In the midst of flu season, cold season, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering what you can do to help your body fight the pathogens (bad guys) that enter our bodies every day. To be frank, there is not a one-and-done supplement, drug, or tea that will make your immune system suddenly become this perfect machine that never allows you to get sick. Sadly, an Emergen-C packet from the grocery store will not cure your ailments. Don’t get discouraged though! There are so many things that we can do every day to give our bodies what they need to have a healthy, functioning immune system. The key is to become proactive instead of reactive.
This is how our immune system works in very simple terms: Basically, we have a system of cells and organs that are able to detect foreign objects like bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Once something foreign is found, an attack strategy is put in place to kill or destroy it. Our bodies have so many creative and amazing ways of protecting us, but our body needs us to take care of it first. So, what do our bodies need to be successful? Pretty much, drowning our bodies with extra vitamins, minerals, herbs etc. after we are already sick is not going to suddenly “fix” our immune system or cure us. In fact, most bodies’ immune systems are functioning as they should be already! True issues arise when we are depriving our bodies of basic things that they need to build the tools and strength to keep an eye out for invaders. These necessities being things like sleep, exercise, and a diverse diet containing essential nutrients.
While this is by no means a medically factual analogy, this is how I like to think of my immune system and body systems in general. Think of a mom trying to keep track of three children. She has to get them all up, make sure they are fed, dressed, check their grades in school, remember doctor’s appointments, play practices, baseball team photos, give them affection, read to them… Whew! The mom needs some order. She needs some routine. She needs sleep. She needs energy. She needs to de-stress. Well, this is how I imagine my body. If I deprive myself of sufficient amounts of sleep repeatedly, all of my body efforts are going to be put into keeping me awake. If I eat only rice cakes and drink soda, my body will be busy trying to figure out how to keep my hormones balanced when I am basically malnourishing myself. If I take on so many tasks that I have constant stress and anxiety, my body will be preoccupied with trying to keep my heart rate, blood pressure, and worry symptoms under control. The point is, if we distract our bodies with unnecessary self-inflicted issues, how on earth can we expect that our other body systems will be able to work amidst all the chaos? At some point, they simply won’t. But, if you work to incorporate these things into your daily life, you are giving your immune system no distractions or reasons to fail you. And if you DO get sick, you can bet that your body will fight and recover much faster.
Incorporate Vitamin C (citrus fruits), Vitamin A (broccoli), Vitamin D (yogurt), Vitamin E (leafy greens), Zinc (shellfish) into your diet
Avoid processed and unnatural foods
Take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement if you cannot learn to love your veggies
Avoid stress when possible. It’s okay to say no to doing things.
If you have an optional stressor in your life, such as a bad relationship/job-say Bye!
No, you do not need a gym for a great work out!
Get your 8 hours of sleep. Every night.
Finally, study your body. Listen to your body; it tells you in so many ways when it is overwhelmed. Research how truly remarkable your immune system is and learn how it works. Of course, if you are experiencing sickness or have frequent issues with sickness, visit a medical professional who can help you determine what your body needs.
Be proactive. Use this time spent at home to learn some new healthy recipes. Learn to make face masks. Try a new workout. Catch up on your sleep. Get out there and enjoy your life, being kind to the body that is so generous to let you reside in it. It will thank you.