How to boost your immunity coming out of lockdown

We’ve all been tucked away in self-isolation for the past few weeks  - and the knock-on effect has been that GPs and hospitals have reported fewer cases of people coming down with colds, the flu or viruses.

But as we move out of lockdown we will once again be exposed to the germs and viruses that commonly do the rounds in winter.

So how do we boost our immunity and stay well as we step back into normal life?

We asked nutritionist Jessica Campbell of Body Balance Nutrition, who is in her final year of study as a doctor, for her top tips:

Keep up the handwashing

Good hand hygiene has played a key role in New Zealand's war against Covid-19 and it's important to keep up the habit, Jessica says. Wash your hands as vigilantly as you did in level four lockdown - and carry hand sanitiser when you’re out and about.

“But keep in mind that with all the regular hand-washing and sanitising – and I notice that even with the standard hand-washing practices we have in hospital – your skin can really dry out and begin to crack. So I’d recommend using a nourishing hand lotion to restore the skin of your hands, because if you’ve got cracks and splits it’s another entry point for bugs and bacteria,” Jessica warns.

 

Eat a nourishing and varied diet

Our immune system works best when our bodies are fully nourished, Jessica says.

"So you need to eat well and you need to eat regularly."

A varied diet that contains proteins, animal meats, spirulina, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables and whole grains will give you the immune-boosting micro-nutrients you need: vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D as well as zinc, copper, folate, iron and selenium. 

 

Top up on vitamin D and zinc

"There are two micro-nutrients you might want to consider supplementing and those are vitamin D and zinc," Jessica advises.

"Vitamin D enhances the function of immune cells, and low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased susceptibility to infection and some respiratory illnesses."

You can take vitamin D as a supplement or get your daily quota by exposing large areas of your skin to the sun for five to 30 minutes each day.

Zinc deficiency has also been linked to respiratory illness and those most at risk of deficiency are the elderly, vegetarians and vegans or those who suffer from chronic illnesses. Zinc can be taken as a supplement.

 

Sleep well, stress less

These two often go hand in hand - when you're stressed you can't sleep and when you can't sleep this exacerbates your stress levels.

"I’m conscious that talking about stress at the moment might seem a little hypocritical," Jess says. "We are living in such stressful times. But if we can be mindful of it that’s the first step - stress impacts our immune system and high levels of stress produce high levels of cortisol and other inflammatory responses.

"So we want to be boosting sleep and reducing stress where possible."

Jessica practices daily guided meditation using the app Calm but if you find it hard to sit still, meditation can still be achieved through acts of mindfulness such as quiet contemplation with a cup of tea or "active relaxing" - things like taking a walk along the beach, reading, gardening, painting, drawing or other arts and crafts.

 

Keep up the family walks 

Exercise and gentle movement is associated with improved immune function and response - so keep up the family walks around your neighbourhood.

 

 

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