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Build your immunity and take some control with tips from wellness experts

Scientists have yet to develop a specific vaccine or treatment to stop the novel coronavirus in its tracks but that doesn’t make us powerless to take steps to better weather an infection.

“Focus on what you can control by setting goals for yourself,” said Pam Vetrano, senior program director of wellness and sports at the YMCA of Buffalo Niagara.

Establishing benchmarks, and meeting several of them, can help you boost immunity, provide more energy and lower stress. So can starting and ending each day with a favorite song, positive affirmations, and a step away from the blitz of novel coronavirus developments.

“If you are constantly in that fight-or-flight mode, your nervous system can’t really ever settle down and that can create not only sources of tension and pain in your body, it can also weaken your immune system,” Vetrano said.

Here are other ideas she and other health and wellness advocates in the region recommend.

Stop – and breathe

Meditation and deep breathing can help you reset your mind, body and spirit, said Vetrano, a certified yoga instructor. She recommended an exercise that calms the nervous system by taking breaths as you focus your mind on your body parts, starting at the toes and, gradually, moving toward your forehead.

A Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables steels the immune system to better fight disease. (John Hickey/News file photo)

Food is medicine

A Mediterranean diet, based mostly on fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains lowers risks of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions that make many infections more dangerous. “Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and sourdough are all high in probiotics that help boost the good bacteria in your body that facilitate the absorption of nutrients and fight infection,” said Andrea Neidrauer, a certified integrative nutritional counselor and owner of Living Roots Health and Wellness. “Garlic, oregano, turmeric, ginger, lemon, honey and coconut oil are all strong antimicrobial foods.”

No-excuses exercises: Stay fit while staying inside

Move often

The U.S. Surgeon General recommends at least 150 minutes each week of moderate or high-intensity exercise split over three days. Amy Bueme, personal trainer and co-owner of Catalyst Fitness, recommended exercise at least four days a week now that many of us are sheltering in place. She also encouraged walking, running or biking outdoors. “Fresh air will make everybody feel better,” Bueme said.

Drink more water

Pam Vetrano, senior program director of wellness and sports at the YMCA of Buffalo Niagara, says now is a good time to focus on health, wellness and family. (Photo provided by Pam Vetrano)

Eight glasses each day bring a healthier balance to our cells, tissues and organs. Feel hungry? Drink water first – flavoring it with sliced fruit – and see if that helps. Overconsuming alcohol, a depressant, is dehydrating and can complicate the flu or coronavirus.

Keep a routine

“There’s a lot you can’t control right now. Focus on what you can by making a schedule for yourself and your kids,” said Vetrano, mom to two children, ages 6 and 4. Exercise, family mealtimes, quiet time, together time, and waking and bedtime all should be part of the mix to create more predictability in this unpredictable time.

Sleep well

Seven to eight hours for adults, more for young children and teens. Sleep resets the body and brain and bolsters the immune system. Sleep only as much as needed to feel refreshed daily, set the same sleep times all days of the week, and ensure that your bedroom is free from light and noise. Eat, drink and exercise well and you’ll doze better too, said sleep expert Jack Peltz, assistant professor of psychology at Daemen College in Amherst.

Get board

Playing games with the family will do more good than coronavirus overload on your TV or smartphone. “You want to be able to still laugh,” Bueme said. Active board games like Pictionary or Charades will get you moving, too.

Connect socially – from a distance

Make a list of people you’d like to catch up with and surprise them with a call or on FaceTime or Skype. Do your best to avoid coronavirus and politics. “Research has shown this can help your mental health as well as your immune system,” Vetrano said.

Unplug at times

Get away from TV news and social media, even for just an hour or two broken up over the day. Forgive yourself if you don’t keep up with the lessons and homework demands from those teaching your children online. Being present gives you a greater sense of control, Vetrano said, “and doing it outside is even better.” Walk or run the neighborhood, breathe – but make sure you stay at least six feet from those outside your household circle.

There's more to cleaning than hand sanitizer. (Scott Scanlon/Buffalo News)

Wash your hands

“Nothing prevents the spread of disease more than washing your hands with good old-fashioned warm water and soap,” Neidrauer said. Wash thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Make sure you get the wrists, wash between the fingers and clean under the nails.

Spring clean

Do more than disinfect your house or apartment. Crack open the windows and take on a moderate project to purge yourself from things you no longer need.  “You don’t want to be stuck in a dusty basement all day long. That isn’t going be great for your immune system,” Vetrano said, but the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when the pandemic ends will give you more confidence with your fresh start.

email: sscanlon@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh@ScottBScanlon

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