Whether it’s wiping down our cart at the grocery store, washing one’s hands properly for at least 20 seconds, or staying home when at all possible, we are all adjusting to a new normal to limit our exposure to COVID-19.

Now is also a good time to pay attention to our immune system, which can influence how our body responds if we are exposed to disease. And it’s profoundly impacted by our daily habits. 

“Little things can make a difference,” said Barbara Demmig-Adams, professor of distinction in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and co-director of the department’s Honors Program. 

Barbara Demming-Adams. (Credit: CU Boulder)

Demmig-Adams studies plant antioxidants, an essential part of our diet because the human body cannot produce many of these nutrients on its own. She also teaches an undergraduate course on lifestyle medicine, in order to translate the importance of plants to our human lives and make her research relevant to students. 

Through her own research and teaching, Demmig-Adams has found that the strength of the human immune system is diminished by many aspects of modern life. We sit too much, eat an energy-rich diet deficient in micronutrients, and deal with chronic psychological stress and insufficient sleep. 

But there are actions a person can take to improve their immune health, she said. Limiting and managing stress and getting more restful sleep can not only boost immunity, but simultaneously help fight anxiety, depression and a host of other diseases and disorders.

These steps, along with a balanced diet, also support the human microbiome, the beneficial microbes that line our outer and inner surfaces. These microbes not only provide the first line of defense against infectious invaders, but also produce essential cues required to guide our own immune system in fighting infections, said Demmig-Adams.

She shared her top tips with CU Boulder Today for supporting one’s immune health during the COVID-19 epidemic, and…

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