Supporting Your Immune System
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is becoming a concern for many in what has now been officially declared a global pandemic. While living in these times can be depressing as well as scary, it is important that we take this time to remember how we might take better care of ourselves and our loved ones.
How do we “boost” our immunity? As you may know, most of our immune system is located and regulated by our gut or small intestine. This is our body’s first line of defense against the outside world. This is why I am always steering people in an Anti-Inflammatory diet direction: a happy gut = fewer colds and flus.
Here are 10 tips for boosting your overall immunity and health:
1. Stay Hydrated:
Drinking plenty of water is important for our mucus membranes as well as every cell in our body. Water is the single greatest substance in human body, accounting for 50%-75% percent of an adult’s weight. Every cell, tissue, and organ requires water to function optimally.
Recommended daily fluid intake is about 2.5 quarts of water, (from liquid and/or food). 1 liter is about equal to one quart. Alternately, divide your body weight by 2 and that is the number of ounces of liquid you need per day, (example: If you weigh 140 lbs/2 you need around 70 ounces per day) There are 32 oz/quart for reference.
WHY WE NEED WATER:
– Helps regulate body temperature
– Carries out waste
– Transport nutrients
– Keeps mouth, nose, and skin moist
– Ensures adequate blood volume
– Regulates electrolytes
– Flushes urinary tract
2. Limit Your Sugar Intake:
The average American consumes upwards of 150 pounds of sugar per year. Added sugar hides in unsuspecting places such as sauces, soups, condiments and even sausages and hot dogs. Overconsuming added sugar, and carbohydrates in general, can put a strain on the body and lead to inflammation and elevated blood sugar, both of which can lead to poor immune function
3. Cook at Home:
This will be helpful for two reasons: less chance of cross contamination, and healthier food choices. New foods will help boost the biodiversity of your microbiome, and you will be able to avoid non-nutritive harmful ingredients like canola oil. It may be a good idea to stock up on soup staples like bone broth, or even make a few batches to store in the freezer. Need cooking lessons? I can help!
4. Get 8+ Hours of Quality Sleep
According to The National Institutes of Health adults need 7.5-9 hours of sleep each night, but most folks are coming in shy of that goal. Missing just an hour of sleep will keep you from functioning optimally, so if you are getting by with 6 or 7 hours a night, you are missing out on achieving your full potential.
BENEFITS OF ADEQUATE SLEEP:
· Improved mood and ability to handle stress
· Increased efficiency and creative problem solving abilities
· Anti-aging benefits, affects hormone production
· Less sugar cravings and easier appetite control, meaning you can lose weight by getting enough sleep, (lack of sleep also concentrated our hungry hormones)
· Stronger immune function resulting in fewer colds and flus
· Reduced risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer
· Healing happens when you sleep
· Increased overall life expectancy
5. Get Some Sunlight
Vitamin D is an important component of immune function, and we can be deficient especially in the winter time. Get outside for a walk for 30 minutes a day and expose your skin! This will help improve your mood and overall help.
6. Manage Stress
Stress will straight up KILL your immune system. If you stress out about becoming ill, chances are you will make yourself sick. Figure out what works for you in terms of reducing the anxiety around what’s happening. Focus on your breathing, go for a walk, meditate, call a friend, take CBD 🙂
7. Cut Back/ Eliminate Alcohol:
Speaking of stress, many of us choose to reach for the booze. Alcohol will affect both your sleep patterns and hydration. It also affects your gut microbiome negatively and promotes leaky gut by opening tight gap junctions.
8. Get Moderate/Light Exercise
But maybe skip the gym for now? Take this time to get outside in nature. Do an exercise tape at home or go for a hike. Spending time in nature has a positive effect on our immune system, especially if we interact with the soil! Physical exercise boosts our immune system by flushing bacteria from the lungs and boosting white blood cell count.
9. Include Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods in Your Diet
Prebiotics consist of fiber that is not broken down in the digestive process and provide food to your probiotic community, creating a happy an healthy micriobiome. Examples of prebiotics include: plantains, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, Kudzu root, Cassava, Marshmallow root, Slippery Elm, Nopal cactus.
Probiotics are the friendly bugs (bacteria) responsible for regulating your microbiome. You can get probiotics in food form from things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, tempeh and miso. It is also a good idea to supplement in times of stress. Choose a refrigerated supplement and rotate brands to get an array of probiotic strains.
10. Supplement with Vitamin C and Zinc
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and plays a critical role in immune function. Choose a food-based supplement or incorporate more food-sources of vitamin C in your diet such as peppers, dark leafy greens, parsley, broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts, cabbage, strawberries, citrus.
Zinc is a common deficiency among most, and is one of the most important minerals involved immune support. If you do get sick, supplement daily and boost your intake of zinc rich foods such as: oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger, and nuts.