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10 Point Toolkit For Boosting Immunity To Fight COVID & Other Infections

A healthy body has a healthy immune system. Here are some tips for boosting immunity to stay safer during COVID, and from most infections.

A healthy body has a healthy immune system. Here are some tips to boosting immunity and staying safer during COVID, and from most infections.

There is no simple formula for boosting immunity, because it’s not a single stand-alone organ, but the immune system. Many factors can influence the health of our immune system, and a healthy immune system is a reflection of a healthy body.

To maintain a healthy body, we need to understand that our health is deeply impacted by many factors that include our environment, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the lifestyle we follow, and our mental and emotional states, which may have both internal and external factors.

Many studies indicate a positive co-relation between our health and certain factors like

  • living in a non-toxic environment
  • leading an active and balanced lifestyle
  • experiencing positive emotions
  • practicing mindfulness

For boosting immunity, it’s time we look at the bigger picture and adapt a wholesome way of living to improve our environment, our health and immunity.

Here are 10 ways for boosting immunity and foster our wellbeing.

Improving the quality of air inside our homes

Why do it?

The quality of air we breathe has a deep impact on our health and boosting immunity. Air pollution that is found indoors, has been ranked among the top five environmental risks to our health.

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In fact, studies have shown that the impact of indoor air pollution is almost 2–5 times higher as compared to outdoor air pollution.

At homes, we need to pay attention to factors that add up to the pollution levels

  • Improper ventilation or very high humidity.
  • Higher levels of CO2 and other gases.
  • Molds or dust particles accumulating.
  • Pollutants released by products like paints, cleaning agents, disinfectants, air fresheners, flooring material or furnishings

These lead to several health issues, and many of them affect the respiratory system – causing inflammation, trouble in breathing, wheezing, asthma, etc. – something that we should seriously address since Covid-19 targets the respiratory system upfront.

How to do it?

We can improve the quality of air indoors by

  • Avoiding too many chemicals at homes and offices, and switching to natural products.
  • Keeping the rooms well ventilated – to prevent build-up of fumes, toxins and microbes.
  • Preventing the room temperature from getting too hot or too cold.
  • Having more plants in the living space to promote better O2 levels and purify the air.
  • Restricting the growth of molds and other allergens by exposing the furnishings to sunlight periodically.

Boosting immunity by getting a regular dose of sunlight

Why do it?

Sunlight is one of the best natural sources of energy and vitality. Sunbathing early in the morning or late in the evening has shown to have many positive effects on our health and well-being.

When the skin is exposed to UV spectrum in sunlight, a chemical reaction takes place that results in the production of vitamin D, which plays a key role in boosting immunity – in protection against respiratory infections and reduction of inflammation.

There was an interesting study showing that the exposure to low levels of blue light found in sun rays directly activates key immune cells, by increasing their movement.

Not only that, sunlight helps manage some metabolic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes etc. and regulates our sleep cycle.

How to do it?

All we need to do to get these benefits is to spend 10-30 mins, basking in the sunlight, during the early hours or late evenings.

Practicing nasal breathing

Why do it?

Breathing through our nose helps protect the body against viral infections, improves blood flow and oxygen concentration in the blood. Nasal breathing may sound like stating the obvious, but many of us have unknowingly become mouth breathers. Mouth breathing and over-breathing are natural responses when we experience a stressful event.

When we breathe through our nose, dust particles and microbes get caught in the nasal hair and the mucus lining- thus acting as the first line of defence for many pathogens and toxins.

Nasal breathing also increases the temperature of the air and makes it moist, which helps to prevent the air pathways from constricting and collapsing (very cold and dry air can constrict the air- pathways, making us feel breathless).

When air passes through the nasal cavity, there is an increase in the production of nitric oxide – which has anti-microbial properties, and acts a vasodilator for the air pathways- improving the blood flow to the lungs, and increasing the oxygen uptake.

How to do it?

We need to be conscious of breathing through our nose at rest and when we engage in low – moderate levels of exertion, like walking, climbing stairs. Some breathing exercises in Yoga that focus on nasal breathing are helpful.

Slowly as we get fit, we can consciously breathe through our nose even while jogging.

We should ideally be breathing through our nose when sleeping too. Bad breath, strong thirst, or dry mouth on waking are indications that we are probably breathing through our mouth during our sleep.

Increasing the capacity of our lungs

Why do it?

Did you know that the surface area of both our lungs combined is almost that of a tennis court?! And yet, due to various reasons like slouched posture, tight muscles, faulty breathing technique, and inflammation of airway or lung tissues, our lung capacity is usually reduced to 25-50%.

Our lungs are like balloons held inside the chest cavity. And there are around 10 muscles that can affect the movement of the ribcage and chest. The more space the lungs have to expand; the more air they can hold – which would increase their capacity.

Mucus is accumulated in the airways and lungs as our body fights the pathogens and allergens, which leads to reducing their capacity to hold air and makes us feel breathless.

Apart from inflammation, the movement of the lungs is greatly restricted by a slouched posture, combined with tight muscles.

Also, many of us forget to engage the most important muscle- the diaphragm, which further reduces the space for the lungs to expand.

How to do it?

We can try some techniques to help clear the lungs of mucus, open up the airways, and get the postural alignment for giving the lungs more space to expand –

  • Taking steam regularly.
  • Controlled coughing and other breath work to remove excess mucus.
  • Trying Postural therapy (like proning- lying on the abdomen), if there is difficulty in breathing due to excess mucus. This technique increases the oxygen levels, very useful during COVID.
  • Avoiding smoke, allergens that can trigger increase of mucus secretion.
  • Avoiding foods that can cause inflammation.
  • Trying to avoid slouching and working on the weak and tight muscles to help us maintain a good posture.
  • The muscles tend to get tight due to lack of movement, we should take 5 mins break every hour to keep stretching throughout the day.
  • Regular deep diaphragmatic or belly breathing. We can start with 5-10 mins a couple a times a day, and slowly increase the frequency and duration. Diaphragm is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it takes time and patience to train it

Giving our circulation an additional boost

Why do it?

Our circulatory system plays a central role is distribution of the nutrients and oxygen to all the cells, carrying away the waste products, and providing pathway for the immune cells to move around.

A key part of the immune system – the lymphatic system, works directly with our circulatory system to balance the blood and lymphatic fluid levels, and flush out toxins. It also carries immune cells throughout the body to help defend against infections.

A healthy circulation would require a strong heart and unclogged vessels. If our lymphatic circulation slows or stagnates, toxins will accumulate and immune cells won’t be delivered to the areas of the body where they’re needed.

Heart is a muscle, and it needs regular workout to keep it healthy and fit. Apart from that, the venous return also depends on movement of the muscles.

The lymphatic system doesn’t have a powerful pump like the heart to keep fluid flowing and it needs the body’s movement, breathing and intestinal activity to create the pressure and flow.

A sedentary lifestyle can have serious impact on our circulation.

How to do it?

We can improve our circulation by

  • Avoiding being sedentary and be active, moving whenever possible- Walking, stretching, dancing, house/garden work, playing- all improve circulation
  • Being regular with workouts to keep the heart fit and performing resistance workout to maintain our muscles.
  • Massages, dry brushing, foam rolling, inversions – all help in improving the circulation.

The right nutrients and hydration

Why do it?

We need nutrients for the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies. The food we eat and drink, provides our body the nutrients to build new cells, repair the damaged cells and get energy to fight off infections. The good microbiome in our gut not only help us digest our food, but also affects our immunity. And our diet plays a large role in determining what kind of microbes live in our gut.

Packaged products, processed foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats, food chemicals and additives are known to cause inflammation, and negatively affect a healthy immune system. If we neglect our diet and consume too much of the above foods, we can cause damage to our body and weaken it.

Processed drinks high in sugar and chemicals can also dehydrate our body. When our bodies become dehydrated our blood becomes thicker and restricts blood flow. This can lead to an increase in blood pressure, affecting the circulation and making it difficult for the nutrients to circulate and toxins/waste materials to flush out- leading to reducing our body’s ability to fight infections.

How to do it?

We need healthy carbs, proteins and fats along with micronutrients important for the growth and function of immune cells. Some of the micronutrients include vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid, zinc, selenium and iron.

And we don’t need special diet plans to get them. All we need is to go back to our roots and eat simple home cooked food and avoid processed foods. Our balanced diet would have whole fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, seeds, whole grains, and plenty of water.

Invest in sleeping better and on time

Why do it?

Our sleep is one of the most under-valued health factor. The quality of our sleep and the health of our immune system are deeply connected. Sleep is the time when most of our bodily functions slow down, and lot of energy is spared to work on maintenance and restoration of our cells and systems.

Studies have suggested that in deep sleep, just like the brain works on its neural networks that impacts our learning and long term memory, the adaptive immune system works on the processes that would improve its ability to recognize and react against antigens, boosting immunity.

Vaccines depend on the adaptive immune system’s ability to remember and recognize a pathogen, and create the specific antibodies against in the future. Hence we need to improve our sleep quality to help the vaccines be more effective.

Also, sleep deprivation has a very negative affect on our immunity. Lack of sleep can cause low grade inflammation in our bodies, which leads to over taxing our immune system, and also be a catalyst to metabolic disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

How to do it?

Our sleep cycles can easily be regulated by following a healthy sleep schedule:

  • Avoiding the use of electronics and bright lights before sleep time
  • Avoiding the use of stimulants like tea, coffee, alcohol at least 5-6 before sleep
  • Avoiding eating a heavy just before sleep and giving a gap of at least 3 hours between dinner and sleep
  • Going to be and waking up at fixed times, trying to aim for at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep
  • Having a regular practice of mind-body relaxing techniques like yoga, meditation, journaling etc. before sleep
  • Sleep in a cool, dark and well-ventilated room

Managing stress better

Why do it?

A little bit of stress works well for us once in a while; it prompts us to take action and keeps us on track. But continuous exposure to various stressors can lead to long term chronic stress, which can have a very negative impact on our immunity.

Chronic stress can cause our body’s flight-flight response to go on an overdrive, and the continuous presence of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) can interfere with the body’s rest and recovery process.

If not managed, stress can also lead to headache, anxiety, loss of focus, and exhaustion- which would really make it difficult for us to focus on our health.

Chronic stress can impact the functioning of the immune cells and also cause low grade chronic inflammation – this combined with our other multiple side-effects of stress like poor quality of sleep, high blood pressure, CVD, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain etc. – can really compromise the ability of our body to fight infections and to recover quickly.

How to do it?

It would be really helpful if we start focusing on stress management skills like

  • Identifying our stressors (people, events, places, thoughts etc.- that trigger our stress response)
  • Developing strategies to effectively manage our stressors.
  • Developing healthy coping mechanisms to help us recover from a stressful event.
  • Having a structured lifestyle that would make us feel safe and grounded.
  • Focusing on staying active, healthy eating, sleeping well, relaxing, connecting with our loved ones etc.
  • Learning how to manage our emotions and thoughts.

Laughter, the best medicine for boosting immunity

Why do it?

Laughter is the best medicine. And it’s time we really use it, for boosting immunity and our health.

Our body responds to laughter in the same way it responds to exercise. When we laugh, we optimize the hormones in the endocrine system. We increase the feel good hormones (like endorphins), reduce the stress hormones (like cortisol), regulate our blood pressure and increase our circulation.

Laughter helps in boosting immunity by increasing the production of antibodies and activation of the body’s protective cells.

Laughing, having fun and playing, signals to our body and mind that we are safe and we can focus on our being healthy, instead of being on high -alert all the time.

It takes off the pressure from an over-whelmed immune system too, giving it time to rest and recover.

This is something which our ancestors knew by instinct – even during uncertain times, the nights were the time when everyone would gather around the fire – eat, laugh and listen to stories.

How to do it?

To get these benefits, we need to let ourselves have fun for 20-30 mins every day –

  • laugh out loud.
  • play and have fun.
  • watch some comedy scenes
  • read some comic write-up.
  • simply share a laugh with someone and enjoy the moment.

Being mindful, curious, and grateful

Why do it?

Mindfulness is the basis of all meditative processes, stress management toolkits, and wellness based practices like yoga, tai chi etc. Being mindful is very crucial for our health and well-being. The feeling of being curious and grateful make the practice even more effective.

Mindfulness begins with awareness of the self and present moment, and being able to gently focus our attention at our will. This brings a lot of physiological and psychological changes in us. These changes can directly impact our immunity, because of the mindfulness-immune system connection.

The practice of being mindful activates the parts of the brain that leads us to be rooted in the present, and that is key to managing and regulating our thoughts, emotions and stress levels.

When these are managed well, our ability to make positive lifestyle changes increases and that impacts our health – sustained blood pressure, regulated sugar levels, improved mood, less inflammation and better gut health.

This supports and impacts the immune system – to make more anti-bodies, to better fight infections, to heal the inflammations and recover from illness faster.

How to do it?

Mindfulness can be included in our daily lives by

  • Avoiding distractions, multitasking and focusing on one task at a time, bringing all our awareness to that one task.
  • Being truly present when we connecting with ourselves and our loved ones and paying attention to them instead of being distracted by our phones or thoughts.
  • Spending time alone in nature and trying to observe the various trees, plants, life-forms, colors, textures, patterns etc.
  • Practicing mindfulness based meditation, yoga, tai-chi etc.
  • Practicing any form of creativity regularly – painting, singing, playing an instrument, dancing, writing, pottery, gardening, etc.

In these tough times, when we are all looking for hope, let’s not forget to appreciate the warrior within.

A natural wonder – our body – is working hard 24×7 to keep us safe, healthy and thriving. It’s time we appreciate this natural wonder and take care of our wellbeing.

First published here.

Image source: shutterstock

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About the Author

Sheeba Nair

Hi there, happy to connect. I am a mom, a software engineer, a content writer, a fitness trainer, a yoga practitioner, and an explorer of the best wellness practices of both modern science and our read more...

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