In the midst of our current global pandemic, many people across the world are taking extra precautions to stay healthy and protect their immune systems. While making sure to wash our hands frequently and sanitizing our homes can help protect us from the virus, there’s more we can do each day to strengthen our immune systems to help us stay healthy. Older adults over the age of 65 are more at risk of having compromised immune systems, which can make it difficult to fight off viruses and other illnesses.
Symptoms of a Weak Immune System
It’s not uncommon for older adults to suffer from a weak immune system without evening knowing it. In order to strengthen our immune systems, it’s important to assess your immunity and make the necessary changes to help strengthen it. Here are a few of the most common symptoms of a weak immune system:
Fatigue– When the immune system struggles to fight off infections and illnesses, your energy levels can also be affected. If you are consistently getting quality sleep and still feel fatigued everyday, your immune system might be working in overtime.
Sickness– Illness is a common human experience, but constantly feeling sick or having a cold is not normal. If you are constantly sick or have a cold that won’t go away, it could be a sign that your immune system is weak and unable to keep up with your body.
Digestive Problems– Frequent diarrhea, gas and constipation are all signs of a weakened immune system. A recent study found that nearly 70 percent of our immune system is found in our digestive tract. Healthy bacteria and microorganisms found in the gut help protect our bodies from infection. If we don’t have enough of these beneficial bacteria, we are more at risk of contracting viruses and chronic inflammation.
Frequent Infections– Immune deficiency is common in older adults and can result in ear infections, frequent bouts of pneumonia and bacterial sinus infections. If you experience these symptoms more than twice a year, you should contact your healthcare provider.
Slow Healing– When we get cuts or minor scrapes, our bodies develop scabs, or dead blood cells gathered together, to help stop blood forming. If your scabs take a long time to heal, it could be a sign of a weakened immune system.
Ways to Strengthen Immunity
Boosting your immune system can seem like an impossible task. However, there are so many different ways to strengthen your immune system without much change to your daily life. Here are a few simple ways you can build your immunity.
Adding fruits and vegetables into your diet is a simple way to boost your immunity. These nutrients can help reduce the recovery time of colds and help fight against infection and illness. Healthline magazine published a list of nutritious foods that can help build your immunity.
• Broccoli– This vegetable is packed with vitamins A, C and E and is rich in fiber. Its antioxidants help your body flush out toxins, keep your immune system strong and ensure its ability to fight off illnesses.
• Citrus– Fruits like grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and clementine’s are high in Vitamin C, which helps increase the production of white blood cells. White bloods cells are essential in fighting infection.
• Ginger– This ingredient helps decrease inflammation, which can soothe sore throats and other illnesses. Ginger is also known to help decrease chronic pain.
• Garlic– This popular spice helps lower blood pressure and helps boost immunity because of its powerful properties including allicin.
• Yogurt– This food is full of probiotics that help stimulate your immune system and fight off diseases.
Our bodies require lean proteins to help support immune function. Foods like turkey, chicken, lean beef, tuna and salmon help our bodies function properly, boost brain function, build muscle and keep us full.
These foods provide vitamins B and E, which keep our immune systems strong. Whole grains can be found in sunflower seeds, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and barley. When you buy breads and cereals, make sure to read the ingredients and check for whole grain.
Consistent exercise can help strengthen our cardiovascular systems, boost our immune function and strengthen our muscles. In addition, a recent study found that those who exercised at least 5 days a week were half at risk of contracting a cold than those who were mostly sedentary.
Exercise does not have to be intense or dangerous to be effective. Simple exercises like swimming, bicycling and walking are proven to be effective in boosting our immune systems and strengthening muscles. These exercises are gentle on joints, which is great for those suffering from arthritis.
Drinking water supports a majority of our body functions. It has a powerful effect on our ability to sleep, exercise, digest food and help support our energy levels. Generally speaking, adults need to drink half their weight in ounces per day. As always, check with your healthcare provider before changing your diet. Many older adults struggle with staying hydrated, however, there are many ways to ensure proper water intake. Coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, smoothies and soups all contain water and will keep you hydrated. You might also consider consuming more fruits and vegetables with higher water content.
It can be difficult to get the necessary nutrients from food alone. That’s why many people take supplements to bridge the gap. Check with your healthcare provider before adding these to your diet.
• Vitamin C- This vitamin is found in many fruits and vegetables and helps maintain connective tissue in our bodies including bones, blood vessels and skin.
• Vitamin D- While necessary for building and maintaining healthy bones, vitamin D can also protect us against cancer, diabetes and sclerosis.
• Zinc- A lack of zinc can make us more susceptible to disease and illnesses. Zinc helps control diabetes, stress levels and can improve metabolism.
• Elderberry- This vitamin can help alleviate allergies, protect against bacteria, help relieve colds and lower blood sugar.
Simple Recipes from Our Chefs
Our Chefs at Maplewood work hard every day to entice our residents not only to eat and stay healthy, but also to try new things. We purposely use open kitchens to trigger memories and ignite the senses. It also gives our residents a great way to interact with our culinary teams by asking questions or even just watching how meals are prepared.
Chef David Simmonds provided his Booster Smoothie recipe:
• 2 oz. pomegranate juice (antioxidant/superpower)
• 4 oz. Kefir Blueberry (probiotic supports immunity, healthy digestion histories artifact 2000 years)
• 4 oz. Açaí Organic (superfood omegas, antioxidants)
• 1 ml. CBD Oil (Omega 3- Fatty Acids) full spectrum
Combine Kefir, Pomegranate Juice, Açaí Juice and Hemp Oil. Stir! Enjoy!!
Chef Catie Eyklehoff provided her Roasted Garlic and Ginger Soup recipe:
• 4 scallions
• 1 large thumb fresh ginger
• 2 cloves of roasted garlic (place garlic in olive oil in oven covered with foil until golden).
• 7 cups of bone broth or vegetable broth for vegetarian
• 1 medium-heat chili pepper
1. Slice scallions, grate ginger, mince garlic and sauté in a tablespoon of olive oil from garlic for about 2 minutes.
2. Add your broth, bring the heat up and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the finely chopped pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Eat as is, like a warm broth, or add in your favorite protein and/or grain to make a full meal.
Chef Giovanni Maffei provided his Mango Pudding recipe:
• 1/2 cup (125ml) boiled hot water
• 1 packet (1 tbsp) unflavored gelatin
• 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
• 1 tsp ground turmeric
• 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
• pinch of salt
• 1 cup (250ml) coconut milk, evaporated milk, half and half (10%)
• 1 cup (250ml) mango puree
• *for the garnish some diced mango and sliced coconut
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the gelatin and boiled hot water until no lumps remain.
2. Whisk in the sugar and salt until dissolved.
3. Stir in the coconut milk or cream, then mango puree until mixture is smooth.
4. Pour into 4 ramekins or small bowls. Cover and chill for a minimum of 2 hours before serving.
Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle at Maplewood Senior Living
Our Maplewood Senior Living Communities know how important it is to stay healthy, especially during this pandemic. That’s why we’re doing our part to make sure residents are doing what they can to keep their immune systems strong and active. To learn about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, contact us here.