SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMIN D
There is an extremely large and growing body of research that confirms higher morbidity rates among individuals with low vitamin D levels, especially those suffering from things like pneumonia and the flu. According to the National Library of Medicine, over 1 billion people worldwide are deficient and in the US alone, 42% of the population is lacking in this critical nutrient. The great news is that, there is an easy and simple solution. Step one – get your levels checked. Even if you can’t make it in to see a doctor, most pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens sell over-the-counter, accurate testing kits that are reviewed by board certified physicians. Step two – If your results indicate a deficiency, you can begin supplementing immediately with D3 at around 5,000 IU a day. These supplements are also pretty affordable. Here is a product for less than $7 for a four month supply https://www.iherb.com/pr/now-foods-vitamin-d-3-125-mcg-5-000-iu-120-softgels/10421
GET GOOD SLEEP
This cannot be overstated enough – your sleep quality is THE key to a strong immune system. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/ , https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00010.2018, etc..) Here are some tips to get more shut-eye:
- Sleep in complete darkness (or as best you can). If you can see your hand in front of your face when the lights are off, the room is too bright. Our pineal gland, which is responsible for melatonin production, can sense even the smallest amount of light and this can disrupt our circadian rhythms.
- Sleep cool. The ideal temperature for your room is between 63 and 68 degrees F. There is some wiggle room there for your preferences but the goal is to allow the body to cool down. If you are too warm at night it can effect your ability to go to or stay asleep.
- Try Magnesium. In addition to being grossly deficient in Vitamin D (which coincidently also affects sleep), most people are also deficient in Magnesium. Try supplementing with the Glycinate form about an hour before bed. As with any supplement regimen, be sure to discuss your specific needs with a qualified healthcare professional. They can help you with dosing requirements and monitor for any side effects.
Influenza, especially the one plaguing the globe right now, can be exacerbated by pre-existing inflammation in the body (please note this is not in reference to the natural cytokine inflammatory process initiated by the immune system during times of infection). Here are some tips to help reduce long standing issues:
- Boot your food allergens. We each have unique digestive requirements. While we might have suitable food groups that overlap with others, there will always be that one thing that your friends and family can consume that you are unable to digest. Maybe it makes you feel heavy and bloated. Or you display obvious signs of an allergic reaction. Some common examples of this are shellfish, dairy, peanuts, wheat and eggs. Less obvious are things like nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, tobacco), legumes, melons and asteraceae plants like chamomile and sunflower. When this occurs, the inflammatory process has been activated and so has the immune system. If we allow this condition to exist for too long, our immune system can get ‘worn out’ (to over simplify) and we run the risk of lowering our bodies defenses. In some cases, this can also create the perfect environment for auto-immune disease. Follow your intuition and your ‘gut’ instincts and ditch the foods that make you feel less than optimal.
- Let go of sugar. Perhaps the number one contributor to chronic inflammation is the overconsumption of sugar. And it is no wonder, considering how incredibly addictive it is. https://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html. It is a struggle for us all, not just here in the US. Fortunately, when we start to eat a diet that is abundant in whole foods, our bodies start to crave sugar less.
- Increase fruits and veggies. When we consume a variety of brightly colored plants we provide our bodies with the most potent and highly absorbable form of multivitamins available. Some important ones for immunity include the vitamin A found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and butternut squash, the vitamin B (complex) found in leafy greens, vitamin C found in dark berries and cruciferous vegetables and the vitamin E found in avocados.
- Overdo the antioxidants. There is no such thing as over-dosing on antioxidants, as long as they are coming from whole food sources. Antioxidants are the answer to our polluted world, which puts oxidative stress on our bodies and weakens the immune system. Drink green tea or just herbal teas in general throughout the day (many plants contain powerful polyphenols and flavonoids that help reduce inflammation) try to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and try adding turmeric and black pepper to your diet.
- Drink lots of water. Proper hydration keeps our blood circulating well and ensures our cells are receiving oxygen and important nutrients. It also plays a role in waste removal and many other critical processes.
- Limit alcohol, tobacco, etc.. for obvious reasons.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Have a look at these compelling studies that correlate regular exercise with decreased symptomology and morbidity rates in those suffering from cold and flu. Hate the gym? Try dancing, walking or riding your bike. Even jumping rope can offer incredible gains for minimal effort. Strength training also counts and is an important part of any fitness routine. This can be achieved by lifting weights or through bodyweight exercises and resistance band training. https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/04/exercise-may-strongly-protect-against-poor-covid-19-outcomes, https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2021/04/07/bjsports-2021-104080, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7506115/ and https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/does-exercise-help-protect-against-severe-covid-19-202106092475.
PURSUE PEACE OF MIND
We are living in unprecedented times. It is just too easy to fall into patterns of depression, anxiety and deep fear. These emotional states can wreak havoc on our immune systems and our ability to navigate our daily lives. Here are some simple but truly effective tips for reclaiming some calm and clarity:
- Maintain a regular self-care schedule. This doesn’t have to be time consuming or overly complicated. Something simple like a five minute shoulder and neck massage with a relaxing Arnica oil each night before bed will suffice. Other ideas include taking an epsom salt bath once a week, using rescue remedy flower essences in times of stress, listening to calming or motivational music/content while you do the dishes or performing basic breathing exercises for two minutes a day. (Here is a great start on resources with how-to tips: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255, https://www.sclhealth.org/blog/2019/08/try-these-simple-breathing-exercises-to-calm-yourself-down/, https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/breathing_exercises_0.pdf)
- Lean on your community. Now more than ever we need the support of family and friends. Take the time to call, write or text those you love on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to express your struggles. There is an immense amount of relief to be gained by opening up and feeling safe to be vulnerable. If you feel like you lack access to these things, considering using online support groups https://www.nami.org/Support-Education/Support-Groups. You can also use sites like https://www.meetup.com/ to find and meet new people with similar interests in your area.
- Consider meditation. Mindfulness is gaining popularity and spreading like wildfire. For good reason! There is an enormous amount of evidence showing the brain benefits of this ancient tradition, especially its ability to calm the emotions and soften depression and anxiety. If you are feeling apprehensive or just looking for a place to start there are some great resources online – https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/, https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-meditate, https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/meditation-101-techniques-benefits-and-a-beginner-s-how-to, https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/how-to-meditate/let-s-meditate/ and https://www.tarabrach.com/howtomeditate/