Written by: Ms Tania Smits, YCIS Parent and Professional Holistic Health Coach
What I have learned through experience is that when living a healthy lifestyle, your immune system is stronger. This can be evidenced by recovering more quickly from a cold to staying unaffected by the yearly flu altogether.
As a Holistic Health Coach, I can see my clients getting healthier and stronger by applying the methods I share in my Holistic Health education and training sessions.
As the world comes to grip with Covid-19 developments, there has been a lot of helpful information shared about prevention through personal hygiene. Practical advice includes washing our hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, using hand sanitisers, and covering our mouth and nose with a tissue or a sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
To keep our immune system healthy, it’s also suggested that we eat well, exercise, get enough rest, and take supplements, such as Vitamin C.
As a Coach, I completely agree with those recommendations, but I also look at keeping stress levels under control, connecting with your community, family, and friends, and engaging in a mindfulness practise. Research from the field of psychoneuroimmunology – the study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease – suggests that our immune system becomes weakened when we’re feeling stressed or anxious.
Developing a strong immunity is like training a police force so that they’re on standby, ready for any attack. Just like a police force, you can actually build your immunity slowly and steadily, too.
Below you will find an overview of my professional recommendations for building a stronger immune system. Don’t try to do these perfectly; rather, implement the things you can maintain on a regular basis so that they become a habit.
The food we eat gives our bodies the information and materials it needs to function properly. Our vegetable intake is oftentimes inadequate, and I recommend starting here.
You should eat five servings of vegetables each day, with each serving being the size of a small fist size.
Here are some ideas on how to achieve this:
- If you are far away from eating the five serving sizes today, simply try adding one more serving to what you are currently eating.
- Say to yourself, “Every time I fill my plate, I serve vegetables first” as an easy way to remember to eat your vegetables.
- Whenever you eat a snack, try choosing a serving of vegetables.
- Drink a vegetable juice every time you have access to it. This is a quick way to add a lot of nutrients at once. You can easily include two serving sizes of vegetables in a juice. Add some ginger to spice it up or add a green apple for some sweetness. Avoid adding fruits other than green apples.
- Each evening, calculate and record the number of servings of vegetables you had, and think of ways to add more.
Increase your intake of these three foods that I’ll bet you have in your kitchen right now!
They will help to ward off bugs and viruses:
- Garlic: This is both antimicrobial and antiviral
- Oregano: This spice has powerful antiseptic and antibiotic properties
- Thyme: An excellent remedy for respiratory infections and coughs, Thyme can help you to cough out mucus and unsavoury invaders.
If you are looking for immune health, choose these foods and/or supplements:
- Vitamin C: Biggest immune booster
- Oranges, grapefruit, bell peppers, kiwi, spinach, kale, broccoli
- Vitamin B6: Supports biochemical reactions in the immune system
- Salmon, Tuna
- Green vegetables
- Vitamin D: “AKA sunlight”
- It’s recommended to take a supplement (Vitamin D3 has the best absorption), especially during winter months
- Might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression and anxiety.
Too little water intake can cause dehydration, headaches, or fatigue, and can compromise your immunity. Be sure to drink the recommended intake of water for your body each day.
Several studies have found that exercise not only helps our heart health, circulation, and raises the oxygen levels in our body, but it also helps with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Since gyms are currently not open in China, think about other ways to get your exercise in. These are some (mostly free) options:
- Go for a brisk walk
- Go for a jog outside
- Go for a bike ride
- Download an online yoga class
- Follow the Spartan 30 days Burpees Challenge WeChat group and guess what? You will be doing 30 burpees every day and can check in with hundreds of others also taking part in the challenge
- Download the NTC (Nike Training) app from the app store. You can indicate the equipment you have access to, select the time and intensity level, and get started
- Jump rope
- Or jump on a Trampoline! You can buy one of those small trampolines in Decathlon and take regular breaks during the day to jump and get in some good exercise.
I suggest that to have the best success with this, you can involve your family members, friends, house mates, etc. in real life or online to motivate one another.
Be mindful of how much news you’re consuming these days. Whether it’s from social media groups or from “official sources.” Helpful questions you can ask yourself are:
- “How much is the minimum amount I need to consume to stay aware?” and
- “Which sources do I want to read?”
Our immune system stands a better chance of resisting infection when we make a conscious effort to look after our physical and mental health. Mindfulness strength is like physical strength; it is like a muscle in your body. It grows only when it is nourished and exercised.
- Adult colouring books: Help reduce stress by engaging your mind in a relaxed way.
- Yoga: Increases body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centres the nervous system.
- I highly recommend ‘Headspace.com’ – and its free to do the basics for 10 days!
- com: Free meditations to do at any time of the day, when waiting in line, when walking, when stressed, when having difficult emotions, when you can’t sleep
- Louise Hay meditations
- Box breathing:
- Also known as (four-) square breathing, is a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths.
- This can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.
- Step 1: Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. In this step, count to four very slowly in your head.
- Step 2: Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
- Step 3: Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen.
- Step: 4: Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
- REPEAT three more times (for a total of four breaths)
Researchers say adequate sleep helps T-cells in your body fight off infection. Most adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night for improved health and well-being.
With the current Covid-19 disease situation, you may find yourself have a harder time falling asleep. I hope these practical tips will help you:
- Create a sleep routine; going to bed around the same time each night
- Do not read news (especially Covid-19 related) right before going to bed
- Do not charge your digital devices next to your bed; if you leave your phone in your bedroom, switch it to airplane mode
- Do not eat right before going to bed, especially heavy meals as this might cause digestive upset
- Drink an herbal infusion as part of a relaxation routine in the evening
- Sleep in a cool and dark room
- Your daily exercise will help you to feel physically tired at night
- Your meditation routine will help you to put your mind at ease. Additionally, you can listen to some guided meditations from Buddify or Headspace if you find it hard to fall asleep.
Building your immune system is not difficult, but it requires continuous efforts. Even small efforts pay off, so start today and build along the way. Start training your police force and make them ready for future attacks, especially in unique times like we are experiencing today.
For more information about Tanja Smits and her Holistic Health practice, or to contact her, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.