It’s always a good idea to protect your immune system from unwanted nasties. However, we are in a time of global pandemic whereby covid-19 virus strains are a little more catchy and can have a prolonged effect on your energy levels and health. So there is even more of a reason right now to look after your health and support your immune system.
Start with the top three things on this list where you might struggle the most and work your way to through the rest, potentially with the help of a healthcare provider.
1. GUT HEALTH
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (include a variety of colours and a green vegetable daily), avoid too many processed, fried and sugary foods. Reduce ‘damp’ producing foods such as dairy, cold smoothies, refined wheat such as cakes and biscuits or anything that makes you feel more ‘mucousy’ or have more phlegm. This ‘dampness’ has a tendency to trap pathogens like viruses in the system from a Chinese medicine perspective. If you’re prone to phlegm or have a thick coating on your tongue, chances are you have too much ‘dampness’ in your body. We are now starting to become more aware of the link between gut health and chronic illness and immune health. If have chronic gut complaints, see a practitioner that works with gut health to help you get on track. It is also particularly important to eat well during the change of seasons when we are more vulnerable to catching a cold or flu.
Keep hydrated with plenty of water (boiled or filtered if possible), drink herbal teas, and a daily up of bone broth is great particularly in the cooler months. Cut down on caffeinated drinks which can dehydrate the body. Aim for at least 6-8 glasses of water a day or more if you’re sweating more than usual.
3. VITAMIN D
Get some daily sunshine or take a Vitamin D3 supplement, particularly in winter or in locations further from the equator or if you know you’re low in vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for optimal immune system function. Some food sources include cod liver oil, wild-caught salmon, mackerel, tuna, fortified milks, mushrooms, eggs and sardines.
4. VITAMIN C
Have half the juice of a lemon daily in warm water (first thing is great to kick start your digestion). A daily dose of berries are also high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Some other good food sources are kiwi fruit, red peppers, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, broccoli and cauliflower. Getting more vitamin C when you do actually get a cold/flu can also reduce the severity of your symptoms (this is where a supplement* can be beneficial).
Zinc is a very important nutrient involved in immunity. If supplementing*, go for a liquid form, or a powder in a capsule for easier absorption and have with food to avoid nausea. Some food sources high in zinc are lamb, pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, hemp seeds, lentils, chickpeas. If you’re vegetarian and don’t tolerate legumes, try adding freshly ground (to get the most nutrients) pumpkin or hemp seeds to your salads, over roast vegetables or in a porridge.
*As with all supplements, it’s best to get them prescribed by a qualified health professional as opposed to buying straight over the counter to ensure you are getting higher quality and a more absorbable version of the vitamins or minerals you need.
6. REDUCE STRESS
Take time out for yourself and prioritize the things that are important to you. Get your weekly fix of yoga, meditation, dance class or catch up with friends and loved ones; whatever ‘floats your boat’. Redefine your personal boundaries if you feel people or situations are encroaching on you negatively. Our immune system is our first form of defence against invading pathogens. Keeping the mind-body connection approach; if we are wide open to attack emotionally, we might possibly be making ourselves more vulnerable to an immune attack too.
7. SLEEP & REST
Getting 7-9 hrs of sleep a night and going to bed before 11pm is essential in protecting your immunity. It is also important to rest. This might be throwing your legs up the wall (yoga pose) and lying on your back for 10min to reset or having a nap when you are feeling more fatigued.
8. MOVEMENT & BREATH
Move your body. Aim to get some regular movement into your day. That can even be incidental by taking the stairs at work. Get outside and take a couple of deep breaths daily. If you have allergies or weak lungs look at investing in a good quality air purifier (with a hepa filter) for home or your office or taking a regular breathwork/tai chi or qi gong class.
Positive touch boosts serotonin which is important for immune system function. Get a daily hug, book a regular massage. If in isolation, give yourself a foot massage or massage natural oils into your skin after a bath or hot shower.
10. CHECK IN WITH A HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
If you a generally feeling tired, sluggish, run down or simply just not your best, see a practitioner that assesses at the body holistically. They can work on any imbalances or give you some more personalised tips and solutions to better support your health and well-being. After all, prevention is better than cure.