In the midst of the coronavirus, it might be easier to overlook the severity of the flu, but in reality, the two aren’t that different. In fact, according to infectious disease specialist Sandra Kesh, M.D., there have been about 16,000 flu-related deaths in this season alone.
The number is not meant to induce fear but rather to remind us just how important it is to keep our immune system healthy. Kesh puts forth her top three tips, which emphasize both the mind and the body, to help improve immunity naturally;
- Reduce stress
Stress can affect everything from brain health to body weight, and of course, immunity. Kesh says that when her patients are otherwise doing everything right but continue to get sick, “It’s almost always because of stress.”
This is because when cortisol levels aren’t kept within their normal range, whether in early childhood or throughout aging, it can physically disrupt the body’s healing properties.
“From slowing wound healing to diminishing the protective effects of vaccines to increasing your susceptibility to infection,” Robin Berzin, M.D., once put forth that, “stress is the ultimate immune-modulator.”
I do two, 20 minute, meditations everyday and try to be as active as possible. Don’t sit on the couch and watch TV allday.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
While this partially overlaps with stress reduction, Kesh says it also includes “getting enough sleep and eating well.”
Allergist and immunologist Heather Moday, M.D., says that “Sleep is when your immune system repairs itself, the mitochondria clean themselves up, and the liver does most of its detoxification.” Which is also why our bodies feel so run down when we’re sick. Getting a full seven to eight hours each night can help keep our bodies alert to any dangerous pathogens.
Studies have proved that eating nutrient-rich diets, high in fruits, vegetables, and other anti-inflammatory foods, has a direct impact on our body’s immune response and can help protect against diseases.
- Practice balance when it comes to sanitizing
During flu season, it’s not impractical to wipe down heavily trafficked surfaces, like doorknobs and trays, but “overdoing the cleaning can be just as bad as underdoing it,” Kesh says. “You have to strike a balance.”
It might seem scary, but some exposure to germs is good for our immune system. “If you have a sterile environment, you will be more susceptible to infections when exposed.”
So yes, wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer when necessary, but unless you’ve touched something visibly dirty, you’re about to eat a meal, or you’ve gone to the bathroom, you probably don’t need to rush to the sink. “If you wash your hands 50 times a day, your skin will get dry and cracked, which is a perfect portal of entry for infection”, say the experts.
When it comes to flu season, though, there’s only so much control we can have. Practicing regular infection control methods and taking care of your overall well-being (from the brain to the body) are currently the best, natural methods for boosting immunity.
I hope that I’ve been of some help, in this very scary period of the earth’s history.
See you all the next time.