6 Ways to Support Your Immune System (And Avoid Getting Sick)
Having a strong immune system enables your body to fight off infections, such as the flu and common cold. With coronavirus affecting people around the world, and of all ages, it’s never been more important to foster and support a healthy immune system.
To do that, we want to think about reducing comorbidities (that is, the presence of more than one disease and conditions in the same person) and clearing up any inflammation or stress the body may already be under. Taking care of these foundational aspects will help prevent the virulence of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of infectious disease in general.
And here’s some good news. These steps toward an improved immune system are important — but they’re not necessarily challenging. Here’s what to do.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Inadequate sleep increases our risk of catching a cold or infectious disease. One study found sleeping less than five hours increased risk of developing an upper respiratory infection (rhinovirus associated cold) by 350 percent compared to sleeping at least seven hours per night.
Adequate sleep supports REM and deep sleep which is essential for rebuilding and repairing our body’s systems — the main one being our immune system! Getting adequate sleep ensures melatonin production which supports immunity and may play a role in reducing COVD-19 severity of symptoms if contracted.
2. Keep Your Stress Levels Under Control
Physical, mental and emotional stress disrupts the immune system and excessive production of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to inflammation and decrease infection-fighting white blood cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Try these tactics to reduce your stress levels:
- Hiking and walking outside (make sure to keep a safe distance from others!)
- Energy medicine exercises
- Qi Gong
- Take an Epsom salt bath
- Listen to calming music
- Having therapy/counseling
Working with a professional, dietitian, personal trainer, therapist or health coach can be a stepping stone to improving in these areas of stress management as well.
3. Support Your Gut Health
Your gut is where 80 percent of your immune system resides. Addressing stress, sleep, removing added sugars, processed foods and trans fats and replacing with a micronutrient rich diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, probiotic and prebiotic foods, filtered water and limiting exposure to toxins, EMF’s, and harmful chemicals in home products and foods by purchasing organic when possible.
4. Keep Hydrated
Aim to drink one-half your body weight in ounces of filtered water daily (or more). Add electrolytes like lemon, lime, and orange to your water for extra benefit. Add in coconut water, bone broth or herbal teas which can also count towards hydration and offer health benefits. These teas are hydrating and also have immune, sleep and stress modulating properties:
5. Eat Lots of Fruits and Vegetables — More Than 7 Each Day
The more fruits/vegetables the more benefit you will be providing to your immune cells and support your first line defenses. Flavanoids have been found to reduce specific inflammatory signaling pathways and therefore reducing TNF-a, IL-6, IL-1B and IL-18 (inflammatory molecules) from being expressed. Here are ways to get flavanoids:
- Quercitin: found in onions and apples
- Resveratrol: found in blueberries, purple grapes and he skins of vegetables and berries, and red wine!
- Curcumin:turmeric…add black pepper when using turmeric to increase the absorption by 2000 percent
- Allicin:found in onions and garlic helps to provide any viral support
- Chamomile: Drink tea
Like flavanoids, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) inhibits a specific inflammation response in the body. Vitamin C has been found in clinical trials to reduce the frequency, duration and severity of colds and infections. Typical dosing of supplements may be 500mg to 3000mg with higher doses used during acute infection or adrenal insufficiency or other viral loads. Include a wide variety of the following for fruits and vegetables to start increasing your vitamin C intake:
- Greens – all types of dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, spirulena and chlorophyll rich, these are high in folate, vitamins A, K, and C and glutathione, which serves as a master antioxidant to clear out free radicals.
- Oranges – sweet potatoes, carrots and squash are rich in carotenoids and vitamin A, which is important for immunity.
- Alliums – onions and garlic are rich in allicin for antiviral properties
- Elderberry – There is preclinical evidence showing elderberry inhibits replication and viral attachment of another virus (not COVID-19) within the coronavirus family. Elderberry may be most effective for prevention of early infections of COVID-19. Note that elderberry significantly increases inflammatory molecules and should be discontinued if you test positive for coronavirus.
- Citrus – grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange are all rich in vitamin C and the flavonoid limonene for immune support.
- Blues Purples – high in anthocyanin, an important antioxidant that helps scavenge out harmful free radicals addressing current inflammatory aspects prior to contraction of COVID-19.
6. Make Sure to Get Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Your Diet
Consume wild-caught salmon and fish, Flaxseeds and flax oil as EPA/DHA helps to reduce overall inflammation in the body. Daily intake of a quality fish oil supplement may greatly benefit.