5 Things I Am Doing Daily To Boost My Health & Immune System During These Challenging Times
And it doesn’t involve wearing a mask!
by Dr. Tamer Issa, PT, DPT
We are undoubtedly going through unprecedented times in dealing with the COVID-19 Virus. People understandably are concerned about the health of their families and friends. I think it’s important to listen to what those airline flight attendants have been telling us all these years... “put your oxygen mask on first”.
Now more than ever, we must take care of ourselves first. Stress, especially prolonged stress, have a nasty way of messing with our health and well-being. When we're stressed, the immune system's ability to fight off toxins is compromised, which makes us more susceptible to illness and disease. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. Prolonged stress can also lead to pain, weight gain, and fatigue.
The most important thing we can all do right now for ourselves and our loved ones is to boost our health and immune system. Nothing that I’m telling you here is new or rocket science. Below are 5 things that I’m trying to do every day to ensure that I am doing my best for my family, my patients, and myself.
It’s been 2 weeks since most of the country has been isolated. No going to work, not going to the gym, not playing sports, and not visiting with friends. We are working from home, sitting more, out of our exercise routine, and not moving as much as we used to. Take a look at your Fitbit stats compared to a month ago. I bet you’ll see a decline in your activity level. I would guess that this is leaving many of us feeling stiff and sluggish. We were meant to move and there is plenty of evidence to support that exercise boosts our immune system and overall health.
This is what I’m doing to make sure I get enough activity every day:
I make a conscious effort every day to MOVE. Any exercise will do. I’m not getting picky. I will either do cardio (jumping rope or stationary bike), a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine, yoga, or my PT exercises (yes I have my own PT exercises that I need to stay up with too). I decide what to do based on how I feel. If I feel sluggish I go for cardio. If I feel strong, I go for the HIIT routine. If I feel stiff and stuck, I go for yoga. And I do this first thing in the morning before the rest of the day gets hijacked. If I can’t get to one of those things, I will go on several walks or a hike at a minimum. When I make exercise a priority in my day, I feel more energetic, more productive, and less stressed. Do yourself a favor, get moving, you’ll feel better.
Guess what a lot of people do when they are stressed out? Eat like crap. Junk food, comfort foods, and alcohol is a way for people to temporarily feel better. Sound familiar to anyone?. Guess what eating right does for you? It strengthens your immune system and makes you feel healthier. As I said, it ain’t rocket science. With our inability to eat out as much, this is an incredible opportunity to get your nutrition right. Fuel your body with good nutrition and you will have more energy and be less likely to get sick.
This is what I’m doing to ensure that I’m fueling my body with good nutrition:
I’m drinking plenty of water, 8-10 cups per day. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Consuming plenty of lean protein. Sticking to healthy fats in the form of nuts, avocados, and olive oil. I’m staying away from foods that are high on the glycemic index. I’m avoiding sugars, processed foods, unhealthy fats, and alcohol. Now, let me be clear. I still do consume some of these things, but it’s rare and a treat, definitely not daily, more like weekly. I don’t believe in all or nothing when it comes to eating right.
There are 2 main reasons why I supplement with supplements. First, my busy life can make it difficult for me to get all the nutrients I need from my diet alone. This is especially important these days when we may not have access to good nutrition if we aren’t going to the grocery store as often or if some of our favorite healthy foods aren’t available when we get there. When people are hoarding for the possible apocalypse, it’s unlikely they are buying fresh food that isn’t meant to last. It’s more likely that people are buying processed foods, frozen dinners, and other convenience foods. Well, guess what, those foods don’t have the nutrients we need. The second reason I am taking supplements is that it offers me an opportunity to boost my immune system and at least give me a better chance of staving off illness.
