As we face a global pandemic, we find ourselves shifting our priorities around self-care. While we once may have focused on physical strength, we’re now more concerned with building resilience. And instead of seeking out the best foods for glowing skin, we’re wondering what we can eat to support our immune system.
The good news is, it’s all interconnected. A strong body helps to create resilience and the same antioxidants that support your immune system also nourish your skin. There isn’t a big secret or revolutionary product to reveal. The best ways to enhance your health are simple, intuitive, and readily available.
It’s important to understand that no amount of superfoods can keep you from catching a virus. Only social distancing and proper hygiene, like frequent hand washing, can do that. But there are ways you can help your immune system function better so it can do its job should a virus strike. Best of all, they require few resources and side effects may include increased happiness and peace of mind.
We all want to feel proactive when it comes to our health, and there is never a wrong time to invest in self-care. So without further delay, here are 7 simple ways to support your immune system naturally.
You may have noticed that when you’re sick you get sleepy. That’s your body’s way of compiling energy reserves for the fight against infection. It follows that when we’re fatigued our immune systems are weakened. Now is the time to rest and get as much sleep as possible. Try your best to keep a regular sleep schedule and limit your screen time before bed. If you find yourself tossing and turning, you don’t have to resort to counting sheep. Lull yourself into a healthy rest with our sleep-inducing collection, The Best of Sleep. We’re also huge fans of a midday nap when we can swing it. For the best results, give these science-backed tips a try.
We all know that water plays a vital role in our health. But since our regular routines have been derailed, we may not be hydrating as much as usual. Our bodies need fluids and electrolytes to function at their best. After all, it’s a fluid in our circulatory systems called lymph which disperses immune cells to fight infection. Proper hydration helps to keep lymph moving freely, so be sure to drink up throughout the day.
You may have limited access to some of your favorite foods right now, but try to do your best to stay nourished. If you have supplements you love, by all means, take them, but you don’t have to break the bank to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Some of our favorite superfood all-stars are classic grocery store staples. There’s spinach for a dose of vitamins A and K, almonds for magnesium and healthy fats, blueberries for a cornucopia of antioxidants, oranges for a rich source of vitamin C, sunflower seeds for zinc and vitamin E, and garlic—an immune-boosting overachiever with potent medicinal qualities.
The bottom line: Try to enjoy a variety of whole foods that are rich in antioxidants, but mostly just make sure that you don’t slide into snacking on processed foods all day.
Get fresh air
This can be hard to come by while we’re being told to stay at home. But exposure to fresh air and sunlight increases happiness and this, in turn, supports our immune system. Sunshine also boosts vitamin D levels and the production of T cells, which are both important for healthy immune function. Try sitting by an open window for a while or wearing a mask or scarf around your face for a walk around the block if you’re able (and can maintain physical distance from others).
Gargle with salt water and use a neti pot
Yes, we hate it too, but clearing out your throat and sinuses on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the chances of bacteria or viruses entering through your nasal passages, mouth, or throat. A study by the Mayo Clinic in 2005 found that gargling salt water three times a day reduced the occurrence of upper respiratory tract infections in healthy individuals by nearly 40%. Of those that did get sick, the gargling helped reduce the severity of symptoms by soothing inflammation.* Simply dissolve about a half teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, then gargle for a few seconds before spitting it out.
The stronger your body is, the more strength it has to fight things off. While you don’t want to go overboard and overstress your body, regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to support your immune system. Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise reduces inflammation and helps your immune cells regenerate.** Plus you’ll release feel-good endorphins that stimulate your immune system and help you maintain a positive frame of mind.
Bonus: Our Immune Boost class collection is full of yoga practices designed to stimulate the flow of lymph in your body.
Our stress levels can have an enormous effect on our immunity. Stress weakens the immune system which in turn can create more stress. While this might seem like a catch-22, rest assured that the cycle can be broken! There is a lot to feel worried about right now, but try to balance fear with action steps then practice releasing and relaxing. Meditation, yoga, Tao Yin, and journaling can all help you manage stress. Glo offers all these calming practices, including more than 500 online meditation classes. We recommend getting started with our program, 5 Minutes to Calm.
Remember—there is no substitute for following social distancing guidelines and being diligent with washing your hands. But we should all strive to take the best care of ourselves possible, and there’s no better time to start than right now.
* Satomura K, Kitamura T, Kawamura T, Shimbo T, Watanabe M, Kamei M, Takano Y, Tamakoshi A. “Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.” Am J Prev Med, vol. 4, Nov 2005, pg. 302-7.
**Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. “Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions.” Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci, vol.135, 2015, pg. 355-80.