I have a magic wand and I have waved it! Getting back to the fundamentals of a healthy life, let us say we wish to:
- control our anxiety - a normal response to a worldwide pandemic
- fend off depression - a normal response to a worldwide pandemic
- say goodbye to overwhelm - a normal response to a worldwide pandemic
- get off the shame train - this is not your fault!
- guilt and regret - time to reflect, say sorry, forgive and evolve
When we give ourselves the ability to be proactive instead of reactive we have now got the capabilities to make the best, informed choices for our new lives and future.
I have compiled an easy and incredibly important must-do list just for you - these four simple acts of self-care that you can undertake daily from any location, can and will make a big difference to both your mental and physical health; the key cornerstone to 'this' is your immunity.
The human immune system is a highly intricate network of cells and molecules designed to keep the host that's you, free from infection and disease. When we are stressed, and I think we can all tick that box, the ability of our T-cells to multiply in response to infectious agents is greatly reduced, as is the ability of certain effector lymphocytes, for example, NK-cells and CD8+ T-cells, to recognize and kill cells in our body that have become infected with viruses.
Our immune cells also need to maintain their ability to redeploy so that they may ‘patrol’ vulnerable areas in or body, as far as COVID 19 is concerned that is the upper respiratory tract and the lungs, to prevent viruses and other pathogens from gaining a foothold. This process is also important to minimize the impact of the virus and to expedite viral resolution should we become infected.
Four Acts of Self of Care
Sleep and Cytokines - Without enough sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, these are a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating your immune response. When we think about sleep we know this is our time to rest, recover and repair, cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, so if you are not getting adequate sleep your immunity starts to become compromised. Chronic sleep loss- which means ongoing lack of sleep less than six or seven hours a night has serious health consequences:
- Demolishes your immune system
- More than doubling your risk of cancer
- Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease
- Inadequate sleep— even moderate reductions for just one week— disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic
- Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.
- Sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
Ensuring you get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night will help keep your immune system strong, giving you the best chance to fight off the devastating effect of COVID 19 Virus along with offering protection from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity each of these increase your risk of a life-threatening complication caused bu the virus.
Eating a well-balanced diet is important for supporting the normal functioning of the immune system, and many nutrients influence the body’s ability to fight infection, each macronutrient plays a different role in the immune system
Both adequate and appropriate nutrition is required for all cells to function optimally and this includes the cells in the immune system. An “activated” immune system further increases the demand for energy during periods of infection, with greater energy expenditure during fever, for example, a common symptom of both the COVID 19 and the Flu virus. Optimal nutrition for the best immunological outcomes as a nutrient-dense diet supports the functions of immune cells allowing them to initiate effective responses against pathogens but also to resolve the response rapidly when necessary and to avoid any underlying chronic inflammation.
The immune system’s demands for energy and nutrients can be met from the diet, or if dietary sources are inadequate, from body stores. Some micronutrients and dietary components have very specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system or in reducing chronic inflammation.
Nutrient-dense foods contain an abundance of nutrients both macro and micronutrients along with, fiber, protein, and healthy fats—but are not excessive in calories. Meaning that people obtain many of their daily calories from foods that don’t offer many nutrients. Making a few changes to what you decide to eat, in a few short weeks the changes you can make to your health and wellbeing is nothing short of astounding. Your future self will thank you. Not convinced? here are some examples of conditions you may wish to avoid, in some cases reverse, or lessen if you have already started to show symptoms:
- Depression, Anxiety, Diabetes
- Autoimmune Diseases - Alopecia, Alzheimer's, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, MS, Osteoarthritis, Parkinson's, Psoriasis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis Thyroid Disease. (There are currently over 80 known autoimmune diseases.)
Foods to Eliminate
Processed Foods - They contain preservatives, hydrogenated vegetable oils, dyes, and sugars.
Refined Carbohydrates & Flour - They contain pesticide sprayed grains and is it made from allergenic grains. These can spike your blood sugar by stimulating the release of insulin at levels that end up dropping blood sugar. This causes anxiety, nausea, irritability fatigue the list goes on..
Allergens - Gluten, soy, and corn have each been identified as allergenic foods. Due to the nature of their being processed via genetic modification renders these foods unrecognizable to our immune systems. Gluten along with processed dairy creates peptides that once though the gut barrier can stimulate the brain and immune system in inflammatory and even mind-altering ways!
Sugar - All forms of sugar cause changes to our cell membranes, arteries immune systems hormones and gut. Our bodies are just not built to tolerate sugar.
