With Covid-19 still looming heavily over the U.S., Americans are looking for ways to boost their immune system before winter hits. But it’s not as simple as targeting one specific entity in your body. The immune system is the body’s natural defense system, made up of a network of molecules, tissues, cells, and organs working together as a whole. So, to function well, it requires a balancing act between a healthy diet and lifestyle. Here are six ways to supercharge your immune system before winter.
Fuel your body with the right foods
If you want to give yourself a fighting chance over Covid-19 and other viruses this winter, start by fueling your body with the right foods. For instance, foods high in antioxidants may help boost overall health. Antioxidants protect the cells against free radicals, according to the Mayo Clinic that is linked to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and others. Free radicals are particles produced when your body breaks down the food you eat, the medicines you take, the air you breathe, radiation, and tobacco smoke. However, eating a variety of colors each day can protect you from colds and viruses. Foods high in antioxidants that boost immunity include:
- Cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are the fruits with the highest antioxidant levels.
- Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins
- Green and red peppers
- Spinach, kale, and broccoli
- Garlic and ginger
- Pecans and walnuts are two of the top nuts for antioxidants.
- Fruit juice like pomegranate juice, a glass of red wine, coffee, and tea all have antioxidants. Even dark chocolate can give you an antioxidant boost.
So, when it comes to antioxidants, there’s really not one food or food group you should focus on. Instead, enjoy a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Get at least seven hours of sleep
Proper sleep is vital for supercharging your immune system. You may have a healthy lifestyle, but if you’re pulling “all-nighters” or generally staying up late each night, you’re doing your body more harm than good. When you sleep, it’s your body’s chance to heal, repair, and produce infection-fighting antibodies. In fact, numerous studies report the benefits that sleep plays on the circadian rhythm and immune function. A study from Germany found that a night of good night sleep improves immune cells called T cells. These cells help fight certain pathogens, including the flu, herpes, cancer, and other virus-infected cells. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. A fact that can wreak havoc on immunity.
Don’t forget your vitamin D
Did you know that vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk of getting Covid-19? It seems a new study links low levels of vitamin D to coronavirus. And sadly, half of all Americans are deficient, particularly African Americans, Hispanics, and people living in colder states with less sunlight. Beyond catching Covid-19, a vitamin D deficiency is also linked to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and tuberculosis. In addition, it’s linked to depression and immune dysfunction. Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation and fight infections. It also increases levels of antimicrobial proteins, which terminate viruses and invading germs. If you don’t get enough D from sunlight and food, then you may need to supplement. The Mayo Clinic suggests 600 to 2000 IU daily.
Get your vitamin C
Research suggests vitamin C deficiency actually weakens your immunity, leaving you highly vulnerable to infections. In fact, Vitamin C seems to be able to both treat and prevent respiratory infections by boosting immunity. Most people know that citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are excellent sources of vitamin C. However, so are kiwifruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, red and green peppers, and potatoes. Vitamin C, loaded with antioxidants, reduces the severity of colds and cases of flu and supports white cell immune function.
Stock up on zinc
Zinc is an important mineral for healing, fighting infection, and improving immunity. Good sources of zinc include beef, lamb, lentils, egg yolks, spinach, cashews, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, ginger, and mushrooms. The recommended daily amount, according to the Mayo Clinic, is 8 mg daily for women and 11 mg daily for men. Studies show that supplementing with zinc is highly beneficial for fighting infectious diseases. In double-blind placebo-controlled trials, zinc lessened the duration of sudden and chronic diarrhea as well as lower respiratory tract infections in children and infants.
Apart from improving heart function, lowering your blood pressure, and controlling weight, research suggests that people who exercise frequently actually flush out bacteria from the lungs and airways. Meaning exercise may reduce your chance of catching a cold, flu, or even Covid-19. Apparently, the mere act of exercise causes antibodies and white blood cells to change. Overall, the immune system responds favorably to exercise, encouraging good circulation, which stimulates cells to detect illnesses earlier and perhaps prevent infection.
What’s with winter colds?
As we age, our immune response is reduced, which, in turn, helps contribute to more infections. Is winter weather a culprit to lowering your immunity? Not according to experts. However, more exposure to cold temps will keep people indoors, which means close contact with others who pass on germs. As well, viruses tend to stay airborne longer in cold winter air. What can you do? Fight back and start supercharging your immunity now.