Holistic Ways to Maintain a Healthy Immune System
There is a collective feeling of uncertainty amidst the current coronavirus pandemic. Many of us are worried about our health, and the health of our loved ones. Aside from taking the recommended precautions from the WHO and CDC, what are some other ways that you can support your immune system during this time?
Herbs & Supplements that support the immune system:
One of the most widely utilized fungi in Chinese Medicine, Reishi or Lingzhi mushroom is known for its potent adaptogenic (substances that help the body adjust to environmental, physiological, and psychological stressors) and immune-enhancing properties. Used medicinally for over 2000 years, Reishi is a safe and effective supplement for overall health and vitality. According to healthline.com, studies have shown that Reishi may reduce inflammation and improve immune system function by increasing the number and activity of white blood cells.
Echinacea is a safe, powerful, immune-boosting herb. Known for its antiviral properties, many people take echinacea to support their immune system during times of stress or when they feel a virus coming on. However, echinacea is also safe to use regularly to support your immune system and help defend your body against illness.
One of the most commonly used medicinal herbs in the world, elderberry extract is a potent, nutrient-rich supplement that is shown to both prevent and treat colds, influenza, and other viral infections with its strong antiviral properties. On top of being packed with rich antioxidants, elderberry also contains polyphenols which may support immunity by increasing white blood cells.
Vitamin C supplements are a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to support your immune system. Studies have shown that vitamin C helps encourage white blood cell production which helps protect the body against infection. Other studies have shown that vitamin C may help prevent and treat pneumonia.
Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D3 when our skin is exposed to the sun. However, much of the population is deficient in this essential vitamin. Supplementing with D3 is an inexpensive and effective way to support your immune system and overall health. Maintaining adequate levels of D3 enhances the function of immune cells, protecting your body from infection. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with decreased lung function, making deficient people more susceptible to complications from respiratory infections.
Lifestyle Factors that support the immune system:
We live in a society that values productivity. Many people feel as though they aren’t being productive unless they are constantly busy. We often forget just how important rest is for our body and mind to work properly. Allow yourself to get plenty of sleep every night. If you are tired during the day—take a nap! Studies have shown that just a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a poor night’s sleep. Don’t feel guilty about sleeping in and taking long naps—especially under times of stress. Regular, good quality sleep is essential for a healthy immune system.
It’s important to get daily exercise to support the immune system. Whether it be taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, yoga, or weight-bearing exercises at home. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, regular physical activity not only decreases your chances of developing heart disease and keeps your bones healthy and strong, but it may also help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, cause white blood cells (the body’s immune cells that fight disease) to circulate more rapidly, and lowers stress hormones that may make you more susceptible to illness.
Keeping a diet rich in micro and macro-nutrients is crucial for a healthy immune system. Some examples of nutrient-rich foods are leafy greens, fatty omega 3-rich fish like salmon and sardines, and colorful fruits and vegetables like berries and yams. Try to avoid junk food like soda and desserts made with bleached flour and high amounts of sugar as these foods have little to no nutritional benefit and may increase your risk of certain diseases. It’s also important to drink plenty of water every day to stay hydrated.
Most of us put a lot of consideration into what we put into our bodies—but what we put on our bodies and into our environment can potentially affect our health too. Chemicals and irritants found in conventional personal care products such as antiperspirants, perfumes, and skin creams as well as harmful pollutants used in common household products such as cleaners, air fresheners, and detergents can have a cumulative, negative impact on our bodies immune response.
Sticking with fragrance-free, organic, and eco-friendly personal care and household products and keeping your home ventilated are the best ways to prevent your body from becoming overtaxed with irritants and to support your immune system. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Guide is a great resource that rates the safety of thousands of products based on their ingredients.
Emotional Support Feeling a sense of belonging is shown to improve both physical and psychological health. Staying connected to others is especially important during times when we are forced to be more isolated than usual. Make a point to stay in regular contact with friends and family, either by phone or in-person if you are living together. If you are living alone, reach out to others electronically. Online groups and forums are also a great way to meet others with similar interests and share ideas and experiences.