IMMUNE HEALTH BASICS BY AMY SAVAGE NUTRITION
It’s a confusing time in the world of COVID-19, immune health and nutrition, but it doesn’t need to be. Confusion stems from inaccurate information and clever product marketing mostly through social media and when it comes to COVID19 and immune health there are a few things that you should know.
Firstly, the term ‘immune boosting’ – it’s a nice marketing term and buzz word, along with ‘detox’ (another overused term!). Boosting our immune system plays a role in autoimmune conditions or inflammation, so this isn’t what we want to do. We simply just want to support our immune health.
When it comes to nutrition and COVID-19, there are areas of emerging research including vitamin D, vitamin C and omega fatty acids and whilst there is nothing specific yet to recommend when it comes to nutrition and COVID-19, the best advice as it stands is to look after your immune health as a good starting point.
There are a few keyways in which to support your immune health and these are my general recommendations that help form the basic fundamentals to overall health.
Wholefoods are key to a balanced diet. So out with the processed and in with the whole foods. One of the easiest ways to do this is to cook at home rather than buying pre-prepared meals. If you make your meals from scratch, you can see exactly what ingredients are going in. It’s important to get a balance of macronutrient, carbohydrates, fats and proteins and I’ve listed some recommendations below:
Carbohydrates: Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (lentils, chickpeas etc.), nuts and seeds.
Fats: Sources of both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated (omega-3s) opt for extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts/seeds, oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines).
Protein: Lean meats, limit intake of red meat to 2-3 meals per week, fish, eggs and include plant-based protein options such as tofu, tempeh, chickpeas and lentils.
Variety is also important and for example, consuming different fruits, vegetables and grains will offer a more variety of vitamins and minerals. If you are eating adequate amounts of macronutrients too, you will naturally find you are having enough micronutrients such as vitamin C and zinc for example, which are both important nutrients to support immune health.
Hydration: Hydration is so important and try and aim or roughly 2 litres EVERY day. A good way to know you much you’ve had is to fill a bottle, say 500 mls and aim for 4 bottles every day.
Sleep: Sleep is important on so many levels and plays a role in immune health, stress response and food choices to name a few.
The recommended amount of sleep is between 7-9 hours and while we sleep, we produce immune cells. So, less sleep = less immune support. If you are having less than 7 hours per night, I recommend increasing and it will also help energy levels the next day too.
Reduce Stress: Stress increases production of cortisol and adrenalin and whilst some level of stress is healthy, chronic ongoing stress isn’t.
Stress can impact sleep and weaken immune function, so it’s important to find way to reduce or at least cope with stress. A good night’s sleep is a good place to start but aside from that it’s important to find ways to relax and take your body out of a stressed state. Of course, yoga and breathing exercises are a great recommendation because they are both scientifically proven to be beneficial in managing stress, it is also important to include things you love, whether that’s a Netflix binge, going out for a walk or family time, find your ways to relax and destress.
Keep Moving: Moving is important for physical health but also mental health and immune support. In a time when it can be challenging to get outdoors, if you are fortunate enough to be able to, take advantage. Anything from walking to more physical HIIT workouts etc. will have a positive impact and research shows that regular and moderate exercise (that’s less than 60 mins) increases immune cell activity, so more reason to get moving.