On the heels of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, tensions are flying as high as ever. Now is the ideal time to return focus to ourselves – especially when it comes to our options to boost immune system operations. “I think a healthy and robust immune system is essential for good, overall health,” says Dr. John Chuback, founder of Chuback Medical. “In the age of COVID-19, I believe strongly that all of the things we should be doing on a daily basis must be reinforced, and perhaps, amplified.”
As many of us make the transition toward elective or mandatory quarantine practices and social isolation – or social distancing – to limit our contact with others and the spread of the virus, we can expend more energy on our personal wellness efforts. Let’s all take the proper steps to improve immune system functioning by uprooting and revising our daily routines.
We spoke to Dr. Chuback, and others, to obtain educated recommendations for immune boosters during this chaotic time. Continue on to take a look at the immune support we can achieve with the right foods, supplements, exercises and practices, so we can ride out this worldwide outbreak, while remaining as healthy as possible.
Immune Boosting Foods
Following a complete diet plan is sometimes easier said than done. In times of crisis, there is no doubt that many of us turn to stress eating as a coping mechanism. Instead, we must revamp our food intake and make room for essential nutrients and vitamins for immune system health. “This includes a well-rounded diet, which is full of healthy, colorful fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Chuback. “These foods contain many antioxidants in micronutrients essential to a powerfully functioning immune system.” In addition, Dr. Chuback recommends integrating a consistent source of lean proteins (whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian). Some examples of foods that boost your immune system include the below:
- Green, leafy vegetables: Kale, collard greens, spinach, cabbage and lettuce
- Antioxidant-rich foods: Berries, artichokes, beets and dark chocolate
- Foods with anti-inflammatory agents: Fatty fish, avocados, broccoli, cherries, peppers and mushrooms
- Lean proteins: Beef, pork, shellfish and beans
“A wide variety of these whole foods is essential to maintaining a proper nutritional balance, and allows the body to function at its very best,” explains Dr. Chuback of the best immune booster foods. “Optimization of nutrition is essential to our defense mechanisms and the function of our intrinsic immunity, overall.”
Immune System Supplements
During a typical, jam-packed day, supplements to boost immune system functioning aren’t always a priority. Dr. Chuback suggests one, good multivitamin that contains a wide range of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, as well as immune boosting vitamins, including vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc.
However, ways to boost immune system performance can be easily discovered and enforced in the kitchen, since we are spending more and more time at home. Instead of immune booster supplements in pill form, we can turn to well-rounded foods to obtain these vital supplements. Vitamin-rich food for immune system strengthening can be found in the below breakdown:
- Vitamin D: Fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks
- Vitamin C: Kale, kiwi, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lemons and oranges
- Zinc: Red meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains
Tip: Dr. Chuback also suggests consuming a bee-produced natural immune booster supplement called propolis, which is known to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and helps support immune function in the body.
Incorporating High Fiber Foods to Boost Immune Health
In addition to the foods and supplements listed above, a high fiber diet is also a vital factor in keeping up with immune health. According to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a gut health and dietary fiber expert, research shows that dietary fiber works through the gut microbiome to balance our immune systems, and shields us from viral infections in ways that may be lifesaving. He recommends a plant-based diet plan to take advantage of the healing benefits of high fiber fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Bulsiewicz also offers that a high-fiber meal plan reduces harmful and excessive immune responses in the lungs, while boosting antiviral immunity by activating our T-cells. While dietary fiber does not just activate or deactivate the immune system, it creates equilibrium, which knows how and when to turn the immune system up or down. This “selective immune optimization” results in modifications in gut bacteria, which leads to an increase of short-chain fatty acids, as dietary fiber undergoes microbial fermentation. If you are not sure which healthy, high fiber foods to incorporate, consider the below suggestions:
- Whole grains: Oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur wheat, farro, quinoa and millet
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, chia, flax, sesame and hemp
- Flours: whole wheat, almond, chickpea, buckwheat and barley
- Legumes: Beans, dried peas and lentils
- Fruits and vegetables with skins: Apples, cucumbers and sweet potatoes
- Fiber supplements: Psyllium husk, glucomannan, guar fiber and beta-glucans
For more ideas on how to up your fiber intake and the best fiber supplement options available, peruse Dr. Bulsiewicz’s Instagram page.
Tip: Make sure to consume fiber throughout the day, and incorporate high fiber foods into all meals and snacks.
Using Exercise and Mental Practices as Immune Boosters
It’s not just about what you eat that determines your immune system’s strength. According to Dr. Chuback, mental and physical exercises, like the following, can also strengthen immune system operations:
- Relaxation exercises and meditation: Regular practice is essential to keeping us at our best and our immune systems in the most vital states possible
- Stretching and yoga: These two exercises are helpful in building and supporting the mind-body connection, which is very important in maintaining good health and fighting disease
- Maintaining positivity: An optimistic attitude through the daily study of motivational material is extremely beneficial
Social Distancing and the Immune System
While practicing self isolation to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we must remain aware of those who are sick, including people who have symptoms of colds or upper respiratory illnesses. “At this time, it’s very difficult to differentiate between someone who has a common cold, the influenza virus, or COVID-19. The virus has been spreading around the world and around the United States, and social distancing has become more and more relevant,” says Dr. Chuback. “Because the virus is in a relatively early stage of spread, this kind of non-contact may be helpful in slowing the spread of the virus. This is an aggressive approach, but something we should all participate in to help fight this novel viral infection.” When isolating yourself or determining your personal distancing plan, Dr. Chuback recommends avoiding:
- Large crowds of all types.
- Public gatherings for social and entertainment purposes.
- Air travel (which should remain limited to only mandatory situations).
Signs of a Weak Immune System
If you are unsure of whether or not you have a low immune system, be mindful of the signs that may implicate an immune deficiency. Indicators that you might have a compromised immune system include:
- Repeated infections of any kind (like recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections).
- Feeling fatigued on a regular basis, despite adequate rest and sleep.
- Minor wounds that are slow to heal.
- Loss of appetite and decreased body weight.
Self-Protection with Gloves, Masks and Hand Washing
If you are taking extra precautions at this time, like employing antibacterial hand soap regularly and donning gloves and masks to protect your hands and face from germs and infections, make sure you are using these items properly.
When following proper hygiene and glove usage protocols, avoiding cross-contamination with gloves is crucial. “One should change their gloves with each interaction with someone’s belongings, and sanitize their hands before and after placing the gloves on their hands, as a surgeon would,” explains Dr. Chuback.
In regard to wearing masks for immune system and virus protection, keep in mind that even though these covers shield your face from large-particle substances, like sputum or blood, microdroplets may still be able to go through – or around – these masks. “Viruses are so tiny, that if they are being carried by microdroplets, the mask may not be impenetrable,” shares Dr. Chuback. “Some very high-quality masks, which are properly fitted and microporous [might] provide more protection, but none is foolproof.”
In the end, Dr. Chuback notes that results will always be superior when combined with frequent and proper hand washing.
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