I had the honor and privilege to personally meet and speak with Dr. Len Calabrese, the Director of the R.J. Fasenmyer Center for Clinical Immunology at Cleveland Clinic. After our discussion, I was inspired to write about methods of increasing your immune system. While some of this information is very simple, it is important during these times and for your general future health. Dr. Calabrese wrote an excellent monograph that I've provided for you.
While the coronavirus has caused upheaval, there are many threats to our immune system. The rise of autoimmune disease is unprecedented. So it is important generally to improve your immune system and we can use coronavirus as a wakeup call for all of us.
So what happened that caused our immune systems to weaken? We've lost our way when it comes to taking care of our bodies and minds. Our food sources have been overtaken by processed food, steroids, antibiotics, and unsustainable farming practices.
Our culture has one of the highest rates of obesity and the number of people that work-out and practice yoga and meditation has declined. Our stress levels have skyrocketed.
As Dr. Calabrese notes, a failing immune system leads to inflammation, "Inflammaging", which then leads to chronic disease and illness and early death. This has become an American epidemic. While you can't control all of the factors that build your immune system, you can certainly make a major contribution to improving it.
Here is a summary of what you can do now:
Weight - Being overweight leads to significant inflammation in the body which affects your immune system. It is vital to maintain a healthy weight and you have the ability to remove this risk factor. Even doing one new small activity a day can have a great impact.
Smoking - Quit smoking, it has a huge negative effect on the immune system. While it is not easy to quit, this is one major factor that you can control. Seek the help of online groups and see if your doctor can help.
Diet - Your food choices may be harming you greatly. Avoid processed food and eat real food. Real food includes a large variety of vegetables, whole grains, good oils, and decreasing meat consumption. A great model is a Mediterranean diet. This is not an actual diet but take a look at the different Mediterranean cultures and see how they eat. While the foods may differ by region, they all have one thing in common, fresh unprocessed food.
Exercise - During the coronavirus epidemic, exercise is an excellent way to increase your body temperature. Body heat is not favorable to the growth of a virus. That is why we develop fevers when we have been infected. It's the body's way of healing naturally. Studies have shown that moderate exercise is highly beneficial to improving your immunity. So get out and take a brisk walk every morning. Lift some weights to increase your muscle mass. This is good for staying strong and stable and also leads to increased weight loss.
Sleep - This is a major factor in immune health. When you sleep, your body can heal and repair. It has been shown that if you sleep too little your chance of getting the common cold is higher and the duration of the cold is longer. The difference between sleeping 6 or 8 hours is all it takes, so try to hit 8 hours.
Stress - We all have stress and when we have it on a regular basis, we are much more susceptible to viruses and other infections as this has a profound effect on our immune system. With stress, your cortisol levels rise and this can lead to weight gain. So we can see a cycle of immune decline as stress leads to other issues as well. Sleep can help stress and wellness practices such as meditation, yoga and Tai chi. The great thing about these practices is that they can be done at home. There are numerous apps and Youtube channels to help and support you. For great meditations, I recommend Jason Stephenson on Youtube and Power Thoughts Meditation Club. There are also many sleep meditations as well.
Feel Positive - Just a simple smile can make you feel positive. Practice giving 3 people a compliment each day. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air and nature. Get off of your phone and computer and turn off the TV. But if you are on your computer or watching TV, watch something that makes you laugh. Create positive relationships. Get rid of toxic people in your life and hang around people that make you feel good. Stop judging, you don't know what others have been or are going through. There is so much to be thankful for in your life. And that positivity is a huge immune booster.
Vitamins and Supplements - If you research this topic you will see so many different "immune boosters" out there. With a great diet, you should be getting plenty of high-quality vitamins especially if you choose organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, and pastured eggs. I do have some favorites for immune-boosting properties. I would take a probiotic as a large portion of your immune system is in your gut. So a proper balance of flora such as bacteria is important not only for digestive health but also for immune health. Vitamin D is key as most of us are deficient and it is a vital addition to immune health. Monolaurin or lauric acid is found in coconut and breast milk. It has strong immune-boosting properties. I personally like Lauricidin as I believe that it is a superior product. And to decrease inflammation in your body, I recommend Fish Oil and Turmeric concentrates. These are all additions to a healthy lifestyle and may be helpful for your immune system. Of course, you should always discuss anything new that you take with your primary care physician before starting them. There are many MD's and DO's that practice integrative medicine and are highly supportive of these practices.
This is a start to a healthier immune system. I encourage you to use this as a guide to doing further research and gaining more knowledge as it is truly beneficial to a healthy life. These are actions you can take personally and get healthy before you develop a health problem. Preventative medicine is becoming more important each day as our medical system continues to concentrate on treatments only after you've become sick.
We wish everyone the best during the current coronavirus challenges. I'll bet you have a little more time on your hands to take care of yourself so jump into high gear and we will all beat this together.
Dr. Cruz is currently seeing patients and is offering Telehealth appointments. You can contact his office here.