No amount of Emergen-C is going to save us from the coronavirus. Likewise, nothing on this list is going to save us from the virus either. But in light of the public health crisis sweeping the nation, now’s as good a time as any to think about your daily health practices and what you can, and should, be doing everyday to boost immunity, strengthen your body, and keep your mind resilient.
I want to preface this list by saying the single most important thing we can be doing right now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing. Dr. Joerg Ermann from the division of Rheumatology, Inflammation, and Immunity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital says that given the current circumstances, the only way we’re going to slow the spread is by following the CDC’s social distancing recommendations. “Everything else is of little, to no, use—and that’s a very important point to be making. To an extent, what you can do for your personal health is somewhat not as important as what you can do for your community.”
In order to better care for the community, we’ve got to be able to care for ourselves—and we have to be healthy to do so. Below are six recommendations to boost your immunity now, as well as all year long.
1. Think about adding herbs and florals to your meals/drinks
Bridgitte Carroll, head dietitian at Johnson Compounding and Wellness, says to think about adding spices like turmeric as well as ginger and mushroom to your foods. “I also really love elderberry and echinacea tinctures for combating illnesses,” she adds. Both are florals that can be made into syrups or tinctures to be ingested. Recent studies have shown that things like elderberry, as well as spirulina (that blue-green algae you might find in smoothies) can be good for combating illnesses like the flu.
Local smoothie and juice shop Revolution Health Kitchen in the Back Bay sells juices and smoothies with these types of ingredients. Co-owner Heather Costas says her team is preparing smoothie kits, as well as soup and juice kits, for delivery and take-out so people can stock up on good quality foods. She adds that antioxidants will go a long way in reducing inflammation, especially in foods like oregano and berries of all kinds.
Dr. Ermann emphasizes that no single food has been proven to boost your immunity, though. These ingredients may have properties that aid the immune system, but nothing on its own is a cure-all. The most important thing is eating a balanced diet.
2. Consume foods high in Vitamin C and Zinc
The first thing we think of when we think of immunity is Vitamin C ,due to its involvement in the repair of tissues. Load up on citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and lemons. Carroll says peppers and broccoli are good sources as well. Zinc is also a helpful mineral when talking about immunity, she adds. You can find it in foods such as oysters, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils, and beef.
3. Focus on whole foods, three meals a day, and limiting your sugar intake
As stated before, at the end of the day, no dietary supplement or specific food is going to boost your immunity if you’re not focusing on filling your diet with whole foods, Ermann says. “It’s important to not have any vitamin deficiencies and to eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily.”
Carroll adds that during this time working from home, it’s important to stick to three meals a day and to limit continuous snacking. “We have to let our digestion system rest,” she says. “And steer clear of inflammatory foods like sugar, as it feeds on bad bacteria in the gut, compromising the gut’s ability to do its job.”
What better time to chug water all day than when you’re two steps from both the sink and the bathroom? Costas says staying hydrated keeps everything moving inside. “Try not to eat too much dehydrated food or processed food, too.”
5. Prioritize sleep
It might be hard to sleep right now, what with heightened anxiety and being cooped up inside your house all day, but now is an important time to be getting enough sleep to combat stress levels. “Many things happen during sleep,” Ermann says. “Focus on getting no less than seven hours per night and make sure it’s uninterrupted and restful.” This is a good time to put the phone down, turn the television off, and practice overall good sleep hygiene.
6. Move, and move often
All of our gyms might be closed, but that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to take a hiatus from moving your body. Plus, fitness instructors are making it easy to stay on top of your routine by offering virtual workouts at pretty much every hour of the day. Under current circumstances, Ermann adds to not be afraid of running outside or taking your workout to your back yard—that would change if the city were to go into a full lockdown. As long as you aren’t meeting up with a big group of people, and you stay six feet away from each other, you’re safe from spreading or contracting the virus.
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