Keep your immune system strong with 5 easy tips from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

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Did you know one serving of tomatoes provides a good source of vitamin A, C, K and potassium? Eating healthy is one way to boost your immune system. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

In the past, its been easy to slip up on your shots, vitamins and generally stay healthy. What’s a little cold? During the pandemic, we have to remain vigilant in keeping our immune systems strong. Dr. Anne Schmidt, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s senior medical director, gave us a refresher course on what we should be doing to boost our immune systems.

1. Manage stress

yoga, boost immune system BlueCross
Whether you decide to take a socially-distant class or look up a video on Youtube, a gentle yoga class does wonders for relieving stress. Photo via Hannah Williams for Bham Now

Easier said than done, right? The past year caused our stress levels to skyrocket, which negatively impacts our physical health.

“Keeping your immune system strong goes back to the basics—a lot of it comes down to your lifestyle. Are you eating healthy foods? Are you managing your stress?”

Dr. Schmidt, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Journaling, deep breathing, meditation, exercise, and eating right all play a role in keeping stress levels down and immune systems strong.

Take a look at some helpful resources to managing stress in Birmingham:

2. Hit that snooze button + turn off your phone to boost your immune system

man lying on bed beside short-coated black dog
While dogs and cats may need 16 hours of sleep a day, 7-9 for adults work fine. Photo via Unsplash

Sleep and stress go hand in hand. You’d be surprised what five hours compared to seven hours can do for your health.

“For adults, the recommendation is 7-9 hours a night. Sleeping more than 9 hours a night is associated with being less healthy.”

Dr. Schmidt, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Additionally, we all know blue light from our phone and computer screens leads to fatigue—especially with doomscrolling adding stress to the process. As tempting as it is to reach for that phone for a late-night scroll, it’s best to keep it on the bedside table.

Dr. Schmidt recommends creating a nighttime routine for yourself. Yes, like when you were a kid. But, remember how well it worked?

Plan a time each night to set that phone on ‘do not disturb,’ pick up your place in a book or magazine and drift into a peaceful sleep.

3. Eat your perimeter and walk it too

boost immune system BlueCross
Kale is full of nutrition, including vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

Healthy eating and exercise—we hear it over and over for a reason. Getting all your vitamins from the food you eat, such as magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A and C, boosts that immune system to help fight off nasty viruses.

“Heavy hitters are going to typically be dark leafy vegetables and anything that’s whole and unprocessed. A good tip is to fill your cart up around the perimeter of the grocery store.”

Dr. Schmidt, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Make sure to carve in about 20 minutes a day for some moderate exercise too. Dr. Schmidt points out that your immune and circulatory systems are integrated, so it’s necessary to keep your blood moving.

We highlighted several ways to stay active and safe from COVID-19 in Birmingham. But with busy schedules, it can be difficult to make time for exercise. Even getting up from your desk and doing a couple of squats or lunges throughout the day helps reach that 20-minute a day goal.

4. Supplements are an alternative when you can’t get vitamins from food

yellow medication pill on persons hand, boost immune system BlueCross, boost your immune system
It doesn’t hurt to take a multi-vitamin to ensure you’re getting everything you need. Photo via Unsplash

It’s best to try to get all those vitamins from the foods you eat. Even if you eat a healthy diet, you may be falling short of taking all the vitamins needed to boost your immune system.

If all your veggies don’t make it off the plate, Dr. Schmidt says taking a multivitamin is a good alternative to ensure you’re getting the necessary vitamins that help fuel your body.

However, don’t believe everything supplements claim to provide on the packaging. The best thing you can do for your immune system is to practice the lifestyle habits above.

5. Don’t skip your vaccines

boost your immune system BlueCross
Kierstin Kennedy, M.D., is UAB’s Chief of Hospital Medicine giving a vaccine shot. Photo via UAB Medicine’s Facebook

OK, so we’ve done everything we can to make sure our immune system stays strong. But, it only goes so far. Making sure you receive your vaccines is integral to staying in tip-top shape.

“Vaccines are one example of an outside way to boost your own immune system.”

Dr. Schmidt, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

If you’re eligible and able, Dr. Schmidt recommends taking the COVID-19 vaccine. But that’s not the only one to keep on your radar. Your flu shot and pneumonia vaccine are just as critical.

Also, it’s critical your child is receiving all their necessary vaccines. Due to the pandemic, kids are probably going to the doctor less often. So, make sure you have that appointment set for yourself and your children!

For more information about how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama can help boost your immune system, visit AlabamaBlue.com. Or, follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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