HOW YOU CAN MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE AND SUPPORT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM NATURALLY
In this alarming and uncertain time, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, not just to strengthen your immune system but also for your sanity. Further than just supporting your immune system, a healthy lifestyle can have positive effects on your mood, productivity, and quality of life. While nothing trumps proper sanitation and distancing guidelines for preventing the spread of disease, it is also important to give your immune system the best chance possible and continue to support it beyond the current pandemic.
Here are 5 ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle while also increasing immunity.
1. FIND WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS
Stress has many negative impacts on your life, one of which is a suppressed immune system. Finding healthy ways of reducing your stress levels is important for your productivity, immune system, and overall well-being. This is especially important now while we live in such an uncertain and alarming time, and most of our lives’ have been undergoing major changes to our daily routines.
Some techniques for reducing stress include exercise, meditation, getting a good night’s sleep, listening to music, finding new hobbies, taking up some outdoor activities, and spending time with friends (even if over Zoom). Even just getting outside and breathing in some fresh air can help, and you might just get some vitamin D in the process, which is crucial if you spend most of the day inside your home or office.
2. PRACTICE BREATH WORK
Exercises such as Pranayama in yoga that bring awareness to your breath can have positive effects on your health. Breath work may help reduce stress by getting you to slow down and relax, while bringing more oxygen into your body. Breath work with sustained and rhythmic breathing may positively affect your pH levels (alkalizing). Taking faster breaths gets rid of more CO2, which results in lower levels of acidity and thus a more alkaline pH level (above a 7). This age-old practice was made popular recently by Wim Hof, who preaches that cold exposure and breath work together have positive effects on the human body. There still needs to be more research into this practice, however, to determine whether it actually does support the immune system, there are interesting studies. Until there is more evidence, try doing more simple and proven breathing exercises that may reduce stress from a hectic work day. (1, 2, 3, 4)
3. LIMIT CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO
Many of us are probably more inclined to day-drink while we spend an unusual amount of time cooped up inside our homes unable to live our lives as we normally do. However, it’s critical to recognize that this will suppress your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections and other illnesses. That being said, limiting alcohol consumption is important even beyond trying to stay healthy during a pandemic.
Smoking is another don’t, even more so than drinking alcohol. While this may be a stress reliever for some, it puts you at greater risk for severe illness, especially respiratory ones. (5)
Getting a good night’s sleep (7-8 hours) is critical in supporting your immune system. While sleeping, there are very few bodily systems that don’t benefit. In sleep, we produce and release cytokines, proteins that target infection and inflammation. Additionally, sleep reduces stress and inflammation, which both affect the immune system. If you don’t get 7-8 hours of sleep on a regular basis or take short naps to compensate for some sleep loss, there will be many negative effects from physical to mental health. Not only do you need the right amount of sleep, you also need to focus on getting high quality sleep. Reducing light exposure at night, swapping out caffeine with naps, and reducing the amount of distractions while you sleep are all ways to improve the quality of your sleep. (6, 7)
5. PROPER DIET
What you put into your body matters, especially when it comes to building immunity. Having a balanced diet is important for your overall health, both physical and mental. But which foods boost your immune system? Typically, you’ll want to find foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants, zinc, protein, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Foods rich in Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers,
papaya, and kiwi are all rich in vitamin C. (8)
Foods rich in Vitamin B: Papaya, poultry, sunflower seeds, salmon, leafy greens, eggs, milk, beef, oysters, clams, mussels, yogurt, pork, trout, and mushrooms all are high in B vitamins. (8, 11)
Antioxidant-rich foods: Berries, beans, artichokes, apples, cherries, pecans, russet potatoes, dark leafy greens, green tea, and mushrooms are all antioxidant-rich foods that can be added to your diet. (12)
Foods high in zinc: Shellfish, beef, baked beans, dark meat chicken, low fat yogurt, pumpkin seeds, milk, chickpeas, and almonds are all ways to up your zinc intake through food rather than supplements. (8, 13).
Foods with anti-inflammatory properties: Turmeric, ginger, papaya, tomatoes, olive oil, leafy greens, nuts, fruits, fatty fish, and mushrooms are anti-inflammatory foods that are beneficial additions to your diet. (8, 15)
While these are all great to consider adding to your diet, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet and not overload on any particular vitamin or nutrient. Each person is different, so there is no ideal combination or intake level. At Peak State, we are fascinated with the untapped potential of fungi and mushrooms as powerful nutritional and functional foods.
These are just a number of ways to boost your immune system and stay healthy. What actions are you taking to maintain a healthy lifestyle during this time?