The coronavirus pandemic likely has you thinking more about cleanliness, germs, disease transmission and how to strengthen your immune system. Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, it is smart to do everything you can to reduce your likelihood of contracting this infection.
One way to help reduce your susceptibility to illness is to boost your immune system. The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites. Once the body identifies any of these antigens, it produces antibodies to fight them off.
A copy of these antibodies remains in the body so that if the same antigen is encountered later, it can be recognized and destroyed quickly. This is immunity, which is critical for survival. We are born with innate immunity, but also have acquired, or adaptive, immunity that develops as we are exposed to pathogens or receive vaccines throughout life.
A strong immune system isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get sick, but it helps you better fight off infections. Consider the following recommendations on how to strengthen your immune system.
How to Strengthen Your Immune System
- Wash your hands. Now more than ever, we all know the importance of washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds to remove germs. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Exercise. Exercise boosts your resilience and makes you better able to resist infection by increasing production of antibodies and T-cells, causing them to circulate more rapidly. It also decreases your risk of getting other health conditions and diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more, which can compromise your immune system.
- Sleep. Here’s a welcome tip. Sleep is a great way to keep your immune system thriving and your energy up, so make it a priority. Do your best to go to bed at a regular time – which means you need to shut down the electronic devices and record your favorite shows for watching another time.
- Eat smart. A plant-based diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, is best. Try citrus fruits, kiwi, spinach, broccoli, garlic, red peppers and more. Also, eat yogurt, chicken, almonds and sunflower seeds. Green tea, which is loaded with antioxidants, is a good beverage option as well. Cut back on consumption of refined carbohydrates and added sugars.
- Manage stress. Stress affects both physical and mental health, and promotes inflammation and imbalances in immune cell function, so take proactive steps to control it through practices such as exercise, meditation, journaling, prayer or counseling. Find a fun outlet – whether that’s walking your dog, reading, chatting with friends, listening to music, drawing or painting – to help you unwind regularly.
- Maintain positivity. This can be a huge challenge for pessimists like me. But deliberately looking for and focusing on what’s good – even amidst an awful pandemic – are essential to mental health. Striving to be positive and embracing gratitude are valuable in keeping you going.
- Keep your mind engaged. Watching TV doesn’t count here. Read books, learn new skills, play word or number games or find other ways to keep your brain cells active and challenged.
- Try supplements. Herbs and supplements are not magic pills, and cannot cure or prevent diseases, but may play a role in strengthening your immune system. Among those recommended as effective are probiotics; vitamins B6, B12, C and D; zinc; curcumin and elderberry.
- Limit alcohol intake. Your immune response can be blunted by binge drinking, or even just one or two drinks, so consume alcohol in moderation.