With an unprecedented health pandemic sweeping across the globe how can we help fuel the fires of calm and sanity? What exactly is going on? Why are the rates of infection so high? What can we do about Coronavirus? What’s the difference between Coronavirus and Covid-19? How do we stay healthy, stop the curve and get our lives back on track? Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers however, I’d love to share with you a little about what we know about the immune system including what it consists of and our Top 10 ways we can give our immune system a boost.
1.0 Immune System
The immune system is your body’s own internal defence network. Your immune system creates your body’s immunity however, these two terms are not interchangeable (for more check out our video). There is a very big difference between immunity and immune system. As we are all figuring out- no one is immune to the effects of Coronavirus. Either physically, emotionally or chemically, it’s tentacles are long and seem capable of reaching around every nook and cranny. The external barriers of the immune system include your skin and saliva, who’s job is to prevent the invasion of foreign particles in the first place. It also includes a bunch of specialised cells produced from our spleen, thymus and bone marrow which are transported around our body in our white blood cells.
1.1 External Defence
Starting with the skin- this thick, dense, multilayered tissue is more or less impervious. It is very hard to penetrate and this goes for most toxic materials too. Coronavirus for example can not directly penetrate your skin. This is why touching your face with contaminated hands is the easiest portal of entry. By touching the face in areas like the mouth and eyes you unknowingly bypass the skin and allow the virus direct transmission into the body.
Another example of bypassing the skin as a line of defence would include those people suffering from sunburn or even gravel rash from an accident. As soon as the skin layer is torn and flesh is exposed there is literally a crack in the defence network. To illustrate this, a friend of mine last weekend had to enjoy his 50th birthday in hospital. After a small bike accident he needed to be cleaned up. The doctors were so worried about the risk of infection he was kept onsite for 48 hours.
Saliva is another natural defence network. This sticky, mucous like substance literally traps foreign particles and transports them safely away from problem areas. This is really important regarding Coronavirus as your nasal passages are thick with saliva. When breathing correctly, deep and through the diaphragm most air passes through our upper respiratory system which is rich in saliva before air exchange happens in the lower lobes of our lungs. Saliva can trap foreign particles and effectively dispose of them.
1.2 Internal Defence
There are specialised cells produced in various organs of the body particularly within the spleen, thymus and bone marrow whose primary responsibility is to work as little soldiers and fight off infection. These little soldiers launch what we know as an immune attack. It is here where immunity really occurs. These cells have a remarkable memory and once they have been exposed to a particular toxin, poison or disease (enemy soldier) they remember it. If and when they see this particular enemy, they launch their attack- and quickly too!
The biggest difference here between the soldiers knowing to attack this enemy versus attacking any enemy is speed. The immune system will absolutely respond to any enemy solider or foreign invader, however, if it has been previously exposed, battle scared or immune, the response will be much quicker. A major problem with the Coronavirus is that there is no immunity, so our natural immune system might be a bit more delayed allowing a bit more of a toxic response to build up before we start to fight.
The final thought on the internal defence network is the importance of white blood cells. White blood cells house and transport our immune cells throughout the body. They flush around carrying our little soldiers to every stage and every face of battle. Not only will they deliver the soldiers to exactly where the fight is needed, they also form a massive part of the lymph system which will help to clean up and remove the damaged cells and tissue. In keeping with the solider analogy, they’ll clean up the battle field.
2.0 Boosting Your Immune System
Will this give you 100% immunity? No, but this will certainly contribute to making you the strongest, fittest version of yourself possible. As the old saying goes, “stronger, faster, harder to kill.” As we strengthen our immune system the one guarantee is the more likely we are to fight off diseases, sickness and ill health. Please note, that many of these things are lifestyle habits and changes. Almost 80% of the health of our body is determined by lifestyle factors. Whereas only about 20% is determined by our genes. There are many lifestyle habits and things to do that certainly could be included in this list. However, we’ve chosen to keep it to our Top 10.
2.1 See a Chiropractor
I’m in love with Chiropractic. Sure I may also be a little biased however, for me I am yet to find a better way of helping to bring the body back into balance better than Chiropractic. This simple art and science of checking and adjusting the spine and nervous system can do wonders for decreasing stress and strain throughout the body. From inflammatory conditions, back pain, neck pain, migraines, headaches, sciatica right through to family chiropractic, corporate chiropractic or sports chiropractic, Chiropractic works.
