Many of my patients have asked questions about how they can best help support their immune systems to prevent the current pandemic, coronavirus. By now I’m sure you all understand the importance of social distancing, hand washing and disinfecting. These factors are extremely important for preventing the spread of the virus; however, we won’t go over what has already been drilled into your head. Instead, I want to provide you with information you might not know that can be easily implemented. Here are my top tips for protecting your immune system:
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is simply the best way for your body to recover. It is critical to get good sleep during this time specifically to benefit your adrenals, lungs and immune system. Your adrenal glands are important (and often overlooked) organs that sit on top of your kidneys. They secrete your body’s major stress hormone, cortisol. In times of high stress, your cortisol levels elevate, which in turn causes your body to secrete less melatonin (the hormone that tells your body when to sleep and wake). With this high cortisol and low melatonin, your body has a hard time calming down, you end up having difficulties falling asleep, and you never get into a deep sleep. With chronic lack of sleep and prolonged stress, your cortisol eventually burns out and leads to adrenal exhaustion. When your adrenals are depleted, it negatively affects your immune system (along with many other systems in the body) and is why many people develop chronic allergies/sensitivites, lowered immunity or autoimmune disorders later in life.
How do we prevent this awful storm from happening? Getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night and hitting the pillow by 10 pm is critical for the adrenals to recover. Even if your daily schedule has changed, make it a point to have a solid bed time each night so you don’t throw off your sleep cycle and create a cascade of problems down the road. Additionally, sleep between the hours of 3 am to 5 am is vital for lung function – it is the time when our body replenishes oxygen. Managing stress is also essential and we will provide some tips to follow.
Another way to promote a healthy and strong immune system is by managing stress. It is important for your nervous system to stay out of sympathetic dominance (fight or flight mode) and remain in parasympathetic dominance (rest and digest mode). When your body is in a calm, parasympathetic state, this is when the immune system works best and when healing takes place. (This is exactly why acupuncture is so effective – it gets your body into parasympathetic mode to promote natural healing and regulate your immune system.)
Here are some great ways to manage stress and calm your nervous system while promoting a healthy immune system:
Practice box breathing or focus on breathing with long, slow exhalations. Getting more oxygen will improve your lungs and stimulate your immune system.
Go outside and get some fresh air. Take a walk around your neighborhood, soak up a little sunshine, and enjoy nature’s beauty.
Take a break from social media. This doesn’t mean you have to be completely disconnected from the world, just limit your time spent reading about stressful news and focus on positivity rather than fear.
Exercise. When you exercise, it stimulates your body’s feel-good chemicals (endorphins), lowers your stress (and cortisol), and helps you sleep better at night. All of these benefits equals a stronger immune system!
Supplement What Is Lacking
With stress, poor diet, lack of sunshine, impaired digestion and absorption, many of us are lacking the vitamins and minerals that are essential to good immune function. Almost every patient I run labwork on is Vitamin D and zinc deficient – both crucial for regulating the immune system and preventing illness. It is important to note that boosting immune system with supplements is beneficial before you have symptoms of coronavirus. If you have an active case and lung function becomes impaired, a different approach using custom-prescribed Chinese herbal medicine needs to be followed. Here are the top supplements to boost your immune system to prevent viral symptoms:
Zinc Lozenges: 15 mg 3x per day in divided doses with food
Vitamin D3: 5,000 – 10,000 IUs per day with food
Vitamin C with bioflavanoids: 1,000 – 3,000 mg per day
NAC: 600 mg 2x per day with food
Yu Ping Feng San - Chinese herbal formula to support immune function
To purchase supplements, click here.
Avoid Certain Drugs if Possible
In order for your immune system to function optimally, AVOID taking these drugs:
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). It is best to avoid taking ibeuprofen and acetomenophen because they inhibit antibody production and actually weaken the immune system. So if you are taking supplements to support your immune system plus NSAIDs, they essentially cancel each other out. Many people also take these drugs to suppress a fever, which causes more harm than good. Having a fever when you are sick is actually a good sign – it is your body’s natural way of stopping and killing an infection and it should not be suppressed. A cool (not cold) bath can help if needed.
PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors). Drugs like Prilosec and Nexium used to treat acid reflux have a negative effect on nitric oxide production, which plays one of the most important functions in regulating the immune system. In addition, PPI drugs lower stomach acid needed to help you absorb vitamins and minerals and negatively affect your gut (the largest part of the immune system).
Eat a Healthy Whole Foods Diet
Food may be scarce during these times, but you can still make healthy choices. Choose good quality protein and vegetables while avoiding sugar, processed foods, and high-carb foods. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with packets of wild-caught salmon and tuna, cans of organic chicken or chicken soup, organic frozen vegetables and berries. Remember, sugar feeds pathogens like bacteria and virus! Stress-eating junk food will only cause you to become more susceptible to illness, fatigue, and weight gain. Find healthy stress-relieving activites to do instead.
Stay safe and be well! To book a telemedicine consultation for custom Chinese herbal medicine, please call our office at 321-972-2940. We look forward to helping you!