Over the past 18 months, I’ve heard a lot about masking, hand washing, and social distancing to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Sadly, I’ve also heard about many immunocompromised people dying from the virus. But I haven’t heard top health officials talk much about boosting immune function. Have you? Doesn’t it make sense that we should all be working to strengthen our immune systems now more than ever?
Immunity is our first line of defense, meaning, more than anything else, it works to keep us healthy regardless of what’s going on around us. But it’s up to each of us to provide this mighty defender with good fuel and take other beneficial steps to enhance its efforts. You will find below 10 of my best ideas to accomplish just that.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. In addition to drinking plenty of mineralized water, eat lots of (home-cooked & organic, if possible) soups, suggests Gina Bria, co-author of Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration. Also, I’ve read from many sources, daily green smoothies with (organic if possible) fruits and veggies are deeply hydrating, as well as nutrient-rich. Think apples, oranges, pears, mangoes, grapes, blueberries, avocados, celery, cucumbers, sprouts, cilantro, Italian parsley, spinach, red leaf kale, spirulina, cinnamon, cardamom, fresh ginger, chia seeds, and turmeric with fresh-ground pepper. (Shoot for using more veggies than fruits.) Any combination is tasty, and will gift your body with perfect, structured plant water. Anthony William, the New York Times Bestselling Author of Liver Rescue, says your hydration level (or lack thereof) can be a pivotal factor between getting sick and staying healthy.
- Exercise moderately several times a week. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that participants who did aerobic exercise 5 days a week reduced upper respiratory tract infections over a 12-week period by 43%. Exercises in that category include brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, and other cardio pursuits sustained for an extended period. An article on Health.com states exercise helps highly specialized immune cells—such as natural killer cells and T cells—find pathogens (like viruses) and wipe them out.
- Consume natural probiotic food & drinks such as (organic & raw, if possible) kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso soup. Stanford University of Medicine researchers Justin & Erica Sonnenburg, PhDs, say their family gets a different natural probiotic food or drink each day to diversify the population in their microbiomes as well as those of their kids. Studies show that diversity in the gut is a major key to staying healthy.
- Eat fewer pre-processed foods, including fast foods and junk foods, and more high-fiber whole vegetables, including beans and lentils, as well as prebiotic foods such as onions, garlic, dandelion greens, and asparagus. Again, all in service of a microbiome that can promote good immunity.
- One more tip for the microbiome, from Dr. Zach Bush, a physician specializing in internal medicine, endocrinology and hospice care. A healthy microbiome, according to Dr. Bush, consists of between 20,000 and 40,000 species of bacteria. (Which explains why you should not eat the same foods all the time.) Spending time outside and in multiple ecosystems (for example, a rainforest, beach, desert, waterfall, lake, and river) can diversify your gut’s bacteria. And, if you’re far enough away from others, take off your mask! (Unless that is prohibited in your area.)
- Diffuse essential oils inside your home, which is the next best thing to being outside. Dr. Josh Axe, Certified Doctor of Natural Medicine, says that many essential oils are antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic. He suggests eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano, lemon, and cinnamon for immunity. Add a few drops of some or all of them to your diffuser, vaporizer, or humidifier, if it offers that function, to purify the inside air that you breathe.
- Even though you are practicing social distancing, make emotional connections. Phone or text a loved one, just to check in. According to Dr. Dean Ornish, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, those societies and cultures over the past several hundred thousand years who learned to take care of each other were more likely to survive than those who did not. Our species has a primal need to feel cared for.
- Practice expressing gratitude for your life and your blessings. Your feelings and beliefs have a strong impact on your biology, according to Gregg Braden, 2020 Templeton Prize Nominee. Your cells are always listening in on your thoughts, Braden says. Therefore, immune function is directly affected by your state of mind.
- Take a break from watching or reading the news. Non-stop negative reports about the pandemic, environmental degradation, violence, dirty politics, etc., can result in a fearful mindset, constantly activating the fight-or-flight mode in our bodies. This can result in biological conditions that suppress immune function. Check in on the news only once or twice a day, or maybe even skip a day (unless you feel more anxious as a result.) Instead of spending so much time sitting on the sofa watching or reading the news, get outside to walk, do some yoga, or other enjoyable activity. (Since exercise and time in Nature are also good for immune function, this one idea offers three times the benes for your hard-working immune system!)
- And finally, get enough sleep that you awake feeling rested. With so much ongoing illness around us, our biological functions may be working harder than usual to keep us well. You may find your need for sleep has increased. Listen to your body.
I hope this list empowers you to become healthier and diminishes your fears of the virus. It is important to continue following the many protocols in place. But it is also critical, in my opinion, to do all you can to boost immune function at this time when illness abounds.
Blessings for Immunity,
Note: The original version of this post was published in March of 2020, just as the pandemic was first revving up in this country.
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.