When it comes to my immunity and overall immune system function I worry. And, despite what you’re thinking it’s not just because of the current pandemic we’re in. I’ve always constantly worried about my immunity. Why? Because I have an incurable chronic illness that impacts my entire body. And, chances are that if you follow me on social media or you’re subscribed to my blog that you have a chronic illness or autoimmune disorder as well. And, just like me, the idea of a worldwide outbreak of a potentially deadly disease is terrifying. Yet, we’re not newbies to protecting ourselves from disease and infection. Years of forced isolation due to unrelenting pain, intolerable flare-ups, and just knowing our limits has helped protect us. But, during this time period, we need to be extra cautious and diligent with healthy habits that safeguard our immunity. Let’s explore how to strengthen immunity while managing a chronic illness during a pandemic.
Immunity Booster # 1: Manage Your Condition
In addition to adhering to the guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), national government and local government. You should also take the time to discuss with your medical team the necessary precautions you should take as it pertains to your condition and current state of health. Specifically, your primary care physician, therapist, specialists and pharmacist. What is their advice on what you should do to safeguard your health during this current outbreak? Share your concerns with them to determine what’s right for you at this present moment.
Take Your Medications
An essential part of managing your condition is to take any prescribed medications. Additionally, if there are supplements that your doctor has recommended make sure you take them as well.
Another key habit is to avoid triggers that lead to flare-up and pain. Flare-ups decrease your immune system which can make you more susceptible to viruses and sickness. Things that increase your risk of having a flare-up include consuming trigger foods and high levels of stress. So, steer clear of trigger foods, food intolerances, and food allergies that are known to contribute to flare-ups and chronic pain. Also, find healthy ways to manage your stress and anxiety. Journaling, exercise, and perhaps virtual therapy sessions can all be helpful.
Healthy Lifestyle Basics
Additionally, you’re going to want to avoid unhealthy habits that compromise your immune system. Unhealthy activities such as smoking, not getting enough sleep and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol decrease immunity. It goes without saying that you should kick the smoking habit, and cut back on how much alcohol you consume if any. And, make sure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
In Case of A Flare-Up
If you do experience a flare-up stay home and avoid contact with others. Instead, prioritize rest and recovery. Use convenience services such as grocery delivery, and order supplies when needed. Especially, since many of these services now offer contactless delivery. This ensures your health and safety. While also making sure you’re stocked with the essentials you need.
Immunity Booster #2: Proper Nutrition
Chronic illnesses and autoimmune disorders have one thing in common. They increase inflammation within the body which can impact immune system function. This means the goal for chronic illness warriors is to decrease inflammation and support immune system function. All of which can be done by following a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Making sure you adhere to an eating style that prioritizes whole, minimally processed food that is nutrient-dense is going to help you better manage your illness, and improve your immune system.
Eat Your Fiber
Fiber is an important part of every diet. It helps to ensure a healthy gut and supports proper bowel function. Furthermore, fiber aids in hormone balance by assisting in ridding the body of excess estrogen. And, it works to decrease cholesterol and insulin levels.
Consume More Healthy Fats
Not all fat is created equal. Healthy fats are beneficial for overall cardiovascular health and the role they play in helping to strengthen the immune system. Perhaps one of the most important reasons to consume healthy fats is because they’re anti-inflammatory. And, they can help to decrease inflammation within the body. Good sources for healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
Eat Lean Protein
Whether you’re plant-based or an omnivore protein is essential in building lean muscle which helps with increasing functional strength. Additionally, it prevents muscle loss which affects coordination, balance, and stability. Furthermore, the muscle has an important role to play when it comes to bone health. Especially, for women that are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. As it pertains to immunity, consuming lean poultry can positively influence your immune system. Chicken and turkey contain Vitamin B-6 which aids in the production of healthy red blood cells. While other nutrients provide gut healing and immunity benefits.
