9 Ways to Boost Your Body’s Natural Defenses & Increase Your Immunity

Published: April 8, 2020
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Category: Blog

If the Coronavirus Pandemic has been causing you to take a second look at your overall state of health, you’re not alone. Over the past few weeks, the sale of certain dietary supplements has skyrocketed and home-based and online fitness programs are enjoying heightened popularity and subscriptions. Our current situation has prompted tens of millions of people all over the world to utilize their unfamiliar downtime to re-evaluate their lifestyle habits and work towards a higher state of wellness. The good news? There are plenty of ways you can boost your body’s natural defenses against disease and illness that don’t cost a dime. 

It’s important to note that besides washing your hands, practicing proper hygiene, and following social distancing guidelines – no lifestyle modification, diet, or supplement will protect you from contracting COVID-19. However, the following are ways to help strengthen your immune system and help your body naturally defend itself against any illness.

#1 – Shake the Sugar Habit

A diet full of added sugars can significantly contribute to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease – all conditions that suppress your immune system. Reducing your sugar intake not only decreases inflammation in your body but also aids in weight loss, which, in turn, can reduce your risk of developing these health conditions. 

Strive to limit your sugar intake to less than 5% of your daily calories (about 2 tablespoons for a 2,000-calorie per day diet, or 25 grams if you are reading labels).

#2 – You Snooze… You WIN

Your quality of sleep and immunity go hand in hand. Inadequate sleep, or less than 6 hours each night, can suppress your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Having trouble sleeping? Consider limiting your screen time with TV and technology an hour before bedtime to support your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle. Adults should aim for 7 hours of sleep each night, while teenagers need at least 8-10 hours and infants up to 14 hours. Also keep a regular sleep schedule even if your work schedule has changed or is less predictable, including a schedule during the week, ie wake up at 7 am, go to bed at 10 am, that is different than on weekends so that weekends really feel like weekends.

#3 – Pile Your Dinner Plate with Plants

Plants are rich in nutrients that can help bolster your immune system and decrease inflammation. The antioxidants in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes fight off free radicals and reinforce your body’s natural defenses against harmful pathogens. In addition, the fiber in plant-based foods feeds the healthy bacteria community in your digestive system, which assists in warding off potential illnesses.

#4 – Become a Probiotic PRO

Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut are teeming with beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics enhance the health of our gut flora, which helps increase our immunity against illness. If these foods aren’t appealing to you, probiotic supplements are available.

#5 – Lose Your Fear of Fat

When it comes to our diet, not all fats are bad. Healthy fats, like the ones found in olive oil, avocados, and salmon, help boost our immunity by decreasing the inflammation within our bodies. Chronic inflammation, like that caused by prolonged stress, can run down our body’s defenses over time, so a diet rich in healthy fats can help compensate for this.

#6 – Give Supplements a Second Glance

At this time, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have not released any evidence that a particular supplement can prevent or treat COVID-19. However, many studies indicate that the supplements below may help strengthen your body’s natural immune response to any illness.

  • Zinc – The duration of the common cold in a study of 575 people was decreased by 33% when participants consumed 75 mg of zinc per day.
  • Garlic – Supplementing with garlic reduced the incidence of the common cold by 30% in a 12-week study conducted with 146 people.
  • Vitamin C – Taking 1,000-2,000 mg of vitamin c per day may reduce the duration of a common cold in adults by 8% according to a review of over 11,000 people.
  • Vitamin D – Your chances of becoming sick may increase if you have a vitamin D deficiency, so supplementing to ensure that you have adequate levels may counteract this occurrence.
  • Elderberry – Although much more research is needed, a recent review found that elderberry helped reduce the symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections.

Even though these supplements have demonstrated some potential to ward off illness and decrease its duration in the above studies, that does not mean that they are effective in the treatment of the Coronavirus. Because the FDA does not regulate supplements, it is essential to purchase them from a reputable vendor who has been independently tested by a third-party organization like ConsumerLabNSF International, or United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

#7 – Put on Your Walking Shoes

Lace-up your sneakers! Moderate exercise like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and bike riding may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate more effectively. Aim for at least 150 minutes of this type of exercise each week.

#8 – Don’t Let Hydration Take a Vacation

Drinking water doesn’t prevent illness or disease, but it DOES prevent dehydration, which can make you more susceptible to illness. When your body is dehydrated, it simply doesn’t function or perform optimally. You may experience headaches, lose focus, your digestion may slow, your heart and kidney’s performance may even be compromised. How much water should you drink? Keep hydrating your body until your urine is pale yellow. For many people, this is somewhere around half of their body weight in ounces. If you are an older adult, it is even more imperative to drink water regularly, as your body may lose its ability to signal to your brain that you are thirsty.

#9 – Reframe Your Response to Stress

Let’s face it – it’s not easy to reduce your stress level, especially during a global pandemic. BUT, you can begin to retrain your response to stress and how you deal with it. 

Studies show that prolonged, chronic stress can significantly increase body inflammation and suppress our immune system. Find positive, healthy ways to combat stress like meditation, exercise, journaling, or talking with a friend or counselor.

The Coronavirus pandemic has made many of us realize how truly precious our health is. Be a good steward of your wellness. Be proactive. Feel empowered by the things you can control about your physical and mental wellbeing!

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