Boost Your Immune System with These Healthy Choices
by Jamie Spannhake
March 14, 2020
In the midst of this global pan(dem)ic, one way to reduce our anxiety is by boosting our immune systems so we avoid serious illness. We can practice the preventative steps recommended by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which mostly apply to how we live out in the world. We can also follow these tips at home to stay healthy.
1. Take a probiotic. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of your immune tissue is located in your intestines. This is why gut health and overall health are inextricably connected. One of the best ways to boost your gut health is by balancing the bacteria in your gut by taking a probiotic. This is especially true if you have recently taken, or are currently taking, antibiotics for a bacterial infection. A probiotic builds the good bacteria in your intestines, which helps fight off the bad bacteria and boosts your immune system to fight off viruses and other pathogens. There are loads of good probiotics available. Probiotics that have been found to provide health benefits include various strains of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces, with the following strains being the best for boosting immunity: Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum. Find a probiotic with some or all of these strains, with at least 1 billion CFUs, or colony forming units, per day, though higher amounts are even better.
2. Live an “immune-boosting” lifestyle. A healthy and strong immune system is your first line of defense. Your immune system can fight off pathogens better when it’s not fighting other assaults on your body created by an unhealthy lifestyle. Follow these strategies:
- Eat a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
- Exercise regularly, even if it is light exercise like walking.
- Limit sugar because it is empty calories that provide no nutritional benefit to your body, yet requires your body to utilize its resources to digest and process.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting sugary beverages.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, or not at all.
- Manage your stress and anxiety (try meditation).
- Don’t smoke.
3. Good sleep is one of the keys to good health. Cutting sleep short by even an hour or two a day reduces the effectiveness of your immune system by about 25 percent. To stay healthy, you must give your body time to recover and refresh. Sleep provides this opportunity. The average adult requires seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Set a bedtime schedule and try to stick to it, not altering more than one hour from your regular bedtime or awake time schedule.
4. Wash your hands, a lot. This last piece of advice is simple — and arguably most important. Viruses spread when we touch something or get germs on our hands from droplets from a sick person’s cough or sneeze and then touch our nose, mouth or eyes. Washing your hands, and avoiding touching your face, are some of the most effective ways to stay well, especially outbreaks of disease. The CDC recommends that you lather the palms and backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. For moments when you can’t get to a sink, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Take the time to practice these preventative steps to avoid the panic of this pandemic!