We're all on high alert right now with the spread of COVID-19 happening around the world. There's a lot of information coming at us about this virus and it can be hard to make sense of what's real, what to expect and what to do with it all.
One important thing to remember: There are choices that are 100% within our control that can prevent the spread the of this virus.
It's easy to forget this when watching the news. You see the images, hear the stats and feel the FEAR. That fear creates stress, which depresses the immune system. The exact opposite of what we all need in this moment!
Prevention is where it's at right now.
You know what they say: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What prevention comes down to is choices. With every choice we make we're choosing to strengthen our immune system or weaken it.
This is what this post is about - exactly what to do to build natural immunity and keep it up every single day.
The best offense is a strong defense.
Sickness happens when we come into contact with a pathogen that our immune system is no match for. If the immune system is weak, the virus wins, it's able to take hold and makes you sick.
Building natural immunity is about creating an environment that supports the immune system to do it's job of protecting you.
Here are 10 things you can do starting now to boost your own natural immunity....
...from "Ah, I don't want to get sick" to "I want to be as healthy as I can be." What we focus on is what we create - so our thoughts are determining our present and our future. Everything begins with a thought. Start noticing the way you're phrasing what you want (and don't) in your mind. And start focusing on what you want instead. The unconscious mind can't process a negative. So when you say "don't get sick" your unconscious mind only hears "get sick" and is going to create it. Instead, flip it to the positive: "I want to be healthy." And your unconscious mind will assist in creating better health.
Get More Sleep.
The optimal number of hours of sleep most of us need a night is 8-9 hours. I know there are people out there who claim they don't need as much and do fine on 5 or 6 hours and I hate to break it to you this isn't really true. If you're not getting 8-9 hours you're missing out on critical time for detoxification and system reset. Do what you can to get a minimum of 8 hours and make sure it's quality sleep. Avoid blue light from screens at least one hour before bed and create a relaxing bed time routine to help you wind down and signal to your body it's time to sleep.
a.k.a. reduce stress. When we're in a stressed out state our body deprioritizes everything else like digestion, reproduction and immunity. These functions aren't so needed when your body thinks your in an emergency situation, which is what happens when our coritsol levels spike in a stressful situation. And a stressful situation that spikes cortisol could be anything... like watching the news, sitting in traffic, scrolling Instagram. Things we do everyday... giving us never ending cortisol spikes.
Find what works for you to flip the switch - deep breathing, meditation, walking, running, yoga, coloring/art, dancing, singing, walking, laughing. Quick easy way: Take 10 deep breathes where your exhale is longer than your inhale.
Get Some Sun.
There's a correlation between the rise in colds and flus in the winter months and a drop in sun exposure and vitamin D3. Our bodies make the hormone D3 (yep, it's a hormone!) from sunlight. With fewer daylight hours and colder weather the winter months make it difficult to get. You can supplement with D3 to help maintain and raise your levels. I recommend having yours tested before taking high dose vitamin D3. Optimal D3 levels for immune function are between 60-80 (note this is higher than the reference range). Look for one that also has K2 - required for absorption. K2 is in foods like egg yolks, dark chicken, grass fed butter and cheese.
The more we’re exposed to the harder the immune system has to work. When our bodies are busy dealing with excess toxins from pesticides, beauty products, conventional cleaners, etc., that takes up energy that should be going toward overall immunity. Here are a few easy things you can do to decrease exposure...
- open doors and windows to your home frequently - weekly, or even daily
- better yet get an air filter for home (with HEPA and carbon filters)
- filter drinking water (no plastic bottles!)
- go organic when you're gonna eat the skin (ie. berries, apples)
- choose green cleaning and personal care products - use COVID-19 as motivation to start the transition if you haven’t already.
- next item you run out of, opt for a cleaner version - if have Qs reach out! I can help! my Favorites page lists many of my go-to products too.
Fortify with Food.
To keep the immune system strong we have to give it the foods it needs to do it's job. We know nutrients like vitamin A, C, D, E and K are critical for proper immune function. And there are key nutrients like sulfurophane are required for our bodies to make glutathione - the body's master antioxidant, which is responsible for escorting toxins out of the body, thereby keep the immune system strong. Focusing on eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and getting in all the colors of the rainbow everyday is a good place to start.
