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In These Uncertain Times, Here are Some Positive Steps to Boost Our Immune System

Posted by Iris Erguder-Saman, MD
Director of Integrative Medicine, Holy Name Medical Center
Holy Name Medical Partners on March 13, 2020

Iris Erguder-Saman, MD, Director of Integrative Medicine, Holy Name Medical Center

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the coronavirus a pandemic, meaning it has spread in multiple countries including the United States, where the number of people infected continues to climb. Close to home, there are a number of confirmed cases and one death in Bergen County attributed to the virus, which causes respiratory infection.

The situation is evolving as scientists, medical professionals and political leaders try to get a handle on how to best deal with the situation. The flow of news is overwhelming and sometimes confusing. We’re told to remain calm and wash our hands even as dire warnings and major disruptions to daily life are contemplated or underway.

The uncertainty and stress can create havoc emotionally, mentally – and physically. Currently there is no cure for the coronavirus, but there are ways to support our bodies and we should not overlook the importance of keeping ourselves healthy.

While it is imperative to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recommendations of proper hand hygiene and social distancing – avoiding close contact with sick people and staying at least six feet from other people - it is as important to understand that a strong immune system is the first line of defense to help fight against viruses.

Positive steps

The following are some important recommendations to keep your immune system in check:

  1. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle: Eat nutritious foods, incorporating more plant-based options and fruits. Avoid refined sugars, heavily processed foods, excessive animal protein fats, alcohol and smoking. Good food choices have tremendous benefit for our gut health, which in turn helps our immune system fight against bacteria and viruses.

  2. Get proper sleep: Most of our cell repair happens during sleep. Quality sleep can help increase immune cells in order to fight infection. Adults generally should get at least seven hours of sleep per night, according to the CDC. The CDC also advises that attention be paid to the quality of sleep. Your environment should be dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature.

  3. Stress less: While it is good to be informed, excessive worry has a negative impact on our immune system. Take a break from coronavirus anxiety and walk out in nature. Stay active with regular, moderate exercise to help increase immune function. Engage in activities that trigger laughter. It’s a good time to take up mindfulness meditation and/or spiritual practices to keep our immune system strong to fight viral infections. Some helpful modalities for mindfulness meditation include tai chi, yoga, qi-gong, and meditation apps and other resources.

  4. Consider immune-boosting supplements: Vitamins and minerals can help maintain a healthy immune system. It’s best to check with your integrative healthcare professional for the supplements that are right for you.

  5. Stay hydrated: Drink water throughout the day. Water helps carry nutrients and oxygen to your cells and staying hydrated helps your body eliminate toxins and other bacteria that may cause illness.

It's important to live a healthy life every day, but it’s imperative that we help our body to stay strong during times of heightened stress. Instead of focusing our energy on something that is mostly outside our control, we should focus our attention on what we can control, such as diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Let's stay positive and help our bodies to keep our immune system strong.

Dr. Erguder-Saman specializes in family medicine. She completed an integrative medicine fellowship at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, San Diego, CA. Her practice is located within HNH Fitness in Oradell, Holy Name's center for personal health, fitness and wellness. To make an appointment with her, call 201-265-1159 or book online at HolyNameMedicalPartners.org.