We all focus on boosting our health to ward off cold and flu season around this time of year — and it’s even more important with ongoing pandemic. But what about all the ways we might accidentally be draining our immunity without realizing it?
After all, we don’t want to cancel out the healthy benefits we’re hoping to get from things like taking extra vitamins. With that in mind, Rand McClain, DO and Chief Medical Officer of Live Cell Research Health, shared some of the biggest immune-sapping culprits that we should all make sure to avoid.
You might think focusing on fitness will give your body the edge it needs to overcome any ailment, but Dr. McClain says that can backfire. “A lot of people have really gotten into fitness during COVID, which is great since we know that obesity puts you at higher risk for complications with this particular virus and creates other health problems in general,” he explains. “But there can be too much of a good thing. Overtraining weakens, not strengthens, the immune system.”
A recent study from the UK backs this up and recommends regular, moderate intensity aerobic exercise is a great way to help your body ward off any viruses. They suggest activities things like walking, running, or cycling, for about 30 minutes a day. And, of course, maintaining social distancing.
On the other hand, McClain warns against getting carried away with snacks. “People have been preparing more meals at home, which can be healthier than eating out, but spending more time at home can also lead to non-stop snacking throughout the day because you have easy access to the pantry and fridge.” We understand the appeal of comfort food, especially now, but it’s a good idea to stock up on plenty of healthy snacks to reach for instead.
McClain adds that it’s not just excess flab that can cause problems. “Even being a muscular and lean ‘overweight’ can increase one’s risk of complications from COVID-19 as that ‘extra’ weight creates a metabolic demand and can overwhelm an otherwise healthy immune system.” Another reason not to over-do it while working out!
We all know sleep is an essential part of our overall health, but McClain highlights a few reasons to make sure we’re getting our shut-eye right now.
“[Not getting enough sleep] can significantly reduce your sensitivity to insulin and, because you simply feel tired, it can cause you to eat unhealthy foods and consume more sugar and caffeine to try and energize yourself throughout the day,” he explains. Lack of sleep can also cause chronic inflammation that McClain says is like a “immune system traffic jam.”
If you need some help hitting snooze, try a soothing banana tea (which is tastier than it sounds!), some expert tips to stop late-night scrolling, or even consider a “sleep divorce” with a separate bed from your spouse.
And be sure to keep these immune-sappers in mind even after the pandemic and cold and flu season have passed to keep yourself healthy all year round!