Staying healthy and ensuring our immune system remains strong has never been more important. It is essential for both our own and other people's health that we do our utmost to reduce our risks and protect ourselves from the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are a number of simple ways in which we can boost our natural resources and give our bodies the best chance to ward off this potentially fatal virus.
Our immune system is our first line of defence. Like our own private army, it fights off any challenges which come our way such as viruses, bacteria, and other invaders which try to attack our health and cause colds and run-of-the-mill infections or more deadly threats.
It is skilled in the art of healing, is always on call, and is ready to take preventive action to avert a crisis when our health is under attack. Therefore, it makes sense to take care of it and ensure it will serve us well, allowing us to lead a happy, healthy life.
Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and ensure your immune system is operating at its optimum level:-
1. Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap. If, you are self-isolating, this is one of the most important things you can do, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE ). Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather, then rub the top of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. Do this for about 20 seconds. The World Health Organisation guidelines indicate that washing your hands properly takes about as long as singing the Happy Birthday song from start to finish twice. Then rinse your hands under running water. Dry them with a clean towel or paper towel. Hand gels with at least 60 per cent alcohol content can be used if soap and water are not available.
Handwashing is always important but is especially so now in the fight against the coronavirus. Remember, we have between two and 10 million general bacteria between our fingertip and elbow and the number of germs on our fingertips doubles after using the toilet. Research indicates that damp hands spread 1,000 times more germs than dry hands and that millions of germs hide underneath watches and bracelets and there could be as many germs under your ring as there are people in Europe.
2. Avoid touching your face with your hands. This is one of the key pieces of advice from the HSE and applies to your eyes, nose, and mouth because germs can enter your body easily by those paths. Smokers tend to touch their faces more often than non-smokers so be particularly vigilant if you are still lighting up. Ideally, cut down, if not out, cigarettes. The ill effects of smoking are well documented in terms of people's overall health. Lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD ) are just some of the major conditions linked to tobacco use. People's risk of developing respiratory conditions such as bronchitis or pneumonia are increased if they smoke because of the immune suppressant effect of cigarettes. Covid-19 can affect your lungs and airways so if you are looking for an incentive to quit look no further than this virus.
3. Know the fats of life. Good fats, such as those found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are vital for many functions in the body. Try to include these in your daily food intake instead of harmful saturated and processed fats.
4. Include some colour in your diet. This means embracing a wide selection of foods in a variety of colours particularly in relation to fruit and vegetables. The substances which give them their colour also provide many of their health inducing elements. Opt daily for red, green, yellow, purple, and orange fruits and vegetables. Avoid having tea or coffee with meals because caffeine inhibits the absorption of some nutrients. If you fancy a tea or coffee try to have it either an hour before or an hour after eating.
5. Eat a balanced diet. Choose fresh, wholesome, and organic foods and ensure you have variety. Experiment with and rotate different foods. This is beneficial in terms of nutrition and also from a food allergy or intolerance perspective. Make fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and fish mealtime staples. Limit sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar. Reduce your caffeine intake, particularly in the evening to ensure you get a good night's sleep.
6. Incorporate some exercise into your daily routine. This may not be as easy as in pre-Covid-19 times, especially for people who are cocooning. However, it is important that this group remain mobile by getting up and moving around as much as possible. If you have a garden or backyard go out and get some fresh air but make sure you remain two metres away from other people. Or if you prefer to exercise indoors and you have stairs, climb those a few times a day. Many of us are still fortunate enough to be able to go for walks or runs (within two kilometres of our homes and only with people from our own households ) so make use of this natural resource. Exercise offers many benefits. It lowers people's blood pressure and weight, reduces cancer risks as well as stress and anxiety levels, boosts energy levels and good cholesterol, improves blood sugar control, and aids relaxation levels and sleep yet only one in three adults achieve the recommended level of activity.
7. Aim to get eight hours sleep a night. The benefits of sleep are enormous, it allows your body to repair itself and stay healthy. It also improves your immune function helping you ward off illness and disease. If you do not get enough sleep (ideally aim for eight hours shut-eye a night ) your body will not have the opportunity to recharge its batteries. Try to have a sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time daily. This will promote a good sleeping pattern and you will feel rested the following day. If you find it hard to nod off introduce some relaxation into your winding-down ritual. Soothing music, a warm bath, scented candles, a hot drink, or a good book may be all you need to help you drift into a deep sleep. Ensure your bedroom is uncluttered, dark, and not too warm or cold so that slumber will come easily to you.
8. Learn to de-stress. This is important in terms of staying healthy. Stress has an adverse effect on the immune system. You may be dealing with a major stressor such as illness in your family, being made redundant, or having financial worries. Or it could be something much more minor but even such incidents impact on your immune system. People with high stress levels, for example, are almost twice as likely to catch a cold as others.
Identifying the stressors in your life is the first step in dealing with them. Knowledge is power and once you pinpoint the issues which are causing you upset and are putting you under pressure then you can identify ways of tackling them. Some challenges may be harder to solve than others but changing your attitude towards them may be helpful if you cannot do anything else.
9. Drink water. This is beneficial for your health on a number of fronts. It helps cleanse toxins from the body, lubricates the joints, regulates body temperature, and is good for your digestive system. Ideally, drink it between meals or half an hour before or one hour after meals. If the recommended two litres is too challenging for you, aim for a few glasses throughout the day.
10. Live each day to the full. Aim to stay in the present, remember that the only time we ever have is today. Yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow has not yet come. Be gentle with yourself and find time each day for relaxation and for doing the things you really enjoy. Listen to your body, it may be signalling that it is overworked, sleep deprived, or unwell. Stop and do nothing for a few minutes each day. Try to spend 10 minutes alone with your thoughts. Having this quiet space in an otherwise hectic schedule will help reduce muscular tension and focus your mind. It will also make your aware of the areas in your body in which stress is building up and may cause physical issues later. Remind yourself, especially in these challenging times, that taking care of yourself is one of your most important responsibilities.