This is what I am doing in the form of supplements to boost my immunity:
I already take a handful of supplements that will improve overall health and boost immunity like, Vitamin D, multi-vitamin, OPC-3 (pycnogenol), curcumin, magnesium, and an activated B-complex. I have decided to add an immunity supplement, Aloe, and Probiotics to my arsenal of supplements during this time. I added nutraMetrix Istonix Immune, it has additional Vitamin C and Zinc and Wellmune WGP (a natural yeast beta-glucan that helps our immune cells fight off foreign bodies). I added aloe because it supports a healthy digestive tract, supports a strong immune system and it helps with nutrient absorption. I take a liquid drinkable form called nutraMetrix Ultimate Aloe… the strawberry kiwi flavor is delicious. I mix 2 ounces with a glass of water once a day. The last supplement I added is Probiotics. Probiotics help support a healthy immune system and help the body adapt to stress. I take nutraMetrix Probiotics 10, it contains 10 billion probiotic colony forming units (CFUs) and has 10 different probiotic strains.
Getting a Good Night's Sleep
How are you sleeping these days? If you are like many, probably not too well. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that people are spending more time watching TV before bed, staring at social media and the news on their phones, and staying awake feeling restless, thinking about what the future will bring. This is highly disruptive to getting restorative sleep. Studies have shown a lack of good sleep makes us more susceptible to getting sick after being exposed to a virus.
This is what I’m doing to ensure a good night’s sleep:
I aim to get 7.5 hours of sleep, which is the amount of sleep that I have found makes me feel the best. You have to find out what works best for you. I don’t look at a screen for at least 30 minutes before I go to bed so I have time to unwind. I like to meditate and/or read before I doze off to sleep. I aim to get up at the same time every morning. If I can’t get 7.5 hours of sleep because I went to bed too late then I will opt to get 6 hours of sleep, not 6.5 or 7. I will explain this sleep hack in a future blog… it has to do with the sleep cycle.
Keeping My Mind Clear of Negative Thoughts & Staying in a Positive Mindset
We are being bombarded with news about the Coronavirus... constantly. It’s everywhere. It’s on TV, in the papers, on social media, and is constant in people's conversations. All of it is feeding into our sense of fear and uncertainty. This keeps us in a state of fight or flight and leads to irrational thoughts and behaviors. Hence the hoarding and self-preservation that many people are engaging in. Worry, the intellectual identification and expectation of potential future negative events dysregulate the autonomic nervous system, which may thus have negative implications on our immune system. What we fill our minds with does affect health and the immune system.
Scientist, Barbara Fredrickson, has shown that positive emotions broaden our perspective of the world thus allowing us to live with more creativity and allows to see more options. Positive emotions also build over time strengthening our resilience and our ability to flourish. The physical and emotional benefits of positivity include improved cardiovascular health, a stronger immune system, better sleep, and an overall greater sense of happiness.
This is what I am doing right now to keep my mind free of negative thoughts:
Significantly limiting my intake of the news and social media. I still want to stay informed and up to date. I will check-in for about 10-15 minutes at the end of the day, but that’s it. Anything more leads to worry and my thoughts going towards worse case scenarios. Secondly, I’m meditating consistently. I started a consistent meditation practice around 2.5 years ago and it has been a blessing. I try to meditate every day but at a minimum of 4 days a week. I find if I don’t meditate for 2-3 days, I start having increased feelings of uneasiness and worry. Here are 2 great free, easy guided meditations that you can try to keep you at peace during these uncertain times from the Mindful Movement: Being Present to Find Peace from within during Challenging Times and Let Go of Worry and Fear and Cultivate Peace. I guarantee you that 20 minutes of meditation will be much better for your health and sanity than 20 minutes of watching the news or reading the worrisome thoughts and opinions of others on social media.
If you want to stay healthy during this difficult time of crisis and stress, you have to focus on you... first and foremost. There is nothing new or earth-shattering in what I have described above. It’s actually what we should all aim to do to stay healthy physically and mentally all the time, but it’s more important now than ever. I hope you feel inspired to take control and add some certainty back to your life. Try adding ONE of these things above every day for a week and see if it made a positive change for you. You don’t have to do what I aim to do, but you have to try to do something to strengthen your resilience. That’s what we all need right now… RESILIENCE!