This week, in between making lunches and games of CandyLand, I've been compiling some of what I think are the most important things to make us our most resilient in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic...
I'll tell you I'm not the expert on viruses, pandemics, surviving quarantine for weeks on end... what I am an expert in though is how to create health, reinforce the immune system and how to put the body in the best possible state to be able to FIGHT.
For me it boils down to two key things right now: reducing stress and strengthening the immune system.
What I've put together below are some of the most POWERFUL things you can do right now to protect and fortify your health. Because the more we do preventatively to make ourselves the healthiest we can possibly be, the stronger we are against this virus.
I believe the more important factor here isn't the virus. It's the immune system.
Coronavirus seems to trigger a particularly aggressive immune response, though it's the way an individual's immune system responds to the threat that determines severity of symptoms and risks.
So to me the answer is clear: After doing the first line of defense which is avoiding the virus in the first place (eg. social distancing and obsessive hand washing), our next line of defense, which I view as just as important, is to do everything within our power to strengthen the immune system so it's able to respond appropriately and overcome the virus, should we come in contact with it.
That means getting healthy.
And when I say that I'm not talking about losing weight or eating chicken and broccoli.
To me "healthy" means so much more than a number on the scale or whats on your plate.
Like I said last week...
You can eat all the broccoli, mushrooms, superfoods, etc... and if you're stressed out, it's not gonna do you any good.
The most expensive superfood in the world's got nothing on this...
which is where I want to start with this guide...
Mastering Your Thoughts
Everything you're feeling is stemming from what you're thinking.
And here's what a lot of people don't know: you're 100% in control of this.
No we can't change what's happening right now.
We can change how we respond to it though.
We can change the lens we're looking through.
Most of us have been looking through the same lenses for years, maybe our whole lives.
Now, it's more important than ever to try on a new one.
Don't get me wrong I'm not saying you can't feel scared, overwhelmed, anxious... all of those feelings are totally normal and should be felt.
Let yourself go there, just don't stay there.
So how exactly do we do that?
We can choose what we want to look at.
And we can take control of what we can.
Ask yourself what are you focusing on? Where is your attention? What is your mind consuming?
Change Your Thoughts: 3 Quick Lens Swaps
- What are 3 things I'm grateful for?
- What could this possibly be here to show or teach me?
- What if this is happening for me?
A lens switch is not intended to discount the reality of what's happening. It's meant instead to get you into a place of power from which you're able to act, feel more in control, calm your nervous system and thereby enhance your immune system... your real protection... not the fear you may have been in before.
Your next tool is always with you too...
Mastering Your Breath
Did you know the quickest way to go from stressed to relaxed is by changing your breath?
The breath is like a cue to the body about the safety of the world outside. So when we're breathing like a stressed person, the body responds as such - faster heart beat, tense shoulders, tight muscles, etc. It goes into sympathetic, turning off non-essential functions like IMMUNITY and digestion and turning on primal functions like the ability to run super fast. Cause the body isn't so much concerned with a virus if it sees a tiger. It knows the tiger is going to get you much faster. And then the virus is gonna be his problem! Find more on that here.
You can flip yourself right out of stress and redirect your energy back your body's critical functions (like immunity) simply by changing your breath. How cool is that?!
Side note: Have you heard of Wim Hoff? a.k.a. The ice man - the guy who cold plunges in 30° water and can hold his breath for ridiculous amounts of time? His method has been used in scientific studies where participants were injected with a pathogen and those using the Wim Hoff Method showed a stronger immune response and less symptoms. Click here to better understand exactly why.
This kind of research is leading the way in showing the power of the mind over the body.
Breathing Exercise: The 5-5-7 Breath
This is a breathing exercise I learned from Dr. Andrew Weil.
- Breathe in for 5 seconds.
- Hold it for 5 seconds.
- Breathe out for 7 seconds.
- Do this 10x and see how you feel.
Repeat as necessary, I recommend 3x a day, and whenever needed (talking to myself here).
Stay Informed... and Empowered + Uplifted
Part of feeling more in control and at ease is staying informed from trusted, reputable sources. Take the news in small doses, and get just the right amount, never first thing and never last thing in your day.
And seek out people offering proactive recommendations (like me!) and tips to help you boost your health and take the best care of yourself and your loved ones right now.
Organizations/People in the health world I'm finding helpful right now...
- For an Integrative Medicine Perspective: Andrew Weil, M.D.
- For a Functional Medicine Perspective: The Institute for Functional Medicine
- For Pediatrics: Elisa Song, MD (info for kids + overall immune support)
- For Women's Health: Aviva Romm, MD
- For Practitioners: The School of Applied Functional Medicine (where I'm currently getting my functional medicine certification)
- Tyna Moore, N.D., D.C. (has been sharing interesting research on COVID-19)
- Ben Lynch, N.D. (is sharing interesting research on nutrients helpful in combating COVID-19)
Just as important, I'm following people who make me laugh and give the good feels right now. Some that come immediately to mind are...
