Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission to fund my avocado habit if you use these links to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. You wont be charged any extra, and you will be keeping me supplied with avocados. Win win, really! I only ever recommend products, tools and services that I personally use and love. You can read my full affiliate disclosure HERE.
2020 – a wild ride we’ll never forget, eh! While we may not be entirely able to avoid catching COVID-19, there are a few ways to support your immune system with the right nutrition and by practising healthy lifestyle choices, so that if the worst does happen, you are armed and ready to fight it off.
Fill up on functional foods (AKA ‘superfoods’)
Nutrient-dense functional foods provide us with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and phytochemicals that boost immunity and reduce inflammation by neutralising free-radicals – the scavenger atoms associated with disease, pollution, pesticides, smoking, radiation and a bunch of other toxins and processes we come into contact with on a daily basis.
Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables – like berries, spinach and tomatoes – contain the most antioxidants, so go ahead and eat that rainbow, folks!
Spices like turmeric and ginger are both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-packed and great for making hot, soothing drinks too.
Mushrooms also appear to boost the function of our immune cells, along with garlic and echinacea.
Forget friends with benefits (you’re supposed to be social distancing anyway!) and fill your plate full of foods with benefits.
Eat those greens
Green vegetables – particularly of the cruciferous variety – control the activity of vital immune cells which protect the body from infection. They also contain a healthy helping of antioxidants to boot, so load up on broccoli, cabbage, kale, rocket, watercress and Brussels sprouts.
Aim to eat one serving a day of green veggies for maximum benefit. If you’re not used to eating a lot of fibre, increase your consumption slowly to avoid any digestive discomfort.
Focus on healthy fats
Repeat after me: “fried food is not my friend”.
Oils high in omega-6 (like sunflower, soy and corn) are pro-inflammatory and interfere with our bodies healthy immune response, meanwhile the process of deep-frying food. That’s a BIG *FAT* FAIL.
Ideally, we should be getting our dietary fats from whole food sources like nuts and seeds that help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E, which are vital for immune health. For cooking, try using a small amount of coconut or avocado oil, and use olive oil to dress salads. Cold-pressed/virgin oils are that variety you want as they have been subjected to less processing.
Get some exercise
Regular exercise can boost the immune system and help us fend off infection. And it doesn’t need to be a calorie-torching sweat session in the gym either – a good walk, yoga class, dance around the living room or even cleaning the house is good enough to boost immunity.
M o d e r a t e is the keyword here, as intense excessive exercise without appropriate rest between sessions can have the opposite effect and actually suppress the immune system.
Get your limbs moving, and your blood pumping, but pay attention to your body and don’t push yourself too hard.
Catch some rays
Low levels of the sunshine vitamin – vitamin D – have been associated with an increased risk of infection, disease, and immune-related disorders.
While you can get vitamin D from some food sources (like fish, egg yokes, mushrooms and some fortified dairy and cereals), it’s far more rewarding to get out into nature and soak up some sun where our skin can make its own vitamin D. Sun and exercise = win.
If you live in a climate where the sun isn’t forthcoming all year round, consider taking a vitamin D supplement during the cooler, darker months.
Yeah, I know.. easier said than done at the best of times, and I am sure you’re sick of hearing it. But that’s because it’s SO, SO important.
When we’re stressed out, our bodies produce the stress hormone, cortisol. This happens when we exercise, and for short bouts, it can actually boost immunity. BUT, chronic/prolonged stress messes with our immune response and leaves us susceptible to infections.
Reducing and managing stress is a marathon, not a race, and the subject of how exactly to do it is another post entirely, but a few quick tips are:
- Get regular exercise
- Reduce or cut out caffeine
- Laugh, cry or both – let it out!
- Practice saying no
- Spend time with your family and friends (Zoom counts!)
- Take some deep breaths
- Do something for yourself – watch TV, read a book, listen to some music – self-care isn’t selfish, it’s vital for sanity
Get enough Zzzs
Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. – SleepFoundation.org
On the flip side, sleep appears to improve the function of immune cells called T cells, whose job it is to recognise and react to signs of infection in other cells.
Healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Start paying attention to your sleep hygiene and make sure you get the sleep you need!
Ways to support your immune system – the bottom line
While nothing is guaranteed to prevent you from getting sick, implementing these tips into your daily life can certainly lower your risk and possibly reduce the severity of any bugs you do pick up. It’s never too late to start creating healthy habits. ✌🏼
- Vitamin D and the immune system, PMID: 21527855