getting sick.
Wash your hands this many times
You’ve heard over and over how best to wash your hands since the coronavirus pandemic began. But it bears repeating, because it’s just such an easy and effective way to prevent any infection. Plain old soap and water is all you need, but it’s important to scrub up for at least 20 seconds, the length of singing “Happy Birthday” twice.
Use the proper hand sanitizer
If you can’t get to soap and water, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Just be sure to take a peek at the alcohol percentage first. (Alcohol is the active ingredient working to kill viruses and bacteria.) The CDC recommends using hand sanitizer with an alcohol percentage greater than 60%. (In light of the coronavirus, the CDC also says health care professionals should use hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol, two different types of alcohol commonly used.)
The bacteria in your gut may affect your body’s ability to fend off infections. Try eating foods that contain so-called “good” bacteria, organisms that are beneficial for gut health. Fermented foods and beverages—think kombucha and kimchi—are chock-full of the good stuff. You could also consider a probiotic supplement, or incorporate these recipes into your weekly meal plan.
Get enough zinc
The trace mineral zinc is needed by the body to make all of the different cells of the immune system, and for those cells to function properly. There are multiple studies that show people with low zinc are more susceptible to infection. The National Institutes of Health also associates zinc with immune functioning and wound healing.
Limit alcohol intake
Moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t appear to have any positive effects on your immune system, and binge-drinking (more than four drinks in two hours for women and five for men) has been shown to impair immunity in previous research. Alcohol temporarily increases the number of white blood cells, which are the infection fighters, in your bloodstream. But as your liver is clearing the alcohol from your system, your white blood cell numbers fall below normal for at least five hours.
Start doing acupuncture
You may not be able to schedule your first acupuncture session until your state’s lockdown order has been lifted. But it’s something to keep in mind: Research has shown that acupuncture boosts immune function by promoting the release of white blood cells. Acupuncture also has an anti-inflammatory effect and induces the relaxation response, which is helpful for patients who are understandably stressed.
Dial back stress
Unchecked stress, anxiety, worry, and panic pack a lot of negative health effects, and suppressing the immune system is one of them. Stress can increase the leakiness of the gut and can help drive inflammation and imbalance in the microbiome. Prolonged stress also drives up levels of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, eventually inflicting damage on the body. While we’re in a particularly tough time right now, you can still take some small steps to help chill and unwind. Meditation is one strategy.
Information for this article courtesy of Chelsey Hamilton and Samantha Lefave, Health.com.
The article is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Contact your physician to discuss a plan that is right for you.
Limit your exposure to coronavirus by staying away from large groups of people and anyone who has recently traveled. Watch for symptoms such as low grade fever (Below 100 degrees), headache, dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Click HERE for Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 Data & Surveillance Dashboard.
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