In this pandemic, everyone tends to adopt with ease and embrace the community’s new normal. While waiting for definitive medical interventions such as vaccines and drugs for COVID-19, the focus should be on promoting and sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
The World Health Organization (WHO), UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Non-Communicable Diseases and the Philippine College of Lifestyle Medicine (PCLM) published information and articles online and emphasized some important lifestyle interventions that will boost immune response and give healthy lifestyle outcomes. Below are some practical tips that may help in adjusting healthily to the new normal.
Proper nutrition for the immune system
• Eat a variety of food.
• Eat nutritious food like fruits and vegetables and have a balanced diet to keep the body healthy. A well balanced whole-food and plant-based diet is known to enhance immune function in contrast to a meat and refined carbohydrates diet. Eat at least 400g or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
• A regular intake of food high in resveratrol, an antioxidant that combats pathogens like bacteria and fungi is encouraged. Grapes, peanuts, soy and berries were found to modulate immune properties.
• Eat legumes such as lentils and beans and whole grains such as unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice.
• Choose the right vitamins and minerals. Essential vitamins known to boost immune response are Vitamins A, E, D, C, and B complex. Important mineral supplements include Zinc, Selenium, Copper and Iron. Recent studies showed that these vitamins and minerals have positive effects in the symptom resolution of respiratory diseases and in improving the immune function. Keen knowledge and careful appreciation of the correct supplements and the amount that should be taken are vital in boosting immunity.
• Cut back on salt and sugar.
• Avoiding sugary food and beverages is extremely important to prevent suppression of immune responses. Limit intake of free sugars to less than 10% of the total daily energy intake which is equivalent to less than 50g or around 12 teaspoons of regular powdered sugar each day.
• Limit salt consumption to less than 5g of salt or 1 teaspoon each day. Iodized salt may be used.
• Eat a moderate amount of fats and oils.
• Avoid processed food, meat products and refined carbohydrates which alter gut immune processes.
• Eat less than 30% of the total energy intake from fats. Unsaturated fats like fish, avocado and nuts are preferable. Reduce consumption of saturated fats like butter, palm and coconut oil and cheese and trans fats like processed food, fast food and margarine.
• Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The body requires water in the majority of its chemical processes.
Ensure sufficient sleep
• As much as possible, avoid modest loss of sleep because this alters the immune function. Modest disturbance of sleep produces a reduction of natural immune response thus resulting in an increased risk of viral infection.
• Avoid using light-emitting diode (LED) such as electronic devices before bedtime because it may contribute to or exacerbate sleep problems. Exposing the eyes to the blue light spectrum suppresses the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin.
• Get good sunlight exposure in the morning. This is one proven way of improving sleep.
• Avoid eating heavy meals at night. This is associated with the deterioration of sleep quality especially among women. Having a light meal during dinner will help in attaining a good quality of sleep.
Engage in adequate regular physical activities
• Do regular moderate physical activities. This helps improve the function of immune cells.
• Avoid sitting, reclining or having low energy use during most of the day. A sedentary lifestyle is closely associated with an elevated risk of insomnia or sleep disturbance and cardiometabolic diseases. Furthermore, this ultimately affects the immune response.
• Avoid strenuous and exhaustive exercises. This will decrease the natural killer cells and their immune response activity.
• Seated exercises and stationary walking are encouraged. These are good examples of exercises that can be done at home especially during quarantine.
Stop cigarette smoking and avoid alcohol
• Stop smoking. It impacts certain pathways of immunity and plays a complex role in causing numerous diseases such as cancers, allergies and heart and lung diseases.
• Avoid alcohol. It disrupts immune pathways in complex ways the result of which is the impairment of the body’s defense against infection. Alcohol also interferes with gut microorganisms which are essential in normal gut function.
Acero Michelle. 2020. Immune Boosting Lifestyle Intervention for COVID-19. Philippine College of Lifestyle Medicine.
World Health Organization. 2020. Healthy at Home.
World Health Organization. 2020. Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable diseases.