Eat whole foods: This means you or someone in your household has to cook, alternatively, you may be able to source, depending on where you live, pre-prepared unprocessed meals. Vegetables, fruit, pasture-raised or free-range, grass-fed and or organic, Wild-caught fish (farmed are fed an unnatural diet of fish pellets and kept in fish pens these fish then have to be fed antibiotics) free-range eggs, nuts and seeds, fats from unprocessed sources include olives, avocado, and coconut oil. Broths from meat bones, chickens, fish or vegetables (Click here for Bone Broth Recipe including vegetable stock.)
Don't cut out the Fats: Fats help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E & K.
Good Sources of saturated fats - Red Palm oil, animal meats, ghee, dark chocolate, coconut oil.
Omega's 3 & 6 - (polyunsaturated fats) Coldwater fish, flax oil, macadamia nut oil, grass-fed meat, eggs nuts, and seeds.
Omega's 9 - (monounsaturated fats) Olive Oil, avocado, almonds, eggs, and lard.
Fresh Herbs and Spices: Not only do they add flavor to your food, you can grow them yourself but they have many additional benefits:
- Reduced inflammation
- Controlled blood sugar and appetite
- Strengthened immune system (antibacterial, antiviral)
- Improved digestion and gastrointestinal health
- Improved blood lipids (triglycerides, cholesterol)
Top Spices: Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cayenne / Paprika, Cloves, Cumin, Cardamom, Fennel Seeds, Peppercorn (Black.)
Top Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano (Marjoram), Sage, Basil, Mint, Dill, Tarragon, Ginseng, Cilantro (Coriander), Dill.
Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Ketogenic diet, Gluten Free and the low-FODMAP diet are lifestyle choices and not 'fad diets' in the sense of losing weight quickly - these are long term ways in which you eat and live. A side effect may well be that you lose weight. Sometimes you need to experiment to find the lifestyle that suits you and your family, but the fundamental 'core ingredients' are eating the most nutrient-dense, high quality, non-processed and real foods.
Side effects - You will feel and look better, have more energy, a healthy immune system and have a better quality of life.
Vitamin A: Playing an important role in supporting T Cells, which are a type of white blood cell that helps identify pathogens (like viruses or infectious bacteria). Found: Liver, whole milk, and cheese, which contain retinol – preformed vitamin A, and dark green leafy vegetables and orange-colored fruits and vegetables, which contain beta carotenes that the body converts to vitamin A.
Vitamin B6: This vitamin helps produce new immune cells, helps process antibodies and helps immune cells to communicate.
Found: Poultry and fish, fortified breakfast cereals, egg yolk, yeast extract, soya beans, sesame seeds, and some fruit and vegetables, like banana, avocado and green pepper.
Vitamin B12: This vitamin is important for producing new immune cells.
Found: Meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs, as well as fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin C: Helps immune cells attack pathogens, enables us to clear away old immune cells from the site of infection, and also helps maintain the skin, our external barrier to infection.
Found: Citrus fruits, green vegetables, Capsicums (peppers), and tomatoes.
Copper: Helps protect and fuel immune cells.
Found: Wholegrain breakfast cereals, rice, quinoa, meat, fish and shellfish, pulses, avocado, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin D: A low status of vitamin D is associated with reduced immune response. Our main source of vitamin D is from sunlight on our skin.
Found: Oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals. It is often difficult to get enough vitamin D from the diet, we are all advised to consider taking a supplement of 10 micrograms a day during winter months, and all year round if we aren't often outdoors. This is something many of us may need to consider if mainly staying at home and particularly when self-isolating.
Folate: Plays an important role in producing new immune cells.
Found: Green vegetables, pulses, oranges, berries, nuts and seeds, cheese, bread, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Iron: Helping to maintain the health of immune cells,
Found: Meat and vegetable sources. Haeme-iron, which comes from meat sources of iron, like offal, red meat, and fish, is more easily absorbed than non-haeme iron, which is found in plant-based sources.
Selenium: This nutrient is vital for producing new immune cells and can help to strengthen the response to infection.
Found: Nuts and seeds, particularly Brazil nuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds, as well as eggs, offal poultry, fish and shellfish.
Zinc: Helps produce new immune cells, helps develops ‘natural killer cells’ that help to fight off viruses and supports communication between immune cells.
Found: Meat and poultry, to cheese and whole grains.
Has been scientifically studied here are the main known Benefits of Meditation:
- Immunity Boost - A study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry showed that meditation improves genetic pathways that control our immune system.
- Reduce Inflammation - A randomized controlled trial showed that (NFk-B) inflammation can be lowered with meditation. NFk-B is a protein complex that plays a major role in the body's inflammatory response.
