Our world continues to navigate the physical, emotional, social, and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyday life has been affected in unique and unexpected ways. It is overwhelming at times, especially with an added concern about contracting the virus. COVID-19 is a new strain. There are many unknowns, no proven cure, medication, or vaccination.
What if there was a powerful task force assigned to hunt down disease, bacteria, and viruses?
Good news! This task force exists inside the human body. It is called the immune system, a balanced network of cells and organs that defend the body against disease. It fights threats like viruses or bacteria with proteins called antibodies that destroy abnormal or foreign particles.
This worldwide pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of prioritizing health and wellness. There are several natural lifestyle choices that strengthen and support the immune system.
COVID-19 has disrupted daily routines, including jobs. Many individuals, not in essential positions or facing unemployment, have found themselves working from home to stop the spread of infectious disease. It is not just working from home, but living at work. This makes it particularly tricky to balance work and rest. When the bedroom suddenly doubles as a home office, it can be difficult to sleep.
Adequate sleep is key to a healthy immune system! Studies show that a lack of sleep can weaken immunity and increase susceptibility to infection. Healthy adults need 7—9 hours of sleep each night. Prioritize sleep by following a consistent sleep schedule, implementing a peaceful bedtime routine, and creating a restful environment without electronics.
Exercise has numerous benefits, such as decreasing heart disease, strengthening bones, and reducing stress. In addition, research suggests that moderate exercise increases immunity and decreases illness. Moderate physical activity does not mean training for a marathon or intense weight lifting. It is as simple as bike riding a few times a week or taking a 30-minute walk daily. There are several sports that comply with social distancing guidelines, such as tennis, golf, or badminton. Bonus points if physical activity gets you outside during quarantine!
Get Outside and Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D is often associated with musculoskeletal health because it is key to bone growth and maintenance. However, did you know that vitamin D plays an important role in immune function? Research shows that vitamin D activates the cells that discover and destroy pathogens. Deficiency in vitamin D is shown to increase vulnerability to infection.
There are several sources of vitamin D, such as food, supplements, and sunshine. Sunshine is available to everyone for free! The skin manufactures vitamin D when exposed to the sun. David J. Leffell, MD, chief of Dermatologic Surgery at Yale Medicine explains, “We each have vitamin D receptor cells that…produce vitamin D3 when they’re exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) from the sun.” Furthermore, spending time outside breaks up the monotony of staying home.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Everyone is spending more time at home, which might result in frequent trips to the pantry. Take stock of the items on the shelf. Is there a lot of processed food containing sugar? Research shows that sugar affects the way white blood cells attack bacteria. Consuming 75-100 grams, the equivalent of just two cans of soda, can inhibit the immune system.
Replace sweet treats with whole foods!
Eat Whole Foods
The sugars found in fruit can give the body the boost you are seeking. Unlike processed foods, whole foods contain fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. Nourishing the body with healthy foods will help the immune system protect against illness. The food we put in our bodies is important, just like the mask we put on our face.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on immune boosting whole foods!
The purpose of this article is to compliment, not replace, CDC guidelines. The content in this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions concerning medical conditions.