Tips to Keep Your Immune System Functioning Optimally

Making choices that keep your immune system functioning at optimal levels is always important, but perhaps now more than ever.

The protection of your immune system never rests. It is always poised to rise and fight when disease-causing exposures occur. There are deliberate choices that you can make to give your immune system a boost during times of known higher risk. There are also things that you should avoid and precautions that should be taken to increase the chances of your immune system winning the battle. During this time of threat-of-illness, it is a good time to review what you should and should not do to set your immune system up for success.

    • Eat right
      • Choose a colorful, whole foods diet. Each different food color has immune boosting components known as phytonutrients. On a daily basis, try to consume at least one food from each color of the rainbow. It can be just a small serving, but keep your plate full of delicious colors. An easy meal option is to make a quick stir-fry with a variety of colorful fresh or frozen vegetables and add your choice of protein. Consider adding a little pineapple to the mix to add a new flavor.
    • Get good sleep
      • For most adults, this means a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Children need even more sleep depending on their age. Research shows that even 1-2 nights of poor sleep impairs your immune system and increases your stress hormone, cortisol.
    • Exercise in moderation
      • Moderate exercise is very beneficial to your immune system. Good options would be walking, using an elliptical or rebounder, yoga, or bicycling. If you have access, using a sauna can be a great substitute or enhancement to your exercise routine. High intensity exercises can be detrimental to your immune system, so this may be a time to keep your workouts lighter.
    • Meditate
      • Meditation has been proven to improve the number of your white blood cells, the cells that fight infection. Specifically, the white blood cells called natural killer cells (the first to arrive to the fight) are made more effective with meditation.
    • Stress
      • Consider setting boundaries with stressful news. Do keep yourself informed, but consider keeping your interaction with the media to a specified amount of time each day. Outside of that window of time, turn off the news and engage your energy with your other tasks.
    • Processed Foods
      • This is no time to neglect your nutrition or to rely on packaged, processed comfort foods. Your immune system does not need the extra task of cleaning up the exposure to chemicals that may result from choosing foods that are not whole and clean.
    • Stay home to reduce the exposure of yourself and others to germs. This does not need to mean avoiding social interaction. We live in a time when technology can help us to stay connected without sharing the same physical space.
    • Wash your hands. Nothing fancy is required. Soap and water will do. It is recommended that you wash for 20 seconds or more and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.
    • Clean high-touch surfaces in your home such as light switches, door knobs, faucets, remote controls, phones and appliance handles.
    • Avoid touching your face so that you are not giving the germs on your hands a shorter pathway in.
    • If you have a cough or a sneeze, use your elbow rather than your hand to cover your mouth.
    • Avoid shaking hands, use an elbow bump or a verbal greeting.
    • In general, it is best to optimize your nutrients through your foods, but there are some supplements that can enhance your immune function.
      • Omega 3/Fish Oil/ EPA/DHA
        • The recommended dose would be 1000 mg taken twice daily with food. Food sources of omega 3 include fish such as salmon, halibut and sardines, but also plant-based foods including walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds. This can have a blood-thinning effect, so be cautious if you are taking blood thinners.
      • Vitamin D
        • Optimal vitamin D levels are essential for the functioning of your immune system. A reasonable dose would be 2000 IU daily with food. Higher doses may be recommended depending on your specific needs.
      • Vitamin C
        • The benefits of vitamin C are most proven when it is started at the time of exposure. A good dose would be 1000 mg per day. Super high doses of vitamin C are not required and can cause GI upset. Vitamin C is naturally occurring in many foods.
      • Vitamin A
        • Vitamin A is also essential for optimal immune functioning. The recommended dose would be 8000-10,000 IU per day. It is best absorbed if it is taken with food. It is naturally found in yellow and orange foods.
      • Zinc
        • Zinc is necessary for many cells in your body that divide rapidly, including your immune cells. The recommended dose would be 30 mg per day. Good food sources of zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dairy and other meats.

During this time of unprecedented response to the threat of illness, lets all take care of ourselves so that we can be here to take care of each other!