I just did a post on Instagram about some of the best foods for immune support including: carrots, onions, mushrooms, red bell peppers, lentils, broccoli, berries, dark leafy greens, brazil nuts. Including more of these foods will help keep you covered.
Making a batch of vegetable broth or bone broth is a great way to add more of these nutrients. Use it to cook with or warm and pour into a mug to sip.
Ditch Sugar, Alcohol and Caffeine.
I know, I know, though it has to be said... These three are serious nutrient robbers and can severely depress the immune system. Studies show lowered immune function up to 5 hours after sugar consumption. Caffeine raises cortisol levels which puts the body in stress response lowering immune function as well. Keep these three to minimum as much as you can.
Supplement Immune Boosters.
In the height of cold and flu season (and now with COVID-19) I like to get in extra vitamin C and zinc for immune support. We'll also keep elderberry syrup stocked in the fridge and freezer for an extra immune boost. I give it to the girls a few times a week when well and at the first sign of the sniffles.
UPDATE: With COVID-19 there's been much talk about elderberry not being good once you have the virus. Elderberry boosts the immune system in a way that up regulates production of cytokines, which I've read can get to be too much with COVID-19. For this reason, we will continue to use preventatively and discontinue use at the first sign of symptoms, if that were to happen.
A high quality probiotic - look for one with a high diversity of strains of bacteria and a high CFU - at least 5 billion (I know it sounds ridiculous how high that is - we have trillions of these guys teaming in our digestive tract. Two-thirds of our immune system is in our gut, so it's important to keep it in harmony. Probiotics help with this.
Note: Consult your medical doctor if you have a medical condition or concern before taking a supplement.
Add Natural Anti-Virals.
One of my favorite quotes... "God is a genius, he put the medicine in the food!"
There are many foods and herbs that act as natural anti-virals and antimicrobials. Some that are easy to include are: garlic, onion, oregano, sage, ginger, apple cider vinegar. Herbs like peppermint, lemon balm, licorice root and dandelion root make for delicious herbal teas with anti-viral side benefits.
The way I use these, like any "food as medicine" is exactly as it sounds, to just eat them as a normal part of a regular diet. I try to incorporate these foods in as much as I can like this...
- Most things I cook start with onion and garlic - soups, stir fries, etc.
- I season vegetables, chicken, etc. with herbs like oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary often
- I sip on peppermint tea in the evening
- I make my own blend of peppermint, lemon balm, dandelion and licorice root
- Roasted dandelion root as a tea is a nice bitter warm bevvie for the morning, it's bitter like coffee, without the caffeine (I won't say it replaces coffee, though it's nice to drink on it's own. I like mine with a squirt of honey.)
Remember - back to No. 1 - our thoughts create our reality and they're 100% within our control. No, we can't control the circumstances, we can control how we respond though.
Take the news in small doses, educate yourself on the truth. You have more control and power to prevent than you may think.
Keep learning how to support your body...how to create health. Your body wants to be well and your immune system wants to protect you. It’s just a matter of giving it what it needs to do it’s thing.
The more you know, the more you empower yourself, the better equipped you are to protect yourself and your family.
One More Thing... A Quick Note on Hand Washing...
I know I'm not telling you anything new here though it's pretty important so gonna include anyway... I've been hearing some incredible stats lately like...
If 60% rather than 20% of air travelers maintained clean hands, it could slow down the spread of infections by almost 70%
- A small hospital-based study found that washing hands under running water, even without soap, was more effective than ethanol-based hand disinfectants at killing the Influenza A virus
- People touch their faces on average up to 23+ times an hour. 44% of the time, people make contact with their mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) – where influenza or coronavirus enter the body.
To most effectively remove germs wash hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds (about the tune of the Happy Birthday song). For more great hand washing tips and stats go here.
How Do You Boost Natural Immunity?
Now it's your turn - I'd love to know, what are the things you do to up your natural immunity? Share them with us in the comments.
To your greatest health,
P.S. As a holistic health coach and functional medicine practitioner I help folks get on the side of creating health rather than fighting disease. Ready make the shift? Schedule a free strategy session with me.
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.