7 Immune-Boosting Tips for Healthcare Workers During COVID-19 and Flu Season
Every year before entering flu season, we receive helpful information about how to boost our immune systems. As we enter the first winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to understand how to support our immune systems and promote optimal health. Immune-boosting tips for healthcare workers are especially essential since we are exposed to these germs every day.
Here are the top seven immune-boosting tips for healthcare workers during COVID-19 and flu season.
#1 Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is the part of our day when our body revitalizes and our minds renew. Although there is no magical number of hours of sleep we should get each night, most sleep experts state that between seven and nine hours is a reasonable time frame. However, it’s not just about the number of hours you lie in bed. The quality of your sleep is also paramount.
Here are some tips on how to achieve quality sleep:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
- Refrain from eating for at least three hours before bed
- Do not drink within 2 hours of bed
- Avoid using electronic devices in the bedroom (television, phones, tablets, etc.)
- Create a restful sleeping environment — cool and dark are best
- Stick to an exercise regimen
- Nap early in the day or eliminate naps, if possible
Studies show that getting quality sleep improves the body’s T cells, which are immune cells that fight against foreign substances. Establishing a good bedtime routine and adopting a consistent sleep pattern will positively affect the overall health of your body, which is why getting quality sleep is one of the most important immune-boosting tips for healthcare workers.
#2 Lower Stress Levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone that lowers the immune system’s activity, which means the body is more susceptible to illnesses and diseases. When your body perceives stress, it increases the production of cortisol in the bloodstream.
Chronic stress can affect cortisol levels in the body, which lowers the body’s ability to fight infection. Stress also spills over into other areas of our life by negatively impacting sleep. This can lead to many other harmful issues, like binge eating.
Although the pandemic has made it difficult to ease stress, there are several ways to refresh your mind. Learning to journal your thoughts, confiding in a friend, or even seeking a therapist can all have a positive impact on your stress levels.
#3 Stick to an Exercise Regimen
As a busy healthcare worker, it is hard to find time during the day to exercise. Exercise should be a critical component of your immune-boosting efforts. Studies have shown aerobic exercises are especially helpful in improving the immune system.
With many states restricting access to health and fitness clubs, there are still plenty of ways to remain physically fit. Adhering to a regular exercise routine is an effective way to manage stress and improve your immune system.
#4 Focus on Eating a Healthy Diet
Following a balanced diet goes a long way towards developing a robust immune system during COVID and flu season. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has sound advice on how to improve your diet, including:
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily
- Consume whole grains
- Snack on almonds or pistachios
- Do not overcook vegetables to prevent the loss of nutrients
- Avoid foods that have high concentrations of fat, salt, and sugar
- Consume unsaturated fats like fish, avocado, and olive oil
- Drink at least eight glasses of water per day
- Avoid carbonated beverages
#5 Increase Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc Intake
Vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc are vital to consume during the pandemic and flu season. Vitamin C encourages the stimulation of antibodies, which combine chemically with viruses and bacteria to prevent harm to the immune system. Strawberries, citrus fruits, and red bell peppers all are rich in vitamin C.
Vitamin D helps maintain a healthy balance of immune system activity. You can find vitamin D in salmon, pork chops, and fortified milk.
Lastly, many of the immune system’s cells rely on having a proper level of zinc in the body. A zinc deficiency can cause dysfunction and lead to suppression of the immune system. Foods high in zinc include meats, nuts, seeds, and beans.
#6 Promote Good Gut Bacteria
Probiotic supplements, which are available in drugstores and health stores, improve the number of good bacteria in the gut. You can also promote good gut bacteria by eating the following foods:
- Fermented vegetables
Consuming too much sugar or artificial sweeteners can lead to an imbalance in gut microbes. Research has shown that consuming artificial sweeteners can also adversely affect blood glucose levels because of their interaction with gut bacteria.
#7 Support Your Liver by Avoiding Alcohol
The liver receives most of the medical attention when it comes to alcohol consumption, but drinking too much alcohol can also compromise your immune system. During the pandemic, alcohol consumption has skyrocketed to help cope with stress.
The United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest consuming alcohol in moderation if you plan to consume it at all. Women should drink only one glass of alcohol per day, and men should limit their intake to two drinks a day. As mentioned earlier, drinking alcohol shortly before going to bed can also disrupt your sleep patterns.
How Can NurseDash Help Support Your Immune System?
As a healthcare worker, you are under incredible pressure to stay healthy this year. Let NurseDash help by matching you with shifts that work around your lifestyle.
We know that minimizing stress and promoting happiness are two ways to keep your body thriving. That’s why we created an on-demand platform that helps match burnt-out clinicians with shifts that work around their schedule every day, so they can get back to living a healthier, happier life!