Nine Key Steps to Support a Healthy Immune System (And Boosted Mood As An Added Perk!)
By Leah Kleinschrodt, MS, RD, LD
December 22, 2020
With COVID cases on the rise, and cold and flu season on top of that, many clients are asking us, “How can I stay healthy, and keep my family healthy, during this time?” In a recent Dishing Up Nutrition episode, two nutritionists briefly shared their top nine key steps to support a healthy immune system. As an added perk most of these recommendations also support happier moods as well. Definitely a win-win!
Diet and Lifestyle Habits to Support Your Immune System
- Keep Blood Sugar in Normal Range: How do you do this? Just remember that the magic number is three. Every time you stop to eat meals or snacks, eat protein, healthy carbs (preferably of the fruit and veggie variety), and healthy fat. That trio helps to balance out your blood sugar.
- Adequate Sleep: Most every adult needs, at a minimum, seven and a half hours of sleep a night. Not a day goes by that we don't help a client achieve better sleep and we have several strategies to recommend. If you’re struggling to get a good night's sleep, don't hesitate to call our office to ask our front-desk staff their tips 651-699-3438 and/or set up a virtual appointment with one of our registered dietitians or licensed nutritionists.
- Move Your Body: We highly encourage you to move your body at least 30 minutes a day. Can you get outside for that movement while staying safe and warm? Great! You’ll get the added bonus of fresh air and sunshine (aka natural vitamin D). If the outdoors isn’t an option, there are lots of fun, creative, sweat-inducing ways to still get movement in every day while indoors.
- Avoid Or Limit Alcohol: Avoid or at the very least really limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol impairs the function of immune cells within the lungs and upper airway, and also disrupts the lining of the gut.1 Not only do these changes potentially put us at greater risk of infection, it also starts to deplete us of some of our feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin (which is predominantly made in the gut).
- Avoid or Limit Sugar: We know it’s hard, but find those areas where you're willing to make some substitutions – instead of having a pumpkin spice latte choose regular black coffee and put in delicious heavy whipping cream instead. Read this past post about Cutting Out Sugar? Where to Start to get you off on the right foot.
Vitamins and Supplements to Support Your Immune System
The best diet in the world can’t get you everything our bodies need to thrive nutrient-wise, which is where vitamins and supplements come in! One thing to note: you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet, so eating quality real food should always come first.
- Vitamin D (Taken at Breakfast): Loads of research confirms that Vitamin D is critical for immune function (and good moods!) somake sure your levels are in a good range (between 50 to 80 as found via a blood test you can ask your doctor for). During the cold, dark winter months, most people do well with 4,000-5,000IUs of Vitamin D3 daily.
- Probiotics (Taken Throughout the Day): When it comes to populating your gut with good bacteria, the more the merrier; that’s why we recommendprobiotics throughout the day and before bed. We often recommend Bifido Balance during the day, one or two capsules before each meal, and then the probiotic called Biotic 7 at bedtime. Probiotic rich foods (full-fat yogurt, quality sauerkraut, and kimchi are good examples) throughout the day are an added bonus. Read the post Which Probiotic is Right For You? to find the right probiotic based on need (frequent yeast infections, sugar cravings, new to probiotics, etc.).
- Multivitamin (Taken at Breakfast): A quality multivitamin helps with all of the foundational nutrients, giving you a little something to fall back on. A recent blog post shared What to Look for in a Multivitamin and What to Avoid along with our favorite recommendations for a variety of ages and needs (fatigue, no iron, to name a couple).
- Vitamin C (Taken Throughout the Day): You probably expected to see this on the list and, you’re correct, it really helps boost your immune system! Due to the pandemic, we’re recommending taking a higher amount of 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams spread throughout the day to provide continuous support to our immune systems. It’s important to spread vitamin C supplements throughout the day versus all at once, because Vitamin C can’t be stored in the body and any excess is excreted. But a continuous supply spread throughout the day alleviates this issue. For more info, check out this recent post Vitamin C for Immune Support.
And that’s a wrap! Again as cold and flu season takes hold … and in the middle (hopefully) of a pandemic… immune support has never been so timely. To learn more about immune support, and other factors that unknowingly weaken your immune system (sugar, we’re talking about you …!) please consider scheduling a virtual consultation with one of our licensed nutritionists and dietitians. We are here to help you feel your best with proper (and delicious) nutrition.