By Dr. Neil Sweigart
The coronavirus pandemic is upon us and as important as it is to follow guidelines to halt the spread, there is another issue to consider.
Have you wondered why some people get very sick and even succumb to the virus while others have very mild symptoms or may not even know they have it? Of course we know the elderly and those with underlying health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and pulmonary problems are at greater risk. However, that doesn’t explain the difference in severity of symptoms.
What we’re not hearing much about is how we can boost our immunity so that if we do get exposed to the virus — or worse, we get sick — our body can effectively fight back. Our immune systems are designed to fight off sicknesses and viruses. But unfortunately, the immune system can get worn down by many things typical of a modern life — for example, stress, toxins, lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating. This prevents our bodies from effectively fighting off sickness.
Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., an expert on well-being technology, states it’s more important than ever to support our immune system. As you might guess, these recommendations are also beneficial to preventing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other health problems. As one doctor put it, “There is not one good diet for heart disease, another for diabetes and another for cancer, but one good, healthy diet.”
Inflammation is the big culprit in most diseases, and some habits increase inflammation in the body while others decrease inflammation. Here are some tips from Dr. Davis.
When you’re stressed out, your body produces stress hormones which tax the immune system. To reduce stress, employ some calming or relaxing stress-reduction techniques like meditation or yoga. For me, the best stress reducer is exercise. Even while staying home, one can exercise by stair climbing or walking inside or outside.
Sleep whenever you’re tired
Many of us walk around this world in a state of constant exhaustion. Because sleeping is essential to rebuilding a struggling immune system, we need to let ourselves sleep as much as we need. Eliminating caffeine, exercising and turning off electronics will help.
This is what it’s really all about. While proper sleep and regular exercise help, food is really the big factor affecting inflammation. Sugar, processed foods, processed meat, dairy, animal products, vegetable oils, and alcohol tend to be inflammatory foods so they busy the immune system, leaving other problems in your body unaddressed. Eliminating the above and eating foods that fight inflammation are the key if we want a healthy immune system.
What foods fight inflammation? To keep it simple, it’s fruits, vegetables, beans and seeds. Especially important are greens, beans, onions, mushrooms (cooked) and berries. Broccoli, kale, spinach, bell peppers, blueberries, pineapple, citrus, sweet potatoes, red beets, tomatoes and many spices are powerful anti-inflammatory foods. These items also reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Limit animal products as much as possible although fish, free-range chicken and wild game are best.
Another consideration is fasting. When not having to digest food, your body focuses on scavenging free radicals, healing and strengthening the immune system. It’s always wise to fast for at least 12 hours or more a day. Obviously, this is more difficult when you’re home all day but in times like these, it’s even more important to give your body time to heal.
Stay away from toxins
Toxins can be devastating for the immune system. For example, mycotoxins from mold are notorious for destroying the immune system. Many other toxins seem to have negative effects on immunity as well. So try to minimize exposure to chlorinated drinking water, pesticides, aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g., air fresheners), heavy metals, air pollution and food additives.
Dr. Mehmet Oz echoes many of the same recommendations. Loading up on fruits and vegetables, exercise, and reducing stress top his list. “Supplements have never been shown to beat coronavirus; however, there are some tactics that will slow down the progression of viruses in general,’’ he said. “So ideas that work well generally are vitamin D, which you get from the sun, but this time of year you’ve got to take it as a supplement.” However, according to several studies in northern states, even during the summer months many of us, women in particular, remain vitamin D deficient.
Following these guidelines will result in not only feeling better but reducing your risk of complications should you come in contact with the coronavirus. By taking these actions, we can help protect ourselves and our loved ones from suffering significantly if coming in contact with COVID-19.
Be smart and stay well.