How to Support Your Immune System and Maintain Your Health with Diet, Exercise, and Sleep
Taking steps to support your immune system may help you retain your health and, together with the hygiene and lifestyle tips above, prevent infection from COVID-19. Some functional foods and vitamins that may help support your immune system include:
- Garlic, which has antimicrobial effects and can improve immune function
- Ginger, which has antiviral properties
- Turmeric (or, more precisely, the curcumin contained within it), which helps regulate the immune system and is an anti-inflammatory
- Bone broth, which is beneficial for your immune system (and overall health) and may help reduce damage to the lungs and other tissues
- Fermented foods, which are important for your gut health and may help reduce upper respiratory infections
It’s important to note that this novel coronavirus is not the same viral strain that causes the common cold (nor is it the same as flu-causing influenza). For that reason, we don’t know how even tried-and-true cold and flu treatments may work with COVID-19. For example, while propolis and high doses of vitamins A and D are often beneficial for your immune system and may help protect you against the common cold, some research suggests that may not be a good idea for COVID-19 prevention. It’s best to check with your doctor before supplementing, especially in current circumstances.
Overall, the best way to support your immune system is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That means ensuring that you’re:
- Following a nutrient-dense diet
- Getting enough restful sleep each night
- Engaging in regular physical activity
If you’re already following a healthy, ancestral lifestyle, it’s important to continue. As the disruptions to your day-to-day life go on, you can use your existing healthy habits as a source of strength, resilience, and joy even in uncertain circumstances. If there is one aspect of your health that isn’t quite dialed in yet, we’ve collected resources for you below to help you along.
Here are the steps you can take to boost your immunity and enjoy the benefits of a healthy diet, exercise routine, and sleep pattern.
How to Support Your Immunity
The Top 20 Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu
7 Tips for Preventing (And Shortening) Colds and Flus
5 Steps to Staying Healthy during Cold & Flu Season
Staying Healthy When You’re Stuck Inside
How to Cultivate a Healthy Lifestyle
What Is an Ancestral Diet and How Does It Help You?
What Is Nutrient Density and Why Is It Important?
The Bountiful Benefits of Bone Broth: A Comprehensive Guide
The Nutrivore Diet: What a Healthy Diet Looks Like
Why You Need to Move Every Day to Get the Benefits of Exercise
8 Tips for Beating Insomnia and Improving Your Sleep
Why We Need Sleep, with Dr. Matthew Walker
Yes, You Still Need 7-8 Hours of Sleep—with Dan Pardi
RHR: The Benefits of Optimizing Your Sleep, with Dr. Kirk Parsley
How Sleep Temperature Improves Your Rest, with Tara Youngblood
How Artificial Light Is Wrecking Your Sleep, and What to Do about It
Ancestral Health: What It Is and How It Can Help You
How to Manage Stress and Build Your Resilience in Challenging Times
While we don’t yet know the full impact that COVID-19 will have on our daily lives, it’s safe to say that we will continue to feel the effects of this pandemic for some time, and we’re going to have to learn how to adapt to challenging circumstances. As public tensions rise, it has become more important than ever that we learn how to manage our stress levels, find time for pleasure and play, and build up our mental resilience to adversity.
Learning to manage your stress has far-reaching benefits, besides building up your mental resilience. High levels of chronic stress are linked to a number of chronic health conditions and can have adverse effects throughout the body, including the potential to weaken your immune system.
Mindfulness is one effective way to manage your stress. Regular mindfulness practice trains your mind to stay present without feeling consumed by thoughts and feelings. It builds your ability to take yourself out of autopilot and respond thoughtfully and deliberately to the world around you. Making time to experience joy—through taking part in an activity you find pleasurable, connecting with loved ones (even virtually, if needed), and engaging in play—can also help you feel less stressed.
For help managing your stress levels, taking a mindful approach, and cultivating joy and happiness, check out the resources below. Even if you’re new to these practices, keep in mind that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and small, incremental progress will add up to greater change.
Here’s how to stay sane and cultivate joy, even in the most challenging moments.
How to Build Resilience in Spite of Uncertainty
ADAPTing: Creating Health and Joy in the Face of Uncertainty and Challenge
RHR: Using Positive Psychology to Build Resilience, with Robert Biswas-Diener
RHR: Can We Be Improved by the COVID-19 Crisis? with Ryan Holiday
RHR: Finding Happiness and Joy in Any Circumstances, with Dr. Rick Hanson
RHR: Using Mindfulness to Manage Stress and Uncertainty, with Forest Fein
How to Use Positive Psychology to Improve Your Health
How to “Hardwire Happiness,” with Dr. Rick Hanson
Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic State: How Stress Affects Your Health
5 Simple (But Powerful) Tools for Fighting Stress
My Top 5 Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief
5 Reasons You Should Start Meditating Today
9 Steps to Perfect Health – #9: Practice Pleasure
7 Ways to Practice Pleasure This Week
10 Benefits of Play
How Relationships Affect Health—and How to Feel More Connected
The Top Health Benefits of Green Space
- Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chodron
- Turning Suffering Inside Out, by Darlene Cohen
- Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness, by Rick Hanson
- Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, by Rick Hanson
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, by Kristin Neff
The Importance of Preventive Medicine
The CDC has identified some chronic illnesses as risk factors for serious complications from COVID-19. That is worrisome on its own, but it becomes even more serious when you consider that six in 10 American adults have a chronic disease, while four in 10 have two or more. Some of the specific illnesses the CDC called out are particularly prevalent:
- Nearly 43 percent of American adults are obese. One report predicts that number will climb to one in two by 2030, while one in four people will be “severely obese.”
- Around 12 percent of American adults, or more than 30 million people, have been diagnosed with heart disease.
- More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and one in four don’t know they have it.
If ever there was a time to embrace a preventive medicine approach to public health, this is it.
Functional Medicine and health coaching are centered on prevention and true healing. Functional Medicine is all about identifying the reasons why a person is experiencing a chronic illness—like a nutrient-poor diet, lack of sleep, or a sedentary lifestyle—and then addressing that root cause to promote real health. Health coaching is a model of care that’s focused on behavior change. Health coaches support people who are making lifestyle shifts and empower them to achieve their health goals. Taken together, Functional Medicine and health coaching provide a collaborative network of care for people who want to reverse a chronic illness—or prevent one from developing.
Learn more about how Functional Medicine and health coaching can prevent and reverse chronic disease and improve public health.