- Lowers Blod Pressure - A randomized controlled trial published in the journal Hypertension found that a type of meditation, known as Transcendental meditation (TM), can lower blood pressure.
- Less Anxiety - There have been many studies showing that meditation helps to reduce anxiety. The part of our brain activated with feelings of anxiousness is known as the posterior cingulate cortex. When anxiety is calmed, the anterior cingulate cortex is activated. MRIs show us that meditation actually activates and strengthens this part of the brain.
- Reduce Stress - Scientific studies have shown that meditation can positively regulate the area of the brain that controls stress, known as the subiculum area of the hippocampus.
- Feeling More Connected - Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrates meditation's ability to increase our sense of connection to others, even when practiced alone. Group meditation can help increase your social connection and heighten your emotional intelligence.
- More Compassion - The world needs more compassion and we each need to show more self-compassion today than ever before. A randomized controlled trial, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, saw that over nine weeks, meditation decreased the fear of showing compassion and increased self-compassion.
- Better Mood - Research has shown that in many cases meditation is just as effective—if not more effective—than mood-altering medications for improving depression and anxiety. Meditation can increase brain gray matter volume in parts of our brain that control our mood.
Meditation quiets our stress response, making it easier for us to accept and put our emotions in perspective. It enhances activity in the hippocampus and frontal cortex, which allow us to gain perspective on our emotions, we are all feeling heightened levels of fear, apprehension, and shock, our lives have overnight been turned upsidedown and inside out!
Meditation can help us to come to terms with our new life circumstances, our new normal allowing us to integrate and understand our feeling and emotions lessening our fight or flight response which is draining to our immune system's ability to fully function. Rich now more than ever we need to both support and boost our immunity not deplete it.
There are many apps, programs, books and guided meditations available on YouTube and the internet. One of the most simple and easy forms of meditation is breathing... yes just breathing! You can do this three or four times a day for just one or two minutes and reap the benefits, you can do this alone or with others around you including children, adapt as you need to make it work for you.
Breathing from the diaphragm is beneficial for everyone this is known as Diaphragmatic breathing it is also called "abdominal breathing" or "belly breathing".
It is something I have personally used for years for myself and with clients in my clinic when I practiced as a Remedial Therapist. It encourages full oxygen exchange this simply means beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. This type of breathing slows the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure and your stress response.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support if you prefer.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.
You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for 2 to 5 minutes, several times a day, the final practice while lying in bed just before sleep you will most likely fall asleep during the practice!
Regular exercise of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise has been shown to improve immune responses to vaccination, lower chronic low-grade inflammation, and improve various immune markers in several disease states including cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive impairment, and obesity.
Exercise has a positive direct effect on the cells and molecules of the immune system, but it is also known to counter the negative effects of isolation and confinement stress on various aspects of immunity. Although no scientific data currently exists regarding the effects of exercise on coronaviruses, there is evidence that exercise can protect you from many other viral infections including influenza, the common cold.
Exercise helps your body and mind in a variety of ways:
- Exercise releases chemicals in your brain, like serotonin and endorphins, which are great for your mood.
- It can also lead to better sleep and give you more energy.
- Physical movements can help ease tightness in your shoulders and neck, which often come with stress and anxiety.
- You gain a sense of achievement.
- Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of serious health issues, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Helps with weight management you are more likely to make healthier diet choices.
- In this current situation, regular physical activity is incredibly important for your immune system.
What can you do, you are at home or in isolation somewhere?
- Take your workout online: On YouTube there are endless free exercise videos to try, regardless of your fitness level or the size of your living room. From yoga and strength workouts to Pilates, high-intensity interval training.
- Classes online - You can join a class virtually, and get the social connection benefits of exercise too.
- Go freestyle - Get creative and build your own workout – instead of weights use household items like filled water bottles and cans or jars of food, walk or run on the spot for 30-second intervals, do some star jumps, planks, sit-ups, push-ups, or even burpees. Just get your heart rate up a little.
- Go solo outside if you can: Walking, cycling, and running are great solo activities and safe if you’re feeling well and haven’t been asked to self-isolate. Follow your Government / State or Country's current guidelines to minimize your risk. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as soon as you return indoors. Leave your shoes outside / garage and sanitize if you can, shoes potentially can pick up the c.19 virus, do not touch anything while you are outside, change from your outside clothes into your inside clothes and wash your outside clothes more regularly than normal.
Be paranoid - it could save your life.
Until next time..
Be human, be kind, be you
Diet and Immune Function