During COVID-19 lock down, I’m sure we are all questioning our health and have a greater interest to boost our immune and protect us from the virus plus other bugs out there.
Take this time and motivation to make some changes to be as healthy mentally and physically as you can, remain confident and calm during the lock down.
Start preparing wholefood meals; get your body in a good routine of eating well, daily exercise and quality sleep.
This may seem basic in theory but applying them, if not already a daily habit, can be over whelming for some, so just take one step at a time and focus on one of the suggestions below and commit to it daily.
Just one suggestion is a change for the better and is progress.
My top 6 recommendations to boost immune
1. Review your daily diet and make changes to eat wholefoods.
Review each meal of the day, including snacks, and ensure it includes mostly wholefoods and has minimal processed and refined flour products. This will ensure you get the nutrients to help your body run optimally and keep your immune system strong.
Choose foods in their most simplest and natural form, those which haven’t been messed with by addition of flavours, store marinades and sauces, preservatives.
If the food label has numbers on it, then it’s not in the wholefood category and will be putting extra stress on your body to digest, detoxify and eliminate. To boost your immune you need to avoid these nasties.
- Choose fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds that are non-flavoured/salted.
- Avoid junk food and store brought sweets, cakes and biscuits, any food that comes in a packet, box or can including cured or processed meats.
- Quit sugar. Sugar directly inhibits the immune system with 30 minutes of consuming it!
2. Correct your digestion issues
If you suffer from constipation, diarrhoea, a combination of both or any other digestion upset that causes your bowel motion to be compromised, then it’s likely you are not absorbing essential nutrients needed for health and optimal immune.
Other issues such as reflux can be a sign food isn’t broken down enough in the stomach before it reaches the small intestine for the micro-nutrition nutrient absorption stage of the digestion process.
Digestions issues can be due to a certain food intolerance/sensitivity or lack of digestion enzymes. These things can be corrected.
- If your bowel motions have recently changed from your normal, then as your first priority please check in with your Doctor.
- In support and perhaps, if you have a known condition such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, IBD or have issues after eating certain foods or eating at certain times of the day, a consultation with your nutritionist can help discover the cause or triggers and design you a personalised treatment plan to improve or manage your condition through diet and lifestyle.
3. Support Gut health
75-85% of your immune comes directly from your gut. Whilst similar to thoughts about digestion, it’s more about the good and bad bacteria balance in your gut, which if out of balance can cause lowered immune and sometimes digestion issues.
Your colon is the home of billions of bacteria, including beneficial bacteria. They are essential for proper nutrient absorption, fighting off dangerous bacteria, reducing inflammation, and lowering your risk of pain and disease.
Some signs of imbalanced gut bacteria or candida over growth include lowered immune, bloating, gas, digestion pain, fluffy stools, sweet cravings, fatigue, fungal nail, weight gain and brain fog, just to name a few.
Get yourself a healthy gut and you are pretty much there with having a healthy immune system.
PREBIOTICS are a special form of dietary fiber that feed the good bacteria in your gut.
PROBIOTICS are live bacteria that can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods
To maintain gut health:
- Eat probiotic foods such as the fermented kind: apple cider vinegar, non-sweetened yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi.
- Eat pre-biotic foods: onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, wheat bran, flaxseeds, apples, cocoa, resistant starch found in cold potato, rice.
- Avoid common Gut health disrupters such as; over the counter medication, antibiotics, high sugar foods including refined carbohydrate foods and alcohol and preservatives found in processed food.
Shall I take a probiotic supplement?
Probiotic supplements are on trend, however if you are generally healthy and well and your gut health or digestion is not compromised then focus on eating foods to maintain gut health and no need to spend money on probiotics.
Otherwise seek a nutritionist recommendation for a quality and effective probiotic suitable for you. This way you can be guided correctly to choose a probiotic personalised for your current health status which will have particular bacteria strains you can benefit from most.
A good night’s sleep of around 8 hours is recommended to give your body the time to restore and for you to feel refreshed in the morning.
During sleep your body releases cytokines which promote sleep and create an immune response to fight off a virus, infection and inflammation. Night time sleep also promotes immune system T cell production and their redistribution to lymph nodes. So it’s not surprising when the Doctor says more rest and sleep when you are unwell.
Achieving quality sleep means you are able to fall asleep well, have minimal disruptions during the night that wake you, is peaceful and not restless and you wake feeling refreshed.
- Avoid stimulant foods especially at night time or reduce the amount of them during the day such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and sweets.
- Avoid screen time, phone, TV, IPad, computer, at least 45 minutes before sleep as the blue-light disrupts melatonin, the chemical in our body needed to promote sleep.
- Avoid napping for too long during the day or too late in the afternoon.
- Reduce stress and a busy mind by listen to calming music or meditation prior to bedtime.
- Take a relaxing warm bath at night.
5. Exercise daily
Moderate exercise on a daily basis and being consistent with your exercise program will reap the most health benefits. You don’t have to be training for an ultra-marathon or pushing yourself to high intensity levels to get the benefits of exercise for immune support.
However if you already enjoy regular exercise then keep it up and decide if you want to maintain your fitness level or want to improve it by slowly increasing your intensity each day or week and giving yourself adequate recovery time to ensure you are not over training, which can lead to lowered immune.
Exercise promotes circulation, which allows blood to flow freely around the body and transfer the oxygen and nutrients to our cells and immune system.
There is some research that discovered other ways exercise may directly contribute to immune, such as flushing bacteria out of the lungs and airways, antibodies and white blood cells (the body’s immune system cells) circulate more rapidly, body temperature rises during and after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing.
Let’s not underestimate the “feel good factor” too!
Our endorphins (Happy hormones) lift after exercise and why exercise is excellent to release stress and essential for mental health.
Exercising can actually help with a quality night’s sleep. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime unless you choose a slow paced stretch sequence or restorative yoga practice.
For moderate exercise:
- Aim for a brisk walk minimum 45 minutes every day.
- Ideally begin your day with exercise, you will feel invigorated and more motivated for the rest of the day.
- Add in at least two strength, own weight bearing exercises per day. Ie push ups, leg lunges, wall sits, plank, tricep dips.
- Finish you exercise program with at least 5 minutes of stretches.
6. Increase your Vitamin C intake.
By increasing whole foods in your diet, Vitamin C intake is likely to happen, but its worthy of a special mention.
Most people know Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant and a supper immune boosting nutrient with anti-viral effects and during these times any extra Vitamin C we can absorb in our body the better.
Aim to have a high vitamin C food at every meal although minimise actual orange or fruit juice, as these are concentrated drinks high in sugar, naturally occurring and also some products have added sugar.
Eat the whole fruit to gain the benefits of the fibre it has, rather than just the juice.
- Choose high Vitamin C foods: Kiwifruit, capsicum, red chilli peppers, kale, parsley, oranges, citrus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, persimmons, strawberries.
- Avoid Vitamin C raiders such as: stress, smoking, alcohol
- Consider supplementing with Vitamin C, for adults 500mg -1,000mg a day or take a daily multi-vitamin. Check with your doctor, nutritionist or health provider what’s right for you especially if you take any medications as Vitamin C has some contraindications.