Take action to improve your Immune System
Wouldn’t it be great to know if there are things you can do to improve your immune system and enhance your ability to fight off disease while you’re stuck sheltering in place?
We’re in a very different world than we were 3 weeks ago and it would be so easy for us to ‘pig out’ on cheeseburgers, fries & ice cream whilst sitting on the couch binge-watching our favorite TV shows, gaining 10 lbs. or more in the process.
Me too. Though those who know me know my foods of choice would be nuts and chocolate!
But it turns out there’s a lot you can do to enhance and improve your immune system beyond staying in place. (Technically, staying in place is an avoidance factor; not a health-enhancing one. Although in this situation, it does have its value.)
We’ve heard the ‘wash your hands’, sanitize everything and physical distance commands. You know that and are doing it (I assume). I want to address other things that can help the big picture to keep you healthy, improve your immune system and increase your capacity to fight off this or another offender.
A Brief Primer in the Anatomy & Physiology of the Immune System:
Your immune system has two distinct parts to it. Most people are familiar with the part that fights specific germs (humoral immunity.) That’s the part that makes antibodies to specific things we encounter. It’s the part that’s activated when you get a vaccine. It’s also the part that confers lifelong immunity once you’ve had a particular infection, for example, the measles.
That is the advanced highly specific and long-term response. The first, more primitive, but equally as important (perhaps more important) step is cell-mediated immunity.
It’s the more generalized part of the Immune System. Often it is even referred to as ‘non-specific immune response.’ It’s made up of things like the strength of the cell membranes in your skin, the acidity of your digestive system, the white blood cells (macrophages and T Cells) that immediately detect and attack foreign invaders and more. It’s the part that’s been evolving for millions of years. This is part is more affected by our daily lives; our nutrition, lifestyle & stress levels.
Enhance your Cell-mediated immunity.
So, in no particular order of importance:
- Eat lots of fruits & vegetables throughout your day. Fruits & veggies are the basic building blocks of all your systems including your Immune System. Vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C and Selenium are keys to the immune system and are found in fresh fruits and veggies. Getting your vitamins & minerals from whole food is more advantageous than taking vitamins.
- Drink green tea. Green tea is highly anti-inflammatory, has a ton of anti-oxidants and also strengthens this part of your immune system.
- Eat mushrooms; especially shitake or reishi mushrooms.
- Don’t sit on the couch all day or all evening. Get up at least once an hour and move around. Movement, in general, has a positive effect on the immune system. It helps circulate lymphatic fluid and get rid of toxins and offending bugs.
- Get some regular exercise: moderate exercise stimulates the immune system. (I’ve also read recently that the idea that strenuous exercise depletes the immune system may not be accurate. That’s a discussion for another time as I need to read up more on the research.)
- Eat more plant-based; whole food-based. Concentrate on beans, whole grains (not pulverized flour, but things like millet, quinoa, barley, brown rice, etc.) fruits & veggies.
- Eat less meat and less dairy. Meat & dairy are both highly inflammatory & can hype up our immune response.
- Keep to a regular schedule: get up at a particular time, go about much of your day as you normally would within the confines of current restrictions. The hormones, like melatonin, that regulate your sleep cycles, are also thought to play a factor in immunity. They are easily disrupted by getting up even as little as an hour late!
- Get at least 7-8 sleep every night.
- Get some sunshine! The best Vitamin D source is the stuff your skin makes in the presence of the sun. You can use a safe sunscreen on your face; since the sun can contribute to signs of aging and don’t spend hours out there. But 30 minutes in the sun daily with arms or legs exposed will help your body make the Vitamin D it needs. enhancing your immunity and helping overall metabolism.
Most people don’t think about what they put in their bodies, put on their bodies or do every day and the cumulative effects those things have over time. Especially during these trying times, I’d like to encourage you to remember that everything you do and everything you eat is either investing in your wellness or contributing to your sickness.