We could all use a little extra support right now, so we’re devoting this post to our amazing immune systems and all they do for us. Yes, adapting to our new normal means practicing good hygiene and social distancing, but it also means doing things to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy (and happy).
Here are a dozen easy things we can start doing daily to help strengthen our immune system, courtesy of our coaches:
- Get plenty of rest. Research suggests that too few zzzs impacts your body’s production of certain immune system cells and may hamper your ability to fight pathogens (including viruses). On the flip side, logging an average of 7-9 hours each night may increase your body’s natural defenses.
- Master the lost art of relaxing. Being “worried sick” is a real thing. Emotional stress can suppress immune function, while practicing simple relaxation techniques can improve overall health and may even protect against colds. A recent study found that people who learned mindfulness meditation had shorter and less severe respiratory infections and missed fewer days of work than those in the control group. In studies where participants were exposed to viruses (imagine volunteering for this study!), those who reported higher levels of emotional stress were more likely to get a cold.
- Exercise your sense of humor. While more research is needed, some studies have linked laughter to increased immune function. A good guffaw is also a great way to reduce stress and help us feel more connected to those around us.
- Go on a news diet. Try limiting the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news. While it’s important to stay informed, it’s also easy to become overwhelmed. Set a time limit and then turn your mental (and physical) energy to activities that support your health and well-being.
- Stick to a daily routine. Scheduled activities lend a sense of order and structure to our daily lives–especially in the midst of a lot of uncertainty and change. Yes, your life might look a little (or a lot) different that it did just a few weeks ago, but creating a new routine that’s not too full or demanding can be incredibly grounding.
- Move your body. Exercise is great for keeping our bones and heart healthy. It also reduces stress hormones and increases white blood cell production and circulation, which protects the body against disease. A study of more than 500 people found that moderate daily exercise led to less respiratory infections. Other studies have shown that at least two days of moderate exercise a week can lead to less time missed from school or work due to cold or flu. Spring is the perfect time to get outside and go for a walk or hike in the woods. If the weather’s not cooperating, lots of gyms and exercise studios are currently offering streaming classes or you can try out a Yes Heath dance, HITT or stretch video.
- Eat a rainbow. Reach for colorful vegetables and fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, herbs and spices, These are full of micronutrients that support immune response, including zinc, selenium, iron, copper, vitamins A, C, E, B-6 and folate/folic acid. Note: lean protein is an important macronutrient used in the process of healing and recovery.
- Skip the sugar. Did you know that too much sweet stuff can suppress immune function for up to five hours after eating? Consider fresh fruit as an apres-dinner treat.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps your body naturally eliminate toxins, bacteria and other pathogens that can make us sick. Committing to eight (or more) glasses a day also keeps the mucous membrane in your nose moist, which means less irritation (and inflammation) when coughing, sneezing and even just regular old breathing.
- Up your antioxidants. Elderberry, ginger root, turmeric and echinacea have all been shown to support a healthy immune system. Try them as teas and find your favorite.
- Get your Vitamin D. Research suggests that healthy vitamin D levels are associated with less frequent and less severe respiratory infections. Fish (salmon, sardines, herring and tuna), egg yolks, beef liver are all good sources. And while it’s true we can make vitamin D from sunlight, this ability (sadly) declines with age.
Set some limits. Consider cutting back on or abstaining from alcohol, caffeine, fried foods and sweets, which all take a lot of energy to process but don’t give much back to your body in return.
Remember, we’re all in this together. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the coach team and your Yes Heath community through the app if you need some advice, encouragement, a virtual hug or a much-needed belly laugh. (We’re good like that.)
Yes Health is a low-cost, weight loss and diabetes-prevention program committed to helping everyone live healthier, happier lives.