As we find ourselves flung into these most uncertain times, everything we have known and are accustomed to has come to an eerie halt. With countries reeling from illness and death, all we can do is isolate ourselves and look on hoping that it will end before more lives are taken away.
I had a tough time accepting this new reality and coping with it. In experiencing feelings of fear, sadness and helplessness I found that acceptance was the first step to change this mental state. Once I accepted this conundrum that we had been presented with I was then able to move forward with my daily responsibilities, appreciating each day as it came. I began to work harder on building my immunity and found that this had a profound impact on my stress levels helping me feel happier, fitter and mentally stronger.
A healthy body helps fight off infections or at least lessons the severity of infections. If there is anytime in your lives you need to step up your efforts towards bettering your health both physical and mental, it is now. I have therefore listed below 5 simple ways you can boost your immune system:
Try to catch 8 hours of the sleep cycle mostly between 9 pm to 9 am. This is when our melatonin levels are highest and we get the most restful sleep. Since, these days our cortisol levels (stress hormones) are raised and serotonin levels (happy hormones) are low we may need to assist ourselves to sleep. There are foods that are rich in micronutrients that can help with reducing cortisol and increasing serotonin levels. These are Magnesium, Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin Bs and Melatonin. Try to eat foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals:
- Green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale and kailan)
- Whole grains (e.g., brown rice, whole wheat and quinoa)
- Legumes (e.g., beans and lentils)
- Cashews, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts
- Raw cacao, or dark chocolate
- Salmon, sardines, tuna and herring
- Cod liver oil
- Egg yolk
- Fortified dairy products
- Beef (grass-fed), lamb, and chicken (free-range)
- Legumes – beans and lentils (soaked overnight)
- Sesame, pumpkin, flax and hemp seeds (roasted or sprouted)
- Almonds, cashews, pine nuts, peanuts (roasted or sprouted)
- Dairy (organic or free-range)
- Eggs (free-range)
- Oats, brown rice, quinoa
- Raw Cacao, or dark chocolate
- Leafy vegetables
- Salmon and trout
- Oysters, mussels, and clams
- Beef (grass-fed), lamb
- Organ meats (liver)
- Eggs (free-range)
- Dairy products (free-range)
Together with the above micronutrients taking a supplement of natural melatonin can be useful for aiding you to sleep. Fruits that may contain melatonin may help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night:
- Tart cherry juice and whole tart cherries (contain a lot of melatonin)
- Bananas, pineapple, and oranges
An hour before you plan to sleep, avoid watching the news or reading articles pertaining to this present situation on your tablet, or updates of the cases in your city. Instead get into a book and read yourself to sleep.
2. Exercise and Movement
Now more than ever we are leading more sedentary lives. So try to get in an hour of cardio (Treadmill, elliptical, stationary bikes, online apps) three times a week and an hour of strengthening exercises (yoga, pilates, weights) twice a week.
Exercise helps expand the lungs and eliminate bacteria, decreasing the possibility of getting colds, flus and viruses. Exercise reduces levels of cortisol and it helps stimulate endorphins – these are chemicals that help make us happy. It also promotes good circulation, which aids the cells of the immune system to function efficiently.
In addition to planned exercise a concerted effort needs to be made to move around the house during the day. You can also do some arm exercises and leg stretches while sitting at your desk.
For shoulder and posture:
Raise your arms to the same level as your shoulder to form a T shape with your body. Extend the arms with the palms facing down and do 20 forward circles – then flip your palms to face upwards and do 20 backward circles with your arms. Do these 3 times.
For hips and thighs:
Sit on the edge of your chair and extend one leg straight and flex your foot with your toes pointing to the sky. Lift it up as high as you can and hold for 5 counts and repeat this with the other leg. Do at least 10 reps with each leg.
3. Mindful practice while lying in bed
Meditation has been known to increase immunity by lowering cortisol and inflammatory chemicals in our bodies. There are different kinds of meditation of which “Mindful practice” is one. This is a relatively easy way to meditate. This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness of living in the present moment.
