Our immune system protects us and enables us to fight off illness including the common cold, flu and coronavirus. Supporting our immune system with a healthy diet, adequate fluids, proper sleep habits, regular movement and stress management can strengthen our bodies and help us stay healthy.
Focusing on whole foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and well-sourced protein choices, allows for a full spectrum of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Specific foods that may help support immune health include anti-inflammatory fats from omega-3 rich foods such as salmon, walnuts, chia and flax seeds. Foods rich in vitamin C, E, and zinc, such as citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, almonds and chickpeas can help strengthen our immune defenses. Highly processed foods with refined sugars, including candy, juice and packaged snack foods can weaken our immune response and should be limited.
Hydration is important to all our bodily functions including fighting illness. Pack a reusable water bottle, aiming to drink at least 2.5 Liters of water daily. Being well hydrated allows important nutrients to flow through our blood stream to our cells.
Without sufficient sleep the body makes fewer immune cells, causing a shortage of essential proteins needed to combat infection and inflammation. Allow for 7-8 hours in bed each night and practice a relaxing night-time routine. No screens 1-2 hours before bed and get into bed around the same time each night. Evidence shows that a regular sleep-wake cycle can increase the body’s production of immune-boosting cells and improve sleep quality.
Regular physical activity has been shown to improve immune function in several ways. Find activities that you enjoy doing and strive to be active for 20-60 minutes each day.
In times of uncertainty it is especially important to find ways to relax. Connecting with loved ones frequently, journaling, meditation, yoga, deep breathing or a hot bath or shower can allow for stress relief that calms the nervous system, reducing inflammation and lowering stress hormones.
While whole foods are best for nutritional support, supplements can help fill in the gaps.
Some supplements that may help support immune health include Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, and Probiotics. For specific recommendations talk to your healthcare provider.
Jana Pedersen is a Nurse Practitioner at Active Family Healthcare. With a background in personal training, she takes into account lifestyle influences when working with her patients.