A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is the reminder about the fragility of health to boost It during the pandemic. Although the philosopher Lao Tzu advised us that ‘health is the greatest possession’ some 2,500 years ago, health in the modern world is often taken for granted. Amidst the demands and distractions of daily life and unconscious of the biological systems that work tirelessly inside us each day to fend off disease, wake-up calls are sometimes necessary.
COVID-19 is a rare example of a societal-level wakeup call that is simultaneously reminding millions of people about the precarious nature of health over a prolonged period.
Another common source of health complacency in the 21st century is that we often assign responsibility for our health to others. In a millennium so prosperous that people can now argue healthcare should be a right akin to life and liberty, advanced medical technologies make it easy to rely on physicians to protect our health. Like flu viruses, the COVID-19 virus also mutates and these mutations could affect the level of protection offered by a vaccine. Therefore, even while we wait and hope for an effective COVID-19 vaccine in the months ahead, it’s important to consider the methods we have in the present to maximize our disease resistance.
Boost It During The Pandemic
Fortunately, we don’t need to rely entirely on vaccines or government policies to protect ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of disease protection, no medicine or N95 mask compares to the strength of our own immune systems. Your immune system could be compared to a powerful military force, with many weapons at its disposal. Yet this army can and often is depleted to protect us from COVID-19 and other biological threats. Although lifestyle habits that boost it during the pandemic should always be important, the pandemic can be a potent motivator to improve our habits in the following areas:
As a sleep expert, Matthew Walker from UC Berkeley coins it, ‘Sleep is Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality.’ Sleep is vital to every dimension of health, including our immune system. Controlled studies, for example, show that people getting less than 7 hours of sleep are nearly 3 times as likely to develop a cold compared to those getting 8 or more hours.
With millions now working from home or still waiting to return to former employment, it may seem as if people should be able to get more sleep. Unfortunately, this is not true for most people. Even though greater time at home may afford more opportunity to sleep for some, the COVID era has disrupted sleep regularity for even more. Changing your mindset to appreciate that you’re sleeping to strengthen your body’s defenses can give you a more compelling reason to stick to a sleep schedule.
2. Social connection
The size and quality of your interpersonal relationships is a powerful buffer against infectious disease. In a classic study titled ‘Social Ties and Susceptibility to the Common Cold’, participants with the fewest social connections showed 4.2 times greater susceptibility to developing cold symptoms, relative to those with the most social connections. Notably, this effect was observed under carefully controlled disease exposure conditions. Across the lifespan and even across different mammalian species, research shows that isolation weakens the immune system. Alternatively, social support and higher-quality relationships protect us against illness by strengthening to boost it during the pandemic
Surprisingly to some, exercise has much stronger benefits for the immune system than for weight loss. For example, a 2020 study published in the journal, Cell, showed that a single session of exercise altered the activity of nearly 10,000 molecules. These changes included molecules involved in energy production, tissue repair, and immune system function. Decades of previous research already demonstrated activation of immune system activity during exercise, reduced risk of infectious disease among regular exercisers, and less severe symptoms and shorter disease half-lives among regular exercisers when ill.
Hence, exercising regularly is very important for your immune system. Thankfully, with the help of an entire online exercise industry that has emerged in mere months, people are able to track and share their progress.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D functions as a hormone in the body that is linked to many important functions, including immune system activity and risk for respiratory infections. Research in 2020 indicates that vitamin D deficiencies are very high among those dying from COVID-19. Vitamin D deficiencies are also common in the general population, particularly during the fall and winter months when sun exposure is low.
Combined with previous evidence from randomized controlled trials demonstrating the reduced risk of (non-COVID-19) respiratory infections among patients receiving vitamin D compared to placebo, this suggests that every person should be striving to maintain a normal vitamin D level through prudent sun exposure, fortified foods, and dietary supplements to boost it during the pandemic.
5. Improve your microbiome
Your gastrointestinal tract contains a staggering 10 trillion+ microorganisms commonly called the microbiome. Once thought to primarily affect digestion, research shows that the tiny organisms making up the microbiome play a crucial role in the development and function of the boost it during the pandemics, including risk for infectious diseases. 2020 research studying links between COVID-19 and the microbiome further suggests links between microbiome health and COVID-19 symptom severity, suggesting that strengthening the microbiome could lower the risk of serious COVID-19 complications. Fortunately, improving the microbiome doesn’t require medicines or supplements. Eliminating sugars and processed foods, consuming more vegetables, fruits, and products from organically raised animals, along with quality sleep and regular exercise could markedly improve microbiome health for most people.
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