5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System: Tips from a Functional Medicine Doctor

5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System: Tips from a Functional Medicine Doctor

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it's never been more important to support your immune system. Turns out there are super simple ways to boost your immune system that can have a big impact on your overall health and susceptibility to the virus. Dr. Elena Klimenko, M.D., a Functional Medicine Doctor in New York City, shared her 5 top tips for boosting your immune system with us. Dr. Klimenko says that by taking the steps listed below, the likelihood of getting COVID-19 (or any virus for that matter!) is significantly lower. Here are her 5 tips for boosting your immune system:

1. Get More Sleep

Your immune system works optimally when you are well rested. Make sure you get plenty of sleep at night (Dr. Klimenko recommends 7-9 hours per night), and take naps during the day whenever you are feeling tired. Sleep is so essential for immunity because at night we produce important hormones, including melatonin, which promote a healthy immune system and protect us from a variety of microbes, including viruses. To make it easier to fall asleep and improve the quality of your sleep, Dr. Klimenko suggests: (1) Avoiding screen time after 11pm, (2) Using blue light blocking glasses or screens on your devices at night; (3) Avoiding any form of caffeine after 4pm, including green tea and chocolate; and (4) Consider taking 3 mg of melatonin around 9pm.

2. Manage Stress

This is a stressful time and finding healthy ways to manage stress can really help your immune system. A few stress-reducing techniques that Dr. Klimenko recommends are moderate physical activity (at least 30 minutes, 2-4 times per week), meditation, Epsom salt baths, and taking stress-reducing supplements, such as adaptogenic herbs (like Ashwaganda or Rhodiola) or sedative herbs (such as Kava Forte or CBD). Dr. Klimenko also recommends taking breaks from social media and the news. While it is important to stay informed, focusing on post after post of quarantine updates or COVID-19 news fuels unsettling feelings. She recommends finding other ways to unwind, like watching funny movies or shows. (Now you can look at your Schitt's Creek obsession as therapeutic. You're welcome!).

3. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Hydration is essential, and not getting enough fluids can affect the body’s ability to fight infection. Dr. Klimenko said that a good indicator of adequate hydration is your rate of urination. If you're not urinating at least five times per day, you're dehydrated. Sick of plain water? Flavor a pitcher of water with cut up fruit and make it your goal to drink the entire pitcher in one day. Or try this recipe for one of Dr. Klimenko's favorite hydrating and healing drinks: Chop up a piece of peeled fresh ginger, steep it in hot water and add the juice of 1 whole lemon. Add 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric powder and 1/2 teaspoon of honey once the mixture is lukewarm. She recommends drink one cup three times per day.

4. Eat Healing Foods

A well-nourished immune system is better able to fight off infections. The number one thing Dr. Klimenko recommends is to eat your veggies, especially greens! Load up on dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits. They're packed with antioxidants, plus vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene. Dr. Klimenko also specifically recommends adding the following into your diet: Garlic, onions, apples, tomatoes, nuts, berries, parsley and celery. These vegetables and fruits have phytonutrients — like the powerful antioxidants quercetin and rutin - and other antimicrobial compounds that support your innate immune system's ability to battle microbes.

5. Supplement With Vitamins and Minerals

Giving your body key supplements is also extremely important to support your immune system. Dr. Klimenko suggests taking the following supplements for immune support:
  • Probiotics - 25-100 bln CFU/dose of a professional grade broad-spectrum probiotic.
  • Zinc - 10 to 30 mg per day (Note: Zinc can cause nausea, so take it with food.). If you can't get your hands on the supplement or would prefer to whole foods, food sources that are rich in zinc are: Oysters, ground beef, alaskan king crab, cooked lobster, pumpkin seeds.
  • Vitamin D - 2,000-5,000 IUs per day, but ideally you should have your level checked and keep the blood level between 50-80 ng/mL. Check this study on how Vitamin D deficiency was found in over 80% of COVID-19 patients.
  • Vitamin A - 5,000 IUS per day.
  • Echinacea - 1 tab twice a day (Dr. Klimenko recommends Echinacea Premium made by the brand Standard Process).
  • Homeopathic Silver and Homeopathic Oscillococcinum - 1 dose once per week (on Sunday), every week for the duration of the flu season.
  • Ivermectin - A new medication that is becoming more and more popular in prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Ask your doctor how it can help you, or call Dr. Klimenko's office to obtain more information.
Dr. Klimenko's office stocks high-quality supplements that can be ordered and shipped to your door. Visit her website for more information or contact her office directly at 212-696-4325 to place an order.

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