The stress, the stress eating, the gym being closed! It’s a weird time, but with some simple strategies, we can do our best to keep our immune systems and bodies healthy… and stay sane!
In this guide, you’ll find:
- 6 healthy immune system essentials
- Immune-boosting superfoods
- Long-lasting pantry and freezer essentials
- Simple stress-reduction techniques
- Simple at-home exercises (no tools or lots of space required!)
6 Healthy Immune System Essentials
When it comes to health and wellness, we always need to start with the foundations. Supporting your immune system is no different!
While there are a number of different immune-boosting supplements and superfoods we can incorporate into our wellness routines, don’t forget about these essentials!
They may seem seem simple, but don’t let that fool you. Plus, we can take comfort in the fact that they’re so simple and you can put them into place ASAP, or you may already be doing many of them…
- Eat real food
- Eat the rainbow
- Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep
- Stress less!
- Move your body and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
Eat real food
Now has never been a better time for a sugar and junk food detox! Our immune system relies on nutrient-dense whole foods to function well.
Plus, a real food diet doesn’t include added sugar! This is significant since studies have found that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours.
Eat the rainbow
Fruits and vegetables are high immune-boosting vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients, plus other key vitamins and minerals. Eating a wide variety of different types of fruits and vegetables in an array of colors helps ensure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients.
Aim for 2 servings of fruits and 6 or more servings of vegetables a day. (1 serving = half a cup)
Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep
Sleep restores and heals the body, and without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible!
According to Mayo Clinic:
Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.Mayo Clinic
So get in a better rhythm and head to bed earlier. Incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques throughout the day to help with stress and allowing the mind to rest is also very helpful!
The science is clear: increased levels of stress increase susceptibility to viral infections. Because among other things, stress leads to a reduction in virus- and infection-fighting T cells.
According to Psychology Today:
Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases.Psychology Today
MORE BELOW! Find simple stress-busting tips below.
Move your body and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
Studies show that to moderate exercise (for approximately 30-45 minutes) helps boost the immune system. Overexertion, like training for endurance events, can suppress immune function, however, and should be avoided when you are feeling run down.
If you’re able to exercise outside in less populated areas, that’s a great way to get some fresh and vitamin D from the sun. If not, look for workouts and yoga classes online — YouTube has a lot of great, free options.
MORE BELOW: Find simple at-home YouTube workouts you can do in even the smallest of spaces and with 0 exercise equipment.
Drink plenty of water
Proper hydration is essential for just about every body process to run smoothly, including your body’s immune response.
The rule of thumb: aim to drink half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces each day. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you’d aim to drink 70 oz each day. If you’re exercising or drinking diuretic beverages (like coffee) you’ll want to add a bit more to this number.
So keep a water bottle nearby at all times. Herbal teas like ginger and turmeric tea will hydrate your body, provide flavor, and also calm inflammation and support your immune system. Be sure to avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for the immune system.
In addition to eating a real food, nutrient-dense diet and “eating the rainbow” like we just discussed above, look to add some of these yummy immune-boosting superfoods to your diet!
Yes, garlic lovers! Go ahead and add some extra flavor to your meals knowing that it’s going to do your immune system good. Plus, we have nowhere to go and no one to offend with our garlic breath!
The allicin in garlic has been found to have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti fungal properties.
To maximize the health benefits you should crush the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 10-15 minutes. That triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds of garlic.
Studies suggest that ginger may enhance the body’s immune response. This isn’t surprising given that ginger has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties.
One study found that fresh ginger had antiviral effects against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which causes respiratory infections, and helped boost immune response against HRSV.
SUGGESTION: Try making a tea from fresh ginger (like pictured above)! Peel and grate a 1-inch slice of ginger, and steep it in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and squeeze of fresh lemon if you have it for extra antioxidants and vitamin C.
Red bell peppers
If you think citrus fruits have the most vitamin C of any fruit or vegetable, think again. Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. They’re also a rich source of beta carotene. Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.
NOTE: If you shop at Whole Foods, grab a couple bags of their frozen, organic bell pepper trio! Frozen foods of course last longer than fresh, which is why they’re a staple right now as we look to avoid the grocery store as much as possible.
Spinach is rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. Cooking spinach does degrade some of the nutrients, so best to include raw spinach in your meals when possible.
SUGGESTION: Stock your freezer with a few bags of frozen (ideally organic) spinach! You can toss it into smoothies frozen, or easily add it to pasta sauces, soups, and sauces to up the nutrition of hot meals.
Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals — packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber.
SUGGESTION: Stock your freezer with a few bags of frozen (ideally organic) broccoli.
Long-lasting pantry and freezer essentials
While we shouldn’t be hoarding and wiping the grocery store shelves clean, it’s understandable that we want to be stocking up with up to 2 weeks of food at a time so we can avoid the grocery store while trying to limit contact with others.
These pantry and freezer essentials will help you best do so as they’re long-lasting, nutrient-dense real foods, and will help keep blood sugar levels healthy and balanced (and so your immune system healthy, too!).
- Grain-free granola
- Non-dairy nut milks
- Nuts and seeds
- High-protein chickpea pasta (like Banza)
- Minimally-processed, lower-carb snack bars like Kind Nuts and Spices
Frozen low-sugar fruits
- Bell peppers
- Cauliflower rice
- Green beans
- Organic meats
Simple stress-reduction techniques
This is undoubtedly a stressful time for so many of us and for so many different reasons.
But like you read just above in the “6 Immune System Essentials,” stress suppresses the immune system… not to mention triggers breakouts and prematurely ages us (thanks a lot, cortisol!). So let’s try to do as much as possible to reduce our body’s stress response and find calm during this time.
Legs-up-the-wall Yoga Pose
Just like this sounds! This incredibly simple yoga pose pushes your body into its relaxed state (parasympathetic mode). It’s also great for lymphatic flow and so benefits this detoxification pathway and key part of the immune system — big bonus!
Just get down on the floor, scoot your booty up against the wall, throw your legs up against the wall and keep them there for at least 3 minutes. While you’re down there, close your eyes and take some deep breathes to further unwind. This pose is especially helpful in the evening before bed.
Dragon Breathing a.k.a. “alternate nostril breathing”
Another one that’s just like it sounds! Alternate nose breathing also pushes your body into parasympathetic mode. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit down and take one long deep breath in and out.
- Choose to use one of your hands. Take the index finger and cover one of your nostrils.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through the one uncovered nostril. Count as you inhale — I aim for 8 seconds.
- Then cover the other nostril (through which you just inhaled), and exhale through the nostril you were just covering. Again count as you exhale — and again, I aim for 8 seconds.
- Keep that same nostril covered and now breathe in through the nostril that you just used to exhale.
- Continue on for 3-5 minutes.
If you’ve never meditated before and are wondering IF you can do it or where to start, you absolutely CAN and an app is great place!
- Headspace (they offer a free 10-day trial; I LOVE their “Sleepcasts” as I struggle with sleep when I am stressed)
- Insight Timer (free)
- Asana Rebel (primarily a yoga and workout routine app)
Start a Gratitude Journal
Many of us have lost a lot as a result of the current crisis. But there is still SO much to be grateful for. A gratitude journal practice is a wonderful way to cope with difficulties and stresses.
Some prompts to get started:
- Write down one good thing that happened to you today.
- What friends or family members are you most grateful for having? List what makes each friend special.
- What’s something that you grateful to have today that you didn’t have a year ago?
- Write about a happy memory.
- Write about someplace you’ve been that you’re grateful for.
- What’s something about your body or health that you’re grateful for?
- Open the door or window and look outside. What’s something you’re grateful for outside?
- What’s an accomplishment you’re proud of?
SUGGESTION: Schedule your gratitude journaling into your phone calendar (morning and / or evening are great times to journal) so you with a notification!
Simple at-home exercises (no tools or lots of space required!)
With so many of us “sheltering in place” right now and gyms closed, we’re not as physically active as usual. So let’s get moving with these simple, short and sweet workouts!
You can do these in even the the smallest of spaces like your living room or 1-bedroom studio, and don’t have any at-home weights or equipment.
I prefer to get my body moving for just 10-15 minutes 2-4 times a day if possible, and personally prefer this over one mega 45-60 minute exercise.
Strength and Endurance
- Total Body Tone Fest (small space workout)
- 5 Min HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Workout for Women
- 10 Min Full-Body HIIT Workout
- 10 Minute Morning Workout Routine
- Yoga For Complete Beginners – 20 Minute Home Yoga Workout!
- 10 min Morning Yoga Full Body Stretch
- The entire Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel (perfect for those with little ones in the house!)
Now I’d love to hear from YOU!
Please share your own tips and strategies in the comments below so the rest of the Body Unburdened family can get inspired, stay healthy, and best care for themselves during this crazy time.
As always, wishing you health and happiness, my lovely friend.