While COVID-19 is a widespread virus affecting a large part of the world right now, you can take certain steps to build up your immunity against it and decrease your risk of contracting the illness. Many of them are simple, everyday habits you can build to keep yourself and others safe.
Maintain a balanced diet
This is an important aspect for cancer patients in general, and can overall build immunity – not just against COVID.
Balancing different food groups is key to keeping your body vitals in check, like getting enough carbs for energy, but not too much so that your blood sugar and pressure remain at a healthy level. Try to consume whole wheats and grains through bread, rice, and pasta, rather than processed grains, which also have reduced fibre.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially green vegetables – like kale, broccoli, and spinach – which contain protein. Fruits and vegetables also contain a multitude of minerals and vitamins which are essential to building up your body’s immunity.
Reduce the amount of red meat and full-fat products, and especially trans fat. Look for options like sunflower oil, white meats, and lentils as your fat and protein options, avoiding products that can increase your cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as cause you to gain weight more easily. Common foods with trans fats are many types of cookies and biscuits, as well as frozen carbs like frozen pizzas and pies.
A balanced diet is also key to maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight, obese, or underweight can also affect your immune system’s function and your cancer treatment.
Eat immunity boosting foods
There are certain foods that can help build your immune system, especially against the now prevalent coronavirus.
Citrus fruits are a key source of vitamin C, a vitamin that helps build immunity and prevent infections, as well as helping reduce some symptoms. Oranges, grapefruit, and lemon are some examples of citrus you should look at incorporating into your diet. Red peppers aren’t citrus, but contain a lot of vitamin C as well.
Vitamin D is not only important to keep you active and healthy, but can also protect you from respiratory infections, to some extent. Rather than through food, vitamin D should be absorbed by spending time out in the sun. This vitamin also helps your body regulate other vitamins which are important to your immune system.
Zinc is important when it comes to strengthening the function of the white blood cells, an important component of your immune system. Foods rich in zinc include lentils, as well as white meats and eggs. Red meats contain zinc as well, but make sure to limit your consumption to avoid a heavy fat intake.
Even 30 minutes of exercise can boost your immunity, and it is important for cancer patients to stay fit and active if possible. If activities like cardio or workouts are difficult for you, you can try exercises as simple as stretching or going on a walk. It can also help to start with 10 minutes a day, slowly increasing the amount of time to build up stamina, which is also important.
Exercise is also an important aspect of maintaining your weight, which can tie into your immunity. Maintaining a healthy weight – that is, avoiding being overweight or obese – can also lower the risk of contracting COVID. It is important for cancer patients to maintain a healthy weight if possible, and you can do this through simple exercises or full workouts, depending on which suits your current health condition.
Drinking water is important because it helps your body carry out many basic processes and functions, but it also boosts your immune system to be properly hydrated and flushes out toxins. Ideally, as an adult, you should drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day, not including juices and soft drinks. Instead, you can try healthy alternatives like lemon water or honey tea, which are water based, and increase your water intake.
Avoid drinking too much water before or after meals since it can make you feel bloated or nauseous. You should drink a glass as you wake up, and more between meals, as well as a couple a few hours before you go to bed. Space them out throughout your day and keep yourself well hydrated; it can help other aspects of your body and health as well.
If your body is tired, your immunity immediately weakens since your energy is often diverted elsewher and your body’s overall function deteriorates. Sleep loss over a long period of time can be detrimental to physical and mental health, so try not to make it a habit.
Adults should sleep at least 7 hours a day – ideally 8 – and teenagers should sleep around 8-9 hours per day. Try not to stay up too late, going to bed at a time you feel tired and waking up around 8 hours later to maintain your natural circadian rhythm. Stay away from devices from around an hour before you go to bed so that you fall asleep more naturally and wake up more well rested; blue light from electronics can affect your sleep quality. As your body recovers and regains energy, your immune system will function better too.
So what should I do?
You can take these steps, and encourage others to do the same. Keeping your immune system strong and healthy, especially as a cancer patient, is an important aspect to avoiding contracting COVID.
While these measures are an extremely good idea, you should always try to get vaccinated whenever it is possible for you. But, even after vaccination, try to keep your immunity boosted through these activities, stay home, and wear a mask to reduce the risk of infection.
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