Boosting Your Immune System
In today’s crazy times where every news channel is filled with nothing but updates on coronavirus, we are constantly warned of the thousands of sick people surrounding us. As we all know, there is not much we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, except stay inside, wash our hands, and continue social distancing. But what many of us have not thought about, is how does this lack of public exposure affect our immune system strength and tolerance?? To stick with society’s never-ending theme, this week’s article is dedicated to the immune system and how we can keep ours strong through all of this.
Many of us are all too familiar with the common cold that goes around when we go back to school or how fast the flu can travel through classrooms, public spaces, etc. This is mainly caused by a change in our environments when we suddenly find ourselves in a lot closer corridors with others than normal. For example, when we are used to being outside all the time during the summer, and we make the fast transition to crammed classrooms or staying inside all day due to cold weather, we are exposing ourselves to many more germs than we are used to, and our immune systems get overwhelmed. When our immune systems have more than they can handle, our bodies are run down and we get sick. Applying this to today’s world, we are all social distancing and separating ourselves from other people, public spaces, transportation, etc. Social distancing is absolutely essential in our war against COVID-19, but I would argue that are bodies have never before experienced so little public exposure. Right now, this is GOOD and everyone needs to be doing their part, but we also need to realize that we may be weakening our immune systems due to the lack of exposure to everyday germs. Let me make myself clear that I am in full support of social distancing, but instead I bring this up to make us all think about how our immune systems may be affected by all of this. At one point or another, we will need to go to the grocery store or pharmacy to get essentials, and the last thing we want is to get sick from just the quick exposure of public germs that our bodies are not used to.
Therefore, on top of doing our part of social distancing, we can also helpourselves out by eating foods that boost our immune system simultaneously.
We all know the cliche advice to eat an orange so our bodies get more Vitamin C or the common phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but there are many additional ways to keep up our immune health. First of all, it is not just oranges or citrus fruits that are filled with Vitamin C – in fact, the foods highest in Vitamin C are not citrus fruits at all. Some of the best sources for this “immune strengthening” vitamin include dark green vegetables (especially broccoli and kale), red bell peppers, and kiwi fruit. Side note – eating Vitamin C also helps our bodies absorb key nutrients such as iron for energy! Also, this is a great time to reference back to my previous article on Vitamin E – another nutrient to boost our immune strength. Foods high in healthy fats like nuts and avocados are excellent sources of Vitamin E.
Another great category of foods to get in our diets are foods filled with antioxidants. When a foreign chemical enters our body (ex: germs, viruses, etc.), often times it’s goal is to harm our cells. We call these free radicals. Antioxidants work to reduce the free radicals in our bodies, thus helping our immune systems fight off “foreign enemies”. Some of the best sources of antioxidants are berries such as blueberries or strawberries, beans, beets, spinach, grapes, and nuts. Essentially, just getting as many colorful fruits and vegetables in our diets, along with healthy fats like nuts will help us tremendously.
And finally, while this does not have to do with eating, sleep is the best way to keep our bodies strong. Now that there is practically nothing to do except walk around the house in our pajamas, it is a great time to catch up on sleep! There will be another article soon focused on how sleep affects our entire bodies in detail, but I couldn’t write an article on the immune system and not mention this.
We cannot deny that we are living through history right now. While most of the uncertainty we are facing today is focused on how to fight COVID-19, we should not turn a blind eye to how social distancing is affecting us on an individual and cellular level. Never before have we had so little contact with the public (and therefore the germs we are used to experiencing), so we can all do our part to keep our immune systems strong. This way, when we make the inevitable runs to the grocery store, we don’t overwhelm our immune systems so much that we get sick. And if you have coronavirus, well then, this article certainly can’t hurt. Wishing you all the best during this time – stay safe, keep eating colorful foods with lots of vitamins, and stay healthy! See you next week.
Betsy Blitch, 3/24/20