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How to Support our Health and Immunity

by | March 20, 2020

How to Support our Health and Immunity

As everyone is working together (but at a distance) to reduce the spread of Covid-19, I want to remind you of the importance of taking care of your immune system.

Physical distancing and washing your hands are important, but let’s not forget that a strong immune system is critical for protecting your body from any infection. In addition to social distancing and washing our hands, it’s more important than ever that we also focus on proper nutrition, sleep, stress management, and gut health, to maintain our health.

Eat Whole Foods, Mostly Plants, ALL COLORS OF THE RAINBOW.

During a time when grocery stores are facing shortages, you want to make food choices that are as nutrient dense as possible, as opposed to foods with empty calories and high carbohydrates. It’s easy to grab processed, carby choices and stress eat while watching the Covid-19 news updates. This will not serve us well, especially in this moment, when we need a healthy immune system, a healthy gut, and mental clarity. Processed foods are not doing us any favors here. Create rules around eating to support your health: for e.g., no food while watching TV or browsing the internet, or I can only snack on 1-2 servings of fruit or veggies while watching TV. We should be focused on our meal when eating and NOT multitasking.

Avoid processed foods and foods with a long list of ingredients. Reduce your sugar and alcohol consumption. Choose vegetables and fruit – fresh, organic if available, and frozen if fresh is not available (for smoothies). If selection is limited, look to canned foods like beans (ideally organic, in BPA-free cans), vegetables, meats, fish (sardines are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids), chicken/beef broths, and rice. Foods that are high in antioxidants are a great choice.

What about supplements?

Note, this is not medical advice and you should talk to your qualified healthcare provider before changing your supplements or adding supplements into your diet.

As long as one has no trouble absorbing nutrients, there is no better source of nutrients than a whole food, plant-rich diet as a foundation! Nature packs micronutrients and macronutrients in plants better than a human could ever imagine. There are also no specific supplements that have been studied in relation to Covid-19. What we do know, however, is that vitamins C, and D, as well as Zinc can support our immune system. These are supplements that I take on a daily basis. Talk to your qualified healthcare provider when choosing formulations and dosing of these supplements, and make sure they are appropriate for YOU.

In addition to these, I use probiotics, to support my gut microbiome, as well as omega 3 fatty acids, to support my plant-rich diet. I use supplements to help bridge any possible nutritional gaps in my diet and support my health.

There are certain supplements that caution is warranted with, as they are known to activate the immune system (at times this overreaction of the immune system can cause harm) at times of infection, so it is important to talk to your doctor before you start. These include: Sambucus nigra (Elderberry), Polysaccharide extracts from medicinal mushrooms, Echinacea angustifolia and E. purpurea, Larch arabinogalactan, and Vitamin D.

Stay Active.

We can’t to go to our favorite exercise class or to the gym right now, but this is not an excuse to stop working out. Many instructors and exercise or yoga studios are offering classes online. Schedule a time and just do it! If you prefer to exercise on your own, that’s ok too. Keeping active reduces stress hormones and stimulates endorphins, so make time for working out indoors or taking a walk outside. Natural sunlight will also help regulate your circadian rhythm and promote a good night’s rest.

Sleep Well.

Turn off your devices at least 3 hours before bedtime, and choose to read a book or write in your journal instead. Blue light from laptops and phones suppress melatonin and mess with your sleep. Listening to relaxing music and taking a warm bath are other good ways to wind down and help you relax.

Create a healthy routine.

It’s easy to get into a pattern of watching the news and being on social media for hours. This makes sense – we want to stay informed and we want to stay connected. However, this is also an unhealthy habit for a number of reasons. Excessive screen time has negative effects on our mental and physical health. Sitting in one position all day can lead to muscle tension and back and neck pain. Being sedentary can also contribute to constipation. We also know that being sedentary is harmful to our health. Watch the news, know what’s going on, but create rules around this to support your body and mind: for e.g., I will only watch the news for x amount of time, x times per day. I will check my social media x times per day. I will limit my total screen time to x hours per day and I will schedule my work for x hours per day. Similarly, schedule your exercise, phone calls or FaceTime with people you love. Schedule time for stretching, meditation, cooking, and walking. In the middle of this tragedy and uncertainty, find a way make the best out of this situation and focus on caring for yourself and supporting the people around you.

Manage Stress.

High cortisol and increased stress weaken the immune system. This is a pervasive problem among adults, and recent events are not helping.

Meditation and breathing exercises are the best approaches to lowering cortisol, and there are several apps and methods out there to help. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a great way to immediately lower stress. Remind yourself to focus on the things you can control right now — how you react to situations and the actions you can take.

Most importantly, remember you are not alone. We are all facing challenges right now, and we will get through them together. Be gentle with yourself, as this is an extreme time we are adapting to right now. Be patient and kind with your loved ones, your friends and colleagues, and other people in your life. I am confident we will all emerge from this predicament stronger than ever. Until then, please know my team and I are here to support you on your wellness journey.

Disclaimer

Nothing stated or posted in this article is intended or should be taken to be the practice of medical or counseling care. The information made available in this article, including, but not limited to, interviews, text, graphics, images, links to other articles, websites, and other material contained in this article, is strictly for informational and entertainment purposes only. The information in this article is NOT (and should not be used as) a substitute for professional psychiatry, psychology, medical, nursing, or professional healthcare advice or services, nor is it designed to suggest any specific diagnosis or treatment. Please always seek medical advice from your physician or a qualified health care provider regarding any medical questions, conditions or treatment, before making any changes to your health care regimen, medications or lifestyle habits. None of the information in this article is a representation or warranty that any particular drug or treatment is safe, appropriate or effective for you, or that any particular healthcare provider is appropriate for you. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking help from a health care provider due to something you have read or seen in this article. Your reading/use of this article does not create in any way a physician-patient relationship, any sort of confidential, fiduciary or professional relationship, or any other special relationship that would give rise to any duties. This article does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, healthcare providers, procedures, or treatments, and if you rely on any of the information provided by this article, you do so solely at your own risk.

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About the Author

Dr. Bojana

Dr. Bojana

Dr. Bojana (Boy•ana) Jankovic Weatherly is an award winning physician, double board certified in internal and integrative medicine. After completing internal medicine residency, she did a fellowship in integrative medicine, trained in functional medicine, nutrition and mindfulness. Her approach is rooted in evidence-based medicine that is personalized to each individual she works with.

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