How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19: Supporting Your Immune System When You May Need it Most
Mark Hyman, MD, March 17, 2020
“This is an unprecedented time, a once in 100-year pandemic. A time for us to be level-headed, open-hearted, and focused on what we can do to protect ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country, and be kind to each other. A time to hunker down with family, to take care of ourselves, to cook and cherish the people and things we love. The more we can face the threat with calm and kindness, the better able we will be to survive and thrive.
The threat is to our health and to our economy. We have weathered worse as a nation including two World Wars and The Great Depression with far greater devastation and death (although not on our soil). There will be loss and loss of life, but we will emerge in 12-18 months with a new vaccine, new medications and treatment options, and more widespread immunity.
The question my patients, friends, and family are asking is “What can we do”? The answer is a lot, both to reduce our own risks and reduce the spread nationwide…
How to Support Your Immune System: Remember, Let Food Be Your Medicine!
Eat a whole foods, nutrient-dense diet. Our immune system relies on nutrient-dense whole foods to function well. Death from infections in the developing world is often not due to the infection itself but the body’s inability to fight it because of nutrient deficiencies. Since more than 90% of Americans are deficient in one or more nutrients at the minimum dose to prevent deficiency diseases like scurvy and rickets, we all need to focus on improving the quality of our diet. Since diabetics are more likely to die from COVID-19 and one in two Americans is pre-diabetic or diabetic this is a great opportunity to cut sugar and starch which suppress the immune system. For my favorite recipes visit drhyman.com/blog/category/recipes. I know a lot of people are ordering their food now. If you’re looking for great companies with healthy options, check out the following:
Cut out sugar and refined starches. Now has never been a better time for a sugar and junk food detox. Studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingesting. Limiting starch and sugar will help your immune system function better and your overall health improves. To help you detox from sugar and starch and reset your body to a healthy state I have created the 10 Day Reset which is available for free download at www.getfarmacy.com/free
Ensure adequate protein intake. While most Americans eat adequate amounts of protein, some do not such as the elderly and vegan populations. Protein is critical for immune function and protein malnutrition is a big risk factor for death from infections. Eat approximately 1 gram/kg or about half your body weight in grams of protein a day, or about two four-ounce servings of organic, clean animal protein. Plant-based proteins (legumes, nuts/seeds) are adequate if consumed in enough quantity. Try tofu and tempeh from non-GMO soy for the highest protein concentrations.
Add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of spices (oregano, turmeric, rosemary) to your meals! Add these to your soups and vegetable dishes, as well as bean dips and sauces. Garlic and onions offer wide spectrum antimicrobial properties.
Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, and squashes. Aim for 2 servings of fruits and 8 or more servings of vegetables! A serving is half a cup.
Eat fermented foods to support your microbiome and immunity. Eat sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, miso, tempeh, unsweetened yogurt, kefir. They also keep well.
Alkalize your body. Sugar and processed foods tend to make your body slightly more acidic and more receptive to the COVID-19 virus. Eating whole plant foods and lots of them, 5 to 8 cups a day, is a good way to alkalinize your body. Try making big vegetable and bone broth soups which can help improve your pH.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially warmer fluids. Consuming adequate fluids supports all your bodies’ functions including the immune system. Make soups and broths (from scratch with fresh vegetables is always best) and have them throughout the week. Drink herbal teas like ginger and turmeric tea. Keep a bottle of filtered water with you at all times. Avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for the immune system.
Get sufficient sleep! We all know sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! Get in a better rhythm and head to bed earlier. Aim for seven to eight hours a night. Incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques throughout the day to help with stress and allowing the mind to rest is also very helpful!
Get regular exercise. Mild to moderate exercise (for approximately 30-45 minutes) helps boost the immune system. Avoid overexertion such as training for endurance events when you are feeling run down. This will lower your immune defenses. If you are able to exercise outside in less populated areas, great. If not find workouts and yoga classes online. Try the 7-minute workout app.
Practice meditation and yoga. The data are clear. Increased levels of stress increase susceptibility to viral infections. In one study volunteers had cold viruses injected into their nasal passages. Only the ones who scored high on the stress questionnaire succumbed. Now is the time to learn meditation, double down on your practice, do yoga, take hot baths, do deep breathing, practice home massage with your loved ones.
Start a garden. If you live in an area with a lawn or some access to land, grow some of your own food. During WWII, victory gardens produced 40 percent of the food in America.”
So there you have it – practice yoga and meditation!
Here is a link for today’s Vinyasa Flow class with Denise: https://zoom.us/rec/share/xuEvco_MqEhJG6_y7Fn7RPMvRaXBaaa80CFLqfZbzBnqBFWyhYJOaUJIL7Jo9jhG