Is your immune system ready?
The news is constantly giving an update on how many cases of COVID are happening around the country. I noticed it’s even a section in my weather app now! It’s beginning to feel like it may be inevitable that many of us will eventually be exposed to the disease, at least to some degree. Regardless of how you feel about the measures being taken in your area to reduce the spread or the effectiveness of them, I think it makes sense to do our best to prepare our immune systems to be in fine fighting form. The most effective way to keep your immune system at it’s best is to reduce inflammation in the body.
First of all, lets talk about things that cause inflammation so you can make an educated guess about where you might currently be in regard to it. There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is usually noticeable. It commonly causes pain. Think about a cut on your finger turning red and puffy or even allergies when your face feels swollen. Acute inflammation usually passes fairly quickly and has a relatively short lived impact on the immune system overall, as long as there are no lingering complications.
Chronic inflammation can be more subtle with symptoms such as fatigue, fever, rashes, mouth sores, abdominal or chest pain. There are a wide variety of causes of inflammation including infection or injury, an autoimmune disorder, exposure to irritants such as chemicals or polluted air, as well as smoking and chronic stress. These are things you’ll want to address with your health care provider and start working to get under control so your immune system can be prepared to fight other things.
While some of the causes of inflammation need to be addressed with the help of a professional, others you can begin to address yourself right away. A healthy diet can hinder inflammation and promote a healthier immune system. Foods such as olive oil, leafy greens, tomatoes, fatty fish, nuts and fruits are helpful. Some spices can also play a role in reducing inflammation such as ginger, garlic and cayenne. There are also supplements that can help. Fish oil, lipoic acid and curcumin have been shown to be helpful. Other supplements are known to help the immune system as well, such as vitamin C and D. Start to incorporate healthful, anti-inflammatory foods and supplements into your diet and also limit things like alcohol and sugar that can be detrimental to your inflammation levels.
Moderate physical activity is excellent for reducing chronic stress and boosting the immune system. Get out and enjoy the weather by taking a walk or a bike ride most days. If you’re comfortable with it, grab your mask and head to the gym (if yours is open) when the weather isn’t good. Or find a great yoga video online and incorporate that into your day.
Where are you in this? Is your immune system ready or could you make a few changes to give it a helping hand? The immune system is a highly complex, fascinating thing that we really are just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding but as with most other things related to our health, we do know that a healthy diet and appropriate exercise will only benefit us.
Stay healthy and safe!
-Amy Denker, MS, RD, LD
More about me:
I attended Oklahoma State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Exercise. I went on to earn a Master’s of Science degree in Dietetics and Nutrition and completed the Dietetic Internship Program at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.