While the world is focused on the rapid spread of COVID-19, the global public health community echoes what the natural health community already knows: prevention is the most important weapon against illness.
Here, we’re offering a refresher course on the best practices for protecting yourself—and supporting your immune system—against viruses and infection.
You probably already know that being overly busy and under stress can drain your immune system, leaving you susceptible to infections. Cold, flu, and other viruses can take up residence after you’ve simply been pushing yourself too hard.
You’ve also noticed, no doubt, that a worldwide pandemic brings even more worries to manage. But stress-busting strategies like yoga, breath work, meditation, or exercise can go a long way toward easing the stress load and help drop your risk of getting sick.
Before you read that next pandemic update, take one minute, right now, to breathe slowly and deeply into your belly for some on-the-spot relaxation.
Botanical medicines categorized as “adaptogens” can also be helpful. They’ve been shown to improve the body’s response to and recovery from stress. Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, rhodiola, and Asian ginseng are all examples that you may wish to chat about with your health care practitioner.
Work it out
Exercise is a powerful immune supporter, especially in people who are dealing with stress. As well, plenty of studies have pointed to the positive effects of physical fitness when it comes to frequency and severity of illnesses like colds and the flu.
In one study, those who were aerobically active and physically fit experienced a 41 percent reduction in upper respiratory tract infection severity and symptoms versus those who were sedentary.
Maximize your immunity-boosting workouts
Get your heart rate up. A number of studies into the effects of exercise on immune function demonstrate immune system benefits from cardiovascular activity.
Take a rest day. To get the best immune benefit out of your workouts, exercise frequently, but don’t burn yourself out.
Give your workout a caffeine boost. Caffeine is well known to help improve exercise performance, so a caffeine hit before your next workout may give you the boost you’re looking for.
Recover properly by stretching. Help your muscles recover following sweat sessions by engaging in low-intensity stretching.
Researchers have long confirmed the importance of sleep for a healthy immune system. Many studies have demonstrated this. In an experiment where people were intentionally exposed to a cold-causing virus, those who slept fewer than seven hours a night, or had poor quality sleep, were three to five times more likely to develop an infection. Get some help if you’re not getting your ZZZs.
While eating right is important all the time, a healthy diet full of nutrient-rich whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables is especially important when fending off viruses and infection. For extra immune system support, supplements like probiotics, quercetin, vitamin D, and zinc can be useful.