Health Care Lifestyle

Healthy Lifestyle and Strong Immune System

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Whole-person integrative medicine focused on healing you in mind, body and spirit. It's more than fixing what’s wrong. It’s about celebrating what’s right and making sure you’re on the path to a healthier, stronger you.

The COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed and hope is in the air. While some safety measures have been lifted, such as mask requirements, we still need to practice good hygiene, as the vaccines may not be as effective against the new variants of SARs-COV-2 and we still do not know if they prevent spreading of the virus from vaccinated carriers of the virus.

Please do not forget that there is more we can do to lower our risk of getting sick with COVID-19 and its future mutations beside vaccines. Whether we develop symptoms, get sick or end up in the ICU depends on how pathogenic the virus is, how much of it we get exposed to and how it interacts with our bodies.

While we can’t get any younger, we can often change our biological age and we do have control over risk factors like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. We should seek to regain control over our environment, the pollution of which is a known risk factor not only for COVID-19, but also for obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, allergies, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

It is estimated that at least 70% of the chronic diseases that put us at higher risk for COVID-19 are preventable, and often reversible. So, what have we been waiting for?

We tend to blame our genes for everything. But our lifestyle has more of an effect over our genes a majority of the time. You can silence, or at least dial down, many unfavorable genes with healthy diet, exercise, adequate sleep, stress-reduction, happiness and fostering loving relationships. And it does not even have to take that long.

What we had for breakfast is already working on our genes an hour later. Spikes of blood sugar from poor choices seem to have the capacity to suppress our immune system for hours, and if the next meal spikes our blood sugar repeatedly, we are asking for trouble.

Eating a piece of salmon with a side of greens is a different story! The nutrients that you eat give your immune system the ammunition to fight. Zinc, vitamins C, D, E, A, protein, colorful polyphenols, healthy fats and fiber – that is how the battle is won.

However, 40% of seniors are low on zinc and other essential nutrients. Many patients with severe COVID-19 had low levels of vitamin D. Do not let that be you. Make sure half of your plate is covered with colorful vegetables sprinkled with nuts and seeds; a quarter with protein (fish at least a couple times per week) and the rest with a healthy starch like a sweet potato – packed with nutrients and fiber. What we eat supports our immune systems directly, as well as indirectly, through the friendly bacteria in our guts. If they are in good shape, then more likely so are our immune systems.

My childhood teacher was convinced that she had survived two world wars and the deadly 1918 flu pandemic thanks to a barrel of sauerkraut in her cellar – although she had hardly anything else to eat. Sauerkraut has a lot of vitamin C, probiotics, as well as fiber to feed the gut microbiome, so the praises to sauerkraut were well deserved.

We are also less likely to get sick if we maintain optimal weight, exercise 30-60 minutes a day, get 7 ½ to 8 hours of sleep and know how to minimize stress. Poor sleep does not just make us more vulnerable to infection, but it also makes us less likely to benefit from a vaccine. Fear, frustration and social isolation make us more vulnerable as well. We need to stay connected (even when physically distanced) and cultivate love, appreciation and gratitude. Positive emotions help our immune systems work better. And, as it turns out, few things relax us faster than our favorite music. Listening to music, drumming, and even singing, boost the natural killer-cells capable of destroying cells infected with a virus and put our immune and nervous systems on a healing path.

So, here is my recipe for this and future pandemics: clean environment (what are you doing to change that?), a healthy lifestyle, a little bit of sauerkraut, a lot of music, love and a good night sleep.

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