You can do this while lying in bed before you sleep. Relax your muscles (e.g., in your shoulders, neck, face, hips, stomach, feet). Then place one hand on your stomach and the other hand straight by your side on the bed and close your eyes. Then breathe gently through your nose and let your stomach expand, so that your hand rises and breathe out through your nose as your stomach contracts and falls. Keep this going for a minute and then gradually increase the duration over time. During this practice you need to keep your attention focused on your breath and though you don’t have to block your thoughts allowing them to come to you, you should try not to engage in them.
4. Breathing exercises
Before you begin these exercises use a Nette pot or a saline spray to cleanse your nasal passages. The main purpose of these exercises is to expand your lungs so that oxygen goes right down to the small air sacs and the lung is inflated optimally. We usually tend to engage in shallow breathing as we don’t want to expand our abdomen, which we are in a habit of pulling in. We do not breathe using our full lung capacity instead use the muscles in the neck, back and chest for breathing rather than our diaphragm (the main muscle of respiration). According to the American Lung Association we need to ensure that we are using our diaphragm to it’s full capacity so that it can expand our lungs and efficiently bring in clean oxygenated air.
Helps expand the diaphragm to it’s fullest allowing our lungs to fill up with oxygen and also enabling us to expel all the carbon dioxide from the lungs.
- Sit up or lie down comfortably
- Relax your shoulder, neck and chest muscles
- Breathe in through your nose till you expand you stomach – like you are filling up a balloon
- Breathe out through your mouth emptying your lungs – like you are blowing bubbles
- Repeat this for a duration of 5 minutes in the day
Pursed Lip breathing
Aids in reducing the number of breaths and helps keep our airways open longer. This enables more air to flow in and out of our lungs so that we can keep up a physically active life.
- Breathe in through your nose
- Breathe out for at least twice as long through your mouth with your lips pursed
- Try to do this at least twice a day for 10 counts each time
5. FOODS THAT HELP BOOST IMMUNE SYSTEM
The immune system helps fight off pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. When a pathogen enters the body the immune system triggers a response by releasing antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to the antigens on the pathogens to kill them. Including certain foods into our diet can help make our immune response stronger. See the foods listed below which help boost the immune system:
- Blueberries – have antioxidant properties which play an important role in the respiratory tract’s immune defence system.
- Turmeric– has a compound called curcumin which helps fight inflammation in the body, enabling a strong immune response.
- Oily fish – like sardines, salmon, mackerel and tuna. These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which also are important for ensuring that the immune system functions well.
- Broccoli – an excellent source of Vitamin C. It supports the immune system to function healthily.
- Sweet potatoes – a good source of Vitamin A which helps in the optimal functioning of the immune system.
- Spinach – contains a good amount of essential nutrients like Vitamin C and E and antioxidants which support the immune system to function well.
- Ginger – has antioxidant properties which can help with boosting the immune system defence of the respiratory tract.
- Garlic – has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that help fight colds.
- Kefir – is a fermented drink which is rich in live cultures of good gut bacteria and these influence the healthy functioning of the immune system.
- Sunflower seeds – are rich in Vitamin E which has antioxidant properties and help boost the immune system. A handful a day is sufficient.
- Almonds – are also an excellent source of Vitamin E. You need to have only a quarter of a cup a day.
- Oranges and Kiwis – are rich in Vitamin C and they help reduce the duration of colds and support the immune system to function well.
- Bell peppers – are an excellent source of Vitamin C and they are low in sugar. They are known to boost the immune system and fight off colds.
A combination of the above foods eaten in the recommended portions a day are essential for boosting the immune system. This includes eating 5 portions (80 grams per portion) daily of the fruit and vegetables mentioned above.
A portion of fruit is a whole banana or apple and a portion of vegetable is 1/2 cup of raw vegetables, 1 cup of leafy green vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables.
Have fish at least 3 times in the week and a handful of nuts and seeds a day. Cook with garlic and ginger and periodically and add turmeric to your food.