The pandemic we are facing is frightening for everyone. Worrying about the virus and the fact that you do not have the power to stop is, however, not helping you or anyone around you. Instead, we invite you to channel your energy on things you can control. One thing you can oversee is your own health and this helps to be prepared to fight against nasty viruses. With that in mind, we have put together practical tips that help to build stronger immune system.
Prioritise your sleep
Having trouble sleeping? Lack of sleep has an impact to your immune system. Studies reveal that people who don’t get enough, or good-quality sleep, are more likely to get ill after being exposed to a virus. Not getting enough or quality sleep also can affect your recovery time after being ill, so it is more important than ever to prioritise your sleep so here are several tips for promoting good-quality sleep.
Firstly, your brain needs to associate your bedroom with sleep, so you should avoid eating, watching TV, looking at your computer, tablet, and your phone in your bedroom in the evening. The lighting from digital devices sends a message to your brain that it is time to be awake and alert, so these gadgets do not belong in the room where you are supposed to sleep. If you usually set an alarm on your phone to wake you up in the morning, it is time to invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock. They don’t cost much, and they last longer than some electronic gadgets out there. If you are lying awake unable to sleep, leave your bedroom, as tossing and turning also sends the wrong message to your brain that the room you are in is not for sleeping. You can try having a small warm drink like milk or herbal tea in the kitchen or write down your thoughts on a notepad in another room. You can go back to your bedroom when you start to feel a bit sleepy.
Secondly, your body and brain need time to unwind before your bedtime. We recommend you stop using all electronic devices including your mobile phone two hours before you go to sleep. As well as cutting out the ‘blue light’ from digital devices, you should switch off bright ceiling lights a couple hours before bedtime and use a light dimmer and small side lamps instead if you have them. Again, darker environment sends a signal to your body to change the gear to get ready for sleep.
Thirdly, temperatures have roles to play and having a hot bath before the bedtime and keeping your room temperate relatively low help you to get to sleep easily.
The last point is specific for grown-ups. Studies show caffeine and alcohol have negative impact to your sleep – especially the quality of sleep. The half of the caffeine you consumed will stay in your body after six hours and it could take up to 10 hours for your body to get rid of all caffeine from your bloodstream. Having the caffeine in your system when you are you supposed to be asleep means you are unable to have a deep restful sleep. We suggest you enjoy your cup of coffee or tea BEFORE noon and switch to herbal tea in the afternoon. Remember green tea has caffeine and decaf coffee still has some caffeine as well. Naturally, the same rule applies to caffeinated drinks like coca cola and energy drinks.
If you make these changes, you will notice that you fall asleep more easily, you are less likely to wake up in the middle of the night and you feel more refreshed in the morning.
Eat the rainbow – A whole food, nutrient-dense diet is our medicine
A poor diet can lead to nutrient deficiency and the body is unable to fight infections. A large percentage of our nation is deficient in one or more nutrients, as with many developing countries. You may have heard of the term gut microbiome as it has been given a spotlight in the last few years. It is a community of a trillion bacteria and fungi living in your gastrointestinal tract. The healthy gut microbiome holds a key to keep viruses at bay. The microbiome is different for each one of us, just like our DNA, so there isn’t a single silver bullet that can make the healthy gut microbiome. But there is one thing we can do to promote the healthy gut microbiome and that is to eat diverse range of fruits and vegetables. We are all creatures of habits and like to stick to eating same things for breakfast and sometimes for lunch. But try introducing one or two new vegetables or fruits you have not had for a while into your meal plans once a week. You can turn it into a fun game with children and set a daily “eat the rainbow challenge”!
Avoid food that compromise your immune system
Okay, eating a diverse range of vegetables and fruits help to fight off illness, but what kind of food has the opposite effect? Some of these things mentioned below if consumed in excess can compromise your immune response, according to the article from Pigment Healthcare.
- Fizzy drinks
- Processed foods
- Food and drinks that are high in sugar
- Refined carbohydrates such as white rice, white flours, white breads, pastas and cereals
- Alcoholic beverages
The data shows that UK families buy more ultra-processed food than any other country in Europe, amounting to 50.7% of the diet. Perhaps it is about time to consume less processed food and switch to eating more “real food”, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
Just like eating balanced, healthy diet, exercising helps to maintain healthy immune system. Studies have shown that moderate exercise improves blood flow, which in turn helps to flush toxins and germs from the body. Increased blood flow also maintains white blood cells and antibodies required to fight infection. In general, the human immune system gets weaker as we get older. But exercising regularly can help to defy this. The study by the University of Birmingham and King’s College London found that 125 non-smoking amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 still had the immune systems of young people.
In a normal circumstance, we would recommend everyone young and old to swim at least once a week to maintain the healthy body, but during these no-so-normal times when all pools and health clubs are closed, anything you can do to keep your body moving would be brilliant. There are many amazing online resources you can turn to.
Take Vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D, also known as ‘Sunshine vitamin ‘, is essential for maintaining healthy bones and muscles. It is produced in the response to the exposure to the sun and it is hard to reach your recommended daily allowance of 10 micrograms (ug) during the winter in England. Even if you manage to go outdoor in the daytime, your skin will not get enough sunshine to produce vitamin D if you wear face covering, sun creams or your arms are covered. It is near impossible to get sufficient level of vitamin D with food as well – you would need to eat 10 rump stakes or 10+ cans of tuna to achieve it! In addition, recent studies reveal that a large percentage of COVID-19 patients have been found to have vitamin D deficiency, and those who are vitamin D deficient have higher inflammatory markers and a higher risk of death.
These are a few reasons why using the supplement to keep vitamin D levels topped up is more important than ever for everyone in the family.
Pick small changes that you can keep up
We place the sleep on top of our list, as we feel that prioritising sleep is incredibly important during these tough times, but if you eat well and exercise frequently, your sleep quality would improve naturally. We understand there are so many things you are having to adjust at the moment and making additional changes to your daily habits may seem like a tall order. There is absolutely no need to make drastic changes. If you do, chances are that you are not able to keep it up. We encourage you to try finding only two or three things you can do and stick with it.