Cut Back on Processed Foods & Indulgent Treats
I’m not saying you can never have another cookie or donut again. But, practicing moderation and switching to healthier alternatives is going to benefit your health and your chronic illness in the long run. Your body is already primed to favor an inflammatory environment. And, foods that are heavily processed contain low to no fiber, high sodium, high sugar, industrialized fats, saturated fats, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients. All these food types do is increase the rate of inflammation within the body. Thus, making it that much harder to manage your condition. Hence, why prioritizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein is the way to go. While it’s not a guarantee that you can prevent flare-ups, pain, and symptoms. It can help to decrease their severity and frequency. While also boosting your immunity. So, save the treats for every now and then.
Immunity Booster #3: Exercise & Stay Active
If you’re in the place with your chronic illness where you can exercise and lead a moderately active lifestyle you should. Consistent and regular exercise has a plethora of benefits. From decreasing depression and easing stress and anxiety. As well as positively influencing your immunity. While it’s not altogether clear how exercise benefits the immune system it’s theorized that physical activity can help with: clearing the lungs and airways of bacteria, increase the circulation of white blood cells, and help the body fight bacteria better due to the brief spike in body temperature.
Create A Workout Routine
Implementing a healthy exercise routine doesn’t have to be laborious. But, following a workout regimen that consists of a mixture of strength training and cardio exercise is a good foundation to build. Now, it is the perfect time to give home workout apps a try. For instance, Nike Training Club is offering its premium service for FREE for the time being. And, there are tons of free workouts you can access on YouTube and Instagram. Other apps such as Aaptiv guide you step by step through your workout.
Increase Your Daily Movement
And, while working out is great at improving mood, fitness, and immunity. Finding small ways to be active during the day can help as well. Especially, if you’re not working at this time and are running out of ideas to help fill your days. Some ways to become more active include cleaning your home more often, walking the dog regularly, taking walks around the neighborhood, or going on hikes. Perhaps after watching a movie, or lounging for a couple of hours you get up and take a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood. If the weather doesn’t permit it, take 30 minutes to tidy up the house while listening to your favorite music or podcast. Believe it or not, these small things add up. And in addition to boosting immunity, they also help improve mental health.
Immunity Booster #4: Holistic Wellness
I’ve always found basic hygiene and cleanliness important. I’m sure a lot of this correlates to managing my endo and mental health. Because nothing’s worse than experiencing an endo flare-up in conjunction with having my home and environment unclean. It always makes me feel worse. Furthermore, trying to live in a junky, disorganized environment triggers my depression and anxiety. And, it decreases productivity making it harder for me to concentrate and increases brain fog. Hence why I’ve learned to create a clean, calm and organized environment. I accomplish through various cleaning and self-care routines for my home, environment, and daily hygiene.
Wash Your Hands
When it comes to this I perhaps take precautions that many would say is extra. Meaning I wash my hands often. Especially when I’m out in public touching foreign items. If a public restroom is available I will wash my hands upon entering and wash them again when I leave. I keep sanitizer and antibacterial hand wipes in my car and on my person. So, when I’m unable to physically wash my hands I can disinfect them that way. When I come home after traveling and being out and about I immediately wash my hands before touching things in my home. I wash my hands after I’ve used the restroom, before eating and after eating. When I play with my pets or spend prolonged time outside I will make sure to wash my hands.
And while we are all under social distancing guidelines. There are still occasions when you may have to venture out such as going to get groceries, the pharmacy, the vet’s office, etc. Or, it could be that you’re an essential worker and have to go to work. It’s at these times you should put these precautions into place and wash your hands regularly. Fortunately, these stores and locations have sanitizer readily available at entrances and exits. But, if you feel the need don’t hesitate to go to the bathroom and wash your hands there as well. I really believe in the power of keeping your hands clean at all times.
Additionally, following proper hygiene in the form of personal care and wellness is important. This means brushing your teeth, cleansing your face, washing your hair, showering, and changing clothes daily. Not only does this make you feel good. Especially, if you’ve been quarantined for a long time. But, it also helps to reduce the spread of germs, bacteria, and viruses. I’m not saying you have to get decked to the nines if you don’t want to. But, changing into clean, comfortable loungewear. And, taking care of your basic self-care needs is a natural way of protecting your immune system.
Having furry babies is fun and is also beneficial for mental and emotional health. If you find yourself quarantined and alone having your pet there can help with easing loneliness and anxiety. But, it’s also important to make sure that you’re keeping pet areas and accessories clean. As well as keeping your pets clean. To be clear pets are not carriers of the novel coronavirus. But, you still want to keep them and their areas clean and free of germs and odors. This benefits your personal health as well as their health.
So, make sure to clean their bowls and food areas daily. Brush their coats often. They LOVE this. Especially, if you include a lot of petting and treats. Inspect and clean their paws. Trim their nails, and clean out dirt and debris. Clean and launder their bedding weekly. And, give them weekly baths. Also, make sure they’re up to date on shots and immunizations, routine care, and flea and tick medications. And, make copies of these records. These little habits can help to not only keep your home cleaner and fresher. But, deter flea infestations and other pests. Furthermore, it gives you peace of mind that your pet is healthy and cared for and keeps you occupied.
Create A Cleaning Routine
Having a solid cleaning routine helps me ensure that my house is clean and organized.
Additionally, it helps decrease bacteria and viruses from building up in my home. You may find creating a solid game plan for how you’re going to clean your home and safeguard your immunity helpful at this time. There are a variety of pins on Pinterest that can help you with creating a cleaning chart. But, only you can know what will work best for you, your family and your schedule.
For me, I like to clean my home weekly and disinfect and sanitize daily. I perform deep cleaning duties and decluttering at least twice a year. I have a small one-bedroom apartment and it’s just my hubby and I plus our two dogs. It’s not difficult to keep it tidy between the two of us. So, weekly cleanings work just fine. I also make it a point to clean and disinfect my car weekly. This includes washing the exterior, vacuuming and wiping down the interior with disinfecting wipes. Additionally, I keep disinfecting spray in my car as well as a sanitizer and antibacterial hand wipes to sanitize and disinfect on the go. Plus, the disinfecting spray is great to spray over car seats after you’re done driving around in your car for the day.
Disinfect & Sanitize Hot Spots Daily
A reason I believe managing and keeping my apartment somewhat clean is a bit simpler for me is due to the fact that I make a point to disinfect hot spots daily. Basically this means in the evening I wipe down frequently used items such as remotes, cellphones, ipads, and laptops. I disinfect and wipe down the bathroom sink, shower and toilet. After dinner, I wash all dishes or put them in the dishwasher and wipe down countertops, tables, surfaces, appliances, and the sink. And, since we have pets we have to sweep the floors daily and give them a mop every other day or every two days. Determine what your hot spot areas are and focus on making sure you disinfect them daily to help curtail the spread of germs.
Additionally, I recommend thinking outside the box when it comes to disinfecting. Common daily personal effects such as purses, wallets, credit/debit cards, keys, glasses, and bags are often forgotten about. So, make sure if you’re taking these items out of the house regularly that you’re also disinfecting them once they come back into the house.
We’re All In This Together
Honestly, it feels so weird talking about all the ways to cleanse and disinfect to prevent the spread of disease. And truthfully, it almost feels like I’m promoting obsessive habits. Which I’m not trying to do by any means. Yet, when it’s laid out in black and white it seems like a lot. And, yeah it is a lot. But, this has been my reality for years. I’ve built and sustained these habits due to my health and chronic illness. Having a chronic illness and struggling with your health makes you a bit more conscious of your body’s frailty. You realize how delicate and fragile the immune system is. Yet, respect how important it’s role is in safeguarding your health and well-being. So, while I know this seems intense. Because it is intense. Please realize that this comes from a person who’s struggled with their health. And, due to these struggles was inspired to create habits that supported healing and recovery naturally.
Furthermore, I sincerely hope you don’t take this advice negatively. My goal is to be a space of positive support. While sharing some of what I’ve done as an immunocompromised person to prevent illness and sickness. Finally, I hope you and yours are safe, healthy and blessed during this time. If no one’s told you today you’re amazing and resilient. And remember this too shall pass.
- Medium | For A Stronger Immunity: Natural Ways to Boost The Immune System | written by Mila Jones on Jan 17, 2019
- Healthline | Autoimmune Disease | medically reviewed by Stacy Sampson, DO on March 21, 2019; written by Stephanie Watson
- Medline Plus | Exercise and Immunity
- Healthline | Immune Boosting Foods | medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo, LDN, RN on Jan 16, 2019; written by James Schend
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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