The news of COVID-19 (a.k.a Coronavirus) has everyone on edge these days. While the media is magnifying our fears and causing people to stockpile and worry about quarantines, there is not enough discussion on how we can prime our immune systems to help it do its job of fighting various types of viruses and pathogens. If we fuel our bodies in the right way, our immune systems will be strong enough to fight various types of viruses. It is for this reason that nutritional therapy is important.
What can I and my family do to support our immune systems?
1) Stress Management – We are living in very stressful times. And when stress is up, our defenses are down. Stress prohibits proper digestion (we need the stomach acid to kill pathogens) and depresses the immune system (our soldiers fighting viruses, pathogens, and bacteria that try to enter our bodies). So how can we help ourselves reduce stress?
- Talk with a therapist about your fears and concerns. A therapist can help you put things in perspective and help you reduce anxiety.
- Exercise – daily movement not only detoxifies the body but also helps reduce stress and boosts mood.
- Daily deep breathing – Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique is a surefire way to calm your mind and body. Here is the link to his instructional video. https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/
“The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.”
2) Cover your mouth while sneezing or coughing. Wash your hands more frequently, avoid touching your face.
3) Rest – get proper sleep. Sleep is the time the body rests and recovers. An hour or two before bed, stop using electronic devices. Read a book, do some restorative yoga, dim the lights to help the body begin to relax and prepare for sleep.
4) Eat the right foods – Eating a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods. Stick to shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. Limit sugar in all forms. Eat protein (grass fed, pasture raised, wild caught, organic sources of meats, poultry, and fish), organ meats, bone broth, carbohydrates such as organic vegetables of all colors, and good quality fats (extra virgin olive oil, wild caught salmon, grass fed and pasture raised meats, coconut oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds). Add sea vegetables such as kelp or dulce for good sources of iodine. Stay away from fats that harm your cells, such as -sunflower, vegetable, corn, and canola oils. The right types of fat are used to make antibodies that can properly work on antigens.
5) Proper digestion – Sit to eat without distraction. Take a deep breath and relax. Look and smell your food to prepare the digestive system. Chewing your food well (at least 30 times per bite) helps release the nutrients in that food. If you chew a couple of times and swallow big pieces of food, you are not getting the benefits of that food.
6) Proper hydration – Drink clean water. How much water do you need? The rule of thumb is to take your body weight and divide by 2 to get the number of ounces you need to drink per day. Why is water important? It helps flush out toxins and keeps lung and air passages moist to enhance allergen trapping and release.
What are the best immune system boosting/fighting supplements?
- Vitamin C – It is well known among the holistically-minded practitioners, including many MDs, that Vitamin C can be helpful. Here’s a study supporting efficacy: https://www.jmptonline.org/article/S0161-4754(99)70005-9/fulltext This one discusses the mechanisms: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331320/
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – NAC is a precursor to L-Cysteine, and a powerful antioxidant. This study mentions it could possibly be of use in an influenza pandemic. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000629520900728X?via%3Dihub
- Vitamin D – Many of us are aware that the population is generally quite deficient in Vitamin D. This Pubmed article explains how this nutritional deficiency may be why we have flu seasons. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2870528/
- Zinc – A crucial nutrient that is often difficult to get adequate amounts of from food. This study supports the correlation between zinc deficiency and influenza. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866616/
- Elderberry- Elderberry, also known as sambucus nigra, is a flowering tree, whose extract has been used for centuries. This study states “Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229918310240?via%3Dihub This study discusses how elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travellers: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848651/
How can you help me?
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