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COVID-19 and Cancer: Let’s Get Back to the Basics of Immune Health

June 16, 2020

Our world has changed in the months since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and some parts of our lives require more focus now than ever before – particularly our immune health. If you’re a cancer patient, you know the importance of building your immune system. For example, you may have practiced social distancing before the pandemic, but there wasn’t yet a universal name for isolating yourself when your white blood counts are low.

Just like a company has different specialized departments … our body has a ‘department’ that monitors and destroys invaders. This is the immune system.”

The human body has many ways of protecting itself, most of which are done completely without our knowledge, as long as we provide the tools it needs. Just like a company has different specialized departments like accounting, human resources, and security, our body has a “department” that monitors and destroys invaders. This is the immune system. A successful, thriving business runs seamlessly when it has all the supplies that it needs for everyone to do their job well. If something is missing, staff have to borrow from another area or do the job less skillfully – or maybe not at all.

During COVID-19 and beyond, there are small steps you can take to restore your immune system.

Steer Clear of Germs

Why waste energy on fighting invaders when there are small steps you can take to help keep your immunity strong? Wash your hands frequently, disinfect surfaces, and avoid being around anyone who is sick to prevent bacteria and viruses from reaching your immune system.

Eat Well

Diets high in refined sugar, processed foods, and high-fat fried foods can suppress the immune system for hours, resulting in a constant state of low-level inflammation and diverting the immune system’s attention from fighting off infections. When an invader shows up and your defenses are down, your immune cells cannot react properly. On the other hand, healthy, nutrient-dense foods like colorful fruits and vegetables contain powerful nutrients and antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Go for a Walk

Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to boost immune health. Light to moderate movement, such as talking a walk, can activate the body’s anti-tumor immune response. Light exercise also helps with mood, depression, and fatigue.

Take Vitamins

Vitamins are critical to helping our bodies run smoothly. During times of stress or illnesses, such as cancer, daily vitamin requirements increase. Daily multivitamins, vitamins C and D3, and zinc can help boost immune response in a multitude of ways, including shortening the duration of viral infections. Talk to your physician about the right combination and dosage of vitamins for you.

Lower Your Stress

Those who experience high levels of stress are prone to higher levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol activates the “fight or flight” response that comes naturally in humans. This consequently diverts energy away from our immune system and lessens our ability to fight infections. Find a way to manage stress in a way that is right for you, such as meditation, yoga, walks in nature, laughing with loved ones, or playing with a pet.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep restores all parts of the body, the brain, internal organs, muscles, and, of course, the immune system. Not getting enough sleep has the opposite effect – it weakens the immune system. The recommended eight hours of sleep per night is important for everyone, but particularly those with compromised immune systems like cancer patients.

Whether you’re a patient currently in treatment, a cancer survivor, or you love someone with cancer, getting back to the basics of immune health is an important step to a strong immune system – no prescription required.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.