Eat Well... Like Really, Really Well
Remember, it's not as much the virus, as how your immune system is able to respond to it.
Your immune system is like your body's military. And it needs supplies to be able to protect you. Just think, what would a military be without artillery? Here your artillery is nutrients.
You need to be getting as many nutrients into your body right now as you possibly can, particularly the ones we know are critical for immune function like vitamin A, C, D and zinc (see more specifics on supplements below).
This is another reason why bringing stress down is so important, stress creates oxidation (like rust) and our body has to use up nutrients to neutralize and get rid of that.
Another really important factor of your health to pay attention to right now is your gut health.
Up to 80% of your immune system lives in your gut. And you have more microbes living in your gut, whose job it is to help regulate your immune system, than cells in your entire body!
We have to take care of our microbes.
Here's how you do that...
- Eat lots of pre-biotic foods. Pre-biotics are mostly fibers. Excellent sources include leeks, garlic, sun choke, cooked and cooled grains like oats, rice and cooked and cooled potatoes
- Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The more variety the better. The health of the gut relies in diversity. So the more varied your diet the better.
- Reduce stress. Stress can have an adverse effect on microbes. See above for tips.
- Eat probiotic a.k.a. fermented foods. Saurkraut and pickles (the kind that has to be refrigerated and only lists cabbage (or other vegs), water and salt as ingredients), miso, yogurt (I like this coconut one as a probiotic dose)
- Spend time in the garden. The soil of the earth and the microbes in our guts are one in the same. Spending time in nature, growing your own food, digging in the dirt are activities we could classify as medicine.
More Immune Support...
Here are the simplest (and most important) ways to support your defenses right now...
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, in every color
- Eat more foods high in vitamin C (see above pic)
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep each night
- Find ways to manage stress (see above for some ideas)
- Spend time outside, in nature, as much as you can
- Move your body, at least 30 min a day of continuous movement
- Avoid (or at least reduce) sugar, alcohol and too much caffeine
- Connect with family, friends... virtually! (Try the HouseParty app)
And here are some more specifics on supplements* that support the immune system...
- Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid, buffered; can also take in liposomal form)
- Vitamin A (as vitamin A palmitate)
- Vitamin D (as D3, preferably with k2)
- Zinc (as zinc sulfate or zinc picolinate)
Note: supplements are always "extra". I know many are out of stock right now, so not to worry if you can't find a particular vitamin. Focus on getting it through your food. Supplements can be particularly helpful at first sign of symptoms or if you're already sick to either head it off or shorten duration and severity of symptoms.
If you have questions our would like guidance, send me a message, I'd love to help you.
*I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. I'm sharing what I personally use to boost my immune system based on my own research and experience. Consult your primary care physician if you have concerns before adding any supplements.
More Resources to Help You Boost Your Immune System
Below are resources from the blog that you may find particularly helpful right now...
Tips for Cooking + Meal Prep
We're all at our own homes right now in the middle of what may feel like a sick joke of a cooking show, where you have to come up a meal each day using only ingredients from your pantry, here are some articles that may help give you the upper hand in the kitchen....
Tips for Starting Healthy Habits
Someone wise once told me the best time to change, break or start a new habit is in the middle of a life change. When everything else around us is different, it's easier to let go of the little things we usually cling to. And it makes way for clear space to start something new.
What if this is the perfect time to do the thing?....
Some of my Favorite Recipes for Right Now
I pulled some of my favorite recipes that we've been making and that I plan to make in quarantine. Most of these are simple and often have leftovers...
*These two recipes were in my Instagram story over the weekend if you're wanting the recipes.
Join me live on Instagram
If you want to stay in touch during this time and get more IRL ideas for meals, snacks, and such, make sure you've turned on notifications from me on Instagram. I plan to do more lives and stories to show what we're cooking and doing to get through this time.
How Can I Help?
One of the beautiful things I see happening through all of this is so many are sharing their expertise, their best, from tips on what to do with little ones all day, to how to make your own hand sanitizer.
I'm planning to share more in the coming weeks about what I'm cooking, eating, doing to stay sane. Is there anything in particular you want to know more about? Anywhere you feel like you need HELP? Let me know, send me a message or leave a comment down below.
Stay safe, stay well, stay positive.
P.S. How can I help you right now? Give me a holler and LMK what you need, OK?
We all deal with shocking things like this in our own way, in our own time.
If you're feeling like this is a wake up call... or if you're more like, I hear the wake up call but rn I'm gonna go hide in the pantry (which is totally OK and normal too)...
I'm here to help.
I help folks get out of the pantry and to that place where "healthy" ain't no thing. It's just what you do, cause you feel ah-mazing doing it. You can get there, too. Let me show you how. Schedule a free strategy session with me here.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps people take charge of their health and to start listening to themselves over the latest diet trend to optimize their own wellness, happiness and potential. Her family-friendly meal plans help parents take charge in the kitchen, too. This leads to more vegetables, less junk, and happier, healthier kids and parents. Megan shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.