Anytime there is a heightened potential for infection, extra care must be taken to insure that some foundational dietary and lifestyle habits are in place to reduce not only the chance of infection, but in order to reduce the severity of and ongoing effects from infections.
There are mountains of published research on the positive and negative effects of various dietary and lifestyle habits. Here is a cliff-notes version that you can use to make these changes quickly:
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit – the deeper the color the better. Aim for 9-13 servings per day (1 serving = 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables/fruit) and eat as wide a variety as possible to enhance GI health. Remember that upwards of 70% of your immune function is in your GI tract; therefore, you HAVE TO make sure your GI tract is supported properly to enhance immunity.
- Consume 28-35 grams of dietary fiber daily; the best sources are beans, peas, lentils, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
- Eat fermented vegetables or other probiotic-containing foods to maintain proper GI function.
- Reduce or eliminate foods that reduce immune function, including sugar, salt, high-glycemic foods (including all baked goods, sweets, candies, desserts, etc.) and excessive saturated fat.
- Practice daily stress-management techniques, including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi and spending time in nature. Even 5-10 minutes can help.
- Get at least 7-8 hours (more if needed) of good quality sleep every night. This is vitally important to maintain proper immune function as well as during times of recovery from illness.
- Practice good sleep hygiene and maintain consistent sleep hours by setting reminders to go to bed on time.
- Get 15-30 minutes of moderate aerobic and/or resistance training at least 5 days a week. Find something you enjoy and do a variety of activities that feed both your body and soul.
- Reduce your exposure to non-supportive or negative relationships and increase time with those that are positive and affirming to you.
- Especially if you are feeling lonely or isolated, work to establish regular social connections. This could include participating in virtual community events or in a religious or spiritual group.
Follow these simple practices every day and you will establish a solid foundation of immune resilience.