An Immune Boosting Lifestyle
by Krishna Dholakia, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN
Prioritizing a healthy lifestyle has many benefits to our physical and mental health. In the current climate, some good ways to protect yourself from getting sick are by practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and by making lifestyle changes like these below to help boost your immune system.
- Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet. A balanced diet can help sustain the body in its healthiest state and reduces the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Consider adding a variety and abundance of fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains, vegetarian protein sources or lean protein like fish, and healthy fats coming from nuts, seeds, and oils.
- Consume immune boosting nutrients. There are specific nutrients that can help strengthen the immune system, such as vitamin C found in citrus fruits, leafy greens, tomatoes, and berries; zinc found in legumes, whole grains, shellfish, and meat; antioxidants found in colorful fruits like berries and colorful vegetables such as spinach; vitamin D found in enriched dairy, eggs, salmon, exposure to sunlight; and probiotics found in fermented foods like yogurt, pickled vegetables, and kefir.
- Prioritize sleep and rest. Sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. Practicing healthy sleep hygiene techniques like avoiding looking at your phone or computer an hour before going to bed may help improve the quality of your sleep. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep at night. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, relaxation techniques may help alleviate the feeling of exhaustion. For example, consider breathing exercises, being in nature, or yoga.
- Move your body. Physical activity is good for our health and immune system. Move in a way that brings you joy. Consider incorporating a mix of cardio and resistance-training exercises and stretching at least three days a week.
- Uplift your mood. This may be hard, but it’s not always impossible. Staying positive and practicing gratitude has been shown to reverse the negative effects that stress has on our immune system and health. Seek opportunities to laugh, surround yourself with people who nourish you, and consider starting a gratitude journal. If you’re looking for behavioral health support, Episcopal Church Medical Trust Plan members (and their eligible dependents) can access Cigna’s EAP. They have 24/7 behavioral health assistance and can help pair you with a therapist. Call (866) 395-7794, or sign in to MyCigna.com using the Employer ID: Episcopal.
Fortifying our immune system not only protects us from getting sick but is likely to help us mentally feel better. To learn more about the healthy resources CPG offers, be sure to visit some of the health courses on the eLearning library on cpg.org.
Krishna Dholakia serves as the Senior Health Education Specialist in the Education & Wellness department at CPG. She is a registered dietitian and a 500-hour certified yoga instructor.