In these crazy times, people are giving lots of advice on how to keep viruses from getting to you and spreading to others. A few examples that the government has given on preventing the spread of the coronavirus are avoiding handshakes, isolating yourself, and remembering to use soap and water. While these are simple and practical tips, there's some advice from experts that I think is helpful and not as well known that I would like to share.
Let's face it, most millennials like myself are pretty good at isolating themselves and seem to have been training for this scenario our whole lives but I don't think quarantining yourself and being in fear of germs is the greatest way to live.
Here are some actionable tips that experts have given on how we can improve our immune systems:
1. Eat Plenty of Leafy Greens
Salads are a great way to get the antioxidants your body needs. Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are essential but other vegetables help as well.
Dr. Steven Gundry and Dr. Catherine Shanahan are well-respected nutrition experts and strong advocates for ensuring you get plenty of vegetables in your diet. On the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast, Dr. Cate suggests that 4 days a week, you should have a salad that includes 4 cups of vegetables of 4 different colors. In Dr. Gundry's book, Diet Evolution, he states that garlic, onions, leeks, mushrooms, asparagus, and artichokes are all great vegetables that help with immune function as well (p. 81).
Here is another tip that Dr. Cate gives in her book, Deep Nutrition - “Remember, cooking burns up antioxidants and damages many vitamins. So the more you eat cooked foods, the more you need to balance your diet by eating fresh, uncooked, pungent-tasting herbs and vegetables (p. 265).”
2. Get Your Vitamin D
If there is one supplement that all health experts seem to agree on, it is Vitamin D. Unless you get more than 30 minutes of direct sunlight per day, you are insufficient on a critical vitamin that has been shown to benefit mood, heart function, bone health, and immune system function.
Dr. Steven Gundry, nutrionist and former cardiac surgeon, has strong evidence that supports Vitamin D is beneficial for anyone looking to better their heart and immune system. He has tested this theory with thousands of patients and suggests between 5,000 and 10,000 IUs per day (which is actually just 1-2 tiny pills per day and is reasonably cheap - $15 for 360 pills that are 5,000 IUs each here).
Some nutritionists have even suggested 10,000-15,000 IUs per day around times that you want to protect yourself from being sick and that no negative health benefits are observed from this amount.
3. Get in a Cold Bath and Sauna
Ben Greenfield, triathlete, blogger, and highly respected health and fitness expert, suggests that exposing yourself to extreme temperatures, hot or cold, greatly benefits your immune system. In his book, Beyond Training, he explains how Cold Thermogenesis has been shown to increase the amount of natural killer cells and the activity of them and how heat from saunas have been shown to increase your white blood cell count. He also states that German and Finnish studies have shown "regular sauna bathing leads to a 30 percent less chance of getting colds and influenza (p. 73-78)."
I know this may seem extreme and many of us do not have access to saunas or cryogenic chambers but hot and cold baths have been shown to have similar effects, just to less of an extent.
This post is not to discount what the CDC has provided us on how we can prevent the coronavirus and other illnesses from spreading. If you haven't already, I highly suggest going to CDC.gov to get information on the coronavirus including: symptoms, how to prepare your family, areas COVID-19 has reached, etc.
I'm not a doctor but think that the advice these respected experts have to share is valuable and should be shared.
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