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7 Natural Ways to Keep Yourself Healthy

Article written by: Dr. Hanisha Patel, ND | Naturopathic Doctor

COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is currently the main topic of conversation right now.

In this article, I won’t get into the details of how the virus works, how it’s spread, and the basic conventional things we should all be doing to protect ourselves and others because the CDC and WHO already provide legitimate reliable information on all of those details.

This article is about what you can do to strengthen your own immune system.

Overview of the Immune system

Before we get into that, let’s simplify how the immune system works.

The immune system is a host defense system that consists of an interactive network of organs, white blood cells, and proteins that protect our body from foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Our immune systems are exposed to these foreign invaders daily but we don’t notice them if we have a relatively healthy immune function.

If we have a low functioning immune system this can lead to severe infections like HIV and COVID-19 and tumor overgrowth. If our immune system is overactive, it can lead to allergies or autoimmune diseases like asthma.

Being in either of these categories indicates you are immunocompromised because your immune system is not functioning optimally.

About 60% of Americans are immunocompromised right now because this is the percentage of Americans that have at least one chronic disease.

This is just one more reason why it is crucial to address our chronic health concerns right now because if this is you, you are unfortunately at a higher risk of getting COVID-19.

The information I have listed below can indeed be supportive for your immune system and reduce your risk but if you have an underlying chronic disease like high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, hypothyroidism, etc. please be sure to reach out to a Naturopathic Doctor so you can get that addressed.

7 ways to boost your immune system

How can you strengthen your immune system or as one of my mentors, Dr. Tyna Moore, says how can you make yourself harder to kill?

  • Nutrition
This is often the most overlooked as people resort to supplements as a crutch but this is the most important! The food we eat can either support our immune system or weaken it.
Sugar, dairy, gluten, refined oils, and other processed foods lead to gut dysbiosis, mucus production, and lead to death of healthy cells. (The COVID-19 virus ends up being so dangerous because of excess mucus production in the lungs leading to an inability to move air.)
Vegetables and fruits are high in polyphenols or antioxidants that help support our gut microbiome, reduce mucus production, and protect our healthy cells from being damaged.
  • Movement
The gyms may be closed but thankfully our bodies are not. Exercise can increase your natural killer (NK) cell count. NK cells play a significant role in fighting off tumors and virally infected cells.
In terms of our immune system, it really doesn’t matter what type of exercise we do. It just matters that we are doing something to keep our body moving and lymphatic system flowing.
  • Nature
Thankfully, nature is still open. COVID-19 spreads via respiratory droplets. It is not airborne; therefore, it can only be contracted via saliva, discharge from the nose, or touch (because respiratory droplets fall on to surfaces). This could mean touching a bag, phone, or counter top surface that has the droplets on it.
When we go on a walk outside, we can avoid touching anything and just immerse ourselves in nature. Spending time in nature has also been  found to improve NK cell count.
  • Limit alcohol intake
Everything in moderation - right?!
Alcohol is a toxin that directly effects our gut health and increase free radicals in our body, which of course reduces our immune function.
So try limiting your alcohol consumption during these hard times, and start stocking up on foods that can heal you - real whole foods.
  • Sleep
Shorter sleep duration has been found to increase the risk of infectious diseases. If sleep has always been an issue for you then there’s no better time then now to address it. If sleep has been difficult more recently due to excess stress, check out the next bullet point.
To get some tools on how to get better sleep, read: The Importance of Sleep on Your Health
  • Stress management
Psychological stress disrupts immune regulation and increases inflammation. I wrote a blog post on my practice page on Staying sane while staying informed where I discuss ways to manage your stress. I also did a recent podcast episode on adaptogens and the pivotal role they can play in our ability to cope with stress especially during this time.
To get some natural ways to reduce stress, read: Feeling Stressed? You're Not Alone
  • Supplements
These can be extremely powerful if you take high quality, healthcare practitioner grade supplements.
If you purchase your supplements on-line or from a grocery store, make sure to do your research to make sure the ingredients are the highest quality and the company follows ethical standards. Because there are many supplements out there that are ineffective or could actually do harm.
I use a supplement dispensary called Fullscript to get all of my supplements and it’s the only place I recommend my patients go to purchase supplements as well.
    • Vitamin C
    As humans, we cannot produce vitamin C ourselves; we must get it exogenously. This means we have to consume it in some way. For a healthy person on a normal day, if we are getting enough vegetables, we should be getting enough Vitamin C. However, when our immune system is under attack, it leads to an increase in something called reactive oxygen species aka free radicals or oxidation. We can counteract this oxidation with antioxidants like Vitamin C. The idea that we only absorb 200 mg of Vitamin C has been proven false. We absorb as much Vitamin C as we need. I talk to Paul Anderson in my podcast all about Vitamin C and COVID-19 specifically in my podcast, Mahan Health with Dr. Hanisha.
      • Vitamin D
      In our world today, most of us do not get optimal levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps support intestinal integrity (90% of our immune system comes from our gut), reduce inflammation, and can modulate our immune system. Studies reveal Vitamin D deficiency increases our risk of infection.
        • Vitamin A
        This has also been shown to have an immune modulating effect by also supporting intestinal integrity along with Vitamin D. A great way to get vitamin A is cod liver oil which is in my dispensary under “Immune support.”
          • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
          When our immune system goes to fight a respiratory invader, it puts out immune proteins and these proteins get “sticky.” This is why we present with symptoms like a bad cough and phlegm production. Unfortunately, this can also be what leads to such severity with COVID-19 due to the inability to move air. NAC helps keeps these secretions thinner to help keep our immune system moving. NAC also helps our body produce glutathione which is our body’s most powerful antioxidant.
            • Selenium
            This is an essential element for humans and can help reduce cellular damage due to its high antioxidant properties. Eating two brazil nuts daily gives us all the selenium we need.
              • Zinc
            Studies reveal those with zinc deficiency are at a higher risk of infections due to an increase of free radicals. Pumpkin seeds are extremely high in zinc. (Fun fact: Nuts and seeds have a lot of mineral content because they are made to regenerate and be stable when they fall on the ground.)
              • Sambucus nigra (Elderberry)
              This herb has an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-modulating effect. When made into a syrup, it’s delicious and has an even stronger effect due to the honey.

