Updated: Feb 7, 2022
During this unusual time of self-isolating and social distancing hopefully you have more time to focus on yourself, your health, and that of your family. As your dietitian, I thought I would reach out to give you ideas for staying safe and improving your immune system.
Usually mid-autumn to late winter people get colds and flu and they automatically think about increasing their vitamin C intake and/or supplements. Here we are in Spring and now trying our best to avoid the Corona Virus (COVID-19). There are other nutrients that also boost our immune system and we should include them in our diets.
As an aside, I’ve seen a number of funny cartoons about the “before and after” pics due to self-isolation and a number of my clients have confessed to emotional eating and drinking at this time. There are so many unknowns and things we have no control over. Yet, we do have control over many things, and I would recommend that you not try to project what will be in the future because we just don’t know, and this can increase your anxiety levels. Do your best to live in the moment. At the end of this we could be healthier or unhealthier – it really depends on the choices we are making each day.
I know we are all doing our best to follow the recommendations of the CDC and WHO, but there are other things to consider. If you are ordering food, groceries and/or packages to your home, here is a doctor’s perspective on how to manage and clean our take-out food and groceries: https://youtu.be/sjDuwc9KBps
Get fresh air and sunshine – this will stimulate vitamin D production, lift your spirits, improve your sleep and immune system! If you can’t get outside, open your windows and get fresh air in your home.
Exercise is important to keep your immune system strong, burning calories, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving mood. Go outside and walk, ride a bike, garden, walk your dog, stretch on your lawn, etc. If possible, see the ocean, it is a very healing energy.
If you normally work out at a gym, find online classes for HIIT, yoga, pilates, boxing, etc.
Use your dishwasher to sanitize all eating utensils, dishes, and pots. Avoid handwashing.
Start your day by drinking warm/hot water with lemon squeezed in.
During the day stay well-hydrated. Water supports your immune system by helping your body to produce lymph, which carries white blood cells. It also keeps your lungs moist and mucus flowing so it doesn’t stay in your lungs and create an environment for an infection to occur.
If you flavor your water, you may drink more than you usually do. Fill a large decanter (and continuously refill) with water and add a handful of fresh mint, and:
slices of lemon and ginger
sliced strawberries and clementines
sliced lemon, lime, and orange
assorted melon cubes
sliced cucumber and lemon
End your day by gargling with an antiseptic mouth wash. I’ve read that when we sleep, the bacteria in the back of the throat can aspirate into your lungs, so kill those suckers before you turn off the lights.
Alcohol decreases your immune system, so limit your consumption if you drink.
Since you don’t have to drive to work, sleep in! Aim for 7-9 hours every night.
Stop watching the news! It’s ok to catch up for 30-60 minutes each day, but don’t leave the tv on the news all day long. This will increase levels of anxiety, stress, and depression and may affect your eating and sleep quality.
Here are some ideas to decrease stress:
Meditate or learn to meditate
Binge-watch comedies or cooking shows or biographies
Read books that you’ve been collecting
Find new (healthy) recipes and have fun in the kitchen
Call friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues – FaceTime is even better
Pick up an old or learn a new hobby, such as needlepoint, painting, woodworking, calligraphy, or tackling little projects around the house
Spread out a jigsaw puzzle that the whole family can work on together
Board games and card games vs bingeing tv shows
Take a bubble bath with candles, music and sparkling water or kombucha
Fill your home with beautiful music and dance
Do a few restorative yoga poses and inversions to get your blood flowing in the opposite direction – it will energize you
Go on YouTube and watch babies laughing or kitties and puppies playing. This is a video clip that always make me laugh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeKSiCQkPw
Pamper yourself at home by doing your own nails or facials
Take turns and plan romantic evenings where you cook a special dinner and give your partner a massage, all with candles and soft music, of course
Write in your gratitude journal
And just know – that this too shall pass!
And now, for the food –
Think of food as your FARMacy. Fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds, herbs/spices, and whole grains are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants, which keep us healthy!
If you recall in our initial appointment, I encouraged you to focus on increasing the amount of veggies in your diet – incorporating them in every snack and filling half your plate with a colorful variety at mealtimes. Variety is important because based on color alone, there are different nutrients that benefit our health. Even veggies that don’t have a lot of color, like onions, mushrooms, and garlic are very powerful for our immune systems. Fruit is important as well, but we want to limit intake to two servings per day due to the high sugar content.
Nutrients for Boosting Your Immune System
Foods high in vitamin C:
Red bell peppers
Foods high in Zinc:
Baked beans, vegetarian
Fortified breakfast cereals
Chicken, dark meat
Pumpkin Seeds and Cashews
Foods high in vitamin D:
Cod liver oil
Rainbow trout and sockeye salmon
White mushrooms, sliced, exposed to UV light
Fortified dairy and plant-based milks
Foods high in vitamin B6:
Salmon and tuna
Scrambled egg (vit D is in the yolk)
Fortified breakfast cereals
Foods high in vitamin E:
Nuts and seeds
As we know, the bulk of our immune system is in our gut – up to 70%! So, supporting our gut with foods that encourage the healthy bacteria to thrive and not feeding the unhealthy or excess bacteria is important. Also, if you have dysbiosis, or leaky gut, and uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, you need to heal your gut! That goes beyond the scope of this article, but you can contact me if you need help.
You can see from the lists above that having a wide variety of foods in your diet is critical to get the nutrients your body needs to flourish. If you eat the same foods over and over and feel your diet is limited, you may need nutritional supplements to fill those voids. That being said, do not take vitamin E supplements, which can be dangerous for some people.
Despite the advertising, not every supplement is good quality. As you know I am a big fan of Metagenics because they do their own research and have an outside lab that checks their products for quality and certifies that what is listed on the label is actually inside the bottle. Right now you can order supplements that may improve your immune health and receive 20% off. Here is the link: healthy4life.metagenics.com.
I hope this lengthy article was helpful to you. I pray that we will all get through this time without getting sick and life will get back to normal very soon.
If I can be of any assistance during this time, I would love to help. I am counseling remotely via phone, FaceTime, Zoom, and VSee video chat. Please give me a call at 310-828-3000.