Way to boost your immune system and remain sober
I recently spent some time learning about the immune system and being the nice fella I am, I want to share this with you. During these times of Covid-19, the need to boost your immune system is more pressing than ever, but along with the fears and anxiety brought about by the situation it is also something that can be overlooked as we seek to “get through it” as best we can.
Obviously avoiding alcohol is the number one priority but what about some other tips that are good for our mental, social and physical health. What can we do to give our immune system a helping hand during lockdown as a thank you for taking care of us in the past?
Try and manage stress and resilience
Stress affects all aspects of health and is prevalent in the former boozer. It can cause inflammation in the body and impair the immune system so it’s important that you recognise the signs and symptoms of when you are stressed, which may include:
- Loss of appetite or increased food intake (particularly of ‘comfort foods’)
- Lack of sleep and fatigue
- Palpitations or accelerated heart rate
- Frequent illness
When you find yourself stressed, you should try and rectify or approach the source of your stress as soon as possible to prevent long-term effects on your health, as you would with alcohol related problems. Here are some stress management techniques to try:
- Spend time with loved ones – Perhaps difficult during the pandemic or your loved ones might be driving you crazy, but get on the phone to people who can support you in these times and those of continued sobriety
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Create a routine for the mornings and evenings
- Take time out and do something enjoyable like baking or listen some tunes
- Delegate some tasks to others
Balanced Healthy Diet (I know it’s not easy, but we can only try….)
You can really give your immune system a boost by adapting a good old healthy, balanced diet. A healthy diet contains essential nutrients that support the immune system and can also benefit our gut microbiome. Try and think about the following:
- Eating enough throughout the day – especially high-quality carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholegrains and starchy vegetables. These provide your immune system with energy to combat invading bacteria and viruses
- Consuming at least 7 portions of fruit and vegetables throughout the day. The immune system thrives off vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, berries and peppers) and Vitamin D
- Getting enough Vitamin D – exposure to sunlight (around an hour per day), or consuming Vitamin D-rich foods such as free-range eggs, chestnut mushrooms, fortified cereals and dairy products. Public Health England now recommends that all adults should take a daily supplement containing 10 µg vitamin D to ensure they are meeting the required intake
- Consuming pre-biotic foods: these foods feed the good bacteria in your gut, and in turn this enhances immune function. Sources include onions, wholegrains, garlic and apples
- Consuming pro-biotic foods: these foods contain good bacteria that can become part of the gut microbiome. Natural sources include natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi
- Protein: consuming animal or plant proteins provides the building blocks that we need to make hormones and antibodies to fight infection. Protein is also essential for repairing injured muscles
- Other boosters: including sources of omega 3 (oily fish, flaxseed, chia seeds or walnuts) in the diet can reduce inflammation and help white blood cells. Zinc also helps white blood cells, and can be found in seafood and some types of seeds
Think of this as an immune builder of a meal:
Flavoured chicken breast (Protein) + brown rice (Pre-biotic/carbohydrate) + mixed roasted veg (Vitamins & minerals)
Recharging your sober batteries through sleeping
I have a dedicated post on sleep as it is a vital component of health, and we should be aiming to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is essential for enabling the immune system to build antibodies and antigens to fight off infections and viruses, as well as repair injured tissues. Sobriety and lockdown are emotionally demanding times, so prioritise your rest to enhance your mental and physical well-being. Top tips for maximising your sleep to boost your immunity are:
- Stick to a routine – aim to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day
- Switch off – avoid using technology at least 90 minutes before going to sleep
- Keep it cool – ensure your bedroom is a cool temperature and is well-ventilated
- Relax – don’t take work to the bedroom; ensure that work is done in a separate room, and if you have work-related thoughts, write these down in a list and place it in a separate room
- If you struggle with getting to sleep, try having a milky drink or chamomile tea before bed
Keep fit and active (you must have known this was going to be in here)
Well it is one of the key things to keep our immune system in fine fettle and I am stealing government research here as they recommend the following:
- 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes physical activity per week
- 2-3 x resistance training sessions per week
There are many ways to try and boost your activity levels and here is just a few:
- Try online yoga or Pilates sessions to improve your strength, balance and posture
- If 150 minutes is a struggle, try regular HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions. 3 x 25-minute HIIT sessions = your weekly exercise!
- Find a mode of exercise that you love – don’t feel pressured to run if you don’t enjoy it. Brisk walks, dance sessions and cycling all count!
In summary, lockdown can and will take a toll on your health if you let it and not only that, by looking after our immune system by keeping healthy we are also giving ourselves the best chance of staying sober.
For more tips check out Healthline’s suggestions.
All the best…. Darren