The rapid spread and evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic was enough to instill continuing public fear and worry, and for good reason. Everyone— even those who are relatively healthy— grappled with what the best plan of action may be. While social distancing and rolling shelter-in-place mandates became common, it’s easy to feel a bit of helplessness with the whole situation.
During times of uncertainty, many find solace in taking proactive measures to regain a sense of control. And, there are some great steps that you can take anytime! Aside from social distancing precautions, there are also ways you can support and protect your immune system; here, we’ll cover the best ways to naturally build a healthy immune function.
Get Good Quality Sleep
Sleep is like a superpower for our bodies. When we get enough quality sleep (7-9 hours per night for adults), our bodies use the time to both repair and support the immune system. Alternately, when we don’t get enough sleep, infection-fighting antibodies decrease and we’re more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. We also take longer to recover if we do get sick while our sleep quality and duration is low.
The takeaway: prioritize sleep hygiene! This means sticking to a relatively consistent sleep-and-wake schedule, reducing screen time before bed, and taking steps to make your room a welcome place to doze off, including limiting light and slightly decreasing the temperature for better quality sleep.
Raise Your Heartrate
Consistent exercise is another great way to take care of your body. However, when it comes to exercising and the immune system, be careful of extremes. Both too much and too little exercise can negatively affect the immune system; too much increases cortisol drastically and can temporarily compromise the immune function, while complete inactivity has been linked to increased inflammation and decreased immune function.
Shoot for around 30 minutes of exercise as a part of your daily routine. You’ll be more successful if you choose an activity you enjoy: running, a bike ride, circuit training, kickboxing videos, online yoga videos…you name it! Find an activity that suits you and carve out time for it in your schedule. Bonus: if you’re able to exercise outdoors, soaking in a little extra vitamin D from the sun can help reduce the risk of respiratory infection.
Perfect Your Home Chef Skills
A healthy diet is another way of supporting your immune system. Try to get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables on your plate throughout the day, all while drinking plenty of water. Fruits and vegetables are chock full of the vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need for tip-top immune function. Special superpower foods include garlic, spinach, shiitake mushrooms (specifically for respiratory health), kale, sweet potatoes, and citrus fruits. Sufficient fluid intake along with a healthy diet also helps your body flush out toxins and harmful bacteria.
It’s also important to avoid particularly inflammatory foods, like added sugar. Unnecessary sugar blocks the cells in our immune system that work to fight bacteria, efficiently bringing down our body’s natural defenses. So, while a bit of indulgence is OK in moderation, try not to go too heavy on the super processed and sugary foods.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
A disruption to your routine and uncertainty can be really difficult to navigate for so many reasons. It’s important to acknowledge the changes occurring and give yourself both space and support to work through what may be waves of fear and anxiety. When left untreated, anxiety can actually harm the immune system by stressing the body in a way that makes it release the stress hormone cortisol.
While cortisol is helpful in a fight-or-flight situation by giving you an extra burst of energy and lower sensitivity to pain, when it’s released during a time that isn’t an immediate life-or-death situation, it can run the body ragged and wear down the immune system, increase blood pressure, and increase inflammation overall. Not good.
Many struggle to prioritize mental health because it’s a bit less tangible, but it truly is an incredibly important aspect of overall health. There are many ways to support your mental health, and the truth is that everyone is a bit different in regards to what they want and need!
Some great resources to try for yourself are:
- Guided meditation through an app (like Headspace or Calm)
- Daily Journaling
- Video calls with friends and family to stay connected
- Video sessions with a licensed therapist
Utilize Extra Time For Learning
The temptation to melt into your couch and zone out to movie marathons is definitely there. If you do choose to indulge in increased screen time, make sure that it doesn’t fill your entire day. After all, it’s important to keep your brain healthy too!
Remember all those hobbies that you keep saying you’d love to start “if only you had the time?” Well – is * now* that time? Within the parameters of social distancing, try to use some of your extra free time to read those books that have been sitting on your bookshelf, watch a documentary on a topic of personal interest to you, or hand-write letters to loved ones…you get the idea. Get creative, embrace your new relaxed schedule, and use your extra bandwidth to tap into some different areas of your brain.
How Chiropractic Can Support Your Immune System
Another great way to support your immune system during this uncertain time is by receiving consistent chiropractic care. Chiropractic adjustments of the spine and extremities help to realign common misalignments that happen as a result of everyday life. When the spine is aligned, inflammation in the body decreases, allowing your overall immune system to function more robustly.
Support your immune system. Prioritize your health.