By Dr. Janet Brill

As anxiety and fear settle over the world, take solace in knowing that there are plenty of things you CAN do to boost your immunity and help you and your family stay healthy and safe during this global pandemic. Maintaining our health over the next several months and doing what we can to prevent the spread should be our main priority. Support our health professionals any way you can as they are the ones on the front line. As we all navigate this challenge, I hope everyone remains healthy and safe and does what they can to help prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease, at least until we have developed some type of treatment and a vaccine.

Here are several tips for taking control and staying well both physically and mentally:

1. Follow the scientific recommendations – This virus is extremely contagious, so take the actions the scientists and CDC suggest to help shield yourself from the virus entering your system: Absolutely practice physical distancing from other humans (six foot rule) and if your state recommends staying home—STAY HOME; Wash your hands with warm water and soap thoroughly, numerous times a day;  if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol) can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others; Try not to touch your face; Wipe down hard surfaces with Clorox wipes as well as cardboard boxes and other delivery items; Reheat delivered food or better yet, cook healthy food in your own kitchen.

2. Get daily exercise – Moderate exercise, such as a leisurely jog or walk, has been shown to prop up your immune response against viruses. In fact, the risk of getting an infection drops significantly with “moderate” exercise by positively altering immune system t-cell response.Excessive exercise, however, decreases immunity. (Note that it’s fine to take a walk outside, if you still practice the six foot “social distancing” rule.) Also, exercising is essential for relaxing your arteries, calming your nerves and lowering your blood pressure during this very stressful time. Since stress significantly depresses your immunity—fight back and de-stress by getting in aerobic exercise and if possible, some type of meditative deep breathing exercise such as yoga.

3. Eat nutrient dense foods – Now is the time to focus on getting in the biggest nutrient bang for your bite. Many of us binge eat junk food from stress—an action that depresses your immunity. Aim for ingesting nutritious foods packed with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Citrus fruits contain large amount of vitamin C, shellfish is a rich source of zinc; beans are packed with plant protein, iron, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. Snacking is fine, just be sure those snacks are nutritious—such aspopcorn—in lieu of junk food (devoid of nutrition).

4. Vitamin D and Zinc – A deficiency in vitamin D is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection. If your vitamin D level is less than optimal, you might consider supplementation with 1,000 to 2,000 IU/day of D3. (Best food sources of D are salmon, mushrooms and fortified products.) Zinc helps increase the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and T cells. No need for supplements, the best foods for getting in a nice dose ofzinc are shellfish, meat, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds.

5. Stay socially connected  – “Social distancing” should be renamed “physical distancing.” Amid the extraordinary stress and uncertainty of the times, it has never been more critical to stay connected with one another, even as we practice physical distancing to reduce transmission. Now is the time to use social media to stay linked to friends and family so that we can all support one another during thisvery difficult period.

Cooking at home is the best and healthiest option during this global crisis. Here is an easy recipe for “Jewish penicillin,” delicious and nutritious homemade chicken soup:

IMMUNE BOOSTING CHICKEN SOUP RECIPE

Ingredients
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 celery ribs, sliced
• 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into slivers
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1-1/2 teaspoon curry
• 4 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
• 2 cups water
• 1 pound chicken breast, cut into small pieces

Directions
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot.
2. Add the onion, carrots, celery and ginger and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
3. Toss in the garlic, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the curry powder, chicken stock, and chicken and stir to combine.
5. Continue to cook until the soup begins to boil. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and let the simmer for about 20 minutes.

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