5 ways to boost your immune system during COVID-19

By Vanessa Fernandez

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, it is more important than ever to support your immune system. There is no supplement or regimen that will protect you from getting COVID-19, but there are ways to keep your immune system functioning at its best, which can help keep you healthy and give you a sense of control during these uniquely uncertain times.

In addition to proper handwashing and social distancing, maintaining proper nutrition and being physically fit can help you manage stress and get adequate rest. Here’s what you can do to stay healthy while you’re staying “safer at home.”

Stay moving: Get at least three hours of exercise per week.

Schedule it! Make exercise as important as any doctor’s appointment. If you don’t schedule it, you risk letting the days at home just slip away. Instead, dedicate a specific time of day that works best for you to do an at-home fitness routine. Switch it up to keep it interesting by trying new forms of exercises, or simply turn on some music and move.

Get enough sleep: A good night’s sleep leads to more energy and strength.

Sleep is essential for good health, because it restores your mind and body. Sleep helps your body’s cells repair and regenerate themselves. Even just closing your eyes, putting your feet up, and clearing your mind for a couple minutes can give your neurons, muscles, and organs a much-needed break.

Getting adequate rest is important because not getting enough sleep may make you more susceptible to depression, which can weaken your immune system. Drink some chamomile or other soothing tea in the evenings, and do something relaxing, such as meditation. Consider turning off electronic devices an hour before bedtime. When it’s time to rest, the last thing you need are more stressful news notifications.

Eat healthy foods: Food and drink sustain and nourish the body, especially during tough times.

Stock your pantry with immune-boosting foods. Load up on frozen, canned, and dry goods that are high in vitamins and minerals. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones because they are frozen at the height of ripeness, when they provide the most benefit for us. Healthful choices include frozen spinach and kale for vitamin A and iron, as well as frozen strawberries, cauliflower, and broccoli for vitamin C. Canned salmon is a good source of vitamins A and D. You’ll find zinc in beans, lentils, and raw peanuts, cashews, and almonds.

Stay hydrated: The average adult should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

There is no need to stress over a shortage of water at the grocery store or to hoard bottled water. Los Angeles tap water goes through several treatments to make it safe for you and your family to drink. Also, avoid alcohol or drink only moderately. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain and complicate chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Make yourself a priority: Learn new healthy ways to release stress.

Too much stress can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Find ways to connect with yourself through relaxation techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation, naps, reading, laughter, journaling, or art. Be mindful of your hygiene, practice self-care, and avoid smoking, which can lower your immune system and vitamin C levels, making you more susceptible to pneumonia and the flu.

Vanessa Fernandez is a nutrition specialist with Venice Family Clinic who counsels patients on how to get and stay healthy. She manages our new food pharmacy program where we treat food as medicine for patients whose conditions could be improved with changes in diet. Fernandez also leads some of our group exercise classes, helping patients of all fitness levels reach their wellness goals.