With all of the chaos that is currently surrounding and consuming our lives, there is no better time to focus on and fine tune your personal health. Now, more than ever, it is essential to do everything we can to boost our immune system, as it is the center of disease fighting and protection in the body. As we age, our health status declines, but it does not have to. Everyday practices can be used to protect and boost our immune system, which should be implemented not just in times of panic, but year round, to promote longevity and a healthy life.
Wash Your Hands
The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing your hands with soap before, during, and after preparing food, before eating, caring for someone who is sick, treating a wound, and after using the toilet, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, touching an animal or their food, and lastly, after touching garbage. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, sing Happy Birthday twice or your favorite song chorus a few times. Being conscious of washing your hands for the appropriate amount of time will make a difference in your overall contribution to the spread of germs. Washing your hands with soap is essential as people are more likely to scrub their hands when using it. It is also critical that you dry your hands after washing them as germs can be more easily transmitted through wet hand to hand contact (2019). Studies have found that using hot water does not kill more bacteria and is less sustainable, so keep that in mind next time you wash your hands/dishes/clothes/etc…(Patterson, 1970)
As supermarket shelves dwindle in products, hand sanitizer remains to be a scarce commodity. If you have managed to get your hands on some hand sanitizer, you should be aware that there has been no evidence that it does a better job at protecting you against harmful bacteria than soap. (2020)
Take Your Vitamins
Vitamins are a great way to get more nutrients into your daily diet. The best immune boosting vitamin is vitamin C, which can be found in oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli. Eating a wide variety of foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables is great for maintaining a healthy diet and promoting a strong immune system. Including foods like spinach, nuts, and seeds in your diet will give you a healthy dose of Vitamin E. These will help your body fight off infection and provide you with beneficial antioxidants.
Vitamin B6 is found in chicken, salmon, and tuna, and plays a major role in proper immune function. If you are feeling tired or have low energy, you could be missing essential B vitamins in your diet. For a plant-based option, chickpeas are jam packed with B6 and make for a great snack. Try tossing chickpeas in some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven, or make your own hummus dip at home. What better time is there to introduce a new food into your diet that can help strengthen your immunity and promote a healthy diet than right now? (Team, 2020)
Staying cooped up inside may do you more harm than good. By all means, avoid large groups of people and practice social distancing as recommended. But getting a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine will help aid in maintaining your health as the production of Vitamin D can balance your hormones and overall improve your mood. Vitamin D3 is essential for a strong immune system and fighting diseases, but as it is derived from animal products, people who follow the vegan diet should be aware and find alternative ways of getting this source (2019). Supplementing with Vitamin D in the form of a capsule or liquid may also do the trick.
Another very important immunity supporter is Zinc, a trace mineral that even in small amounts begins to benefit the body by protecting it against viruses and bacteria. It also is necessary to create cells and fix broken ones. Zinc fights against inflammation and begins the process of healing wounds. Deficiencies tend to be due to malnutrition or poor appetite, but can be supplemented in foods high in this mineral. Foods such as: oysters, crab, lobster, beef, chicken, pork, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains are great sources of zinc. Supplements are also available in the form of pills and lozenges, but check with your healthcare provider before self-diagnosing yourself as deficient (2019).
Stress plays a major role in immune system dysfunction, and sometimes, more than others, we feel out of whack for no reason. Short periods of stress can actually be beneficial in terms of helping us cope during difficult times. As cortisol levels spike, inflammation can be temporarily paused, but over time stress can decrease the body’s number of white blood cells which are necessary for fighting off infection (Team, 2019). In short, finding ways to reduce everyday stress, such as yoga or meditation, is essential to maintain a functioning immune system. Daily mindfulness and meditation has shown to reduce stress hormones and inflammation. Similar to meditation, yoga also reduces stress hormones and improves our overall wellbeing.
Eating the right nutrient dense foods, practicing mindfulness and meditation, fresh air, and practicing good hygiene are just some ways to attain a stronger immune system. Following these tips and weaving them into your everyday life is an important step towards improving your life and immunity. Share them with your friends, loved ones, and community to begin your journey to wellness.
Patterson, J. (1970, December 10). Use water at ‘comfortable’ temperature to wash hands and fight global warming. Retrieved from https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2013/12/10/wash-hands-with-cool-water/
Keeping Hands Clean. (2019, December 04). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/handwashing.htm
How Effective Are Hand Sanitizers? (2020). Retrieved from https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/does-hand-sanitizer-work
What’s the difference between vitamin D2 and D3? (2019, September 25). Retrieved from https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/vitamins-and-supplements/vitamins/vitamin-d/vitamin-d2-d3-whats-difference/
Zinc. (2019, November 1). Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/zinc/
lTeam, V. (2020, January 06). 3 Vitamins That Are Best for Boosting Your Immunity. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/3-vitamins-best-boosting-immunity/
Team, Vascular. “3 Vitamins That Are Best for Boosting Your Immunity.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 6 Jan. 2020, health.clevelandclinic.org/3-vitamins-best-boosting-immunity/.
Team, J. (2019, January 02). What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out? Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/