Why experts say millennials should stay on top of health during pandemic

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Millennials are generally at a lower risk of being affected by severe COVID-19 symptoms than older populations. But as the World Health Organization reminded young adults in March, they are far from invincible — and not just when it comes to the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Bal Pawa, a founding physician at Westcoast Women’s Clinic in Vancouver and author of The Mind-Body Cure, says stress can be a factor for millennials who are getting sick.

“Many people don’t realize how stress impacts their immune system, and millennials are faced with several challenges: they’re worried about their parents, they’re worried about finances, they’re double-dutying trying to work from home and look after young kids,” Pawa says.

If people are in a constant state of fight-or-flight response and fear, she explains, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline get turned on, which can wreak havoc on the immune system and many other systems in the body. This increases the risk of getting sick.

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READ MORE: Feeling stressed might raise your risk of catching a cold, say doctors

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have prompted some young adults to make life changes such as moving out of cities or socializing differently, it shouldn’t be the sole reason to prioritize health, one expert says.

Dr. Seema Kanwal, a naturopath at Balance Medical Center in Vancouver, says it’s critical to take charge of your own health now. “We do something today; we don’t necessarily see the impact until sometimes one year from now, sometimes 10 years from now,” she explains.

In partnership with Enerex, we take a look at the things millennials can do both to take care of themselves during the pandemic and to promote optimal health in the future.

Make sure you’re eating enough micronutrients

Most of the immune system is in the gut, Pawa says. She stresses the importance of getting micronutrients through diet: the various amino acids, vitamins, minerals and probiotics that are important for gut health and the immune system.

Natural probiotics like kombucha, sauerkraut and yogourt can help provide the body with “good” bacteria to help fight foreign bacteria or infections, she adds.

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Drink more water

“Water, we know, transports vitamins, minerals, protein, sugar,” Kanwal says. “I actually like to use the term cellular resiliency. How can we support our cells to manage our immune system? Hydration is one of the easiest things one can do.”

To determine how much water to drink every day, Kanwal recommends dividing your weight by two. For example, if your weight is 120 pounds, then ideally, you should be drinking 60 ounces of water daily.

Choose anti-inflammatory foods

Improving the diet by eating anti-inflammatory foods, and not eating as many processed or highly refined foods, can help repair the immune system and keep it robust, Pawa says.

“Try to eat a diverse diet with lots of plant-based phytonutrients — those are the brightly coloured vegetables and berries — and limiting your inflammatory meats, having more free-range or grass-fed meats,” she advises.

Get support with nutritional supplements

Diet alone is not always enough to support immune health, which is where nutritional supplements can help. “Vitamin D is very important for the immune system overall,” Pawa says.

Omega-3 fish and flaxseed oils are very good at stabilizing immune cells, she adds, and vitamin C has been shown to help support immune health and lessen the duration of illness.

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Schedule better downtime

Along with getting adequate sleep and rest, it’s important to actively lower overall stress levels. Pawa recommends meditating, taking some time away from technology and getting into nature.

READ MORE: Quarantine that stress: Limit screen time during coronavirus outbreak, experts say

It’s also beneficial to exercise regularly. When you exercise, the muscles push lymph around, a clear liquid that has antiviral properties, Pawa explains.

As Canadians go into cold and flu season, it’s a particularly important time to stay on top of health.

“To support the actual immune system, it’s not about preventing,” Kanwal says. “It’s about supporting yourself to make sure you’re nice and healthy and strong, so if and when you do contract [a virus], your chances of being able to get through it are going to be better.”

To learn more about how to add nutritional supplements to your daily routine, visit Enerex.