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Returning to in-person school and life: How to boost your immune system

February 15, 2021 | Wellness | Healthy You

Various spices and vegetables in individual bowls prepared for a recipe

Read how to boost immunity to become healthier and lessen the impact of the new coronavirus.

As cases of COVID-19 drop and vaccines are slowing being administered, more students and teachers are returning to in-person learning at school and more businesses are reopening. That said, it’s still critical to protect yourself from the virus. 

Data shows that less than 10% of COVID-19 cases in the United States are in children 5-17 years old. And when compared to adults, have less severe symptoms or none at all (asymptomatic). However, both children and adults can be infectious with the virus and not know it, thus unknowingly spread it to others. 

But, here’s the good news: In addition to wearing a mask, washing your hands and social distancing, you can take steps to protect and improve your immune system. By making healthy food choices, your body’s immune system strengthens and can better fight disease. And maintaining a healthy weight and reducing inflammation can give you a better chance to recover more quickly.

Foods to boost immunity

Tapping into the principles of functional medicine and food as medicine is a great start to protecting and improving your immune system. Functional medicine is the science of focusing on the optimal functioning of the body and its organs.

You can increase your odds of recovering from chronic disease by eating well, getting regular exercise and leaning into an overall healthy lifestyle. Practicing or talking about these steps with your kids will also help them develop immunity-boosting habits. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to consult your doctor or your child’s pediatrician first. 

Here are some tips to help boost your immune function:

  • Avoid eating processed foods.
  • Drastically reduce—or eliminate—the sugar and starch in your diet.
  • Choose plant-based, whole foods.
  • Eat enough protein—about half your body weight in grams of protein each day.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • If you smoke, quit.

Specifically, you should focus on flavonoids with anti-viral properties:

  • Catechins and epicatechin gallate (green tea).
  • Hesperidin (citrus fruits).
  • Kaempferol (spinach, cabbage, dill).
  • Lauric acid (unrefined virgin coconut oil).
  • Oleuropein (olives and extra virgin olive oil).
  • Quercetin (dill, onion, oregano, chili pepper, apples, leafy greens, broccoli).

Try to add the following anti-viral and immune-boosting herbs and spices to the meals you prepare for yourself and your family:

  • Chili pepper, oregano, rosemary, or turmeric.
  • Fresh garlic and ginger.

Ensuring your microbiome (gut bacteria) is healthy and in balance is crucial for decreasing inflammation in the body, which is connected to obesity and most chronic diseases. Up to 60% of our immune system comes from gut health. These prebiotic and probiotic foods can help boost your immunity:

  • Apples, bananas, burdock root, jicama root, Jerusalem artichokes, Konjac root.
  • Dandelion greens, flaxseed.
  • Kefir.
  • Kimchi.
  • Miso.
  • Seaweed.
  • Tempeh.

Whole-person approach to boost immunity

There are several other ways to boost your immunity – and overall health. These include:

  • Get outside—take a walk and avoid populated areas.
  • Get regular mild to moderate exercise—30 to 45 minutes, five times a week.
  • Start your own home garden.
  • Practice meditation and yoga to reduce stress.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Stay connected with loved ones via technology.
  • Take vitamins to boost immunity, including a daily multivitamin, vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc (20 mg per day), quercetin ascorbate (1/4 teaspoon, twice per day).