COVID-19 remains a very real concern, and with some European countries going back into lockdown and infection rates soaring as the weather cools, this is no time to stop taking precautions. You should continue to wear a mask, avoid crowded indoor gatherings, maintain six feet of social distance, and wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
It’s also not a bad idea to start taking extra good care of yourself, if you haven’t already. By getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and using immune support supplements, you can help your immune system function at optimal levels. A strong immune system might not be enough to keep you from contracting COVID-19, but it can make all the difference to whether and how quickly you recover. Here’s what you need to do.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Of all the things you can do to support your immune system, getting plenty of sleep is probably the most important. When you’re not getting enough sleep, your body doesn’t make as many protective immune cells and antibodies as it does when you’re well-rested. Your body produces T cells and other, more passive immune cells during sleep, while it produces cytokines and other more active, pathogen-attacking cells during wakefulness. A proper balance of sleep and wakefulness is vital to keeping this delicate autonomic system in balance.
Regular moderate exercise also has benefits for immunity. Aerobic activities support the circulatory system, which can help flush bacteria and pathogens out of the body by improving the movement of immune cells through the bloodstream. That’s just a short-term effect, however. In the long term, regular exercise mitigates the effects of aging on the immune system, so you’re less likely to get sick as you age, too.
While exercise supports the immune system, you should be careful not to overtrain. Overtraining can temporarily weaken your immune system, as your body recovers from the workout. Stick to moderate-to-vigorous activities like walking or jogging, riding a bike, gardening, or swimming. If you go to the gym, practice good hygiene by wiping down exercise machines with a disinfecting wipe before and after use, washing your hands after working out, wearing a mask, and avoiding touching your face.
Of course, you don’t need to go to a gym, especially if you’re not comfortable with the risk level involved. You can exercise at home — download workout apps onto your smartphone or stream workout videos from YouTube. If you own exercise equipment already, you’re set, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to equip yourself. You don’t need to spend anything. You can do calisthenics, yoga, and many other weight-bearing exercises at home for free. Going for a walk is similarly inexpensive. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, with two strength-training sessions (like calisthenics, yoga, or weight lifting) per week.
Use Immune Support Supplements
Immune support supplements don’t take the place of a healthy diet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help stave off an infection. Many of these supplements contain common vitamins and minerals that have been found to support immune function, like vitamin A, C, D, and E, as well as zinc. Five hundred milligrams of vitamin C, taken twice a day with food, has been found to support the immune system, but talk to your doctor first if you’ve had kidney stones in the past. You can also take 2,000 IU of vitamin D each day with food, and/or 25 to 30 mg of zinc each day with food. Shop for immune support supplements online at sites like https://www.vitaminshoppe.com/c/immune-support/N-cp99mj, and stay socially distanced.
Eat a Healthy Diet
While there’s no reason that you shouldn’t take immune support supplements, or even a multivitamin, every day, you still need to eat a healthy diet. After sleep and exercise, a clean, healthy diet low in fat and sugar and high in protein is the best thing you can do for yourself to stay healthy. A healthy diet should consist of about 50 percent whole grains; 25 percent lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts, and legumes; and 25 percent fruits and vegetables. Sugar can have a detrimental effect on your immune system, so avoid empty calories, and stay hydrated with water, tea, coffee, and other low- or zero-calorie drinks.
With the pandemic threatening to get worse as winter arrives, there’s never been a better time to start making healthy lifestyle choices. The choices you make today could improve your immune system tomorrow, help your body fight infection, and ultimately, help you overcome COVID-19.