The unimaginable is happening. A virus with no current cure is sweeping through mother earth. The whole world is under lockdown, trying to flatten the curve and keep vast amounts of people out of ICU’s and from dying. The unfortunate truth is, most of us will contract the virus as economies are opening up and people return to work and try to resume “normal” life. The only thing that will make the difference between ICU and having it easy, will be your body’s own ability to fight the virus. The strength of your immune system will be your X-Factor, making all the difference.
There are things you could and should be doing right now to make sure your body’s immune system’s ability to fight lethal pathogens like viruses and bacteria is optimal. I am not talking about things to do in acute situations like taking zinc and vitamin C, but the choices you make right now to create healthy habits every day, to boost your immune system.
Here are 7 very important Immune Boosting Habits:
1. Improve your body composition
That means, lose body fat. Body fat acts like a sponge for a range of different immune cells and are very inflamed. The inflammation creates a constant noise in your immune system which affects its ability to sense trouble and then create an adaptive immune response to pathogens. The ability to attack immediately and robustly is impaired when it really matters. Data from China and Italy showed us that obese people are more likely to be hospitalized when infected with Covid-19. Why? Because the ambient level of inflammation is much higher, and the virus could stay undetected under the radar of the immune system for much longer.
What to do?
Exercise in a fasted state, even if not fasted, just exercise. Compress your feeding window, practice intermittent fasting and improve your diet. Start eating a low carb/keto type of diet.
Now is the time to shed those extra kilograms
2. Change your diet
When you have poor blood sugar regulation, especially diabetics, you have a higher propensity to develop infections, poor recovery from surgical procedures and a higher disease severity when it comes to the influenza virus. Even a short-term elevation in sugar, like drinking a coke, negatively affects your immune system. Sugar can disable your immune system for hours.
Cut the crap in your diet. You don’t have to be on a full-blown keto diet but eating lower and fewer carbs can really improve the body’s blood sugar regulation and balance. You can read You are what you eat, so what to eat? for more information on what foods to eat and also The silent beach body thief why eating fewer carbs is a good idea.
Exercise and sleep ties into that as well.
People who exercise regularly have a lot more benefits.
The effects of your diet and your fasting and feeding window is better. Autophagy (an intercellular cleaning process, also involved in the process of getting rid of pathogens) is enhanced. Exercise also enhances your sleep. This is really important because the more consistent people are with their exercise, the better their sleep is and that in turn makes their immune systems more robust.
Try at least walking 20 minutes every day. It also helps to balance blood sugar levels. If you’ve had a high carb meal, go for a brisk walk, it will help to use up the extra glucose in the system and bring your blood sugar down.
4. Practice Intermittent fasting
When eating the whole day together with eating processed high carb food it can create more inflammation. We already talked about the constant inflammation impairing the immune systems ability to sense and attack pathogens.
It’s very important to compress your eating window. If you have never done any fasting, start out with just a 12-hour window when you are not eating. Keep it super simple, eat your last meal at 7 pm and don’t eat anything again before the next day at 7 am. When your metabolic flexibility improves, you can start to fast longer like doing 16:8, 18:6, 20:4 or even a 24 hour fast. Change it up every day. It will become easy peasy to skip breakfast.
Read Intermittent fasting vs cutting calories to learn why you don’t have to count your calories when eating the right foods and shortening your eating window.
If you had a bad night’s sleep, your immune system has a decreased ability to detect and destroy pathogens the next day. Sleep is very protective of the immune system. During sleep, your immune system is optimal. That is the time when your body is repairing and cleaning. It’s not just about the amount you sleep, but also about the quality.
Practice good sleep hygiene. It is very important to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at more or less the same time. You want to be consistent with your body’s circadian clock rhythm. Minimize blue light exposure, invest in some blue-blocking glasses. How you breath also affects your sleep quality. It’s very important to breathe through your nose, consider mouth taping if you know you are a mouth breather.
6. Temperature and thermal stress
Having cold exposure activates the body’s natural healing powers. Get cold intentionally. When practised on a regular basis, cold water immersion can provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems.
End your shower with 30 seconds of cold water or jump in a cold pool or ocean. You can also combine it with sauna therapy and expose yourself to extreme heat and then extreme cold.
7. Stress management
If you have control over your body’s stress response, you’ll have better control over your sleep and even better control over diet choices. Psychological stress, financial stress and the uncertainty of Covid-19 can all negatively affect your immune system. Exercise, breathwork, mindfulness, gratitude and meditation are all important tools you can use to manage your stress.
Everything we talked about in this article is strategies that feed and play on each other, they are multi-directional. The one affects the other positively or negatively. Get these basic pillars right to boost your immune system and it will also improve the effectiveness of the extra vitamins and minerals you take to help improve immunity. This will be the X-Factor determining the outcome when you contract a virus like Covid-19. Do this every single day and be consistent over time. Make good habits your normal. Health demands change and growth, nothing less.