Whether you’re thinking about going back to work for the first time after the pandemic or simply after a break for the holiday season, keeping your immune system strong will be essential to ward off the viruses and bacteria you may come into contact with when you return to work.
Fortunately, practicing good hygiene isn’t your only defense against getting sick when you return to work. Read on for my 7 top tips to help you stay healthy.
7 Ways to Protect Your Immunity When Going Back to Work
1. Stay Hydrated
As you likely know, our bodies are comprised of almost 70% water and we need to keep our hydration levels high for all our bodily functions to work optimally. Think of it like oil in your car – if your oil runs low, your engine will start to break down. The same goes for your body. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after work to keep your body hydrated so those white blood cells can quickly be delivered to any intruders, and mucus membranes work as a great early defense against things that want to make you sick.
2. Don’t Ditch Your Exercise Regime
With less time, you may feel like you need to press pause on your exercise regime, at least until you get back into the swing of things. However, try to get as much activity in as you can. Physical activity helps stimulate anti-inflammatory markers in the body, reduces stress hormones (which can be running high before or after work), and improves heart health, all of which contribute to a stronger immune system.
3. Eat Plenty of Protein
Protein is full of amino acids, and amino acids activate natural killer cells that help defend the body against bacteria. Making sure you have protein in each meal of the day will help, but if you struggle to get enough protein through your diet, don’t hesitate to up your intake with protein powder. A protein shake or some protein powder mixed with some yogurt makes a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Also, vegetarians and vegans have no excuses – I have both plant and whey protein powders available, so don’t scrimp on your protein! Both powders contain 20g of protein per serving, added probiotics, and 100mg of L-Glutamine.
4. Get Your Fruit & Veggies In
While we’re on the topic of what you’re eating, make sure you get plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. These foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which help your immune system stay strong. You really can’t go wrong here – any fresh fruit and vegetables you can get into your diet will help fortify your immunity. However, if you want some inspiration for what to add to your meals, consider adding bell peppers, garlic, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli to your meals, and eat a handful of berries after.
5. Supplement Your Diet
While it’s best to source as much of your vitamin and mineral intake through fresh foods, it’s often a good idea to supplement your diet to ensure you’re covering all your bases, especially if you don’t always have time to cook something from scratch. Vitamin C is especially important for your immunity, but I recommend taking a multivitamin so you don’t have any deficiencies. My Immunity Multi contains 26 vitamins and minerals, which is 17 more than your recommended daily needs.
6. Manage Stress
Every job can be stressful, and some are reliably so. While stress in our lives and careers is unavoidable, we need to manage this stress as best we can to protect our immune systems. When we’re stressed our bodies go into high alert and their ability to fight antigens is hampered. To avoid this, try to manage your stress levels. Here are a few things you can do to manage stress:
- Mute email alerts when you’re not at work, and stop checking your email
- Get regular exercise in a way you enjoy
- Eat quality food
- Spend your downtime in ways you find relaxing, whether that be spending time with friends and family, reading, watching TV, or doing a hobby
- Get enough sleep
- Practice self-love by putting yourself first in your life (don’t always say yes to things and speak up when you’re unhappy about something)
7. Get Plenty of Sleep
As we touched on above, getting plenty of sleep is essential to managing stress levels and giving your body sufficient downtime so it can repair and rebuild. Many people feel like they’ve got so much less time when they return to work that they need to take back their time wherever they can, and often do so by cutting back on sleep. Try to avoid doing this and get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
Whether you’re itching to get back to work or dreading it, it’s important to prioritize your health. If you follow these 7 ways to protect your immune system when you return to work, you’ll maintain your good health and keep feeling your best.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease.