Healthy Immunity – What You Can Do to Improve Your Resilience
You have made it through the tail end of winter and the Covid-19 quarantine successfully! Our strategies against the virus are helping the fight, but chances are, Covid or another virus will thrive in the fall and next winter.
For most it has been a time of added stress, uncertainty, low mood and frustration with the weather. Now that lockdown regulations are being lifted, many are feeling anxious about leaving home and interacting, even at a distance, and about a second wave of Covid causing more ill-health and discomfort. There are fewer distractions from our boredom, and hopefully we are learning to let some unpleasant emotions go without reacting as we remain homebound, and see that emotions come and go. Are you finding you are hungrier or craving sweets, less motivated, more tired or more irritable during quarantine and social distancing? This may be hurting your immunity!
The Great Pause
It has also been a time of peace and rest for many, which helps our immunity. This period is being called The Great Pause. Some are not working, working less, or under different circumstances, and some are working even harder than usual, but all are more homebound than what was our normal pre Covid outbreak. This has lead to benefits from a slower pace, more time to sleep and cook, more time in the fresh air, and time with family at home connecting in new ways. For me, it has included sleeping a bit later as I am not dropping kids off at school in the mornings, playing many underused board games, teaching my 4-year-old to ride her tricycle and become a little speed demon, becoming a part-time grade 4 teacher, and having the rare pleasure of watching as the grass turns green and tulips pop out of the ground.
Supporting our Bodies During Stress and Sickness
Our responsibilities now include staying calm, educated, prepared and supportive of our community, and that has become more challenging with mixed information and many opinions. On a personal level, it includes learning about our immune systems in greater depth than we are accustomed to.
As an ND, my philosophy has always been to try to find the root cause of each symptom or health concern and stimulate the body to heal naturally. Did you know that one of the founding principles of Naturopathic Medicine is “to teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine”? The term Doctor comes from the latin, Docere.
Here are a few important points to consider about the immune system:
We will always be challenged by pathogens, and they will mutate and surprise us. The best defence is a great offence!
My colleague Dr. Nasha Winters ND wrote this wonderful section with links in her own blog:
“We are beginning to learn that certain co-morbidities like diabetes (blood glucose and ketone levels, insulin, HbA1C) and obesity (body fat index, D3 levels, CRP- an inflammation marker) significantly alter the outcomes of this virus. We are learning that those with weakened immune systems (low White Blood Cells, poor neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio, elevated platelets) for whatever reason (poor diet, pollution, smoking, medications) are at higher risk of death. Here are some good articles expanding on this:
What are your risk factors? Would you like to reduce them? Now is the time. Read the Blog on the Proactive Health Tests!
The immune system is complex and can be supported by a healthy diet:
A diet that is low in sugars and refined flours and grains, and high in fresh vegetables, moderate in fruits, and includes lean protein and healthy fats. I cringe a little when I drive by 7-11 and see the Slurpees emerging in the hands of our community, both young and old. High fructose corn syrup is still Public Enemy #1 for our bodies as it damages the pancreas and is GMO and inflammatory! (https://www.ecowatch.com/scientists-find-high-fructose-corn-syrup-is-as-bad-for-you-as-you-migh-1882000552.html)
Think long term– to avoid flus and infections during fall and winter, consider your food intake as you celebrate holidays and seasonal events! At times when we are typically experiencing lower temperatures, lower humidity, living in closed-in environments and managing the higher stress seasons, we celebrate one holiday after another with high sugar, carbohydrate (including alcohol) intakes (think Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah through to Easter). Many also live in an environment that sees little sunshine and therefore we all have lower levels of immune-supportive vitamin D3. All of these factors increase the potential for bacterial and viral adherence and replication, or…infection and unpleasant symptoms.
Immunity is more than adding herbs, medical mushrooms, zinc, vitamin C or most other ‘immune boosters’.
“The immune system cannot truly be boosted or strengthened. It is about resiliency. Resilience is the process that allows individuals to adapt to adverse conditions and recover from them.” Our planet and environment pose many threats in the form of toxins, in FOOD, BODY CARE PRODUCTS, AIR, WATER and more”. Immunity is more than adding herbs, medical mushrooms, zinc, vitamin C or most other ‘immune boosters’” we hear of online, it is building our resilience. In building resilience we need to not only ‘add’ but we must also ‘reduce’ by lowering inflammation and removing the burdens on our immune system. This includes avoidance of chemical toxins in foods, improvement of detoxification pathways, using anti-inflammatory herbs, and even breathing more through meditation and exercise. This type of push/pull is much more likely to create true resilience and long term safety from infections and epidemic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. From a research report by Dr. Daniel Weber DSc, PhD.
In Dr. Weber’s figure above, notice that negative emotional responses due to perceived stress increase poor health decisions and behaviours, resulting in more inflammation and risk of disease.
Perceived stress can be lowered through social support (including your attentive health care practitioners), well-managed blood sugars, relaxation techniques and adequate sleep. Why not make time now to work on improving your lifestyle and stress response? 5 minutes a day….small steps…
It is time for all of us to take responsibility for our bodies, and improve our odds against all illnesses, including viruses. Stay tuned for more tips on healthy immunity. Now go get some sunshine!
Happy spring to you all!
Dr. Sara Korsunsky BSc, N.D.