Immune Support: What Is Most Important?

Everyone knows that a strong immune system is key to both preventing illness and shortening illnesses when they do arise.  Supporting your immune system in daily life is the best preventative measure. Luckily, there are also ways to support your immune system acutely (during the onset and for the duration of sickness to help alleviate sickness more quickly).  

One of the key aspects to a robust immune system is eating a nutrient dense diet.  Natural health expert, Dr. Aviva Romm, recommends eating a Mediterranean style diet.  This means eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits (aim for 6-8 servings a day), nuts, seeds, fish, legumes, olive oil, and whole grains.  Some vitamins and minerals that support immunity include vitamins D and C and zinc. Vitamin C can be found naturally in fresh vegetables and fruits, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, and pineapple.  Some foods high in zinc include grass fed beef, oysters, crab, lobster, and brazil nuts. You can take a cod liver oil supplement to increase Vitamin D, but don’t forget to spend some good time outdoors and let your body do its work of synthesizing Vitamin D.  

Many of us have experienced the role that sleep plays in supporting our immune systems.  When you are burning the candle at both ends, your body doesn’t have the time and rest needed to adequately repair.  Research shows that lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to illnesses and creates an inflammatory state in the body.  While each person’s needs may vary, it is recommended to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily. Part of good sleep hygiene is to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day.  

While the Covid-19 virus is novel, there are some preventative steps you can take to limit your chance of exposure and infection.  Here are some of the current suggestions supported by science: 

Prevent yourself from getting infections by washing your hands thoroughly and often.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands any time after sneezing, coughing, using the bathroom, and before preparing and eating food.  The Coronaviruses are encased in a lipid (fatty) envelope. Dr. Romm explains that similar to how soap cuts grease, using soap on your hands and high touch surfaces (wipe down cell phones, computer keyboards, door knobs, etc) can break the fat apart and make the virus less likely to infect you or others.  Also limit your risk of infection by limiting handshakes (opt for a friendly wave) and don’t share utensils and personal items (particularly with people outside your immediate family). It is also important to avoid touching your face.  

Another CDC recommendation is social distancing.  Social distancing involves avoiding crowds and keeping 3 to 6 feet away from others outside of your home.  Intimate gatherings with people you know are fine, so long as everyone is symptom free. Dr. Aviva Romm makes the important distinction between social distancing and social isolation.  She reminds us that distancing is what is recommended, not isolation. Dr. Romm states, “ISOLATION leads to depression, anxiety, and loneliness - not healthy in these times.” 

This brings us to another important point: our emotions play a key role in the functioning of our immune systems.  As natural health expert and herbalist, Juliet Blankespoor relays, “Our moods--and sense of connection--have a profound effect on our white blood cells (immune cells, such as B cells, T cells, natural killer [NK] cells, and macrophages).  The feelings of stress and social isolation are some of the biggest immune ‘downers’ out there.” This is because stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) weaken immune function. In reverse, when we are feeling happy or relaxed, the hormones our body’s produce (serotonin and dopamine) strengthen our immune systems.  Feelings of loneliness are associated with increased cortisol levels, so make sure you are forming connections even during these times of social distancing. Maybe spend some time writing letters to loved ones or old friends, invite close friends or relatives over for tea, and look through photographs.  

De-stressing will not only help give you peace of mind, it can also support your immunity.  Two effective ways to help manage acute and long-term stress include meditation and yoga. Research shows that meditating for simply 10 to 15 minutes a day, three to four times a week, is enough to lower cortisol levels and reduce inflammation.  Yoga also helps to calm your mind and immune system. The deep breathing that accompanies yoga postures is attributed to boosting resistance to infection. Practice good self-care during these uncertain times to help ground and relax yourself.  

Edye’s Naturals support you in living a holistic lifestyle.  Have you ever made yourself a foot bath? Fill a tub (can use a plastic shoe box) with warm water.  First dip in your feet to get them wet, then massage your feet with Edye’s Peppermint Himalayan Salt Scrub.  Put your feet back into the water and soak for 15 minutes or as long as desired. While soaking, turn on some relaxing music, a book on tape, or simply enjoy the silence and sip on a cup of tea. 

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