[Editor’s Note: Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplements. Some supplements can interact with prescription or over-the counter medications you are taking. A previous version of this article suggested that drinking hot liquids would help prevent COVID-19 from getting into the lungs. This is not the case.]
I’m a person of an age that has been designated a high-risk group for contracting COVID. Yet I don’t feel vulnerable, scared or unsafe. Digging deep and listening to my inner voice, I have been following my personal creed of being responsible for my own health. It seems to be working.
I’ve chosen to take the holistic approach to wellness. I’m not perfect, but most days I strive to meditate, think of several things in the day to appreciate, take supplements, sleep and eat well and do some kind of exercise.
I’ve consulted Karin Edgett, a nutritional cook and an artist, who found her own successful path years ago when she got tired of being regularly sick. I’ve also worked with chiropractor Henry Jenkins whose practice treats both the mind and the body together.
Karin turned her illness into wellness through a practice of “exercise, eating good food, taking supplements instead of medicine and, what may be the most important for improving the functioning of my immune system, developing a spiritual practice.” Her regimen changes as she gets healthier, as the environment changes and her awareness changes.
“I began doing yoga which was my entry into a spiritual practice. From yoga I worked with an array of channels and meditation practices in order to support my overall well-being,” she said. “The transition from an adult who had many chronic illnesses such as headaches, sinus issues, joint and muscle aches and digestive issues to an adult whose immune system functions optimally took making a commitment to my own well-being. It was worth the effort.”
For the past six months we have been hearing that those who are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID are the elderly, those who have other illnesses and people who are on medications. Why? Because those individuals’ immune systems may be compromised and unable to fend off the invading COVID virus as well as younger or healthier individuals. As people age their immune system slows down. But that does not mean that one is doomed. How do we keep our immune systems functioning optimally?
What is the Immune System?
From the dictionary: The immune system is a diffuse, complex network of interacting cells, cell products, and cell-forming tissues that protects the body from pathogens and other foreign substances, destroys infected and malignant cells, and removes cellular debris: the system includes the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes and lymph tissue, stem cells, white blood cells and antibodies.
On the whole, it does a remarkable job of defending your body again disease-causing microorganisms. But, according to Harvard Medical School, it is difficult to boost your immunity. ”It’s a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There’s still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response.”
Many suggested immune-boosting practices have been used to help heal for hundreds of years yet may not be embraced by the traditional western medical establishment. According to Harvard Health Publishing, choosing a healthy lifestyle is the “single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy.” What does that mean?
How to Change from Illness to Wellness
“Part of my spiritual journey was that I was under stress the way I lived my life,” explained Karin. By changing what she did and how she approached what she did, she relieved a lot of the stress.
Living under constant stress, even low-grade, causes your body to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. Over time, elevated cortisol lowers your resistance to fighting off infection and contributes to poor sleep and higher blood pressure.
Karin’s four tips to improve your immune system:
- “Start a spiritual practice to keep yourself in balance. Basically, anything that gets you out of your head and into your heart. If you are just using your brain and not connecting to your essence, soul /heart then you are limiting your capacity to be your full self.”
- Use supplements daily. They can be useful for building your immune system. Three supplements I take are: Vitamins A, D, and zinc. I take liposomal vitamin C and lots of it when I feel run down or when I have a virus. A good multi-vitamin can also boost your immune system. (Source Naturals Wellness Formula can be bought on Amazon, at Yes, Whole Foods or MOMs.)
- Eat well. I’m on a plant-based diet but she said any diet is fine. Try to eat fresh, local food and whole foods, Food is energy. Anything that is highly processed will not be as good for you as food that is locally-grown and fresh.
A Few Lifestyle Tweaks to Boost Your Immune System
Last year my right ankle and foot was hurting. The pain was impairing my ability to exercise, work and walk my dogs. I was out of balance and out of sorts. After treatment from Dr. Henry Jenkins at Paradigm Chiropractic and Performance and using a pair of orthotics, my pain disappeared and I felt once again centered. Experiencing pain compromises one’s immune system. “If you can boost your immune fighters you can stay healthy instead of trying to get rid of an illness,” said Dr. Jenkins. “Now is the time to change habits that are not serving us.”
Don’t hesitate to use assistance from experts to help. “I focus on misalignments of the spine which directly impact the autonomic nervous system,” Dr. Jenkins explains. “Our thoracic region (mid back) has nerve bundles which directly affect the adrenal glands, the stomach, the spleen and the liver. If I can release the nerve interference then I theoretically can improve function of those areas that are directly related to the immune system.”
Because of the pandemic lockdown, he has had time to examine what is important in his life and a renewed appreciation for what makes him healthy and happy. Because he has had less patients he began eating dinner regularly with his family. “It’s become a priority which I will continue. I realize what’s important when I have time to examine and reflect.”
Regular chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, massage, reflexology and energy work can all aid in keeping your immune system in balance.
If you are not exercising there’s no better time to start than now. A simple daily walk can give you the vitamin D you need and get your body moving.
Getting good sleep is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. Most experts agree everyone needs between six and eight hours of quality sleep most nights to fight off infection. Make it a priority. Try different techniques. When my sleeping habits changed and I was waking up around 4 a.m. every morning, I got back on track through trial and error. The change didn’t happen overnight but during the shutdown I could experiment with different methods of staying asleep without having to be concerned about waking at a certain hour to get to work.
I also started a regular meditation practice and found any time I am feeling anxious or stressed a few belly breaths (breathing into my gut, holding for a second or two then slowly exhaling) can help lower my anxiety level. It’s a technique that can be used anywhere and at any time.
Attitude is Everything
A positive mindset is vital for health and well-being. Research shows that positive thoughts reduce stress and inflammation and increase resilience to infection while negative emotions can make you susceptible to disease.
As Karin Edgett says, “Be kind to yourself and be kind to everyone else.”
If you want to contact Karin Edgett go to: www:karinedgett.art.
If you want to contact Henry Jenkins go to: www:paradigmchiropracticdc.com.
- Pattie Cinelli is a health and fitness professional who has been writing her column for more than 20 years. She has never been a patient in a hospital, never got the flu and never been seriously ill or injured. She focuses on non-traditional ways to stay healthy and get well. Please email her with questions or column suggestions at: [email protected]