Ashlee Wright MDA, RD, LD/N
Outpatient Registered Dietitian
Todd Jeremy Sontag, DO
The best way to deal with any medical condition is by using prevention. It’s important that we do whatever we can to avoid getting sick, and that includes washing our hands thoroughly, regularly, and effectively. Many viruses are transmitted by your own hands.
Strengthen Your System
Here are 7 ways to fight off possible infections by boosting your immune system:
1. Establish (or continue) an exercise routine. Regular exercise has been shown to keep your immune system functioning at top levels. When you’re physically active, you can keep pathogens out of your lungs and airways, minimizing illness. If you have a current routine you’re following, don’t let up on it. If you don’t, it might be a good time to begin.
2. Minimize stress. When you experience stress, it can release the hormone cortisol, boosting inflammation and actually suppressing your immune system, making it less effective. Many studies have shown those reporting the least amount of stress were also the least likely to get infections.
3. Maintain an adequate amount of sleep. This doesn’t only mean getting the right number of hours of shuteye, but also doing what you can do to ensure quality sleep as well. One reason for this: Sleep-deprived patients are more likely to develop an illness after exposure to a virus. Aim for 6-7 hours of quality sleep per night.
4. Drink less alcohol. Limiting alcohol consumption may mean a more restful night, but that’s not all. Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption leads to an increase in respiratory infections and impaired immune responses. Consider drinking moderately, up to one drink a day for women or two per day for men, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
5. Vaccinate against other infections. It is possible to get more than one infection simultaneously — and it’s also dangerous. If you contracted the flu on top of COVID-19, for example, it would mean a much more complex medical situation. Vaccines are currently available for protecting against the flu, pneumonia and pertussis (among others).
6. Stop smoking/vaping. As a general rule, anything you put in your lungs unnecessarily is going to lead to a higher likelihood of respiratory infection.
7. Support a healthy immune system. Eating healthy is important. A healthy gut will allow you to fight infections more effectively. Support your immune system by adding foods rich in vitamins A, C and D as well as zinc into your dietary regimen. Consume them often — at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Know Your Fruits and Vegetables
Wondering what the differences between a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables are?
A serving of fruit amounts to either a medium-sized piece of fruit (roughly the size of a tennis ball) or a half cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruit that’s packed in either water or 100 percent juice.
A serving of vegetables can be one cup of raw, leafy vegetables; a half cup of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables (look for those with “no added salt” on their label); or a half cup of vegetable juice (such as V8 Vegetable Juice).
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your nutrition. You have options. In fact, there are many ways to get your five recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
From A to Zinc
Some healthy (and delicious!) suggestions include:
- Dairy products
- Fortified cereals
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Red peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Citrus fruits
- Fish liver oil (such as cod liver oil)
- Fish (herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna)
- Fortified products such as cereals, dairy products, orange juice, soy milk
- Beans and peas
- Dairy products
- Fortified cereals
- Whole grains