With so much fear based information in the news about the continuing spread of COVID-19, I would like to take a moment to discuss how we can take our power back in a proactive way and actually arm ourselves with increased immunity. There are many intuitive things that we can do to honor our bodies, and make ourselves more resilient against not only this pandemic but also the spread of other illnesses such as flu, croup, pneumonia, strep throat, etc.
Standard strategies of mask wearing, and hand washing/hand sanitizing, along with covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and not touching your face are always encouraged. But simple techniques like setting a sleep regimen, exercising, eating proper food, and learning how to handle or limit stress exposure are worth discussing here. All of these techniques are aimed at lowering inflammation within the body. Lowering the "non-productive" baseline level of inflammation in the body, discussed in one of my previous blog posts on inflammation, is the key to promoting immune system health.
Poor, or disorganized sleep has been shown to produce an increase in pro-inflammatory chemical messengers in the body. This allows for low grade levels of inflammation to persist in the body, which promotes immune dysregulation and has detrimental effects on health. One of which is a lower level of tolerance for viruses or bacteria. In other words, you will be more likely to get sick and bouts of sickness will be more severe.
Promoting restful and relaxing sleep includes having good sleep hygiene. A way to develop this Soul Minded practice is to start by having a bedtime – yes, you read correctly. I want you to set a bedtime for yourself. Lower the lights in your home around 1-2 hours before get into bed. Turn off electronics, move the TV out of your room, and make the final 1-2 hours of your day one of reflective meditation. Read a book, stretch, do some yoga, take a bath, or simply pray. This allows for the release of certain chemical messaging in your body to prepare you for sleep. A great non-addictive supplement to promote restful sleep is magnesium glycinate, which also promotes heart health, reproductive and digestive health, along with energy and anxiety support. Restorative sleep promotes the production of immune fighting molecules, improves cognitive and physical performance, and can even improve your sexual health.
Developing a moderate exercise routine is another great way to improve your body’s immunity. Exercise promotes the purging of hormones that are no longer needed by the body, and the sweating associated with exercise also flushes out elemental toxicities along with bacteria from the lungs and airways. Exercise has also been shown to increase circulating levels of white blood cells which are our body’s immune fighting cells. A cautionary remark though – overdoing exercise can actually harm your immune system by overtaxing your adrenal glands and actually creating more stress on the body to deal with. A good way to know you are over exercising is by paying attention to how you feel about 1-2 hours after you are done. If you are completely exhausted and feel like you are unable to continue on with your day, then you have overdone it and should likely cut down on the intensity or duration of your regimen.
Daily exposure to stress can build up in our system if we do not address, or process our daily emotional and spiritual interactions. Learning how to identify stress plays a very big part in understanding how to process it. Find a regular practice that promotes peace, and the development of compassion for life. If you are unsure how to begin Soul Minded living, simply start with finding gratitude for just one thing each day. Mindfulness has been associated with changes in certain immune system processes related to inflammation, immunity, and aging. It is perhaps the most cost effective tool that can utilized to help down regulate our stress-axes, and up regulate our immune system. Becoming more mindful and self-aware helps our bodies and minds to become more aligned, and the mental training that is gained results in the global lowering of self-reported measure of disease symptomatology. To learn more about daily mindfulness, read this for guidance to begin your journey.
The importance of healthy eating is a continual Soul Minded discussion. It really boils down to just a few things: 1) Limit processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine; 2) Eat colorful fruits and vegetables – the goal is 10 servings per day; and 3) Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Research shows that colorful foods are your biggest ally in giving your immune system a boost. As a general rule of thumb, the darker and more vibrant the color, the better the health benefits. Reach for oranges, yams or sweet potatoes, blueberries, purple cabbage, cherries or beets, kale, spinach, watercress or bok choy to name a few. Fresh herbs are also a great way increase the absorption of nutrients and boost the flavor of food to promote more eating! Hydration is another component of nutrition that is often overlooked and under appreciated.
Staying properly hydrated allows your body to detoxify its daily exposures. From processing the medications we take, to removing the caramel color E150a from your morning latte, we often overlook the degree to which our body has to constantly process out toxicity. Remaining properly hydrated by drinking 1/2 your weight in ounces allows your joints to remain lubricated, and aids in healthy digestion by keeping things moving.
When adding supplements to boost immunity, consider some of the following:
Vitamin D: I would be remiss, if I did not discuss the awesome, all powerful immune system supporting benefits of Vitamin D. There are numerous studies that have been published supporting the role of vitamin D3 in immune system support. Because the majority of people remain deficient in this vital nutrient, supporting yourself with a daily dose is a great way not only to arm yourself from illness, and also to help shorten sick time if you do get sick. Though few foods contain high amounts of vitamin D, you can find it in salmon, egg yolks, and high quality dairy products.
Zinc: Zinc plays a significant role in the development and function of immune cells. Those who are zinc deficient are more susceptible to pathogenic invasion. Supplementing with zinc, can help boost the immune system, reduce body wide inflammation, speed up wound healing, and also help with digestive and reproductive health. Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds will get you a good daily dose!
Vitamin C: When taken daily, vitamin C has been shown to shorten the duration and intensity of colds. It is also a powerful antioxidant which is anti-inflammatory and supportive of healthy aging. Squeeze an entire lemon into your water for a daily dose!
Selenium: This anti-aging supplement has been shown to boost the immune system against certain pathogens. It is also shown to be anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory, as well as supportive of thyroid and reproductive health. You can easily get your daily dose of selenium by eating 2 brazil nuts each day!
Soul Minded supplement favorites:
1. Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012;463(1):121-137. doi:10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
2. Exercise and immunity. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm
3. Minich DM. A Review of the Science of Colorful, Plant-Based Food and Practical Strategies for "Eating the Rainbow" [published correction appears in J Nutr Metab. 2020 Nov 28;2020:5631762]. J Nutr Metab. 2019;2019:2125070. Published 2019 Jun 2. doi:10.1155/2019/2125070
4. Prietl B, Treiber G, Pieber TR, Amrein K. Vitamin D and immune function. Nutrients. 2013;5(7):2502-2521. Published 2013 Jul 5. doi:10.3390/nu5072502
5. Shankar AH, Prasad AS. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Aug;68(2 Suppl):447S-463S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/68.2.447S. PMID: 9701160.
6. Martineau A R, Jolliffe D A, Hooper R L, Greenberg L, Aloia J F, Bergman P et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data BMJ 2017; 356 :i6583 doi:10.1136/bmj.i6583