With so many things being out of our control as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are naturally searching for things we can control. One of the items that comes in at the top of that list? Your immune system! From reducing stress and avoiding unhealthy habits to eating the right foods and practicing mindfulness, when it comes to boosting your immune system, there are plenty of things you can do to take your wellness into your own hands. Today, then, we’re breaking down five things you can focus on to strengthen your immune system and stay healthy in trying times. Read on for our top tips!
We’re living in unprecedented times, which makes this one a little (or a lot) easier said than done—but avoiding and decreasing stress is the number-one thing you can do when it comes to boosting your immune system. When our body activates its stress response, this suppresses our immune system and makes us more susceptible to colds, flus, and other illnesses—which, in the time of COVID-19, isn’t ideal. So, what options are there for decreasing or managing stress? We’ve got a few favorites:
- Daily Yoga: Yoga isn’t just about gaining flexibility or getting your foot behind your head (whew!). Mindfulness and breath awareness are both foundational parts of any yoga practice. A number of clinical studies have found yoga has pretty profound effects on the body’s stress response. In fact, according to a 2018 study published in PubMed, people practicing yoga saw “significant reductions in stress and all psychological health measures” compared to the control group. We recommend working a short yoga practice into your day-to-day routine as you focus on boosting your immune system via stress reduction. As yoga studios and gyms remain closed in the face of COVID-19, there are plenty of online apps, studios, and Instagram accounts that offer virtual yoga classes. We love the Alo Moves App, but you can also check the social media accounts of any studios in your area to see what online offerings they currently have. Aim for 30-60 minutes each day. If you’re looking for long holds and slow, deep stretches, opt for a Yin class. If you’d prefer to sweat and build strength, opt for a vinyasa or “flow” class.
- Daily Meditation: Ohhhhhhm. Meditation is one of our all-time favorite options for stress reduction. According to Harvard Health, there’s evidence to suggest meditation “can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.” If you’re not a seasoned meditator, not to worry! You don’t have to be a pro to reap the benefits. It’s less about getting your mind to shut off entirely (which isn’t exactly possible) and is more about observing your thoughts without judging them.
While many brand-new meditators think their mind has to be free from thought for their meditation to be considered effective, that’s simply not the case. Your goal is to sit in a quiet place and allow thoughts to come and go, without holding on to them or getting dragged down the rabbit hole with them. (Think of it like sitting on the side of a road and watching cars pass. Rather than focusing on one single car, your job is simply to watch each car pass without worrying where it’s going to what car is coming along next!)
When it comes to boosting your immune system, we recommend starting your day with 15-30 minutes of quiet, seated meditation. Prepping your mind to be calm before you dig into work or daily household duties will help you start your day off on a mindful, aware foot, which ultimately sets the stage for reduced stress throughout the rest of the day.
2. Eat mindfully.
As you focus on boosting your immune system in the midst of COVID-19, getting solid nutrition should be at the tip-top of your to-do list. A huge portion of your immune system is in your gut (80%, in fact, according to Dr. Yufang Lin). When your gut is healthy and happy, you tend to be better poised to fight off any unwelcome visitors (like viruses, illnesses, and infections). Setting the stage for a strong immune response via proper nutrition, then, is absolutely crucial when it comes to boosting your immune system and staying healthy. A few immune-boosting foods we recommend include:
- Citrus Fruits
- Vegetables (especially spinach, broccoli, and dark leafy greens)
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats (like the kind you’ll find in fatty fish, olive oil, and nuts)
- Turmeric (which—drumroll please!—is the shining-star ingredient in CFprotein, our all natural plant protein drink designed to get you all of the powerhouse immune-boosting nutrients you need in one tasty, easy-to-consume smoothie.)
3. Get plenty of sleep.
How many z’s you are (or aren’t) catching plays a pivotal role in how well poised your immune system is to fight off infections and viruses. Sleep is important for a healthy immune system in a number of ways. It acts as your body’s natural “restart” button—by shutting down at the end of the night, your immune system is able to get the well-deserved rest and crucial reboot it needs. Plus, when you’re short on sleep your body makes up for it by producing cortisol, a major stress hormone, to keep you awake. This takes a huge toll on your immune system. In fact, sleep is so important when it comes to boosting your immune system, that one 2015 clinical study found that participants who slept less than their counterparts were more likely to contract the common cold.
4. Avoid unhealthy habits.
Both nicotine and cigarette smoke itself suppress the immune system, which is why it’s so important to kick a smoking habit if you have one—especially in the midst of COVID-19. In addition to suppressing your immune system, smoking has a nasty habit of destroying antibodies in the blood, the soldiers that go to war for you when you need to fight off unwelcome visitors like infections or viruses. On top of all of that bad news? Smoking also destroys all-important antioxidants—like Vitamin C.
Smoking isn’t the only thing that adversely affects any attempts to boost your immune system, though—alcohol also plays a role in suppressing your body’s critical immune response. From reducing the number and function of important immune cells (like T cells) to interfering with the way microbes in your gut interact with your immune system, excessive drinking can take a serious toll on your overall health and your body’s ability to fight off viruses, colds, and infections. Moderate drinking (defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) seems to be acceptable—but anything more than that could play a role in weakening your body’s immune response when it’s needed most.
5. Get moving.
It’s not exactly groundbreaking news that exercise is good for you—but, with gyms closed and workout meetups cancelled as we practice social distancing, staying sedentary can be tempting. So what’s the case to be made for getting off the couch and moving? Exercise may help flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways, which can help when it comes to fighting off illnesses. Physical exercise also reduces the release of stress hormones which, you probably know by now, can have a detrimental effect on your immune system. So how, exactly, do you get your move on when you’re not allowed to gather in groups or go to your favorite gym? We recommend a few things:
- Keep an eye out for virtual classes gyms and yoga studios are offering, many of which are free via Instagram live.
- Invest in at-home workout equipment, like resistance bands, exercise balls, and medicine balls.
- Go for a walk! (A 2018 study found that 10 weeks of high-intensity interval walk training was associated with reduced disease activity and improved innate immune function.)
- Get creative with ways you can get in physical activity around the house. Walk laundry to-and-from your laundry room in batches instead of all at once. Practice lunges and squats as you’re unloading the dishwasher. Take your stairs two at a time if you have healthy joints. Do sit-ups on commercial breaks. The options are endless—it’s all about keeping your eyes open for opportunities to move!
Ready to start working doctor-trusted, patient-preferred premium clinical nutrition into your everyday diet as you focus on boosting your immune system? You can order CFpreop here or CFprotein here. And, as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to the ClearFast team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions at all. We’re always here and happy to help!