Hey all – though you may be alone without many people in close proximity – you are not alone in figuring out how to navigate a healthy way through this global COVID-19 pandemic.
Our CHC Team is here with you and for you. To this end, we want to share things that we CAN CONTROL. Below are some tips to help boost your immune system in the midst of this stressful time.
Think about which of these you can implement. Any questions – reach out to our Nutritional Therapist, Moyra Jean Stiles at [email protected]
Eat a whole foods, nutrient-dense diet.
When times get stressful, our impulse can be to revert to comfort foods like chips, candy, soda, alcohol, muffins, cookies, chocolate all day long. But, our immune system relies on nutrient-dense whole foods to function well. We need to step away from the Fruity Pebbles and move towards whole foods. Here are some steps you can take to improve the quality of your diet. As a staff we are taking these measures too!
- Cut out sugar, alcohol and refined starches. Know that you may be tempted to give into that daily processed food habit because your stress levels are sky-rocketing – studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingesting. Limiting starch and sugar will help your immune system function better and improve your overall health. Excessive drinking reduces the number and function of three important kinds of cells in your immune system. We want all the immunity cells we can get friends. Keep that alcohol intake low.
- Ensure adequate protein intake. Protein is critical for immune function. Eat approximately 1 gram/kg or about half your body weight in grams of protein a day, or about two four-ounce servings of organic, clean animal protein.
- Add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of spices (oregano, turmeric, rosemary) to your meals! Add these to your soups and vegetable dishes, as well as dips and sauces. Garlic and onions offer wide spectrum antimicrobial properties.
- Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, and squashes. Aim for 2 servings of fruits and 8 or more servings of vegetables! A serving is half a cup. I always say that vegetables are your greatest shield and your greatest weapon against all illness. Believe me now, friends – fight the good fight! Eat that rainbow of veggies and eat through that FOREST of vegetables to get to the protein on your plate.
- Eat fermented foods to support your microbiome and immunity. Eat sauerkraut, kimchi, unsweetened yogurt, kefir, low-sugar kombucha. They also keep you well.
- Alkalize your body. Sugar and processed foods tend to make your body slightly more acidic and more receptive to the COVID-19 virus. Eating whole plant foods and lots of them, 5 to 8 cups a day, is a good way to alkalinize your body. Try making big vegetable and bone broth soups which can help improve your pH. Get your green smoothie on point and have more than one per day. Here’s a great one!
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially warmer fluids. Consuming adequate fluids supports all your bodies’ functions including the immune system. Make soups and broths (from scratch with fresh vegetables is always best) and have them throughout the week. Drink herbal teas like ginger and turmeric tea. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times – remember you want to carry that water bottle around with you like it is your “woobie”. Avoid concentrated fruit juices, soda, and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for the immune system.
- I know a lot of people are ordering their food now. If you’re looking for great companies with healthy options of food essentials to stock your fridge, pantry & freezer, check out the following:
Other Impactful Lifestyle Choices
Get sufficient sleep! It may feel like a strange extended spring break and like a great opportunity to binge-watch Netflix or Disney+ or Amazon Prime all through the night – I have been feeling ALLLLL the temptations to do this with my three boys home! – BUT – We all know sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! We are not on break – regular life has basically been canceled because of a pandemic. So, get in a better rhythm and head to bed earlier. Aim for seven to eight hours a night. Incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques throughout the day to help with stress and allowing the mind to rest near bedtime is ideal so you can settle more easily. Besides, we don’t want to run out of all the good shows at the beginning of things here, do we? Go to bed.
Get regular exercise. Mild to moderate exercise (for approximately 30-45 minutes) helps boost the immune system. Avoid overexertion such as training for endurance events when you are feeling run down. This will lower your immune defenses. If you are able to exercise outside in less populated areas, great. If not find workouts and yoga classes online. Try the 7-minute workout app. Consider taking advantage of the Facebook Live and Online opportunities that many local and national businesses and companies are making available! If you need ideas, email Moyra.
Practice meditation and yoga. The data are clear. Increased levels of stress increase susceptibility to viral infections. In one study, volunteers had cold viruses injected into their nasal passages. The ones who scored high on the stress questionnaire succumbed. Now is the time to learn meditation, double down on your practice, do yoga, take hot baths, do deep breathing, practice home massage with your loved ones.
