Immunity in our Hands
- April 30, 2020
Georgia made national news when Brian Kemp, Georgia’s governor made the decision to lift restrictions on the shelter at home order. Businesses were given the green light to re-open if they choose to with restrictions to the way they conduct business. There has been heated debate about when and how the country should be opening again, but ultimately the decision has been made and now we have personal choices to make. Businesses that are opening will have mandated regulations to adhere to keep their staff and customers as safe as possible. The reality is we come into contact with germs and viruses all the time, the best way for us to protect ourselves from this virus or from anything (according to the CDC 80,000 people died from the flu last winter) that could make us sick is to boost our own immune system.
How the immune system works
The immune system is made up of cells, tissues and certain organs that work together to combat pathogens. Pathogens can be viruses, bacteria, and parasites. When working correct the immune system can prevent sickness even if we are exposed to germs. There are factors such as sleep, diet, stress and hygiene that boost or detract from the immune system.
Factors that weaken the immune system
The immune system can compromise by taking certain medicines so checking in with your doctor about any medications you is worth making a call. Smoking can be a factor in a weaker immune system as well as alcohol, poor nutrition, stress, and a lack of sleep. Most of these factors are completely within our control and even small modifications can make a difference.
Boosting the immune system
The same factors that can be negative for the immune system when changed are the same factors that boost the immune system. The best ways to boost the immune system are to not smoke, only consume alcohol in moderation, get at least 7 hours of sleep, get regular exercise, reduce stress, and maintain a healthy diet. There are many items on this list but today we are going to focus on two of the easiest and simultaneously hardest items from this list.
Changing eating habits
There are a thousand meme’s joking about the “Corona 15” circulating on social media right now. They are referencing all the food people are eating while sheltering at home. Although this is meant to lighten the mood, the truth is overeating junk food is the worst thing you can do for immune system right now. In addition to diminishing the immune system, diabetes is one of the underlying diseases that are leading to deaths impacted by the Corona virus. Focusing on what to eat is always a better way to modifying your eating habits. There are foods (more than just citrus fruits) that enhance the immune system and can be easily added to average diet.
Mushrooms are high in B vitamin, riboflavin, niacin, and selenium. In addition to these minerals and vitamins that help the immune system work they are also high in polysaccharides a sugar-like molecules that boost immune function.
One 3-once serving of oysters contains selenium, iron, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C. The oyster is also a great source of protein and its easy to see why the call them the superfood of the sea.4
Not that anyone needs an excuse to eat watermelon, but there are many good reasons to do so. Potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and glutathione can all be found in just 2 cups of watermelon.
Yogurt has more benefits than just the vitamin B12, vitamin D, and riboflavin found within it. Probiotics help boost the immune function, but they also provide beneficial gut flora that increase digestion, fight bacteria and detoxify the system. There are many ways to use yogurt in savory dishes if mixed with fruit is not favored.
Spinach has earned its reputation for being a superfood due to high content of iron, fiber, magnesium, vitamin A, folate, vitamin C. All of these work together to aide cell division and DNA repair and boost immune function.
Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties and antioxidants that combat free radicals that cause Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease cancers and other conditions.
How to quit smoking
In a list of easy changes to make this one seems so simple and yet it is the hardest item for most people to achieve. The many benefits of this daunting task outweigh the challenge. Quitting smoking increases oxygen levels, lowers inflammation and improves circulation. The good news is there are so many resources available to smokers now if cold turkey is not a viable option.
The FDA has approved 7 types of medications to help people quit smoking and they should all be discussed with a health care provider. The medications include: nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, nasal sprays, Zyban (an antidepressant) and Chantix which blocks the effects of nicotine in the brain.
Smokers who want to quit can improve their chance of success by asking for support from their co-workers, family and friends. By telling your network about your plan and ask them to hold you accountable. There is in-person counseling from doctors or health care providers and support groups. All 50 states have telephone quit lines and the American Cancer Society can supply the numbers, they can be reached at 1-800-227-2345. The National Cancer Institute has a quit smoking app that can provide encouragement 24 hours a day.
While some people continue to shelter at home most of us are either still working or heading back to work. People are starting to go public places again and doing their best to find a new normal. Taking care of ourselves should always be a priority not just for ourselves but for the people who care about us. There is more information on the websites for the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute.