It is important now more than ever to take care of your health, especially your immune system. The immune system is the line of defense against disease and it does this by attacking what it identifies as non-self. Different lifestyle factor influence how strong your immune system is and how well it will respond if exposed to bacteria or a virus. I want to share with you five things you can do to boost your immune system.
What You Eat and Drink is Important
The body breaks down the food we eat into carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, and uses it to nourish the rest of the body. This is why it is important that we give the body the right raw material to be able to nourish the body. Your foods and drinks are like fuel for the truck. You can’t put water in the truck and expect it to run, you must give the truck the right fuel for it to function properly. It is the same with our body; the body needs nutritious food to function properly. With the proper nutrients, the immune system can be strong enough to defend us against disease.
These are some foods and drinks that I would recommend you add to your diet to stay healthy and boost your immune system:
- Fruits and veggies
- Whole grains
- Beans and lentils
- Protein–chicken, beef, eggs, yogurt, cheese.
- Broth and soups
- Water–a lot of water!
- Herbal tea–the one you brew, not the canned ones.
- Coconut water–this has electrolytes and you only need about 4oz a day. It is a healthy alternative to sports drinks that are filled with sugar and artificial colors.
Here are some foods and drinks that I recommend you avoid because they take a toll on the body (the liver, the pancreas) and give you no nutritional value:
Highly processed foods–microwavable and canned meals don’t help your immune system and affect your energy.
Caffeine—It’s okay to have 1 or 2 cups of coffee in the morning. What you want to avoid are the energy drinks, sodas, and excessive amounts of coffee.
Sugar—excessive amounts of sugar make our pancreas work harder and can lead to many health problems. I recommend you use stevia as a sweetener.
I created an On-The-Go Healthy Food Guide for drivers that want to eat healthy while on the road. It has healthy food recommendations (that are easy to find and easy to store) as well as snack, breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas. You can find it here:
Take Care of Your Gut Health and Take Your Vitamins
Did you know that over 70% of your immune system is in your gut? This is why it is especially important to take care of your gut health right now.
In the gut we have healthy bacteria, also known as probiotics or gut flora, that help with the absorption of nutrients and they provide digestive support. Probiotics support the immune system; the act as a barrier to pathogens, kill bad bacteria and it help protect your body against infections.
Some other benefits of probiotics are:
- Help with digestion
- Improve allergies
- Help lower cholesterol
- Linked to improving our mood by improving anxiety, depression and memory
My recommendation would be to take a high-quality probiotic supplement. Make sure it has at least 10 billion probiotics.
Some other vitamins that you can consider taking are vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, since they are essential to the immune system.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is critical to your immune function. People that do not get enough quality sleep are at risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and are more likely of getting a disease after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep also affects how fast you recover when you do get sick. Here are some things I recommend to help you sleep like a baby:
Wear an eye mask— this blocks the light and allow the production of melatonin, which is our sleep hormone.
Stretch for 5 minutes— to allow muscles to relax and have a deep sleep.
Drink chamomile tea–it promotes sleep and helps the body relax.
Take a melatonin supplement–It’s non-addicting and it will help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling well rested.
Do not be exposed to a screen 30 minutes before going to bed— artificial light blocks the production of melatonin.
Move Your Body
Exercise is more important now than ever. Exercise helps boost the immune system, it improved our mood and memory, increases energy, and it is great for your heart and weight. I know that for drivers exercising was hard enough, and now with gyms being closed, it is even harder. Here are some ideas to stay active:
Go outside to walk. With gyms closed, it is a great opportunity to spend more time outside and it makes it easier to avoid close contact with people. Nature reduces stress and anxiety and even a 10-minute walk can improve your memory and mood.
Find creative ways to add movement to your day. A driver was telling me that when he is waiting for a load he looks for a ramp or even a curbside to go up and down and add some cardio to his day.
Do a Rolling Strong workout. In the Rolling Strong app, we have 3-20-minute videos that you can do inside or outside the truck.
Look in YouTube for yoga. Yoga is a great way to build strength and increase flexibility. This can help with back and joint pain.
Do something on your own. You can do the 100 Squat challenge, push-ups against a wall, lunges, or single leg step-ups on stairs.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health is by far the most important thing you can do right now. Stress can weaken the immune system by raising blood pressure, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses. Some common stress symptoms right now are:
- Fear and worry about health
- Change in sleep patterns
- Change in eating patterns
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increase use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs
- Worries about work, finances and family
Some healthy coping strategies to deal with stress are:
Talking about your problems—sometimes just saying it out loud can make you feel better.
Seeking professional help— part of your benefits as an MVT employee include online or in-person counseling sessions. Reach out to HR for more information.
Relaxation techniques— gratitude practice, meditation, stretching.
Focusing on what you can control—following CDC recommendations, talking to your property owner or credit card company to find ways to reduce your financial stress, etc.
Using your social support—reach out to family and friends.
As always, I am here to help! If you want to improve your health, join Rolling Strong, the MVT wellness program designed for drivers. MVT pays for your membership, so the program is free. For more information reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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