Hear It From the Experts: Here’s How to Keep That Immune System in Check
A little health 101, straight from the pros
Ah, 2020. In what might be the most unfortunate plot twist of all time, the year we all claimed and pledged would finally be ours has all too quickly turned into a whirlwind of Australian wildfires, the Taal Volcano eruption, the loss of Kobe and Gigi Bryant, the breakup of everybody’s favorite showbiz couple and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic—and we’re only three months in.
These are scary times we live in. Luzon is on enhanced community quarantine, albeit one that gave potential carriers of the disease a chance to return to their provinces and inevitably spread it there. Healthcare workers continue to brave it out on the frontlines. The topic of work suspension is a bewildering gray area: cancelling work gives us reason to stay at home, but what of the workers who live paycheck to paycheck?
As 2020’s latest form of madness unfolds, many of us watch on from our homes. Privilege check: we are the lucky ones, but the virus continues to be a looming threat to all. In the midst of the uproar, our responsibility largely falls on preventing the sickness from spreading with those in our immediate circles of interaction—that is by staying at home and staying healthy.
In pursuit of the most effective ways to give our immune systems a boost, we reached out to three experts from the fields of medicine and wellness: Eric Paul Ramos, internist and general practitioner at the Medical City clinics; Nicole Te, licensed nutritionist-dietician and indoor cycling instructor; and holistic wellness coach and advocate, Nikki Torres. While Nikki stresses that boosting immunity now—slap bang in the middle of a health crisis—is a long shot, there are a number of ways to reinforce the current immunity levels we currently have.
Ahead, we hear it from the pros.
Get that nutrition in
We know, we know. It might seem like there’s no better time to stress eat and snack to your heart’s content. Being tuned into the news all day might have you reaching for the quarantine snacks, but before ripping open another bag of chips, consider doing a little reevaluating. “Examine your diet,” suggests Eric. “Does your diet contain all the food groups that will fulfill the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of essential vitamins and minerals (namely Vitamins A, C, E and Zinc)?”
If your diet reveals any gaps, that’s your signal to make some tweaks. Make room for healthier shifts in your diet, and then begin thinking about augmenting with vitamins and supplements. However, it’s important to note that vitamins won’t magically virus-proof you. Eric points out, “Taking vitamins, especially vitamin C, does not prevent you from acquiring viral infections in the first place, but helps your body bounce back sooner from illness.”
Nicole also stresses the importance of staying hydrated. Despite the challenge, it turns out there is truth in those eight glasses the docs always tell us to drink. “Drinking lots of water is key,” she says. “Your body functions better and this helps with nutrient absorption. Being dehydrated can affect your physical performance.”
Go for a good probiotic
With the virus going around, sanitation and hand-washing have rightfully become buzzwords. While hand-washing remains the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there remains some bacteria we want around: the good bacteria that live in our gut, skin and mouth. According to Nikki, “Apart from eating well, probiotics can help boost your body’s capacity to fight sickness and infection. You’ll find effective ones over the counter.”
Repair your body clock
At the risk of sounding like a nagging parent, the quarantine period isn’t an excuse to binge-watch series into the wee hours of morning. Contrary to what your Netflix watchlist might tell you, this indefinite work-from-home situation is an ideal time to whip that body clock back into shape.
According to Nikki, “Six and a half to eight hours [of sleep] is a good range to go for.” She also highlights the importance of putting a stop to activities like eating and using devices earlier—at least one hour before bed. “Eating late, blue light and stimulation from socials disrupt sleep and affect what we call the Circadian Rhythm. Set a bed time and follow it.”
Clock in those workouts
The gym might be closed until further notice, but there’s no need to hit pause on those workouts. While Nicole regularly teaches indoor cycling at Ride Revolution, she encourages looking for alternative methods to stay fit in the meantime. “There are many home workouts you can find online that don’t require equipment,” she says. Chances are that workouts for every problem area you want to target are on YouTube for free.
But before you get your sweatfest going, Nikki, who also pioneered her own workout program NT Sweat, chimes in with a reminder to go easy on your workouts by keeping them between light to moderate levels of intensity. This will lessen the body’s recovery time while keeping immunity up.
Put down that wine bottle
Easy, tiger—if there’s any time to go easy on the alcohol, it’s now. And it doesn’t stop there: alcoholic intake and anti-inflammatory medications like steroids, should also be avoided. According to Eric, the intake of these substances may cripple immune response, which is obviously the last thing we want in the middle of a pandemic.
If swearing off alcohol ends up working for you, why not take it beyond the quarantine? We’ve compiled a list of favorite hangouts (free of alcoholic drinks to tempt you!) for when this situation tides over.
At the end of the day, “Preventive measures (such as social distancing, absolutely no interaction with people who are sick) are still superior,” says Eric. We can’t stress this enough: if you’re able to, stay home. If you’re lucky enough to afford to stay indoors, hole up inside. Keeping your immune system in check. If you’ve got the resources to spare, consider donating to the following causes:
- Office of the Vice President: Assistance for frontliners
- Philippine General Hospital: Call for PPE and 70% ethyl alcohol
- Angkas: Donation drive for healthcare workers
- Ateneo de Manila University: Cash donations for frontliners
- Caritas Manila: Donations for survival kits and food bags for the underprivileged
- Bela Padilla: Pagkain para sa Pinoy drive for street vendors
Art Alex Lara