4 Ways to Boost Your Immunity While Waiting for a COVID-19 Vaccine

The government is finalizing its rollout plans for the COVID-19 vaccine, but unless you’re a health worker fighting the pandemic on the front lines or in the high-risk category, you might be waiting a while to get it. In the meantime, here are five things you can do to boost your immunity and increase your chances of staying healthy.

1) Get More Zzzs

When it comes to immune function, it’s arguable that nothing is more important than consistently getting adequate premium sleep. Combining a sufficient number of nightly hours with high sleep quality is a surefire way to ensure that your body is primed to combat viruses, infections, and diseases, whereas failing to check either of these boxes puts your immune system at a disadvantage, no matter how well you’re doing in other areas of your life, like training, hydration, and nutrition.

Until recently, it wasn’t understood exactly how sleep was related to immunity. But in 2019, a research team from the University of Tübingen in Germany zeroed in on a particular component of immune function and discovered that getting a good night’s sleep upregulates the activation of integrins, a specialized type of protein that enables T cells to bind to and neutralize pathogens.[1]

In a previous study, some of the same researchers discovered that getting a good sleep after a hepatitis A vaccination helped participants improve their immunological memory. In other words, how well your body is able to remember certain infections and respond to them accordingly. The takeaway? Get to bed early any time you get vaccinated.[2] If you struggle to sleep well consistently, take one capsule of Momentous Elite Sleep – which combines research-backed Magtein®, wild jujube seeds, and melatonin – before turning in for the night.

2) Mind Your Micronutrients

We recently explored how increasing your intake of high-quality protein can help bolster your immune system. As vital as it is to get enough of this macronutrient, you should also make sure that your vitamin and mineral intake is where it needs to be to support immunity. A study released via the Journal of Clinical Medicineasserted that you need adequate vitamin A for your mucous membranes to function properly and for your immune system to perform optimally at a cellular level.[3] Good food sources include carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

A 2017 paper published in Nutrientsnoted that vitamin C plays a key role in both innate and adaptive immunity, and the authors stated that “Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections.”[4] You can up your vitamin C intake by eating citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and lemons.

Professor Martin Hewison from the University of Birmingham in the UK has also found that vitamin D is instrumental in keeping your immunity high. According to Hewison, it regulates the function of infection-fighting T cells, promotes antimicrobial responses to pathogens, and enables the chemical reactions that help your body identify and neutralize new threats.[5] Sunlight exposure is the easiest way to keep your vitamin D levels high, but if you live somewhere that lacks winter sunshine, try taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily.

3) Keep Your Stress Level at Bay

Nobody can completely eliminate stress as problems are an unavoidable part of life. Sometimes stressors can even be desirable to motivate you to push harder at work or in school or, in the case of exercise, to stimulate physical adaptations. But if you become chronically stressed, it can trigger a whole cascade of calamities, including sleep problems (which will compound the issue), decreased performance, and an inflamed state in which disease flourishes.

A landmark experiment conducted by Sheldon Cohen and two colleagues exposed two groups to the common cold, the first who were high-stress and the second who were calm. Publishing his findings in The New England Journal of Medicine, Cohen revealed that the participants who were less stressed were far less likely to catch a cold, demonstrating the strong link between mental stress and immune response.[6]

To make sure you don’t predispose yourself to stress-related sickness, start including at least one calming practice in your daily routine. This could be journaling in the morning, taking a nice warm bath in the evening, or doing five to 10 minutes of slow nasal breathing before bed.

4) Prioritize Your Daily Workout

There continues to be a lot of chatter in the human performance community about the perils of overtraining and under-recovering. If someone digs themselves into a physiological hole, it can lead to hormone disruption, mood instability, and, for the purposes of this article, a compromised immune system.

Yet if you’re like the vast majority of people, you aren’t logging triple digit weekly mileage or overdoing high intensity strength training sessions to the degree that it will torpedo your health. And in fact, a well-balanced exercise program can actually help bolster your immune defenses. Scientists from the Federal University of Fronteira Sul in Brazil wrote that, “The practice of physical activities strengthens the immune system,” and went on to explain that “moderate-intensity physical exercises stimulate cellular immunity” and also increases the activity and concentration of cytokines, leukocytes, and natural killer (NK) cells.[7]

They concluded that to gain the maximum immune-boosting benefit, most of your workouts should be at a medium level of intensity (say between four and seven on a scale of zero to 10). Like to go hard sometimes on your bike or in the weight room? Then cut back your overall training volume so you don’t overstress your body and suppress your immune response. 

[1] Stoyan Dimitrov et al, “Gαs-coupled Receptor Signaling and Sleep Regulate Integrin Activation of Human Antigen-Specific T Cells,” Journal of Experimental Medicine, February 12, 2019, available online at https://rupress.org/jem/article/216/3/517/120367/G-s-coupled-receptor-signaling-and-sleep-regulate.

[2] Tanya Lange et al, “Sleep After Vaccination Boosts Immunological Memory,” Journal of Immunology, June 1, 2011, available online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21632713/.

[3] Zhiyi Huang et al, “Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System,” Journal of Clinical Medicine, September 2018, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/.

[4] Anitra C. Carr and Silvia Maggini “Vitamin C and Immune Function,” Nutrients, November 2017, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/.

[5] Martin Hewison, “Vitamin D and Immune Function: An Overview,” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, August 18, 2011, available online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21849106/.

[6] Sheldon Cohen, David A.J. Tyrrell, and Andrew P. Smith, “Psychological Stress and Susceptibility to the Common Cold,” The New England Journal of Medicine, August 29,1991, available online at https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199108293250903.

[7] Matheus Pelinski da Silveira et al, “Physical Exercise As a Tool to Help the Immune System Against COVID-19: An Integrative Review of the Current Literature,” Clinical and Experimental Medicine, July 29, 2020, available online at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10238-020-00650-3.

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