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Self-Care Practices for Immunity

Right now, the kindest thing we can do is stay home to prevent the spread of illness. Trust us, we understand that the idea of social distancing is overwhelming and scary, which is why we suggest a few self-care practices to relieve your anxiety and show yourself love while you’re safe indoors. Use this time to self-reflect and prioritize your wellbeing, because the one thing we can control is how we treat our bodies. Remember, we’re all in this together!

Breathwork

Focusing on your breath is a great way to tackle anxiety. When you’re experiencing anxiety, your breath becomes strained and tenses the abdominal muscles that support the diaphragm, which prevents deep breathing. Practice deep breathing by inhaling through your nose and elongating your exhale through your mouth. If you find yourself unable to control your breath, find a quiet, comfortable space to sit that’s free of any distractions. Allow your controlled breath to relax your nerves and your body as a whole. Breathing mindfully, or controlled breathing, may help to calm the parasympathetic nervous system.

Controlled breathing has a positive effect on the body by:

  • Lowering cortisol levels
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving autonomic (the automatic system in our body that works behind the scene) response to physical and mental stress
  • Improving arterial blood flow

Easy Breathwork practice to try at home:

  • find a comfortable place to sit
  • close your eyes
  • place your hands on your gut
  • breathe in for 4 counts
  • hold for 7 counts
  • exhale for 8 counts
  • repeat for 1 -3 minutes

Drinking Kefir

Kefir is an ancient healing superfood from the Caucasus Mountains that has provided microbiome support for over 2,000 years. It’s a probiotic-rich drink high in protein, calcium, and vitamin D. The probiotic cultures in our kefir and vegan Plantiful may help to support your gut health and immune system. 70-80% of the cells that make up the immune system are located in the gut, so nourishing it with probiotics may help keep it balanced and ready to fight off infection. The gut plays an integral role in protecting you against pathogens and viruses. Just as your skin protects you against foreign invaders on the outside, your gut lining protects you on the inside.

90% of serotonin, a hormone that affects mood, is produced by the cells in the gut. An unbalanced gut can trigger anxiety, depression, and mood swings, which can weaken your immune system. Research has shown that probiotic-rich foods decrease anxiety and boost mood. That makes kefir a great wellbeing tool because it contains 12 live and active probiotic cultures that aid in balancing your gut.

Meditation

With all your sudden free time, use this as a perfect opportunity to start the practice of meditation that you’ve been wanting to try. Clearing your mind of the chaos and focusing on your breath will help relieve stress. Taking time for yourself through meditation not only will ease your mind, but may boost your immune system at the same time.

In reviewing the research, authors found that mindfulness meditation:

  • Reduced markers of inflammation, high levels of which are often correlated with decreased immune functioning and disease.
  • Increased number of CD-4 cells, which are the immune system’s helper cells that are involved in sending signals to other cells telling them to destroy infections.
  • Increased telomerase activity; telomerase help promote the stability of chromosomes and prevent their deterioration (telomerase deterioration leads to cancer and premature aging).

The human body is made up of trillions of microorganisms, most of which reside in the gut, also known as the gut microbiota, which are key players in the development and maintenance of the immune system. They are the bacteria in the body that help to distinguish between helpful and harmful microbes. Studies have shown that stress tips our microbial balance, putting us at risk for dysbiosis, which is a shift away from “normal” gut microbiota diversity, stripping us of one of our prime defenses against infectious disease, not to mention the cascade of reactions that ensue, which potentially wreak havoc on the central nervous system (CNS). Mindfulness-based stress reduction impacts our immune system by helping to maintain healthy gut microbiota diversity that is often upset by stress.

Meditation can also reduce the incidence of infectious ailments by de-stressing the body and mind. Ample research has shown that just 20 minutes of meditation a day increases endorphins, decreases cortisol levels, and fosters positive states of mind to promote better health.

Yoga

If you’re starting to feel restless and yearning to stretch and move around, try a yoga flow. Yoga is a great way to boost your immune system because it may lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system. It’s an activity that requires balance, focused breathing, and serves as an excellent distraction during these uncertain times. Plus, there are plenty of apps and youtube videos that have yoga flows for yogis of all different levels. 

While yoga is a perfect distraction, it’s also a great way to strengthen immunity. Yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.

Researchers found an overall pattern that yoga reduces pro-inflammatory markers, with the strongest evidence for the reduction of a cytokine called IL-1beta. Yoga resists the autonomic changes and impairment of cellular immunity seen in examination stress. In other words, yoga helps keep you and your cells healthy even when you’re stressed. This is due to the fact that yoga reduces stress systemically in the body, which reduces inflammation overall.

Four poses that may strengthen your immune system: HERE

Cold Showers

Take a break from your work and take a refreshing cold shower. Studies show that a cold shower increases the amount of white blood cells in your body. These blood cells strengthen the immune system and may protect your body against pathogens, viruses, and diseases. 

Cold water immersion causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste out of the area. One of the benefits of cold showers is that they trigger the immune system’s white blood cells, prompting them to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid. It’s sort of a domino effect – the cold water affects the lymphatic system, which in turn affects the immune system, which ultimately keeps you feeling happy and healthy.

Cold showers activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the availability of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and endorphins, people may be less likely to experience depressive/anxious symptoms after a cold shower.

Tip: start on lukewarm water and work your way to freezing, it allows your body to adjust more easily.

Journaling

Journaling is an outlet that allows you to access a state of mindfulness by processing emotions and increasing self-awareness. The science of journaling was discovered by psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker, he found that regular journaling strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes. Researchers are continuing to understand how writing may benefit the immune system, and why some people appear to benefit more than others. Here are some journal prompts to help you get started:

  • How are you feeling emotionally?
  • Write down everything that inspires you.
  • Describe the person who means the most to you.
  • What are you grateful for?