This article is part of series in response to COVID-19 and is valid through June 2020.
With coronavirus on the loose, many women may be wondering what they can do to protect themselves. For most people exposed to it, coronavirus 2019 will cause only mild symptoms. Whether or not you’re at a higher risk for contracting this virus, it’s a good idea to take a look at your health and make sure you are doing everything you can to optimize it. Viruses have an easier time invading the body when the immune system is weakened, so here are some tips for keeping yours in top shape:
- Get regular exercise. This helps to keep your stress level down, which in turn gives your immune system a break. Exercise also increases blood flow, which helps your body do a better job of filtering toxins from your organs, which can otherwise burden your immune system. Try taking a socially distant walk, do yoga over zoom with friends, or follow along with a free YouTube video exercise class. Our favorite mind body yoga class here, free with no equipment needed.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze… but NOT with your hands! Coughing into the neck of your shirt or into your elbow may prove to be even better than a tissue. Viruses love to travel from host to host, and they have adapted to use human hands as a free public transit system. Keep your hands clean and kick the habit of using them to cover your cough. Avoid touching your face when you are out in public. Viruses like to jump off that free bus and right into your wet surfaces… eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Eat a balanced diet. Avoid excessive sugars, which can lead to mood swings and can weaken your immune system by creating more inflammation in the body. Increase fiber, which helps keep your gut bacteria healthy and boosts your immune system.
- Avoid smoking, especially tobacco products like cigarettes because smoking damages the lung tissue, making it harder for your body to exchange oxygen in the blood. The body responds by giving lower amounts of oxygen to the less important body parts (this is why your skin wrinkles and your hair is more coarse when you smoke) like your liver and kidneys. Your liver and kidneys both help filter toxins from the blood. If they aren’t getting enough oxygen, they can’t perform their important functions as well. Your immune system is weaker when you smoke.
- Wash your hands with soap, which is the best way to remove dirt, bacteria, and viruses from your skin. The CDC says it takes 20 seconds to get the job done. Try singing “Happy Birthday” (or, if you want to really have some fun NPR put together a great list of alternatives) twice to make sure you’re timing is right.
- Get a flu vaccine. Getting sick with the seasonal flu will weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to other illnesses.
- Avoid sick contacts of any kind, as illnesses of any kind weaken the immune system while your body is fighting them off.
- Therapy or peer-to-peer social conversations can help you destress and not feel alone. Depression and anxiety can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to illness, so try to have social engagement, even if it is over a video chat or phone call. For online talk therapy, we’re fans of Talkspace and 7 Cups. If you haven’t downloaded Zoom or Houseparty yet, give them a shot and invite some friends to a virtual cocktail hour.
- Practice safe sex. Having other illnesses, including sexually transmitted illnesses can lead to a weakened immune system.
- Take a probiotic once a day. Studies show that a healthy gut boosts the immune system by keeping “good” bacteria in your GI tract. Harvard Health teaches us that “good bacteria” works like a placeholder, preventing bad bacteria from taking up residence in your gut. Good bacteria also help improve digestion and allow your body to better absorb nutrients from your food.
- Drink plenty of water. Stay hydrated with the recommended 8-10 glasses of water per day, and crank it up a little more when you exercise or when you’re sick.
- If it’s sunny outside, get some safe sun exposure. Higher vitamin D levels are associated with increased immune health. If you can’t get outside, take a vitamin D supplement with calcium. You need the calcium to help your body absorb the vitamin D!
- If you have high blood pressure, keep it under control with diet, exercise, and medications as prescribed. Your blood pressure and your immune system have a direct relationship. Lowering your blood pressure can help keep your immune system at its best.