As many of us return to work and socialise in the age of coronavirus and COVID-19, looking after our immunity is more important than ever.
Many experts are suggesting the public take a holistic approach to general health maintenance to help the human body protect itself. The following suggestions are not ways to prevent you from contracting the coronavirus, but they are easy ways to boost your immune system and keep you as healthy as possible.
Get a full dose of sleep
A good dose of sleep every night is essential. To stay healthy, get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. This will help keep your immune system in fighting shape, and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
If your sleep schedule has been disrupted by lockdown dreams, ill-health, anxiety, lack of routine or other factors, try to make up for the lost rest with naps. Taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each —one in the morning and one in the afternoon—has been shown to help decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.
If you can’t swing a half-hour nap during the workday, try grabbing a 20-minute siesta on your lunch hour, and another right before dinner. If you are struggling to sleep, read some of our tips in TOP 10 TIPS and Snack Hacks.
Get outside and exercise
Aim to get your 10,000 steps plus a day (or distance cycling, swimming etc). As well as the obvious benefits to your heart and general health, this also staves off decline of the thymus gland in the lymphatic system. Your thymus gland produces T cells, and as we age, our thymus naturally shrinks. Exercise helps slow down this decline, boosting your body’s ability to produce T cells which are critical for the immune system.
Direct exposure to the sun (try and do this at lunchtime) boosts vitamin D and encourages the release of melatonin – key to sleep onset and sleep quality. Vitamin D also has a crucial role to play in helping the body manage its immune response – autoimmunity.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
These help to reduce stress. Stress can cause inflammation in the body that can greatly affect your fight-or-flight response by releasing too much of the stress hormone cortisol. It also leaves us more vulnerable to infections and disease, both in and out of the office. Practising meditation and mindfulness can slow your thoughts down, help you deal with negativity, help you focus on your breathing and generally calm your mind and body.
Watch what (and when) you eat
Ditch the sugar. Getting rid of sugar biohacks your immune system by removing a food source for the “bad” bacteria in your gut that can overwhelm your good bacteria. Autoimmune problems and digestive issues are telltale signs of gut imbalance. Ideally, your gut should be 85% good bacteria or probiotics.
Intermittent fasting. Increasingly studies are concluding that intermittent fasting encourages the immune system to reboot, reduces your ‘immune age’ and boosts your body’s defence mechanisms.
Eat plenty of immune boosting foods. Probiotics and will increase your gut flora, reducing inflammation in your body and boosting your immune system.
Eat the alphabet and a rainbow. Eating immune boosting foods such as a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains and pulses will give you vital vitamins and minerals such as (vitamins C,E,D plus iron and zinc). Probiotics like keffir and prebiotics (foods which promote friendly bacteria growth in your gut) like bananas, greens, onions, garlic, leeks and soya beans will all boost your immunity.
For more on immunity and sleep read our Sick and Tired blog.
To find out more about diet and sleep read our blog series, our Top 10 Sleep Snack Hacks and to get tips on how to sleep better read our TOP 10 Sleep Hacks.