Mar 17, 2020
With the outbreak of Coronavirus, many people are understandably experiencing a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. They may also feel powerless in this situation, however we always have the power to choose our responses and actions. We therefore wanted to share some simple ways to help boost your natural immune system to keep you as healthy and resilient as possible during these uncertain times. While there are no miracle cures, foods or supplements to prevent this disease, in addition to practising the hygiene and social distancing recommendations, there are some basic steps that you can take to make sure that your body is strong and functioning properly to help protect itself.
Stress has been shown to impact heavily upon your immune system. Constantly checking news stories and social media posts about the Coronavirus will probably just increase your anxiety levels. Stay informed but don't be inundated, and reduce your exposure to social media as much as possible.
Top tips to manage stress include using slow deep breathing, meditation (visit www.headspace.com for a free course on how to do this), practising gratitude (write down 5 things you're grateful for in a journal before going to bed), spending time in nature, reading a favourite book, talking with loved ones and having a relaxing shower.
Sleep is crucial to your body's ability to both defend itself from infection and to recover. Getting 7 - 9 hours of sleep each night is a scientifically-proven way to make sure that your immune system is working better. According to sleep expert Mathew Walker, one poor night of sleep can reduce your immune cells by as much as 70%!
Top tips for improving sleep quality and quantity include going to bed at the same time each night, sleeping in a completely dark room, moving regularly throughout the day (see 'Movement' below), minimising your exposure to screens and bright lights for 1-2 hours before going to bed, and avoiding stimulants (such as caffeine and sugar) in the afternoon and evening.
Eating a healthy, balanced wholefood-based diet will help keep your immune system in good shape. Follow your bariatric dietitian's guidelines and focus on including a wide variety of nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits. Avoiding highly processed foods such as chips, lollies, ice-cream and processed meats and alcohol will also help take the pressure off your immune system (and will help you with your weight goals).
Staying hydrated is an important way to help your immune system to function properly. Water assists in the carrying of oxygen and nutrients to your body cells and it helps remove toxins, that can impair your immune system, from the body. Aim to drink around 1.5 litres of filtered water daily if possible. Take small sips regularly and use a water bottle so that you can track how much fluid you're actually having.
Rhythmical movement such as walking, easy bike riding, and easy swimming are particularly effective at helping your immune system. The rhythmical nature of these activities helps pump your lymphatic system which is an integral part of your immune system. Rhythmical movement helps transport food and oxygen into your cells and helps remove toxins.
In addition, rhythmical movement is a powerful way to help reduce stress levels and it can help lift your mood and leave you feeling great. Aim for 30 minutes per day (depending on your health status) and always check in with your medical practitioner before starting any new exercise program.
Research has shown that the immune system needs vitamin D to help fight off viruses — it could help reduce the severity of any illness and help you recover quicker.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common, especially in the modern world where we spend huge amounts of time indoors. The best way to get vitamin D naturally is through exposure to natural sunlight. Most people can get adequate vitamin D from just 5-30 minutes outside, however the amount of time you need in the sun depends on several things, including where you live, the season, time of day, your skin colour and the amount of skin exposed. You can see guidelines on Vitamin D deficiency here.
You may not be able to control the spread of Coronavirus and clearly there is a great deal of uncertainty in the world right now - you do however have the power to change your response to the situation. Taking actions that boost and strengthen your immune system is a way of taking ownership of the situation, and will ultimately help you feel more certain and calm in the face of this uncertainty.
Stay well, keep doing the things that bring you happiness and joy where possible, help each other, and remember to breathe!