Here are a few stress management tools to get you started.
- Meditation Station Podcast on iTunes: Offers lots of meditation choices for different purposes (sleep, work stress, healing, etc.)
- Dartmouth College Relaxation Exercises: Three breathing/guided relaxation recordings. Also available on iTunes.
- University of Houston Visualization Exercises: Six visualization recordings, including beach, forest, meadow, and more.
- Yoga with Adriene’s Yoga for Beginners (Female): Forty-minute practice. Go to Adriene’s YouTube channel for many other practices.
- Yoga with Sean Vigue for Beginners (Male): 10- minute beginning stretch routine or 30-minute beginning yoga routine
- Dr. Paul Lam’s Beginner Tai Chi Exercise: Forty-five minutes long; includes some introductory education about Tai Chi.
- Headspace (10 free meditations, with in-app purchases offered): Application for guided meditation; great for beginners
- Classical Stretch: Dozens of videos to review and add to your regimen of stretching. Key for every individual
- HIIT: Because sometimes you just need to “go hard” and work out the stress with some high intensity!
- Insight Timer App
How to Supplement for Immune Function
These consistent supplements can be a help in building our immunity. Here is an overview of the vitamins, minerals, and herbs that are important.
- Multivitamin/Mineral: This is the foundation for any health support regimen. It’s a good way to cover the basic vitamins and minerals your body needs for day-to-day functions. If you aren’t on a good multivitamin you should get and stay on one. Look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement.
- Vitamin D3: Adequate vitamin D status is critical for optimal immune function and this cannot be achieved without supplementation during the winter months. Studies have shown that people with vitamin D deficiency are 11 times more likely to get a cold or flu, while supplementing with vitamin D can reduce colds and flu by 42%. Start with 2,000 IU for adults, 1,000 IU for children.
- Buffered Vitamin C: The role of vitamin C in supporting the immune system has long been known. Take 500-1,000mg throughout the day with meals and snacks. You’ll know you’ve taken too much if your stools become really loose … then back off.
- Zinc citrate: You can take an additional supplement or consume more foods high in this powerful immune-supporting nutrient. Seafood—especially oysters—red meat, and pumpkin seeds are the best food sources. Take 30 mg per day.
- Probiotics: A healthy gut flora supports a healthy gut, a major barrier against pathogens and integral to the immune system. Look for brands that offer several species of good bacteria and contain at least 5-10 billion organisms per capsule. Lactobacillus Plantarum and spore forms of Bacillus are the best for immunity. And – eat fermented foods.
- Fish Oil (Arctic Cod Liver Oil): This old-time remedy for good health and robust immunity still stands true! In addition to the good fats, this cod liver oil contains additional vitamins A and D for added immune protection.
- Natural anti-viral herbs: Many herbs have broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects or immune-enhancing effects. Formulas contain different immune boosters – astragalus, green tea extract, andrographis, and monolaurin.
It is not necessary to take all of these. Just starting with a multivitamin, vitamin D3, vitamin C, zinc and fish oil is a great start.
Quick Basics In Addition to Diet & Lifestyle
- Social Distancing. This is among the most effective way to prevent spread. Don’t shake hands. Keep a 6-foot radius from others (unless they are healthy, uninfected people who live in your home). Cancel vacations and business trips. Restaurants, bars, schools, yoga classes, fitness clubs and more are shutting down. Work from home if you can.
- Practice Good Hygiene. Wash your hands for 20 to 30 seconds with soap and water. If you are out and about, do your best to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
- Stay Home. Since restaurants, bars, sports events, and gatherings of more than 10 are not recommended, stay home and work on projects you have neglected. Write letters, play games, prepare home-cooked food. If the whole country stayed home for 14 to 21 days we could significantly slow the pandemic.
- Protect Those At Risk. The CDC recommends that people over 60 stay home and avoid unnecessary contact. If you have elderly parents find ways to support them with food and supplies. If you have an autoimmune disorder, cancer, or are on transplant medication, be especially careful.
Alright friends – that’s the word for now. This is your chance to do your part for your own immunity, which impacts the well-being of not just you, but all of us around you. We are stronger together!
Go Team – You are Loved and We are With You!
Moyra Jean Stiles, CNTP
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice and any changes should be done in consultation with your healthcare provider.
More Great Resources and Sources for Some of this Blog’s Information: