Caring for Your Immune System in Times of Crisis

We seem to have made it through the cold winter months, the crocus and daffodils are blooming, and the birds are singing, which normally would give us hope for the healthier seasons to come. Yet we are inundated by the news of coronavirus (COVID-19), and the fear of the unknown.

Are you aware of the stress that this causes, whether conscious or subconscious? And how does that stress effect your body, and your immune system specifically? You guessed it! Not in a good way!

So, what can you do about it? Make sure you are taking care of the basics by:

  • Eating a REAL food diet, including getting plenty of fruits and veggies, healthy protein including nuts and starches like whole grains, legumes and sweet potatoes.
  • Limit highly processed, high sugar and white flour foods.
  • Hydrate well by drinking purified, clean water and herbal teas.
  • Pass on alcohol, or at least limit to 1 drink per day.
  • Get plenty of sleep. I cannot emphasize this enough! To maintain a healthy immune system, or to support one that is compromised you must sleep!
  • Exercise – try to do at least a little something every day. While it is recommended to stay at home, there are a ton of videos that are available for free on YouTube as well as Smart Phone apps. Or go out in the backyard and jump on your kids’ trampoline!*
  • Be social – even though it is recommended that you remain close to home and with limited interaction with others, you can still do family game night, or talk on the phone, Skype or FaceTime with friends and family.*
  • Get some fresh air! You can still step into your backyard and spend some time in the sunshine.
  • Stay positive – if you are going to watch movies or TV shows, lean toward light and funny. Read the comics. And limit how much time you spend on social media and watching the news.
  • Avoid toxins. It seems instinctual to use hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes throughout our day to make sure we are keeping free of bacteria and viruses in our spaces however sometimes we can actually hurt our bodies by exposing ourselves to harsh chemicals and cleaners, as our bodies then need to work extra hard to detoxify those chemicals. Keep in mind that “friction” when washing hands is just as important or more important than the soap we use. And if spraying cleaners around your home make sure to open the windows to allow fresh air in for a healthier breathing environment.
  • Manage your stress with prayer, deep breathing, guided relaxation or meditation. This is really important! Ignoring issues that cause you worry and anxiety don’t just “go away” by ignoring them. It is very important that you learn to deal with issues in your life. If you don’t feel that you managing your stresses well on your own, I encourage you to seek out counseling.

*As for both getting out to exercise and socialization make sure to check with the CDC for the most recent recommendations: Visit the CDC

All these factors are super important and certainly work together to keep you healthy. But as a dietitian nutritionist, let me dive down a bit deeper into nutrition. We are what we eat, and in these times of stress are bodies can use more nutrients than usual, causing depletions and low immune function. So hear are some things in addition to consider.

  • Stress can generate free radicals which can lead to illness and disease if antioxidants are not available to counteract their effect. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, curcumin and glutathione.

The first step in supplying antioxidants to the body is eating a healthful diet as described above and using spices and herbs in your cooking. But if you are still feeling low immunity then taking something like a vitamin C supplement can be very beneficial, and safe.

  • If you are at risk for deficiencies in your diet because you have not been eating a healthy diet and/or you have been under lots of stress, consider taking a high-quality multivitamin to cover your bases. Please find a reputable distributor such as an established health food store that has educated staff that can find the best product for you. Both vitamin D and zinc are very important for immune health so ensure that these nutrients are included in your multivitamin.
  • If you feel that you have an illness currently, the following are some supplements that support the immune system for viral infections:
    • Astragalus
    • Echinacea
    • Elderberry
    • Goldenseal
    • L-lysine
    • Oregano
    • Probiotics
    • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin D
    • Zinc

Speak to a staff member at an established health food store for specific recommendations for you, or CONTACT ME, your friendly dietitian nutritionist for more in-depth information!