During these crazy times, many of us are wearing masks and gloves just to go to the grocery store and, if you’re like us, you are probably terrified when someone walks within 6ft of you – we hold our breath until they pass!
Why do we do this?
Well, we are taking the first step to staying healthy – avoiding germs – but right now, more than ever, we also need to be caring for our immune systems in case we get sick.
Today we are going to explore three ways to maintain a healthy immune system.
Sleep your way to health
Lack of quality sleep can increase your chance of contracting a virus and slows your ability to fight it off. Sleeps role in this comes down to important infection and inflammation-fighting proteins called cytokines that are produced during sleep; without them, your defenses are down.
That said, be wary of sleeping too much while you're locked up inside – 8hrs for adults is enough sleep but more than 10hrs can have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep. If you still feel exhausted after 8hrs sleep, check out our earlier post on sleep for some helpful tips.
Another option to improve your sleep health is napping, which has been shown to reduce stress and improve your immune system. Try putting a 20-minute block in your work calendar and turning your phone to “do not disturb” to avoid disruptions.
If you’re not one to nap (or even if you are), you could also try a “coffee nap”. Yes, yes, we know this sounds counter-intuitive but check it out, just don’t do it late in the afternoon as the caffeine will impact your sleep at night.
Why not just...chill out
Stress is an unpleasant sensation that your body tells you is bad for your health – shortened breath, tight chest, headache, and the list goes on.
It is normal to feel stressed from time-to-time, but prolonged feelings of stress can cause the nervous system to maintain a heightened state of arousal which has impacts on your sleep, digestive system and immune system.
One study found that students who were going through stressful exams had fewer protective cells (T-cells) to fight of illness when compared with when they were relaxed, leaving the body less protected to fight off infection. Stress also impacts our digestive system, inhibiting our ability to absorb key vitamins and minerals.
The solution is easy – meditate.
A review of 47 trials, which included a total of 3,515 participants, found that mindfulness meditation led to reduced stress and anxiety – all it takes is 10 minutes each day. We recommend trialing Headspace or Calm.
An apple a day...
No, apples alone won’t solve all of your health problems but eating a plant-rich diet will boost your immune system by making sure you consume healthy vitamins and minerals.
Antioxidants are your best friend.
Vitamins A, B6, C, E & D, as well as minerals; zinc, iron, and selenium are rich antioxidants that assist in reducing the damaging effects of ‘free radicals’, chemicals that can attack healthy cells.
To get an antioxidant hit, we suggest stocking up on:
- Citrus fruits (blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, raspberries)
- Dark green veg (spinach, kale, broccoli)
- Beans (black beans, kidney beans, soybeans)
- Nuts (pecans nuts, brazil nuts, walnuts)
When in doubt, the best way to absorb all of these vitamins and minerals is to ‘eat the rainbow’, meaning to add a healthy proportion of all the different colors of fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet.
If you’re stuck at home at the moment, rather than lounging around ordering Uber Eat why not cook an immune-boosting meal? Here are some exciting recipes to get you started: