Supporting your immune system is about more than just boosting nutrient stores with supplements (as critical as they can be). With Covid-19 cases on the rise and flu season beginning, many of our clients have been reaching out about what they can do to support their immune systems. Our Senior Nutritionist Monica Montag wrote early in the year outlining nutrients that help boost the immune system and how to reduce the chances of a vaccine (or booster) reaction.
But what more can we be doing?
I urge you to go back to the foundations of health — a whole foods diet, gastrointestinal wellness, adequate sleep, and prioritization of stress management.
Prioritize nutrition and eating a whole foods-based diet.
The Western diet, or SAD diet (Standard American Diet), is responsible for an epidemic of chronic illnesses. Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and fatty liver disease are rising in adults and children alike. Over 75% of groceries bought are processed, and many Americans are eating out for several meals a week. When people value and prioritize convenience, their health suffers. Prioritize meal prepping with your family. Include your children when preparing their lunches and dinner. Help older family members get the nutrition needed to stay healthy by doing a meal train or setting up meals on wheels. If you are interested in optimizing your diet to better support your body, consider setting up a Dietary Evaluation appointment. You will find out what nutrients your diet is lacking and receive suggestions on realistic whole foods replacements.
Proper digestion is key to immune function.
I hear from some new clients that eating vegetables, meat, legumes, and/or nuts can cause bloating and discomfort. Or that they just don’t have an appetite for it. These are all signs of poor digestion and the need for digestive support. If your GI symptoms are causing you to consume a more processed or bland diet, then reach out to your nutritionist, as this is something that we can address. If you are not digesting your food well, you cannot get the full benefits of the food that you eat. Proper digestion is a crucial part of your immune support and something that needs to be addressed ASAP.
Similarly, if these whole foods cause diarrhea or increased motility, you cannot absorb all the nutrients from your food, so please reach out as it leaves you vulnerable. Poor digestion, constipation, diarrhea, and dysbiosis all impact your immune system negatively. There is always a root cause (or several) to GI symptoms. Our health detectives can help get to the bottom of it through targeted recommendations based on functional testing.
Nourish yourself with sleep.
We all know that sleep is essential, yet we often do not prioritize it enough. Getting an adequate amount of sleep, which is 7 to 9 hours for adults, is critical for a robust immune system. Even if it’s just by an hour or two, chronic under sleeping can leave us vulnerable to infections. For many of us, when life gets overwhelming, we sleep less. Trouble falling or staying asleep is all too common and can be caused by a multitude of factors — hormonal imbalances, poor blood sugar regulation, and stress. Addressing why you are not sleeping should be a top priority.
Senior Nutritionist Monica Montag outlines lifestyle recommendations, physical environment considerations, dietary tips, and more in a past this post on insomnia and other sleep issues. Start working on improving the quantity and quality of your sleep now, making small incremental improvements in your sleep routine.
Address your stress.
Finally, stress management is critical as stress can not only weaken your immune system but it can impact your sleep and increase your cravings for processed junk. Clinical Nutritionist Laura Menefee wrote this helpful post about stress relief and how to mitigate rising anxiety. She warns of the dangers of screen time and explains WHY that causes anxiety. It’s a great reminder to manage your screen time, in limited increments during the day. Give your eyes and your mind a much-deserved break — from the blue light, from the news, and from notifications designed to grab your attention.
Take nothing for granted. Your health, your loved ones, and your control over how you treat your body are blessings. Move your body often and focus on self-compassion daily. All of us at BeWell wish you health and wellness.