Covid-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2). It was first detected in China and has now spread across the world, with over 15,665,350 cases reported worldwide and 638,169 global deaths as of July 24, 2020. (See John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest case updates). The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked anxiety and fear throughout the country and prompted many people to explore the best approaches to protecting their health. Everyday precautions like washing your hands, wearing a face mask when in public and avoiding people who feel ill, are key in staying healthy.

Another way to stay healthy and fight illness is by boosting your immune system. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. Developing a strong immune system while you are healthy can aid your body in the event you become sick. Taking steps now to boost your immune health can help your body’s defense as it becomes familiar with a new virus, if you become sick. Your body will also be in better shape to help fight other common bugs such as the common cold or flu viruses.

Here are a few steps you can do every day to help you feel as healthy as possible:

Stay Active: Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. Working out is a powerful way to boost your immune system. Exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. One of the greatest benefits of regular exercise is its ability to help relieve mental and emotional stress, which has been linked to suppressed immunity. Exercise helps to provide an outlet for nervous energy and take our minds off our greatest concerns (at least temporarily).

Watch Your Diet: While there is no magic bullet to prevent one from falling ill, proper nutrition is one way to help you stay healthy and strong. No matter what kind of shape you are in, malnutrition makes you susceptible to illness. Eating a healthy diet helps to support a healthy immune system to fight off bacteria, viruses and many other illnesses.

Nourish your body by focusing on:

  • Increasing your intake of vegetables
  • Avoid sugar sweetened beverages
  • Limit the amount of red meats you eat
  • Eat whole grains
  • Incorporate healthy fats like olive oil and avocado
  • Focus on micronutrients: Micronutrients play roles in maintaining immune function. The best way to get vitamins and minerals is from a well-rounded diet. According to Harvard Health Publishing (Harvard Medical School) the following are important immune boosting micronutrients and food sources of each:

Vitamin B6: Chicken, cereals, bananas, pork-loin, potatoes with skins.

Vitamin C: Tomatoes, citrus fruit, sweet peppers, broccoli, kiwi fruit

Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds and oil, almonds, safflower oil, peanut butter

Magnesium: Whole wheat, legumes, nuts, seeds

Zinc: Oysters, beef shank, Alaskan king crab, turkey (dark meat)

One of the ways you can develop consistency in eating healthy is by “coloring your plate”. The more colorful your plate, the greater variety of nutrition you are getting. If you are eating a balanced diet, there is no need for supplements. Supplements are not packaged the same way as food, so we do not know what else is needed for adequate absorption and utilization by the body.

Stay on Top Of Chronic Stress: When are bodies are under long term stress, our immune system’s ability to fight an illness is reduced. Examples of unhealthy stress include inadequate recovery from physical, mental and emotional stress of any kind. When unhealthy stress becomes chronic, it can lead to the impairment of the immune system. Stress can also have an indirect effect on illness as it is associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices. For example, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of sleep, etc.

Get Enough Sleep: When it comes to your health, sleep plays an important role. The CDC recommends Adults (18-60 years) get 7 or more hours of sleep per night. It is also important to have quality sleep. Going to bed at the same time each night, having a relaxing environment, removing electronics and other distractions and avoiding large meals and caffeine prior to bed will all improve your quality of sleep. Cytokines are a type of protein that target infection and inflammation, creating an immune response. Cytokines are produced and released during sleep. While more sleep won’t necessarily keep you from getting sick, skimping on it can hinder your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to a bad cold or case of the flu. Make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep to help make sure your immune system is in fighting shape.