Immunity + Inflammation

Social distancing and wearing a mask any time we leave our homes have become the norm.

Washing our hands, though a common sense thing to do already, in my opinion, after touching high traffic areas like a doorknob in a restroom, is something we are now being reminded to do via signage posted in many public places.

But where do we draw the line?  Must we really even consider such practices as disinfecting our bottles of olive oil and jar of almond butter we purchased at the market?

It’s certainly not my place to make recommendations on the degree of disinfecting we choose to do; that’s something each person may decide on based on their own situations.

However, there are two things I’m compelled, on the other hand, to speak openly about as it pertains to my work as a nutritionist: immunity, which should be boosted, and inflammation, which should be suppressed, as succinctly put in a recent article in the NY Times. (1)

We’ve heard time and time again that it is the ‘older’ population most at risk for being more vulnerable to the disease; research is showing that this may be due at least in part to two natural processes that occur with aging, immune defenses declining and inflammation in tissues throughout the body increasing.

And while we clearly can’t do anything to slow down the passing of time, there’s much we can do to slow down inflammation, thanks to the lifestyle choices we make.

Exposure to irritants, such as industrial chemicals or polluted air and water, smoking, lack of sleep and exercise and not having a practice in place to manage stressors that are a part of all our lives can also contribute to increasing inflammation.

In addition, less than healthy choices resulting in becoming overweight can increase risk of developing COVID if exposed, as excess fat tissue also increases inflammation, rendering overweight people more vulnerable to a Covid infection.

And now the good news; there is a lot we can do in order to boost our immune systems and reduce our chances of becoming ill:

  • Regular exercise can improve your sleep, which can suppress inflammation and keep your immune system from having to work overtime (2).
  • Eating a varied, nutrient-dense diet can counter inflammation, a benefit aided by avoiding highly processed foods and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in protective nutrients.

As far as needing to disinfect groceries?

Many people worry about the possibility of picking up the coronavirus from things like grocery store conveyor belts or cereal boxes. But every expert NPR spoke with agrees that the biggest risk when it comes to groceries is being inside the store itself with other people who may be infected (3).

All the more reason to shop at the farmer’s market!