As Covid-19 ravages through the country, one ray of hope that we all can hold on to is vaccination. I know the vaccine stocks are limited right now and states are trying to organize vaccines. But this doesn’t have to be a time where you just sit and wait to get a slot. You can actively start preparing your mind and body for your first or even second dose. Just four simple but effective interventions can improve the efficacy of the vaccine in your system.
So, if you were looking for a reason to kickstart your wellness journey let your vaccine be the motivation. Or if the pandemic had you feeling ‘blah’ as you languished under the perennial stress of it, let this vaccine be your motivation!
Key message: Eat a wide variety of colorful and probiotic foods. This will help manage fever/pain and other normal reactions to the vaccine better.
Good nutrition is a simple and effective way to improve the response of vaccines. Avoiding alcohol and smoking at least a week before the vaccine would be prudent. But there are two food types in particular that are very helpful. These are colorful and gut-friendly foods.
The vibrant colors in fruits and vegetables are a good source of antioxidants. They have an anti-inflammatory response in the body. Vaccines often result in fever, swelling or redness, body ache, and even irritability. While all these are normal responses, good wholesome food will help you recover from it faster. Red color gives lycopene, orange beta carotene, and blue/purple gives us anthocyanins. We don’t find blue color often in Indian cuisine but Jamun season is starting soon and they are a good source of anthocyanins. The same stuff that you find in blueberries.
Gut-friendly foods are probiotics (food with actual friendly bacteria in them like yogurt) and prebiotics (foods that your gut bacteria particularly enjoys like onion, garlic, banana, cocoa, oats, etc). Our gut health is intricately linked to not only our immune system but also our mood and mental health. Therefore, include these foods in your daily meals.
Key message: Regular exercise as well as staying moderately active before vaccine increases efficacy and even improves your antibody count.
If you exercise regularly you’re more likely to have higher antibodies than those who don’t. A good exercise routine is 30 mins of activity for 5 days a week. In fact, doing some arm exercises just before the vaccine resulted in fewer side effects after the vaccine. People who exercised experienced lesser days of pain/swelling compared to those who did not exercise.
Regular exercise and an active lifestyle improve your antibody count. And doing some gentle exercises or joint rotations before your vaccine shot can help reduce the temporary side effects.
Here’s a playlist of follow-along Yoga classes that you can practice:
3. Meditation improves vaccine efficacy
Key message: Start a 15-20 min daily meditation practice to improve your antibody count post-vaccination.
Meditation is a powerful practice that is not only good for stress and anxiety, it can also improve your response to vaccination. In a 2003 study, researchers tested the response of the Influenza vaccine on two groups of people – one group meditated daily for 8 weeks, the other did not. The meditation group had significantly higher antibodies than the non-meditation group. Not only this, the mediation group had greater activity in the part of the brain that makes us more positive and optimistic.
In summary, meditation is a powerful practice that can help you improve your immune response to the vaccine and also help you cope with the stresses of the pandemic life.
4. Relax and enjoy before your vaccine
Key message: If you’re stressed, anxious, or haven’t slept well it may take longer for you to develop antibodies after the vaccine
Stress has a strong influence on how well your body responds to a vaccine. So, if you can, then consciously make time to relax, do activities you enjoy, or spend quality time with family and loved ones. Practicing yoga, pranayama, watching funny videos, doodling, singing, dancing are some ways you can unwind. Not just long-term stress management, even your mood on the day vaccine can possibly impact your antibody count. A 2017 cohort study found that a positive mood on the day of the vaccine (H1N1 vaccine in this case) was associated with enhanced response to vaccination.
Sleep is also important for both your blood and immune system. Good sleep is like fuel for the body, without sufficient rest the body just doesn’t work optimally. So, make sure you’re well-rest. Meditation as I’ve already shared is a great way to not only destress yourself but it can also improve the quality of your sleep.
Here’s a calming Yoga Nidra video to help you relax and de-stress:
All vaccines are a form of mild and controlled challenge to our immune system. That is why when we get a shot the body launches an inflammatory response which leads to lethargy, irritability, fever, body ache, and so on. This is perfectly normal, and it lasts a few days. Meditation, wholesome diet, exercise, and relaxation are four boosters that can further improve the efficacy of the vaccine. So, make them a part of your life to make these few days or weeks that you have before your vaccine shot.
I wish you all the best and may we as a community, and a country get through these tough times with each other for support.