Strengthening the Immune and Respiratory Systems

Right now, many people are sheltering in place or practicing “stay home, stay safe.” But it won’t be too long before we’re all back out in the world—a world where there are plenty of viruses, bacteria, parasites, and a whole host of other microbes waiting for us. What can you do now to improve your immune system? And, since the current illness seems to affect the respiratory system with a cough and shortness of breath, what about your lung health? Here are some practical ideas to try to help you prepare for the time when “social distancing” is a distant memory.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, immunocompromised, or have other health issues, talk to your healthcare provider about these suggestions to help decide if they are for you.

Here are a few common-sense things that nearly everyone can do now AND in the future to help your body fight off any invaders:

  • Wash your hands. I know, I know, you already know how to do this. But this video is eye-opening—did you know you miss so much of your hands when you wash? Frequent hand washing is the best way to avoid getting sick.
  • Drink water. Lots of it. Your body needs water to function. You need even more when you are fighting off infections. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces every day; for example, if you weigh 100 pounds, you would drink 50 ounces of water. You might have to work up to that much if your body isn’t used to it. But the bathroom isn’t that far away now, right?
  • Exercise. If you can get outside for a walk, do it every day. Not only will it help your mood and possibly improve your immune system, it will keep you away from the refrigerator! If you can’t get outside, stretch, lift weights, do some isometric exercises, or even dig out your old Zumba workout. You can still download Jane Fonda’s classic workout to do at home!
  • Eat Right. Sure, you’re going to eat some junk food. But this is a great time to make sure you are getting all the vitamins and other nutrients you’re going to need to fight off any infections. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are great immune system supporters. The best way to get these nutrients is to eat foods high in them such as leafy greens, like spinach and kale. Get your Vitamin D by spending a few minutes in the sun each day.
  • Sleep. Don’t stay up all night binge-watching Netflix. Get to bed at a reasonable hour—you don’t have anywhere to go anyway! Being well rested will help you when it’s germ-fighting time. Try going to bed at the same time every night and waking up whenever you wake up (without an alarm). If you can do this for 3-4 days in a row, you’ll find out how much sleep YOU really need.
  • Meditate. Meditation has been frequently studied in relation to immune system health, and though the jury is still out on exactly how it works, it seems to improve immunity and reduce inflammation. If you need some help getting started, UCLA has provided some free guided meditations.
  • Practice breathing. You can strengthen your lungs and make them more efficient with a few simple breathing exercises. More efficient lungs equals more oxygen circulating throughout your body. This can help when you’re fighting off a virus or bacteria that affects your respiratory system.

You can do something positive during this time to help you now and in the future. What are you and your family doing to improve your physical and mental health?

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