How to Boost Your Immune System as You Wait for Your COVID-19 Vaccine

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For the majority of us, it will be several months before we’ll be eligible to get the COVID vaccine. While you wait your turn, there are some simple steps you can take to increase your immunity.

My goal of this post is to give you actionable steps for improving your immune system. In the video and list below, I share tips on how to boost your immune system quickly as well as which foods boost your immune system and which to avoid. So let’s get started.

Immunity Starts in Our Gut

Did you know that almost 80% of your immune system resides in your gut? So, if you’re wanting to improve your immune system, you’ll want to work on having a healthy happy gut.

But did you also know that most people have some sort of gut dysfunction, yet they don’t realize it because they’ve accepted their symptoms as “normal”?

From bloating and gassiness after meals, to heartburn and acid reflux, to infrequent bowel movements, to hormone dysregulation and autoimmune conditions, these and many more signs, symptoms, & illness, can be linked back to an unhappy gut.

In fact, since opening our doors in 2016, every client at One Degree Health has some level of gastrointestinal issues at the root of their symptoms and health concerns… which they didn’t even realize they had until we took a deep hard look at their health with our 360 Wellness Assessment.

Because of the link between an unhappy gut and susceptibility to illness and disease, it’s important to know realistic action steps that you can start taking now to improve your gastrointestinal health.

Why Diet is So Critical to Our Immunity

Of the wellness tips I outline below, almost all of them are related to your diet.

When you have a strong immune system, if a pathogen were to enter your system that your body doesn’t recognize, your body’s fighters are going to be on the ready. It’s your immune system that puts up the flag to indicate an invader, and the fighters then quickly deploy to clean it out of your system.

However, if your fighters aren’t on the ready and not able to respond quickly to such alerts, then they’re not able to do their job – which we see reflected as illness and disease.

Because the majority of your immune system resides in your gut, it makes sense that it’s your diet that will make your immune system stronger or weaker.

How to Boost your Immune System Quickly

Back when the COVID virus was starting to spread into the US, I recorded this video for my Health Shifters wellness community with steps for improving their diet and gut health which in turn help boost their immune system.

The wellness tips that I share herein are still relevant with studies proving their benefits. This coaching video is under 9 minutes and is definitely worth the watch. If you want to discuss your particular situation and health goals, then I invite you to schedule your free coaching session with me here.

Summary: How to Boost Your Immune System Quickly (VIDEO)

Danielle Atcheson, Functional Nutritionist & Wellness Coach, shares how to boost your immune system through your gut health (recorded March 11, 2020).

1. Avoid Processed Foods

Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

I mentioned above that your diet is critical to your gut health and your immune system’s response.

When you eat highly processed foods – foods that are high in sugar, foods that generally come in a box, and/or that convert to sugar quickly in your body like breads, pastas, and beer – these take a toll on your digestion process.

It takes lots of energy and resources for your body to process these foods and in most cases, attempt to clear these chemicals and toxins out of your system. While your body works hard at digestion, it’s taking focus away from guarding against potential invaders.

Your immune defenses become suppressed, making you more susceptible to invaders and illness.

So if you’re wanting to boost your immune system, give your gut a break and hold off on processed foods, especially those with high sugar content and ingredients you can’t pronounce or recognize as something that originated from nature.

2. Reduce Gluten & Dairy Intake

Photo by Christina Branco on Unsplash

In addition to reducing and even removing processed foods from your diet, I suggest taking this up a notch and removing all gluten and dairy from your diet – at least temporarily.

Most adults have an intolerance to dairy and gluten. Some know they do because of how they feel after eating breads, pastas, or eating cheese or drinking milk – hello, gassiness and bloating! But for the majority of us, we aren’t experiencing visible symptoms (yet) and therefore don’t realize that we have these intolerances.

What I see most often is that they haven’t made the connection yet that the symptoms they’re experiencing like brain fog, headaches, skin rashes and bumps, joint pain, and more, could be related to the gluten and dairy they’re eating.

When you eat foods that cause your body to have an inflammatory response, this inflammation is your body’s defense system in action. It’s trying to get rid of the foods that are causing this allergic or intolerant reaction. When your body is armed and attempting to remove these foods from your system, it’s taking energy and attendance away from guarding against invaders.

Like when you eat processed foods, your immune system becomes depressed in it’s response to bacterial and viral pathogens, because it’s so focused on the digestion process to clear out what it sees as food invaders.

This is why removing gluten and dairy from your diet – at least temporarily – will help improve and boost your immune system’s response.

3. Eat More Whole Plant Foods

THE #1 daily habit is to Eat your greens and veggies.
Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

As you reduce and remove processed foods, gluten, and dairy from your diet, look to also increase your nutrient intake.

The best way to get more nutrients and antioxidants is to eat more whole plant foods, especially green vegetables.

Foods like leafy greens and your cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and kale, for example) are ideal to start with. You can expand to eating vegetables across the color spectrum for more variety in nutrient-density.

