Let’s face it: Many of us are experiencing waves of stress and anxiety due to the current global pandemic, and for good reason. We’re here to tell you that every emotion you’re feeling right now is valid; this is the first time in history that we’re collectively experiencing a health crisis like this.
Whether you’re obsessing about how to stay healthy at such a vulnerable time or you’re frantically looking for ways to boost your body’s natural strength, the good news is that the human body is adaptable, resilient, and able to rise to most challenges.
While exposure to different viruses is an inevitable part of life, thankfully our immune systems work hard to protect us from many of them. We can help our bodies’ natural ability to ward off illness with a few diet and lifestyle changes. Here are a few research-backed tips to supporting your immune system -- naturally:
Reducing stress not only improves your overall well-being, but it can also increase immunity. Experiencing long term, chronic stress affects your physiological functioning. In fact, even loneliness and depression can weaken the immune system -- which is another reason to take your mental health seriously.
While many people are experiencing intense emotions due to this disruption in regular routine, financial struggles caused by a plummeting economy, or an abnormal amount of alone time (thank you, self-isolation!), it’s now more important than ever to put stress-reducing practices in place.
A helpful way to minimize stress is to practice daily (or hourly, if you’re struggling) mindfulness. Here’s an exercise you can try: Lie down on a yoga mat, couch, or even your bed. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Begin to pay attention to the natural rhythm of your breath. Notice the qualities of your breath: Are you breathing shallow, or deep? Does it feel effortful, or easy? Is your breath raspy, ragged, or smooth? Once you’ve noticed your natural rhythm, begin to feel your breath fill up your belly and meet your palm. Continue breathing into your belly. Begin to inhale into your belly, carrying the breath up to your chest, like a wave. On your exhalation, exhale from your chest and then from your belly. Continue to breathe this way until you feel a sense of calm.
The popular saying ‘you are what you eat’ rings true when it comes to the functioning of our immune systems.
In a study on animal immune response, evidence suggested that when they lack certain micronutrients, such as zinc, iron, selenium, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E, their immune responses are altered. While there is still little research on how nutrition affects the immune system, what we do know is that certain foods contain immune-boosting properties, such as citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, garlic, and spinach.
Unsure if you’re getting all of the nutrients you require from your diet?
It may be helpful to provide nutritional support with extra vitamins and minerals, such as those discussed above. These can be found in grocery stores and health food stores, however it’s a great idea to consult your healthcare practitioner before adding new supplements to your health regimen.
Not only does exercise help to reduce stress, feel good, and even keep the pounds off (despite being stuck inside with tempting snacks at your convenience), it may also help to boost immunity. This is largely due to the fact that physical activity contributes to good health as a whole, but also because it can improve circulation, allowing the substances of the immune system to circulate the body more freely.
Ever noticed how when you skimp out on sleep, you end up catching a cold or feel run down.
According to the Sleep Foundation, poor sleep inhibits your body’s production of cytokines, which is a protein that causes an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation. To improve your sleep quality, try turning off your electronics at least an hour before bed, limiting daytime napping to 20 minutes, and reducing your intake of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.