COVID-19 is busy making the rounds in the world. While the news is scary, the fact is that most people recover. While you’re on lockdown, the temptation is to go into “comfort” mode. Think couch, blanket, cookies, and adult beverages to take the edge off. I get this 1000%. But here’s the thing… your job right now is to keep your immune system in tip-top shape and ready to go if needed. Lifestyle choices play a major role in determining this. Here are a few tips that your body will thank you for:
Break Up with Sugar
Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of about two cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by forty percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after eating it and may last for five hours. In contrast, eating complex carbohydrates has no effect on the immune system.
Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking a lot of alcohol may take the edge off isolation, but it affects your immune system in two ways. First, it produces an overall nutritional deficiency, depriving the body of valuable immune-boosting nutrients like B vitamins. Second, alcohol, like sugar, can reduce the ability of white cells to kill germs. High doses of alcohol suppress the ability of the white blood cells to multiply, and inhibit the action of killer white cells and macrophages. And if you’re not into biology, just know that all of this is bad.
One drink (the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of hard liquor) does not appear to affect the immune system, but three or more drinks do. Damage to the immune system increases in proportion to the quantity of alcohol consumed.
Eat Real Food
Nutrition is a key component of a healthy immune system. Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system, which may offer protection from seasonal illness and other health problems. No one food or supplement can prevent illness, but including protein, Vitamins A, Bs, C, E, zinc, copper, and selenium will help boost immunity. More about supplements next week.
Get Plenty of Sleep
I see you, perimenopausal friends! And I hear you saying, “If I could sleep, I would.” I understand your frustration, and now is a good time to find out WHY you’re not sleeping and address this. (we can help you with this.)
Many studies have reported numerous benefits of a good night’s sleep. These range from weight loss to better decision making. From an immunity standpoint, there is a lot of science and biology behind this. Let me break it down into a digestible chunk. The fall in stress hormones and inflammatory mediators during sleep allows your T cells (the good guys) to stick to viruses and kill them.
How to get a better night’s sleep?
- Find out if hormone imbalances or high cortisol are part of the picture.
- Manage your stress.
- Create a bedtime routine that is soothing and lets your body know it’s time to relax.
- Keep the same bedtime every day even during isolation.
Get Your Move On… But Not Too Much
Exercise is fabulous for maintaining your mental health. My daily walks are part of what’s keeping ME sane. But there is some evidence that pushing yourself in really hard workouts (especially if you are not used to it) can actually suppress your immune system. Hard, prolonged exercise increases levels of stress hormones, which can then open the door for infections. The key here is to have a balanced training program that includes not only hard exercise but relaxing activities like yoga and meditation.
Wash Your Hands!
I don’t think this really needs to be repeated, but it certainly won’t hurt. Keep washing those hands with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if you can’t use soap and water… at least 60% alcohol. If you can’t find it at the store, here’s how to make your own.
COVID-19 is serious business and self-care may feel like it’s “extra.” Trust me, it is not. Keeping your immune system in tip-top shape is your best defense against serious illness.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultations. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-talk.