Never did it seem more important to be in good health than right now. The recent pandemic has shown us first-hand how valuable a well-functioning body and immune system are. This virus mainly seriously affects people of ill health.
But with the recent pandemic also came a renewed fear of microbes and the need to protect ourselves. In addition, came months of staying indoors and significant amounts of stress. The strain this caused our organisms and immune systems is significant.
In recent decades we have learned much about the importance of living in harmony with our microbes, often referred to as our microbiome. These microbiotas form a large part of our immune system. Moreover, they also regulate all genes in the human genome. Therefore they pretty much regulate our entire organism. That’s exactly why they are so important. And as much as antimicrobial agents can protect us, they also pose a threat to our microbiome.
So what to do when caught between a rock and a hard place? Here a few tips on how to ensure your body and immune system stay as healthy as possible:
Quit smoking or vaping. Smokers are at a significantly higher risk of contracting COVID 19 and getting serious complications from respiratory infections.
Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine
A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet goes a long way. Eat healthily and care for your microbiome. Add more greens and veggies, cut down on saturated fats and sugar. Also, take a good quality probiotic supplement and increase your intake of dietary prebiotics. Probiotics can reduce our chances of catching certain infections and help us recover faster. Studies show that people who consume probiotics are better able to fight off colds and the flu. Prebiotics are dietary fibers your microbiota feast on. Here a list of foods high in prebiotics:
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion Greens
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Slightly Unripe Bananas
- Burdock Root
Get proper sleep. If you need help with your sleep, consult with an acupuncturist. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can be very helpful to restore proper sleep. Here a few tips for better sleep:
- No more LED-screens after 7 PM. This is my #1 concern when it comes to sleep. The brain, in particular, the pineal gland, is very sensitive to LED light and will not secret melatonin. Melatonin is necessary to start the biochemical cascade of inducing sleep. According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, one of the world’s most high-profile experts on sleep, 1 hour of looking at your phone, tablet, or laptop, will shift your circadian rhythm 3 hours forward on average. It disrupts your entire sleep-chemistry. Moreover, if you have to look at your phone, use the blue-light filter (Night Shift mode)
- Keep your bedroom cool. A temperature between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Make sure to go to bed and to wake up at the same time each day. Besides avoiding LED exposure in the evening, this is Dr. Walker’s #1 priority from his list for good sleep hygiene
- Exercise earlier in the day
- Scratch caffeine in the afternoon
- Skip the night-cap. Alcohol reduces REM sleep and keeps your sleep superficial. You will also be more likely to wake up in the early morning hours (1-3 AM)
- Avoid large and (protein) heavy meals at night. Also, skip the ice cream with your movie
- If you need a nap, do this before 3 PM
- No gadgets in your bedroom
- Make time to relax before bed – take a hot bath. It’s not the comforting heat of the bath that makes you sleepy. It’s the cooling down afterward that induces sleep
- Keep your bedroom dark. Blackout curtains or shades are very helpful
Manage your stress. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can be very helpful to regulate your stress response. Also, exercise and meditation can be very helpful. But don’t over-exercise. Moderate exercise as well as autoregulation exercises can reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in your body. But excessive exercise can also increase cortisol and glucocorticoids, which in return weaken your immune system and affect your health in other ways.
Get outside and be active. Physical activity has shown again and again to boost immunity and improve mood. Moreover, sun exposure increases your vitamin D3 levels, which are crucial for a well-functioning immune system
Craving A Drink?
Times like these can certainly increase a desire for something to take the edge off. But be aware. Alcohol is a CNS depressant and is shown to increases anxiety, stress, and depression. It significantly interferes with your sleep, which you really can’t afford in times like these. Moreover, more than 6 ounces of wine per day also hurt your microbiome. This in turn not only weakens your immune system but your entire organism. I know you are probably thinking ‘but doctors used to say that moderate daily consumption of wine is good for you’. That’s absolutely true – they used to! In recent years the studies that showed the negative effects of alcohol on your health far outweighed the benefits.
Research has found that good social connections can have beneficial effects on your health. It’s good for our immunity, improves mood, sleep quality, and cardiovascular health. According to UCLA professor Steve Cole, loneliness can increase inflammation and decrease immune capacity. Therefore, connect with friends and loved ones as much and often as possible.