How has your immune system been holding up lately? While you might have stayed healthy over the last couple of months by keeping your distance, many individuals are being told that it’s time to slowly get back into our normal routine.
Anyone returning to the workplace, or their pre-COVID routine, will need to focus on enhancing their immune system so that their body can keep them healthy. I’ll go over several tips that can help boost your immune system so that it stands a better chance of fighting off any illnesses once your social interactions start to increase. Remember to always consult with your provider to see what they recommend specifically for you but this is what our family is focusing on at this time.
In today’s society, many people’s immune systems are functioning less than optimally. This is a consequence of poor diets, toxin exposure, high-stress levels, unhealthy lifestyle choices, etc. We need to get your immune system back on track so it can properly function and respond when you come into contact with any bugs or viruses. Remember we cannot control all variables, but even when we do get sick, we can decrease the severity and duration of symptoms. Here are some things you can prioritize now, so that your immune system has time to build up before you go back into work and into the real world.
One of the most necessary changes you can make today is the kinds of foods you consume. You’ll want to avoid inflammatory foods, processed sugar, and exchange them for nutrient-dense foods like organic fruit, vegetables, and other whole foods.
Because up to 70% of our immune system is localized in our gut, it’s critical that you choose gut-supporting foods and take probiotics. This can also help heal and restore the gut if it’s been damaged from previous factors. Once the condition of your gut is optimized, your immune system can also be enhanced.
Fermented Foods: Kimchi, Sauerkraut, kefir
Apple Cider Vinegar
Soluble Fiber Rich Foods
The goal isn’t just to get “enough” sleep, but to get ample amounts of restorative sleep. Allowing your body to go through all the sleep cycles is imperative so that it can produce the needed proteins and cytokines to help fight any bad bugs. Sleep also plays a role in immunological memory, aiding in the formation of antigen-specific T cells.
The last thing you want going back into the workplace is to be weighed down by stress. Learning how to manage stress levels can be hugely beneficial to your immune system. When you experience stress (this could be from daily stressors like finances, worry about the virus, juggling working from home and watching the kids, etc.), it increases your cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are elevated, they can suppress your immune response. If you want to learn more about how stress can impact our bodies, check out this article I wrote on adrenal health.
Some great practices you can incorporate into your daily or weekly routine right now to help with stress:
Taking time to relax
Meditation and prayer
Spend time in nature
Epsom salt/Essential Oil Baths
Getting enough vitamin D is critical in maintaining good health. Vitamin D can regulate your innate and adaptive immune responses. If you have a deficiency in vitamin D, it could also increase autoimmunity rates and increase your susceptibility to infection. There are two ways our body can get vitamin D. One way is through your diet and supplements, and the other way is by sun exposure on your skin. It’s essential to use sun protection when you are outside for long periods of time, but you also want to ensure you’re allowing your skin to absorb some rays each day as well. Your primary care provider can test your levels to make sure they are optimal. If they are not optimal I recommend supplementing with Vitamin D3 and K2 to boost your levels.
Staying hydrated, especially during these hot months, is going to be important in keeping your body clear of infections and unwanted toxins. Since our immune system is heavily influenced by our lymphatic system, it’s vital to stay hydrated as it keeps our lymphatic system running effectively. Your lymphatic system helps eliminate toxins and wastes and acts as an important process in immune response. When you become dehydrated, the lymphatic process slows down, hindering the amount of waste it can eliminate.
Keep in mind that you want to pick the right kinds of liquids to drink to stay hydrated. Avoid thirst-quenching drinks that are high in sugar, dyes or artificial sweeteners. Many people try to drink more orange juice to increase their vitamin c levels, but again, many brands in the grocery store are loaded with extra added sugar. High sugar intake can actually suppress your immune system, so be mindful of the ingredients! I recommend sticking to water or naturally flavored water you do yourself (adding cucumber and mint to water overnight), or choosing green juices that are mostly vegetables with lower sugar content. Another great hydrating drink is coconut water- which is also high in electrolytes.
Moderate exercise can help increase a healthy immune response. One way exercise can do this is by circulating immune cells through the body more quickly, so they are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. These benefits last hours after exercise, so if you exercise regularly, your immune system is more likely to work more effectively. Be sure not to overdo your exercise regimen though. More is not always better. Long, intense workouts may actually decrease immune function up to 72 hours after the workout.
While all the above are highly recommended for immune health, taking supplements can be a great choice for making up for any nutrients or antioxidants that your body is missing. I highly recommend the following supplements as they have been shown to support the immune system.
Immune Supporting Supplements:
Vitamin C: This is a powerful antioxidant that contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions.
Zinc: This can help the severity and duration of illness by aiding in boosting your immunity.
Lysine: Lysine can help enhance the levels of immune response molecules needed to fight infections and is a great antiviral.
Elderberry: This can be taken to prevent illness but also can be taken at the onset of symptoms to boost immune response
Vitamin D: Vitamin D3 may offer the best protection for immunity. Since many people are deficient in vitamin D, supplementation is usually recommended to optimize levels.
Viracid: This combination supplement contains Vitamin A, C, Zinc, Elderberry, Echinacea, Astragalus, and Andrographis.
A functional medicine provider can provide you with lab tests that can determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and/or gut and hormone imbalances. Depending on your unique body and genetics, your body may work differently than someone else. Functional medicine providers can use and analyze particular lab tests to see which vitamins or supplements you may need more of depending on your current levels as well as how well your body can metabolize certain nutrients. They can also do gut panels to make sure your gut is functioning optimally to promote a healthy immune system.
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