Since the lives we once knew came to a sudden standstill, health has become our overriding concern. As the cogs of the country begin to turn, and the once derelict streets show glimmers of life, an underlying uncertainty remains. We are stepping out into a very different world to the one we left behind. So, how do we really stay safe?
As well as keeping your distance, of course, the very best thing you can do is look after your immune system. This is your very own internal army, which needs strength to protect you from harm.
Check-in with yourself
When we’re stressed, our fight or flight response kicks in. Cortisol (the stress hormone) is released, which increases our heart rate and prepares the body to stand up and attack or run for its life. This physiological reaction was designed to protect our ancient ancestors from being mauled by a wild animal. In modern society, even the slightest threat, such as an unwelcome WhatsApp message or Instagram post, can set it off. Right now, walking outside the front door could get it going. It isn’t supposed to be permanently switched on, and over time, the over-production of cortisol can weaken the immune.
Whether you’re venturing out to work or locked down in your makeshift home office, take some time out each day to check in with how you feel. Are you on edge, with a racing heart and butterflies in your tummy? Outdoor exercise is the answer and something we must continue to find time for. A run will release your happy hormones, and a walk is an instant calmer. However strenuous, the fresh air (now fresher than ever), will help clear your busy mind. Even just a short time in nature, the one thing that has flourished through all of this, will do you wonders.
Watch what you eat
Over 70% of our immune system is in the gut, so a good diet is imperative to staying strong. We’ve perhaps let things slip a little recently, with food being the greatest comfort, but now’s the time to get back on track. Feed your good bacteria (this has a direct impact on your immune) with fibre-rich prebiotic foods such as asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions and leeks. Stock up on polyphenols (micronutrients found in some plant-based foods) by including green tea, berries, nuts and pulses in your diet.
Inflammation (the physical process your body uses to fight off infection) also puts pressure on your immune. Turmeric and ginger are particularly good, due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Plenty of fruit and vegetables are a must, and go easy on processed foods and booze (sorry!), as your body won’t cope with the toxins.
Know the important nutrients
A little time in the sun not only brightens the mood, it allows your body to absorb vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin is vital for your immune; just remember to enjoy it safely.
Zinc plays a pivotal role in the functioning of your immune response. This essential mineral is found in nuts and seeds, or try taking a supplement if you feel in need of an extra boost.
It’ll come as no surprise that vitamin C is a powerful infection-fighter, but it also supports the lungs. Eat plenty of citrus fruits and berries, and again, a supplement might be a good idea right now.
It’s easier said than done, during these incredibly challenging times, but sleep is so important. Your body needs to rest and recharge. Whether it’s reading, meditating or journaling, try setting a regular bedtime routine that works for you. It might take some trial and error, but it’s worth persevering. Remember to take care of yourself, and your immune will take care of you.