Priming your immune system for the vaccine may significantly improve the likelihood that the vaccine will have the desired effect, helping your body prepare to fight the Sars-CoV-2 virus should you become infected.
Experts agree the vaccine should not be considered a silver bullet. To be effective, vaccines should be used in addition to advice and education regarding diet, exercise and stress management.
Immunity is complex and multi-factorial; vaccines have an essential role to play but should be part of a broader pro-active public health strategy.
Here are some ways you can help prime your immune system, which will not only naturally boost your innate immunity but may also make you more responsive to a Covid-19 vaccine should receive it.
Ensure you are getting enough quality sleep, at least 7-8 hours per night. To improve your sleep, it is recommended that you:
- Don't exercise within at least three hours of going to bed.
- Avoid caffeine found in coffee, tea and many soft drinks after 3 pm, and of course, stay away from Red Bull or other energy drinks.
- Use blue light filters when it gets dark, either screen filters or glasses when watching TV.
- Avoid using smartphones or tablets before bedtime, no email!
- Moderate alcohol.
Try to move as much as you can, frequently moving at a slow pace, sprinting and doing some strengthing exercises. You can achieve this by:
- Spending less time sitting, get up and move, stand or crouch. Get up from sitting and move about for at least 2-3 minute every hour, ten minutes every two hours and for half an hour at least, at lunchtime, ideally outdoors.
- Doing longer duration exercise sessions, 2-5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, for example, walking or cycling each week. Your heart rate should not exceed 180 beats per minute less your age, so as not to overstress your immune and nervous systems.
- Lifting heaving things from time to time can include your body weight, such as doing PhysioPilates, using resistance bands or weights in the gym (when accessible) etc. Do so with care, check with your physiotherapist first.
- Sprint sessions, once every 7-10 days when you feel energised, for example running, a vigorous cycling session or few fast laps in the pool (when accessible). Take a break and repeat 5-10 times.
Improve your metabolic health by:
- Avoid too many sugary foods and treats. Sugar breaks down to glucose which causes your blood insulin to spike. As well as promoting weight gain, elevated blood insulin promotes systemic inflammation and suppresses immune function.
- Avoid seed oils, all types, including rapeseed and sunflower oils. Seed oils are very unstable and break down quickly when used in cooking; the result is the release of cell-damaging free radicals and the formation of unhealthy trans-fats, both of which promote inflammation and compromise immune function.
- Avoid processed foods; these cause most of the detrimental effects of the western diet. Processed foods are full of hidden sugars, additives and preservatives.
- Avoid highly processed grains, e.g. white bread pans, baking etc. if possible, especially if you sensitive to gluten.
- Eat real food, mainly plants, not too much.
Try to get better and managing the effects of stress by:
- Yoga, PhysioPilates, meditation or mindfulness can all reduce the feelings associated with stress such as anxiety and calming the nervous system and improving immune function.
- You may find it helpful to change how you think about stressful situations to moderate the emotional and physical impact, suppressing immune function over time. Please ask for help from a mental health professional if needed.
- Try stop multitasking, focus on doing one thing at a time, and give it your full attention, you will be more productive, get more done, make fewer mistakes, and find the tasks less stressful.
- Get outside into green space, safely and whenever you can. Daylight exposure, especially when the sun is out, has many benefits, including reducing feelings of stress and worry.
- Get a dog! They eat well, need to be walked and love to play.
In summary, lifestyle factors have a significant role in overall immune health and improve vaccine programmes' effectiveness. A proactive approach can result if rapid changes, within a few weeks, thereby increasing the chances of a positive response for those who receive the Covid-19 vaccines.
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