7 Daily Habits You Can Change Right Now to Boost Your Immune System
If you're not already practicing these easy ways to boost immunity naturally, start adding them to your day to reap all the health benefits.
Right now, we are all being asked to do our part: stay home to avoid the spread of COVID-19, support small businesses, care for our family and continue to do our jobs remotely. While all of these are helpful for the greater good and for those we love the most, it’s also important to take care of our own health, too. Though remaining socially distant from large crowds and washing our hands are important proactive measures, there are also daily habits we can implement to boost our immune system. The good news is you never have to leave your house to make these subtle, yet effective, changes. From getting more sleep to working up a sweat, here’s how to give your body the TLC it needs, now more than ever.
Get Adequate Restful Sleep
Without your usual commute time, you may be tempted to stay up watching one more episode on Netflix and get up five minutes before your first conference call. But we recommend you can orders from Felice Gersh, M.D. and just go to bed already. In fact, she recommends tucking yourself in at the same time each evening and waking up around the same time every morning. When we are sleep deprived, our body is more susceptible to infections. Why? When we’re collecting ZZZs, our immune system regenerates, allowing our cells to make critical repairs and heal wounds, all while our organs clear out waste products made by the metabolic process of the preceding day, she explains. In other words: it’s when our body rejuvenates and recovers. Without it, we put ourselves in the danger zone.
Take a Daily Multivitamin
Though access to fresh foods isn’t limited, many people tend to stock up on non-perishable items like rice, beans, and pasta during a crisis situation. However, many veggies and fruits are the sources of vitamins we need to give our body a defense system. If your diet is lacking these, otolaryngologist Shawn Nasseri, MD suggests buying a multivitamin online to provide the necessary nutrients you need for an effective immune response. “Keep in mind that especially during stress, booster vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin B complex, and minerals like Zinc are particularly important,” he continues. “Your body can’t fight viruses and bacteria as effectively if you are vitamin deficient.”
Take Regular, Hot Showers
And by hot, Gersh means steamy since the goal is to sweat. As she explains, sweat contains antimicrobial peptides that are effective against viruses, and sweating helps to detoxify our body of toxic substances, like heavy metals or BPA. Though these are often caused by environmental factors, the fewer toxicants in our body, the stronger our immune function will be. It’ll also help you release the stress you’re carrying around, worrying about this strange, new normal. “Sweating increases endorphins and improves mood and an improved mood is healthful to the immune system. Not to mention, sweating lowers blood pressure and hypertension is a risk factor for infections,” she continues. Whether you take a bath, a shower or you turn up the heat while doing an at-home yoga class, try to sweat at least once a day.
Without knowing when social-distancing recommendations will lessen or when the number of new cases will slow, many people are battling feelings of heightened anxiety. And while meditation has been recently trendy, right now, it could be your saving grace. As medical director and formulator for Care/Of, Maggie Luther, ND explains, mindfulness doesn’t just help us battle depression, it can also make a difference in our overall health and vitality. According to one study, a meditation practice helped to regulate some circulating immune proteins, especially those associated with inflammation. Or to phrase it differently: the ability to find your zen could also lower swelling or pain within your body.
“While this research is early and more studies are needed to confirm the effects, the findings are promising,” Luther continues. “In times where you may be at home by yourself or with only a couple loved ones, meditation can go a long way in grounding you and reducing stress.”
Eat Foods High in Fiber and Zinc
Believe it or not, Gersh says our gut is home to 70% of our immune function. That means eating food could be the most helpful (or dangerous) thing we do for our health. Let that sink in for a moment: your diet has the ability to make or break your response to a virus. “Our digestive tracts handle more toxins and pathogens than any other organ system in our body. You and your microbiome both benefit when pathogenic bacteria are controlled, which is why the microbiome trains your immune cells to quickly recognize and destroy bad bacteria,” she explains.
So what should your meals be full of? Fiber and zinc. As Gersh explains, the higher fiber food you eat, the more beneficial bacteria you will have in your gut. Options like broccoli, avocado, bananas, sweet potatoes, and almonds are all great additions to your plate.
Zinc is also a powerhouse, according to Kimmi Stultz, the co-founder and CEO of Juicery Rx. In fact, those who are zinc-deficient are more likely to get sick with a respiratory illness than those who are not. “Research has shown zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, from the barrier of the skin to gene regulation of immune cells,” she shares. Some examples of zinc-filled foods include shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, and many meats (especially red meat, but also lamb and pork) and seafood (such as oysters, crab, and lobster).
It’s never been easier to stay active since so many fitness companies are offering free workouts. In addition to helping you stay sane and fit, Gersh says it makes us internally healthier, too. “Exercise has not only been shown to enhance in vivo responses to bacterial and viral antigens, but the data also supports its benefit in limiting or even delaying immunological aging,” she explains. She suggests moving every hour in some way, even if it’s just squats by your kitchen table, and making time for rigorous workouts three times a week. This can be cardio classes in front of your TV, a session on your bike or treadmill, or if you can maintain six feet of distance from other people, a walk or run outside.
Since you’re already washing your hands, go a step further and give your nose a cleaning, too. Rinsing your nose with a saline rinse such as this Nasaline nasal rinse ($8.57, Walmart) at low volume can reduce bacteria, viruses, and dust in your nasal cavity, Nasseri says. Though it might not be a pleasant experience, it’s an effective one. “When viruses get stuck in your nose for longer times, they are better able to attack and create an infection. Clearing them out before they have a foothold gives your immune system an upper hand,” he explains. He recommends this practice a few times a week.
Give your body all the advantages you can to keep it healthy by taking a few minutes out of your day to add these immune-boosting activities.