COVID-19 has increased people’s desire to learn how they can stay healthy. And although there are certain measures that can reduce risk—such as hand-washing—people want more.
There is evidence that immunocompromised people bear the highest risk. That’s not just the case for COVID-19, but also other viral and bacterial infections.
A stronger immune system can result in a lower risk for illness and less severe symptoms if and when illness does hit. Lifestyle measures such as nutrition, activity levels, and sleep influence immunity.
A diet that’s high in plant-based foods is one way to start boosting immune strength by limiting inflammation in the body and improving gut health. Both of these factors can play a major role in your susceptibility to illness.
Nutrients and food compounds that play some of the strongest roles in immune health include vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, zinc, fiber, beta-carotene, and polyphenols such as anthocyanin and flavonoids.
Additionally, there is evidence that regular activity can help bolster immune health. Exercise may charge up antibodies and white blood cells to help with illness, while it also may help flush out illness through the lungs and airways.
Combined with a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods, exercise will do you some real good.
One of the last pillars of a strong immune system is adequate quality sleep. Making sure your body has enough time to recover and recharge each day can go a long way in influencing your ability to stay healthy.
Almost inseparable from sleep is stress management. Of course, this is also the most difficult component of a healthy immune system. Some practices like mindfulness, yoga, and tai-chi can be effective in reducing stress. Stress results in hormone releases that undermine immunity and the body’s ability to rejuvenate itself.
Outlook can help. Stress is a physiological reaction that most often a result of emotions arising from thoughts of our own (usually unconscious) choosing. Focusing on the things you can control in your life can help, but it really depends on what those things are. Sometimes, the things we can’t control are the biggest stressors. In this case, accepting the situations we can’t change can stop ruminations that lead to stressful thinking. If you can’t change it, there is little benefit to worrying about it incessantly.
A healthy immune system is within the reach of many. But it is not a guarantee that you’ll stay healthy. At best, it can offer reduced risk and severity of illness.
Devon Andre holds a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University of Windsor in Canada and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Andre is a journalist for BelMarraHealth, which first published this article.