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  • Ann-Sophie Briest, MD

Boost your immune system

We are truly living in interesting times… the world is changing at great speed and humanity as a whole is confronted with a unique challenge: dealing with the direct and indirect effects of the Corona virus pandemic.

And while I find it close to impossible to comprehend the scope of the global consequences of this universal ‘lockdown’ I would like to dedicate this blog to some general, very practical recommendation to strengthen your immune system and stay healthy during these days.


Let’s get started right away:


1. A strong immune system is closely related with what is called ‘ANS balance’

(ANS = autonomic nervous system). This means that a healthy balance between the activating and regenerating parts of our nervous system is needed.

- A wonderful yogic technique which aids to balance the ANS is Nadi Shodana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing)


2. Activating exercises – some examples:

- Sun Salutations

- Breath of Joy

- Walking in the open air/nature

- Gentle movement in general


3. Restorative exercises – some examples (be generous with using props):

- Inversions like Shoulderstand or legs up the wall

- Forward bends like seated forward bend

- Prolonged relaxation like full body scans or Yoga Nidra


4. Reducing stress – allowing emotions

- High stress levels increase the long-term stress hormone cortisol which on its part weakens the immune system

- Causes of stress are manifold but certainly include emotional reactions. An internal state of fear (even if it’s adequate) for example will produce a stress reaction

- Becoming aware of our current emotional state without suppressing, avoiding or reacting easier said than done… but training ourselves to ‘allow’ emotions will hence help to strengthen the immune system


5. Sleep

- This point is straight forward. Sufficient and good quality sleep is one of the most effective ways to boost the immune system

- In order to have refreshing sleep in these challenging times some advice on simple sleep hygiene may be helpful for you:

- Make sure to leave at least 2-3 hours between your last meal and sleep. Have light dinners. Refrain from stimulants in the evening

- Avoid to be in contact with any technical device (especially smart phone, TV or computer) for at least 1 hour prior to sleep. Allowing your nervous system to slowly calm down

- Your bed is for sleeping. Try to not work, eat, watch movies in bed. If you cannot fall asleep for 30min or wake up during the night, get out of bed until you feel tired again. This helps to train your subconscious to calm down once you hit the pillow


6. Diet

- Uih, this could be a blog in itself… here are a few basics which will support your immune system greatly

- Eat fresh, seasonal and ideally regional food. The fresher, less toxic (organic is always the healthier option) the better

- Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar has a similar molecular structure to Vitamin C. If the sugar concentration is high these two are competing and Vitamin C cannot enter your immune cells

- In the northern Hemisphere we are just transiting from Winter into Spring. Those periods are always especially difficult for the body, requiring great adaptability. Adding some grounding foods from the winter like root vegetables, soups, warming spices to your diet will support your system in this transition period.

- Drinking good quality water, herbal teas and fresh vegetable juices will further support your immune system


7. Further recommendations:

- Healthy gut flora: the microbiome present in our intestine is crucial for a healthy immune system. If you have taken a lot of antibiotics in the past or used to have unhealthy eating habits it may be supportive to take probiotics for a while to restore your gut flora.

- Sun exposure: spending time outside, moving, breathing deeply and gentle sun bathing is an ideal combination to strengthen the immune system. I hope that wherever you are you do have the possibility to still go outside sometime!

- Improving circulation: showers alternating hot and cold water, body scrub, full body (self-)massage

- Certain supplements are known to support the immune system. Make sure you take in enough Vitamin C & D and Zinc through your diet or supplements

- Laughing – the best medicine in the world a real immune system booster

These are just a few recommendations for you. There are certainly much more ways in which one can strengthen the immune system...

What do you do these days to stay healthy? Please share with me your ‘magic tricks’😉. I’m excited to learn some new creative ways.

I’m happy for any feedback and input. Please send me your questions.


And while there is desperation, sickness, financial strain, fear and isolation I wish for all of us that we navigate through these exceptional times with as much trust, hope and compassion as possible!


I wish you, your family and friends the best of health!

All the best,

Ann-Sophie

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