Now that we've added the cold and flu season on top of COVID-19, it's as important as ever to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
Your immune system protects your body naturally, according to Naturopathic Doctor Sonam Desai at Goshen Retreat Women’s Health Center. When it's functioning well, your body can defend against illness or infection, including colds, flu or viruses.
We asked Dr. Desai to share her best suggestions to help you fight off disease or infection and recover faster if you do get sick.
"Start with the basics – eat well, not only move but exercise more, get your sleep and manage stress," Dr. Desai said. "These four pillars are at the core of a strong immune system."
Fill up on healthy foods
Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do to help your body function well every day. Nutrients from quality foods and vitamins fuel your immune system to build antibodies and shield you from disease threats.
Load up on fruits and vegetables. There's no limit to how much of these powerhouse foods you can eat. "Aim high," said Dr. Desai. "Try for 7 to 9 servings a day."
Choose good sources of protein. Fish, chicken and eggs are packed with protein. Plant-based protein from beans, nuts and seeds also boost your body's defense system.
Eat healthy fats. Nuts, seeds, avocados and other plant-based fats are a gold mine when it comes to your health. These good fats help build barriers to bacteria and viruses.
Make a move toward a healthy you
Regular exercise plays an important role in your overall health. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week can upgrade your immune system, boost your mood and give you more energy.
"Moving is different than exercise," said Dr. Desai. "You need both movement and exercise to get the most benefit."
Raise your heart rate. Choose intentional actions that get your heart pumping faster. Be creative and get your family involved.
Challenge yourself. Go for a brisk walk or run. Try a new dance move. Or follow an online cardio-booster routine.
Break up your exercise. Short on time? Try working out in multiple segments, like four 15-minute bursts of activity a day. Or use a fitness app, like the 7-Minute Workout, to track your activity.
Relax, let go and fall asleep
Are you longing for eight hours of uninterrupted, peaceful sleep? It's one of the best ways to get your natural body clock – called circadian rhythm – in sync. And that can help fight off disease or infection, including colds or the flu.
Set a schedule. Choose a consistent time to turn off the lights and get some shut-eye. Time cues for waking up and length of sleep also can relieve an overloaded brain.
Take a news break. Find the right balance between staying informed about current events and consuming too much information.
Limit screen time. Set a shut-down time for digital devices, including the TV, at least one hour before bedtime, suggested Dr. Desai. That will give your brain time to wind down.
Take control of stress
Stress levels are on the rise for many of us, as we cope with this year's challenges in our everyday routines. And that can lead to more episodes of depression, anxiety and loneliness.
Be present and mindful when you spend time with other people. That means unplug from your devices and reconnect with one another.
Breathe deeply. Take a deep breath in as you count to four. Then exhale slowly. It will help you relax and lower stress in your body.
Recite a Meaningful Mantra. Try a simple mantra to promote optimism and positivity. One of Dr. Desai's favorites is "I am healthy and I am worthy."
Get outside. Spending time in nature can have a positive impact on your sense of well-being. Just five minutes outside a day can reduce your stress level. If you can’t get outdoors. Dr. Desai recommends adding plants to your office as this can also have a calming effect.
Talk with your doctor
If you’re feeling worn out and stressed out these days, Dr. Desai encourages you to talk to your primary care provider. Your primary care provider can order bloodwork that can detect any imbalances in your immune system.
Dr. Desai uses results from bloodwork and health screenings to identify patients at risk for compromised health. She can help support patients on their journey to optimal health and wellness. Dr. Desai also focuses on natural therapies to restore energy and wellness.
For more information about naturopathic services, contact Goshen Retreat Women's Health Center, (574) 364-4600.