Strengthening your immune defenses is one of the top strategies for preventing, fighting, and mitigating the severity of viral infections like COVID-19, according to a recent paper from the Institute for Functional Medicine’s COVID-19 Task Force.
A systems-oriented, science-based approach, functional medicine considers a patient’s biochemistry, physiology, genetics, and environmental exposures in seeking the causes of medical conditions, rather than merely treating symptoms.
The task force offers several recommendations for warding off many chronic diseases. “Lifestyle is a factor in many chronic diseases, so several of these modalities could be used across different symptoms and conditions,” explains coauthor Deanna Minich, PhD.
These are the lifestyle factors they address, plus key actions they recommend:
Food and nutrition are key to your health and well-being. Food-derived nutrients can reduce viral infection and severity by balancing inflammatory pathways, reducing oxidative stress, increasing antioxidant levels, and harmonizing the gut microbiome.
Stress management can help regulate your immunity, making you less susceptible to illness.
Sleep is when our bodies repair themselves, so it’s essential for immune function and maintenance, overcoming inflammation, and aiding recovery from illness.
Exercise supports immunity by raising levels of infection-fighting white blood cells, increasing circulation, and lowering stress hormones. Physical activity provides the movement the body needs to circulate blood and nutrients, and eliminate cellular waste. And blood vessels play a key role in aiding the lymphatic system’s transport of immune factors.
Social connection is a significant determinant of immune health: Isolation, loneliness, bereavement, or conflict can lead to inflammation and reduced immune functionality.
For the full IFM report, see “The Functional Medicine Approach to COVID-19: Nutrition and Lifestyle Practices for Strengthening Host Defense”.
This originally appeared as “Boosting Immunity” in the December 2020 print issue of Experience Life.