Looking back within our own clients subjective analysis over the past 3 months, many of our clients have reported decreased colds and flu’s since being under chiropractic care. None of these clients came here for that reason however, it is a beautiful, positive side effect. By restoring the balance back to the brain and body there is a lot less stress and strain on the body meaning your immune system can focus on the real battle. On the external enemy, protecting you from the nasty’s out there.
2.2 Skin Health
As natural defences go we can’t get much tougher than our skin. In the Australian climate it’s very easy for our skin to be damaged. This makes it more susceptible for invading nasty’s or enemy soldiers to penetrate. Finding a good, chemical free sunscreen and moisturiser can bring life back to your skin. For me, I love jojoba oil. After time in the sun applying jojoba to clean, washed skin absorbs quickly and helps skin repair and recover, keeping skin healthy and impermeable to the enemies out there.
2.3 Vitamin D
According to Dave Asprey, “Vitamin D acts on over 1000 different genes and serves as a substrate for sex hormones like testosterone, human growth hormone and oestrogen.” If that isn’t enough Vitamin D serves as an immune booster and inflammation suppressor. Anecdotally, when Merissa was pregnant with our son her first blood test revealed very low levels of thyroid functioning. A simple liquid vitamin D supplement turned that around in as little as 4 weeks. The best source of Vitamin D is the sun and we all need full body exposure. However, as the weather begins to turn have a think, how much time is all of your skin getting exposed to nature’s power house?
2.4 Temperature Exposure
Believe it or not exposing ourselves to deliberately tough environments is brilliant for the health of our cells, our immune system and our well being. You’ve probably heard of Wim Hof and his love affair with cryotherapy, ice baths and the like. There is also Dr Rhonda Patrick who has done a myriad of research on the benefit of sauna therapy. Finally there is renown surfer and explorer Laird Hamilton who in his mid 50’s doesn’t look a day over 30 who combines both the deep freeze and extreme heat.
Extreme temperature exposure won’t necessarily kill off the invading virus or disease, but it heightens your own body cells activity. The forced rate of energy consumption by these cells triggers advanced cell growth and repair. If you are trying to boost your immune system, start by turning the shower to cold for the last 30 seconds. Having fit fast and dynamic cells is a great way to boost your soldiers strength and boost your immune system.
All of our defences need water. Almost 60% of our bodies, blood and individual cells are made of water. Good hydration has numerous benefits for our immune system. It keeps a good blood supply pumping and flushing away any unnecessary foreign invaders. The health of each blood cell is dependant on the level of hydration. A “healthy” cell appears almost plump versus a dehydrated and depleted cell. A “plump” cell is more vibrant which means it’s defences are much higher and this wall is much harder to penetrate. If still looking for an immune reason to stay hydrated consider your skin and saliva. Hydrated skin is considerably tougher and more impervious compared to dehydrated skin. Additionally saliva is 99% water to begin with.
We can not cheat our genetics. Humans are wired to sleep 7-9 hours each and every night. A big part of this is to keep our immune system primed, alert and ready for action. Now more than ever with this rapid increase in stress and tension, our need for sleep is higher. Anyone who’s done a mentally draining task like the HSC or a hard physical effort like giving birth, can surely realise just how draining this is on the body. It’s after these days we need more rest, more recovery than ever.
Sleep is nature’s rest and reboot time. It’s the time for our body to recover from the physical and emotional damage of the previous day. Think how much more likely you’re to feel or get sick after a few nights of poor sleep. Literally less than 1% of the population can function optimally and recover well on less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Yes, you may be able to get by however, when it comes to keeping your immune system primed, sleep is essential.
Immune functions such as clearing of waste products, draining away of toxins, rebuilding damaged tissues & cells and releasing positive growth hormones all happen with sleep. Daniel Tiger, one of my kids favourite cartoon characters has it nailed, “when your sick, rest is best, rest is best.”
2.7 Turn down the noise
Right now with every news network, Twitter, Facebook, Insta feed all blaring about Covid-19, it can be very confusing. This confusion puts us in a place of stress and this continual exposure to stress can trigger a fight/flight/freeze situation. This constant state of alertness can dramatically weaken our immune system. Unfortunately many people out there expressing their opinions are not qualified. If there was a scale of information from 1-10, many of the average Joe’s on Facebook right now sharing their insights have a quality of information that is in reality 1/10. Then there are the true medical experts, the immunologists who have studied viruses and the spread of pandemics for years and their quality of information is 10/10.
One sage piece of advice we were given again when pregnant with our son was pick two sources of information. Trust them, believe in them and turn down the noise on the others. I saw Seth Godin say the other day that right now we need a social media detox. He said that we should be on Twitter, etc for no longer than 5’/day. Can you do it? Turning down the noise will not make you ignorant, it’s decreasing the amount of stress hormones flooding through your body. The less you stress the calmer and more at ease you can go through your day. Think about it- would we have had the toilet paper plague if it wasn’t for social media?
Turning down the noise has one other amazing benefit- it allows you not to feed the Wolf of Hate. As Dr Rick Hanson’s proverb goes “I once heard a teaching story in which an elder, a grandmother, was asked how she had become so wise, so happy, and so respected. She answered: ‘In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.’” By carefully cultivating your information network, by choosing your frequency carefully you too can feed the wolf of love.
Science out of UC Berkley has shown huge immune boosting benefits of meditation. Mindfulness based training increases white blood cell volume and functioning. This increases the number of soldiers on the front line of defence. Additionally mindfulness practice can improve our levels of stress perception and resilience to stressful life events themselves. The other day I heard legendary meditation trainer Jack Kornfield say, “is that boulder heavy- not if you don’t pick it up.” If there was ever a time for a sense of calm amongst the storm it’s now. Rudyard Kipling nailed it in “If” when he said, “if you can keep your head when all about you, are loosing theirs.”
Another huge benefit of meditation or mindfulness is creating compassion for both yourself and others. This is a particularly stressful time, the impact on our health, economy and lives is real. Loving, Kindness Meditation also known as Metta meditation improves ones ability for compassion and empathy. Often the first person who needs this is you. One of my favourite loving kindness meditations is linked here and here is another perfect for school kids too.
2.9 Eat well
Even for our immune systems- we are what we eat. I am sure many of you have heard of antioxidants which put in another way could mean anti toxic foods. However, I am not sure how many of you have heard of phytonutrients. Both of these things play an incredibly important role in improving the function of our immune systems. Without getting into the weeds of what they are just remember that antioxidants and phytonutrients are mostly in coloured vegetables and fruits. Think that nice, red strawberry- red right through its core, the orange pumpkin or dark green broccoli- these are perfect immune boosting “super foods.” Right now to make sure I’m getting my efficient dose of greens I am also taking a greens supplement which if interested can be found here.
The opposite, heavy greasy or sugary foods are literally inflammatory. The higher the sugar content the more inflammatory and therefore the more immune suppressing. Similarly some vegetable oils and lards used in deep frying can slow the flow of blood as it’s moving through the body. Think of the heaviness you can feel after a big, deep fried meal as your immune system slowing down. If anything I want mine at warp speed- I’ll stick to the green stuff please….
Sure the gyms may be shut, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Exercise for many of us is a stress relief. For me, if I am grumpy Merissa tells me to go for a run. Right now we could all do with a stress release valve. If there’s an option, cardiovascular exercise is one of the best exercises for heart health. It is also best for mitochondrial (cell) health and the overall health of your immune system. The healthier the cells, the better their resilience and the stronger your immune system will be. Cardio exercise also increases blood flow which helps to flush away toxins and remove waste products throughout the body.
Tabata style HIIT workouts are super beneficial if stuck in a short space or limited on time as this high pace, start/stop workout is designed to give you maximum bang for your buck in a compressed window of time.
Lifting heavy is another great training option for improving immune health. Heavy weights forces a huge internal coordination effort from your entire muscular system. This increase in force or contraction of the muscle increases the activity within the working muscle, priming necessary hormonal release, stimulating cellular repair and increasing blood flow at the same time. As quoted earlier “stronger, faster, harder to kill.” Yes please….
Our thoughts and our love are with you during this incredibly tough time. Please feel free to reach out, email or comment below. Share this with the world and with your loved ones. Together we will get through this.