The modern landscape of how we live, work, and play has changed forever. Our oldest living citizens can recall similar times in history, yet, for the vast majority, this is a new frightening picture of what it feels like to face an unstoppable public health crisis head-on. While social distancing, face coverings, frequent handwashing, and other personal protection activities can help reduce the risk of infection, there are no guarantees or magic bullets. Although there is still a lot that we don’t understand, there are things you can do to keep your body’s immune system at its healthiest. A strong immune system is crucial for you and your loved ones during this time.
Eat healthy from A-Z
From apples to zucchini, a colorful diet grounded in plant-based foods will give your body the vitamins, minerals, and other powerful compounds to support its natural defense systems. This includes helping to create infection-fighting cells in your body and acting as antioxidants to keep chemicals (both natural, such as free radicals, or environmental) from harming cells and tissues. Beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and zinc are just some immune-boosting nutrients, and they can be found in a range of foods such as sweet potatoes, mangoes, kale, and nuts.
Does eating a grapefruit for breakfast, carrot sticks at lunch, and broccoli for dinner make you cringe? The answer may depend on the recipe. The web is full of ideas for bringing flavors to life (and mixing in fiber-rich grains for gut-health). And don’t forget that protein packs a powerful punch too. Lean meats, dairy products, and seafood all contain essential amino acids (building blocks) for building muscle, repairing damaged cells, and supporting the immune system functions of vitamins and minerals.
Be active throughout the day
Engaging in ongoing regular physical activity has heart health benefits, supports weight management, improves flexibility and range of motion, and helps with regulating body systems (e.g. blood pressure, temperature, digestion). All these benefits reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes while helping you manage stress and anxiety and supporting your immune system. Social distancing while juggling working from home with caring for a family has made it difficult to maintain regular exercise routines. Yet, it is important to find other ways to keep active, such as online fitness classes or exercising outdoors. As we age, our immune system, like all body systems, changes and is less effective in many cases, so keeping up with exercise is even more crucial for older adults.
Manage stress and anxiety
During this unprecedented and uncertain time, this may be the hardest task – how do you keep calm in a world of seeming chaos? What works for you may not work for your neighbor, but it is important to take the time to pause and reflect on what brings you comfort and peace. Whether playing with your kids, engaging in prayer, meditating, journaling, or participating in other mindfulness activities, cooking a favorite recipe, reading a new book, or going for a hike, find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety. Distractions are all around us on the news and social media, and by engaging our minds in activities that we enjoy, we can refocus our energies and lower stress. When we are chronically stressed, we have less infection-fighting cells and more unhealthy inflammation of cell walls and tissues. Stress can also impact sleep, and poor sleep patterns increase the risk of chronic diseases and infections.
Know your immune health risk
Your health care provider can help you assess any potential added risk based on your health history. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance for individuals who have weaker immune systems due to other conditions. Telehealth services are more available now than in the past and are a great way to connect with your health care team while keeping you and your family safe. Contact your health insurance provider if you have questions about the availability of telehealth services. Your local health department can offer you information on available remote services in your area.
With each passing day, we further transition into a new reality of trying to live our healthiest lives. By following personal safety measures and keeping up with daily healthy eating, physical activity, and stress management behaviors, we can do our part for ourselves and our communities.For more information, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Theralogix! Don’t miss an article! Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll let you know when our next article comes out.