               

              NOW is the best time to start taking charge of your health.

              I hope this was helpful and if you have additional questions, feel free to reach out (info below). If you’d like to take a more active role in your health, I would love to support you. I am offering a FREE 30 minute virtual consultation in regards to the COVID-19 crisis through my practice, Mahan Health, until April 30th. This could be getting immune support, mental health support, recipe ideas, or whatever else you may need right now.

              Though this consultation will be free, if you would like to donate, all proceeds will go toward getting PPE to healthcare providers on the front lines treating COVID-19 cases.

              At Mahan Health, we are grateful for those on the forefront of this pandemic and are proud to support! 

              QUESTIONS? HERE’S WHERE YOU CAN FIND ME!

              *This post is not meant to serve as medical advice. Please speak to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your own personal health. And please continue to follow CDC guidelines on preventative measures such as washing your hands and physical distancing.

               

              References:

              Black D and Slavich GM. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2016;1373(1):13.

              Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211

              Chen, I-Y, et al. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Viroporin 3a Activates the NLRP3 Inflammasome. Front Microbiol. 2019;10:50.

              Constantinescu-Aruxandei D, Frîncu RM, Capră L, Oancea F. Selenium Analysis and Speciation in Dietary Supplements Based on Next-Generation Selenium Ingredients. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1466. Published 2018 Oct 9. doi:10.3390/nu10101466

              Godbout JP, Glaser R. Stress-induced Immune Dysregulation: Implications for Wound Healing, Infectious Disease and Cancer. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2006;1(4):421.

              Han Y-S, et al. Papain-like Protease 2 (PLP2) From Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV): Expression, Purification, Characterization, and Inhibition. Biochemistry. 2005;44(30):10349.

              Iwata M, et al. Psychological Stress Activates the Inflammasome via Release of Adenosine Triphosphate and Stimulation of the Purinergic Type 2X7 Receptor. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;80(1):12.

              Mora JR, Iwata M, von Andrian UH. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol. 2008;8(9):685–698. doi:10.1038/nri2378

              Phillips JM, et al. Neurovirulent Murine Coronavirus JHM.SD Uses Cellular Zinc Metalloproteases for Virus Entry and Cell-Cell Fusion. J Virol. 2017;91(8). 

              Prather AA, et al. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep. 2015;38(9):1353-9. 

              Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182. Published 2016 Mar 24. doi:10.3390/nu8040182

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