As coronavirus continues to spread, many people are asking what they can do to protect themselves. What people eat and what people think, has a direct impact on their immune system, according to experts.
Dr. Bradley Dyer, who is board certified in internal medicine, said when it comes to boosting the immune system, eating foods that are nutrient dense, like fruits and vegetables, can help.
“I tell people to eat the rainbow,” Dyer said. “Berries are huge, whether they’re fresh or frozen. Then of course, any kind of leafy green.”
Eating fast food and foods that are high in sugar can have the opposite effect on the immune system, according to Dyer, who owns Premier Integrative Health, a functional medicine practice, in the River Market.
“Sugar sweetened beverages, whether it be soda or whether it be Gatorade or whether it be green tea that’s mostly high fructose corn syrup, those are the things that are going to weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to what you’re trying to avoid,” Dyer said. “Even lots of bread and pasta, for certain populations, turns to sugar real quick in the immune system and then lowers your immunity.”
Adding in citrus fruits, which are high in vitamin C, also is beneficial, Dyer said.
However, health isn’t all about what people put into their bodies. Dyer and Jameshia Sykes, a licensed counselor with The Laya Center, said stress can also make a person more susceptible to illness.
“Too much stress will weaken your immune system,” Sykes said.
The mind, according to Sykes, likes negativity. This can cause people to get stuck in a pattern of negative thinking. Sykes said the key to getting rid of worry and anxiety surrounding coronavirus, is to focus on what can be controlled, like proper hand hygiene and social distancing.
“Even though you’re home, you don’t have to stay inside,” Sykes said. “Go outside, take a walk, play with your kids. Exercise is also really good, so this could be a good time to pick up those sneakers that you haven’t used in awhile.”
For people who might feel overwhelmed and anxious, Sykes said she asks her clients to practice triangle breathing.
“Breathe in to the count of four, hold it at the top, then breathe out for that same amount of time,” Sykes said.
Aside from food and destressing, the amount of sleep a person gets can have a direct impact on their immune system.
“Even one night of sleep deprivation can lower your immune system transiently, temporarily,” Dyer said.
Both Dyer and Sykes recommend shutting off electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
Dyer recommended getting at least seven hours of sleep every night.
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