COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has been top of mind for many people all over the world and I’ve had many people asking me what they can do to keep their immunity strong. With all the hype that’s out there on TV and online, it’s important to stay informed but also keep things in perspective so you don’t let it stress you out and become fearful. The best way to defend yourself against any pathogen is to support and nourish your body so it can mount a strong immune response. Below I’ve put together a list of 7 ways you can bolster your immunity so you can feel at ease and decrease your risk of getting sick:
1. Wash your hands.
Yup, you’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s true, washing your hands frequently is very effective at reducing your risk of infection. Be sure to lather up and wash your hands thoroughly and often.
2. Get Lots of sleep.
Your body’s ability to fight infection is dramatically effected by how much rest you get so prioritize quality sleep and don’t push yourself. Women especially have different energy levels and sleep requirements during different parts of their menstrual cycles (read more on that here) hence it’s important to prioritize rest accordingly. Remember sleep helps the body heal and restores immunity so if you’re burning the candle at both ends or pushing yourself too much you’re decreasing your body’s ability to fight off pathogens.
3. Eat Immune Superfoods.
When it comes to nourishing your body with food, focus on an array of colorful fruits, vegetables as well as nuts and seeds to ensure you’re getting all the phytonutrients needed to support your immune system such as Vitamins C, A, E plus bioflavonoids and zinc. Focus on dark leafy greens such as spinach, cilantro, arugula and kale plus citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, sweet potatoes, turmeric, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers and cauliflower. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are high in Vitamin E so be sure to add those to your salads or sprinkle a few on soups. Foods like manuka honey, garlic and onions also have antimicrobial benefits and are wonderful to support immunity too.
The basic rule to keep your immune system strong is to focus on eating a whole food, plant-based diet daily — consistency is key. Remember plant-based doesn’t mean vegan, it means your diet is based on plants, plants being the foundation of your diet, and can include healthy, responsibly-farmed and sourced animal protein as well. In fact Vitamin B6, which is an important vitamin to support the immune system, is found in animal protein such as eggs, salmon and chicken. It’s also found in kale and chickpeas so vegans, don’t worry you’re covered too.
Here’s a few recipes to get you started:
4. Limit sugar.
Sugar is like a tranquilizer for your immune cells and reduces your body’s ability to mount an immune response. No joke, even 1 tsp of sugar has been shown to reduce the body’s ability to effectively fight infection for several hours. So ditch refined sugars and if you need a little dose of sweet try manuka or unpasteurized honey or small amounts of maple syrup instead.
5. Take immune-supportive herbs.
I get asked all the time what herbs and supplements to take to help support immunity. I wrote a blog post about it here where I mention specific herbs such as Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus and medicinal mushrooms such as Codonopsis. I recommend talking with your naturopathic doctor about what herbal supplements are right for you, especially if you are immunocompromised. A few products that I personally like are St. Francis Deep Immune (they also have a kids version), Echinacea Premium by MediHerb, and both Immune Symmetry and Immune Tonic (great for kids) by Vitanica.*
Having a naturopathic doctor make you a personalized tincture (liquid herbal extract) blending many immune-supportive herbs is an excellent idea. Tinctures are a potent and powerful way to harness the power of botanical medicine. You can also get raw herbs such as Astragalus and make Change of Season Soup — it’s often used in the fall or spring when the weather changes (ie: cold and flu season) to help support the body’s immunity.
6. Move that lymph.
The body’s lymphatic system transports lymph, a fluid that contains infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body and it’s distribution and flow effect our immunity. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like our cardiovascular system (ie: the heart) so it relies on skeletal muscle movement and gravity to help it out. Exercise is the primary mode of assistance so be sure to keep up with your regular exercise routine, even if it’s a 20 minute brisk walk. Other ways to help move lymph are Hot and Cold Showers & Dry Skin Brushing – these are wonderful self-care actions that are relaxing and help support your immunity that you can easily implement into your daily routine or at least a few times a week. Read more about them here.
7. Manage stress.
There’s been a lot of fearful rhetoric around COVID-19 and many people are feeling the stress. While it’s important to stay informed and take action to reduce your risk of infection, it’s also important to remain calm and be aware of how fear may be creeping into your daily life. If you are experiencing any anxiety or fear it’s important to talk with a trusted friend or loved one about your experience and seek support.
A friend of mine shared with me a great EFT tapping resource she’s sharing with her patients specifically for releasing Coronavirus anxiety, so if you’re a fan of tapping or curious about giving it a try you can check it out for free here.
Taking time to focus on your self-care and stress reduction is important because stress reduces your resiliency and ability to fight off infection as the immune system doesn’t function optimally when you are in a stressed state. Taking extra care to love on yourself by cooking nutritious food, get extra sleep and focusing on what brings you joy are just a few ways you can help your mind and body relax and bolster your immunity.
So there you have it, 7 ways to keep your immunity strong. I hope you find this helpful and as always I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
*P.S. I am not affiliated nor do I work for these brands, this is just my personal and professional opinion.