During a pandemic, we need a healthy immune system more than ever. A healthy immune system defends our body against disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Lately, the world has been focusing on certain measures to decrease our exposure to COVID-19—wearing masks, washing hands and distancing—but why not focus on helping our immune system work its best to decrease our risk of becoming sick or even dying from COVID-19?
The following 21-day challenge from Tereza Hubkova, MD, ABIHM, ABIM, Integrative Medicine Physician at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, is designed to get your immune system in better working order by addressing the key habits that influence your immune health. Each day will focus on a single topic or habit to help you achieve better health. Notes from Dr. Hubkova provide guidance, insight and tips to help you stay on track with your goals.
By following the 21-day immunity challenge and sticking to its principles long-term, you will not only improve your chance of making it safely through this pandemic, but also lower your risk of diabetes, heart attack, cancer and many other diseases! Each week of the challenge begins on Monday and ends on Sunday, but you can begin the challenge at any time. Use the hashtag #MHKCChallenge and tag @AdventHealthKC on Instagram and Twitter to share your experience. A lifetime of better health starts today!
Week 1: Nutrition
Our immune system needs certain nutrients to function well, which is why nutrition plays an important role in our overall immune health. This week’s challenges are designed to get you thinking more about the foods you eat and help you begin a new habit of eating for wellness. Watch the video below to learn more about the week ahead, or feel free to dive right into the first challenge!
The Dirty Dozen
The Clean 15
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Honeydew Melon
In a study of women with breast cancer, a 13-hour overnight fast lowered the risk of cancer recurrence by as much as 35%, a number that is comparable to some of the cancer prophylactic medications, but without their side effects. When we fast, our insulin levels are very low, creating an anti-inflammatory environment.
Week 2: Stress Management
Stress affects our immune system in a major way. Chronic stress leads to measurably higher levels of inflammation, can increase our risk of autoimmune disease and weakens our response to infection as well as vaccines. This week’s challenges are designed to help you manage stress in your daily life, giving you more tools to cope with stress in a healthy way and making you less likely to feel out of control when stressful situations arise.
Watch the video below to learn more about the role of stress management in immune health, or skip ahead to the first challenge!
Week 3: Sleep
As adults, getting 7–8 hours of good quality sleep each night can be a challenge, but prioritizing sleep in our lives is a key component of maintaining a healthy immune system. Lack of sleep increases our susceptibility to infections and even makes us less likely to respond to a vaccine. This week is all about prioritizing sleep, so get ready to rest up! Watch the video below to learn more about how the quality of our sleep affects our immune health, or skip ahead to view the first challenge.
Whether or not you were able to complete each challenge, you’ve been thinking about your immune health for 21 days, and that deserves a pat on the back! Immune health is an ongoing challenge in our lives and simply educating yourself on healthy habits to boost your immunity is the first step in achieving a lifetime of wellness. From here, I challenge you to continue the healthy habits you’ve begun these last three weeks—continue to be mindful of how your nutrition is impacting your body’s ability to fight infection, continue practicing self-care to reduce your stress levels and continue making healthy sleep a priority in your life.
Dr. Hubkova and her team at AdventHealth South Overland Park offer individual consultations as well as lectures and group visits on building a resilient immune system, losing weight, improving sleep and gut health and other topics pertinent to improving our chances of staying well. Laboratory assessment of your nutritional status, metabolic health and microbiome diversity is also available on demand. To schedule an appointment, call (913) 632-3550.