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6 ways to help your immune system

By Toya Campbell, a health enews service from Advocate Aurora Health

Increased hand washing, social distancing, and avoiding those who are sick are current recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19, and some consider “boosting” your immune system to be another preventative action.

Dr. Kristen Reynolds, integrative and functional medicine physician at Aurora Wiselives Center for Wellbeing (Aurora UW Academic Medical Group) in Wauwatosa, WI says that we rethink the idea of “boosting” and focus on “supporting” our immune systems by doing these key things:

  1. Avoid sugar. It can be tempting to binge on sweets, but excess sugar feeds yeast and other undesirable bugs in the gut, where most of your immune system lies. Give your body a fighting chance by eliminating sugar to free up your immune system and strengthen it.
  2. Eat healthy. Feed your immune system with colorful antioxidant rich foods like oranges, berries, spinach, broccoli, and red peppers which are high in vitamin C. Other immune-supportive foods include ginger, garlic, mushrooms, coconut oil, meats and poultry, which contain nutrients your body needs to stay well.
  3. Sleep more. 7.5 hours is the minimum amount of sleep to provide maximum support to your immune system. With extended amounts of sleep, the body releases a type of protein called cytokines. These proteins can help regulate the immune system and help fight off infection.
  4. Get moving. Exercise helps to increase the circulation of white blood cells which can help the body fight off viruses. There are many exercises you can do at home such as jumping jacks and strength conditioning using your own body weight. Walking outdoors and spending time in nature are also great ways to get moving.
  5. Supplement. Along with healthy foods, supplements can give your immune system additional support. Adding supplements such as vitamins C and D, zinc and melatonin can help you remain well or possibly reduce the severity of symptoms if you do get sick.
  6. Keep calm. Excess stress suppresses your immunity. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious consider doing breathing exercises, meditation, or activities like yoga, Tai Chi or walking.

Remember that these are recommendations for staying healthy and are not guaranteed to prevent infection.

If you have symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, visit the COVID-19 Resource Center for information on getting tested or contact your doctor.

Latoya Campbell, health enews contributor, is a Public Affairs Coordinator at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BS degree in Communications/Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and previously worked in digital and graphic marketing for a public library. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, fitness activities and a good spa day.

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