As many people in the U.S. gradually start to head back into public life following months of quarantine, the coronavirus is still very much a threat in this country. Maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask in public, diligently washing hands, and staying home when you can are still the best ways to avoid contracting COVID. Once you have those steps down, prioritizing immune health can be another line of defense.
Here, doctors and nutritionists share their game plans for supporting the body’s natural immunity in the coming weeks and months:
Be kind to yourself and others.
According to psychiatrist Anna Yusim, M.D., immune health is largely predicated on mental health, and vice versa. “Being depressed or anxious, for instance, predisposes you to inflammation and infection, while having higher levels of inflammation increases your likelihood of being depressed,” she tells mbg. “Therefore, one of the best things you can do to keep your immune system healthy and strong is to keep your mind and emotions positive, healthy, and strong.” Here are three of her favorite strategies for doing so:
- Remember three things you’re grateful for twice per day.
- Practice random acts of kindness at least twice per day.
- Reach out to a friend in need at least twice per week.
Stay active and keep tabs on alcohol consumption.
In addition to wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and practicing hand hygiene, board-certified internal medicine doctor Julia Loewenthal, M.D., says that (safely) staying active might help protect you from COVID, based on what we know about how physical activity increases the efficacy of the influenza vaccine. “Though alcohol sales have soared in many U.S. states during quarantine,” she adds, “keep in mind chronic alcohol use suppresses immune function.”
Take a mood- and immunity-supporting supplement.
Though there is some debate about how it affects COVID risk in particular, vitamin D plays an important role in immune support more generally.”Optimal vitamin D levels have been shown to positively affect the innate and adaptive immune system in a variety of ways including boosting genetic expression of white blood cells, helping the immune system adapt and ward off infection, and managing inflammation,” functional medicine physician Alejandra Carrasco, M.D., writes in a guide to the vitamin and hormone.*
This year, mbg formulated a new supplement that combines vitamin D with mood-supporting ingredients such as hops, rosemary, black cumin seed, and the real star of the show, full-spectrum hemp oil. The resulting hemp multi+ can be taken every day to support immunity and promote a steadier mood, giving it some of those all-important mental health benefits, to boot.*
Make your bedtime routine special and consistent.
Sufficient sleep has never been more important, as your immune system can’t really fire on all cylinders without it. To promote deep and restorative rest, you can lean on a calming supplement like magnesium or take a page from herbalist and integrative doctor Aviva Romm, M.D.‘s book and incorporate more plant extracts into your nightly routine. “One of my favorites right now is lavender oil—it’s incredibly effective for a good night’s sleep, especially when it’s disrupted by anxiety,” she said in a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. To use lavender oil before bed, simply take a whiff straight from the bottle (being careful not to get any on your nose), run in a diffuser, or add a few drops of the oil into your nightly bath.
Our sleep also tends to improve when it’s consistent: Board-certified sleep medicine researcher W. Christopher Winter, M.D., recommends setting a “go to bed” alarm, as well as your normal wake-up one, to ensure that your sleep schedule is similar night after night.
Prioritize immune-supporting foods.
In her episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Maya Feller, R.D., recommended supporting immunity by snacking on vitamin-C-rich clementines, eating fresh, raw ginger (for its antimicrobial properties), and adding garlic to everything.
Again, these strategies will not safeguard you (or those around you) from COVID. But combined with other protective measures, they can help boost your natural ability to fight infection.