Now more than ever, people are asking: what’s good for boosting your immunity? Most experts agree that primarily, sleep is essential for naturally boosting your immune system. Along with sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and mindfulness also play key roles in maintaining your immune health. Thankfully, the most important things you can do to boost your immunity are tied to life at home. While spending so much time indoors during the pandemic, it’s easy to integrate immune boosting habits into your life.
Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is the primary factor in boosting your immune system, though many people overlook the importance of a good night’s sleep. In fact, sleep and immunity are very closely tied together—it has been demonstrated that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more at risk of contracting illness, have more difficulty recovering from an illness, and are prone to a pro-inflammatory state which makes you more susceptible to pathogens and infections.
The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep per night, while teens require 8-10 hours. In addition to the recommended times, it is essential to get an uninterrupted, restful sleep so that your body can fully relax into a deep sleep, as it’s this state that is key for bolstering your immune health.
If you’re working from home like many people, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain the natural rhythm of work and activity in the day, and rest and relaxation at night. A lack of structure means it’s easy to slip into habits like staying up late to watch TV, drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages all day, not exercising as much as is recommended, and drinking alcohol more often—all of which can take away and impede your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
How can you ensure you’re getting enough sleep? Here are some tips to improve your sleep habits:
Schedule a fixed bedtime and wake up time that allows you to get the hours of sleep you need. Stick to the same sleep schedule each day, and your body will grow accustomed to a regular bedtime and wake up time.
At least 30 minutes before bedtime, ditch your electronic devices and dim the lights. Spend this time winding down by reading, meditating, or doing another relaxing pastime.
During the day, make sure to get some exercise and exposure to daylight. Both of these habits help ensure a great sleep.
Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages. Though many people rely on these to facilitate sleep, alcohol will actually disrupt your proper sleep cycles.
Avoid drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages after 12pm.
If you pay close attention to nutrition and choose your diet wisely, you can boost your immunity with food. Eating a variety of whole foods including lots of vegetables will offer you a wide range of vitamins and minerals that are key for improving and maintaining your immune health.
It’s easy to get fatigued with meal preparation and turn to the same takeout or pre-packaged meals. However, when you eat too many processed foods (and especially the same ones over and over), you are not providing enough variety or quality in your foods to bolster your immune system properly. Additionally, a diet that includes too much refined sugar, red meat, and not enough fruits and vegetables can have a negative effect on intestinal microorganisms, resulting in chronic gut inflammation—which has been linked to weaker immunity.
Here are some nutritional choices that will help to naturally boost your immune system:
If you’re staying indoors and getting less sunlight, you could be missing out on your regular dose of Vitamin D. Make up for this by integrating foods like tuna, salmon, eggs, and fortified orange juice into your diet.
Vitamin E which is crucial for immune system functionality. To make sure you’re getting enough, eat more plant-based fatty foods including almonds, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts.
Integrate foods that are naturally high in Vitamin C into your diet, including spinach, broccoli, strawberries, and papayas.
Remember, a wide variety of these healthy foods is key for your immune system nutrition! Get creative with new recipes and meals at home which include a range of these nutritional foods.
Getting regular exercise is important to your overall health. Unfortunately, it can be more challenging to do while stuck at home and removed from regular activities, group classes, and gym visits. Exercise is specifically good for the immune system because it can boost circulation, help with sleep cycles, reduce inflammation, and improve mental health. It’s important to note that you can overdo exercise when it comes to immune health. Frequent, vigorous physical activity can actually weaken your immune system for short periods after workouts, so experts recommend sticking to a regular schedule of moderate physical activity for optimum immune boosting benefits.
Here are some tips for staying active during lockdown:
If rules in your area allow for it, go for regular, brisk walks around your neighbourhood. Try switching it up and exploring different routes for some variety.
Check out virtual offerings of some of your favourite local gyms or fitness studios. Many have shifted to providing workouts and instructional videos online, and often for a lowered cost than in-person classes.
Set up any workout equipment you have at home in front of your TV. This way, you can get a workout in while you watch your favourite show. Even if you don’t have a stationary bike or elliptical machine, you can set up a mat and do bodyweight exercises, yoga, or stretching.
Mindfulness and meditation are excellent ways to boost your immune health. Both are powerful methods of reducing your overall stress levels. Chronic stress caused by a myriad of factors including job stress, feelings of isolation during the lockdown, anxiety from watching the news. Even fear over our own health and the health of others can all be a detriment to our immune health. Though the exact link between the two has not been pinpointed, there is extensive clinical research to show that those who practice mindfulness and meditation experience physical changes in response to the lowering stress in their bodies. Lowering stress can also help with getting a good night’s sleep. This is key since sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your immune system.
Here are some ways you can lower your stress through mindfulness and meditation at home:
Even if you’re in the middle of a busy day, take a moment to breathe deeply. The simple act of slow, deep breathing is very effective for lowering stress in your body. By increasing the flow of oxygen to your brain, your parasympathetic nervous system becomes stimulated. This helps to lower tension and anxiety while increasing calmness.
Pick a dedicated time and space to sit, relax, unplug, and meditate. Giving yourself this time can help you disconnect from the regular stress-inducing influences in your life and give you a chance to focus on your own wellbeing.
If you’re not familiar with meditation, research and try out some guided meditations. They will walk you through each step of your meditation journey. There are many resources available online, including ones available at no cost.