We call this “eating the rainbow” which you can learn more about here.

4. Increase your Good Gut Bacteria

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Now that you’ve removed some offenders from your diet (like sugar, gluten, dairy, and highly processed foods), and are eating more nutrient-dense vegetables, let’s now add in some gut support.

Probiotics are the good bacteria that reside in your gut. To have a balanced, healthy gut, you want more of this good flora, so that your digestive system can run at its optimal level.

A great way to increase this good bacteria in your gut is to eat probiotic-rich foods. Foods that are fermented are rich in probiotics.

On your next shopping trip, head over to the refrigerated section to pick up some sauerkraut, kimchi, or kefir. I like to eat a spoonful of sauerkraut about 30 minutes before my lunch and dinner to help repopulate my gut’s good bacteria before my meal.

5. Increase Your Vitamin C

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

To boost our immune system and to be preventative, we should be eating foods rich in Vitamin C. If you’re eating a diet full of those green vegetables I just mentioned as well as citrus fruits like lemons and limes, you should be getting a moderate amount of Vitamin C.

However, this is one of the few vitamins that I recommend supplementing with all the time; not just when fighting off colds.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Whatever your body doesn’t utilize is eliminated through urine and is not kept in the body for later utilization.

From a functional nutrition perspective, a minimum maintenance dose of Vitamin C for healthy adults is 2000 milligrams, taken twice a day (usually about 8 hours apart). This dosage can be increased when sick or feel something coming on. Consult your health provider for your appropriate dosage.

6. Increase Your Vitamin D

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Next up is Vitamin D. While commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” did you know that Vitamin D is actually a hormone?

Your body is able to synthesize Vitamin D from the sun through your skin. While getting outside into the sunshine can be one way to increase Vitamin D, right now you won’t get the minimum amount you need unless you live closer to the equator. For most of us (here in the US), with the current angle of the sun, and with how much we’re indoors, we get nowhere near the amount we need. As a nation, we are chronically deficient in Vitamin D.

Why does this matter? Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to illness and our susceptibility to sickness. If wanting to boost your immune system, supplementing with Vitamin D will be necessary for most people.

There are different forms of Vitamin D. I recommend my clients supplement with D3. And to improve its effectiveness and utilization, I recommend that they use a Vitamin D3 supplement that also has Vitamin A and Vitamin K.

Unlike Vitamin C, Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning that it stays in your system and can be stored for utilization later. Feel free to schedule your free session with me and we can discuss if supplementation is a good fit for you.

7. Get Out into Nature

Photo by Oziel Gómez from Pexels

Last, but not least, look to get out into nature. While you may get a little boost of Vitamin D, the benefit of getting outdoors is two-fold.

The first is to get dirty. When your hands are in the dirt, you’re picking up the good bacteria from the soil. This is also why gardening is so beneficial to your health.

The second reason to get outdoors is to get moving and to get your blood pumping. When you move, you stimulate your lymphatic system. It’s your lymph system that moves toxins out of your system, so when wanting to boost your immune system, getting some good moderate movement in will be highly beneficial.

8. Have Regular Bowel Movements

Photo by Vie Studio from Pexels

We also need to be eliminating properly. As in #2.

So, how do you know when you have a happy gut?

When you have a healthy, happy gut, you are eliminating one to two times every day (without the help of a laxative). Not once a week, not every few days, but every day one to two times.

And when you do go #2, it should look – yes, I’m going there – like a long snake, nice and smooth. There shouldn’t be any cracks, nor visible food, and should closely resemble a sausage, snake, or an English cucumber.

If you’re eliminating less than one to two times a day, it means you definitely need to be drinking more water as well as improving your gut health with the steps I’ve outlined above.

So before you flush, take a quick glance at the bowl. This will be the easiest and quickest way to see how well your gut is doing. Because remember, your gut is where the majority of your immune system resides, so optimal gut health will lead to a boosted immune system.

Need Support?

Danielle Atcheson, Functional Nutritionist & Wellness Coach
Danielle Atcheson, Functional Nutritionist & Wellness Coach

If you want to talk through steps for improving your gut health, I invite you to schedule your free session with me. Grab a time on my calendar OneDegreeHealth.com/Schedule. No catch, just conversation discussing your health and wellness goals.

Track this new habit:

Check off this habit in your Healthy Habits Tracker (download yours for free here).

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Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson is on a mission to inspire healthier living using the power of micro-habits.

She’s a popular speaker, a board-certified health & wellness coach, and founder of One Degree Health.

As a former Fortune 500 executive, she knows firsthand how a busy schedule can interfere with prioritizing our health.

Danielle started One Degree Health to share her Micro-Habit Mindset and wellness formula with other busy professionals through engaging workshops, online coaching & nutrition programs, and private coaching.

Founder & Chief Wellness Officer, One Degree Health; Functional Nutritionist, Lifestyle Medicine Specialist, Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Gluten-Free Practitioner, Plant-Based Nutrition certified from Cornell University.

Schedule Your Free Session with Me

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