We are now many months into the pandemic, and we still have more questions than answers on both prevention and treatment. We know that social distancing, masks, and hand washing/hand sanitizer are the first line of defense against the virus. We have seen the preliminary data on a variety of interventions and medications that may aid physicians in the fight against the illness once a patient contracts the virus. We all hope for a vaccine (and soon!). But what can we do on an everyday basis to help support our immune systems? There are basic nutritional approaches and supplements we can take to support immune resilience, that can also protect us against the respiratory infections, including colds and flus, that the upcoming season brings:
- Get enough rest. Ideally obtain 7-9 hours of sleep per night. It is critical that your sleep be of good quality (tossing and turning and laying awake much of the night will not give your body the rest it needs). Your body renews and regenerates during sleep. If you only do one thing on this list, getting enough rest is the top priority!
- Drink adequate water throughout the day. Your body needs at least half of your body weight in ounces per day to function optimally (So a 140 lb person needs 7140 ounces of water per day-should be 70 ounces). Hydration can be accomplished using plain or sparkling water, foods that contain a lot of water (watermelon, cucumber, celery), as well as soups and broths. Even teas and coffee can provide hydration, although caffeine is also a diuretic, so too much caffeine starts to rob your body of water. Being well hydrated keeps the mucus membranes in your nasal passages moist, aiding in the prevention of viral adhesion.
- Eat well. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes/beans, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, and lean meat and fish provide the cellular building blocks that are the foundation of good health and immune function. Eating phytonutrients from plant foods support immune function and protein is a critical element to a healthy immune system as well.
- Move your body every day. We know that exercise is correlated with better immune function. Engage in physical activities that are readily available to you that you can fit into your schedule – go for a quick walk several times a day, dance, bike, practice a sport with your kids.
- Manage stress. But do it in in ways besides over consumption of alcohol, social media, or watching too much Netflix. Instead – talk to a friend, go for a walk, do an activity that you enjoy. Try closing your eyes, putting one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, and doing slow, deep breathing for five minutes.
- Vitamin D. Consider having your vitamin D level checked and supplementing as needed. Vitamin D supports overall immune function and may also reduce the risk of influenza and other viral infections. Review the article “Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths” published in Nutrients. 2020 Apr; 12(4): 988. Full Text Article
- Zinc. Consider taking a Zinc supplement. Zinc plays a strong role in immunity. For more information: “The Potential Impact of Zinc Supplementation on COVID-19 Pathogenesis” published in Frontiers in Immunology. 2020; 11: 1712. Full Text Article
Contact us if you would like an individualized assessment of your immune status and for specific information about customized strategies to improve your overall immune resilience and health.
As always, take good care of yourself,
Shauna M. Birdsall, ND, FABNO
Co-founder, Resilience Health, LLC
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is intended to provide general education only and may or may not apply to your individual health circumstances. Please seek out advice from a healthcare provider or schedule a consultation for specific information related to your individual needs.