Immune-Boosting Habits to Help Get You Through the Pandemic
As much as we'd love the pandemic to be over, it's not. The United States recently reached a grim new milestone of 1 million deaths as a result of COVID-19 and cases are rising again in most states. Although guidelines and restrictions have eased up, people are still getting infected daily with the virus. Taking precautions and staying healthy is key to helping avoid catching COVID and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Janice Johnston, MD, Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder at Redirect Health who shares what to know about the pandemic right now and how to help naturally boost your immune system. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What to Know About COVID Right Now
Dr. Johnston says, "As we experience a third year living in a pandemic, we have seen many state and federal restrictions lifted as people have started returning to a new sense of normal. However, even with mandates relaxing, COVID-19 is still prevalent across the United States and the rest of the world. Currently, we have seen cases rising in almost every state as the new dominant strain, BA.2, has shown increased transmissibility over previous strains. BA.2, however, has not shown an increase in disease severity, so protections from vaccines, boosters, and previous infection have still helped control the outcome of many of these cases. The U.S. has now reached 1 million deaths related to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with around 300 new deaths reported every day. However, this number is significantly less than the peak of the last surge, averaging 2,600 deaths a day. While death has been less likely in this current surge, cases are still on the rise everywhere, and doctors are still recommending that people follow CDC guidelines for masking and vaccinations. This also includes maintaining proper sanitary practices such as hand washing, staying home when sick, cleaning contaminated surfaces, and getting tested if necessary. And, if you are at high risk, you should take extra precautions."
Get Enough Sleep
Dr. Johnston reminds us, "Sleep is critical to overall health and is closely connected to our immune system. In fact, not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick. Your body spends more energy fighting off illness when sleep deprived. Getting approximately 7 – 9 hours a night of sleep for adults is optimal for your health, immune system, and overall wellness."
Eat More Healthy Fats
"Healthy fats improve your overall health by providing more energy, preventing disease, illness, and inflammation," Dr. Johnston states. "They also help your body recover faster. Inflammation is especially important to prevent as it can suppress your immune system. Inflammation can be combated by eating foods rich in healthy fats like avocados, which contain oleic acid, salmon, containing the well-known omega-3 acid, or olive oil, which is full of monounsaturated fats. These foods can boost your body's immune response."
Take Probiotic Supplements
According to Dr. Johnston, "Research has shown that gut health and your immune system go hand in hand. Your gut contains an entire microbiome of bacteria that is important to maintain to keep your brain and body healthy. The beneficial bacteria found in probiotics promote a healthy gut, which in turn helps your immune cells differentiate between good and bad bacteria, creating a heightened immune response when sick. You can get probiotics via supplements, or by eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and more."
Dr. Johnston explains, "Getting moderate physical activity for at least 30-60 minutes a day can greatly reduce the risk of chronic illness. In addition to helping your body fight off illness, exercise also helps decrease inflammation and slows the release of stress hormones. It's important to note, however, that overdoing exercise can put more stress on your body and weaken the immune system, so finding a balance between exercise and rest is just as crucial."
Drink Plenty of Water
"Water is always the best thing you can drink for your body," Dr. Johnston emphasizes. "Water helps carry oxygen to your body's cells which assists your body's functions and immune responses. Proper hydration also helps flush out toxins from the body, which prevents toxin build-up that could negatively impact your immune system. Most adults should aim to drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water every day."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.