I’ve been getting questions from people who’re trying to be proactive and do everything they can to protect themselves. In Part I, I discussed what people can do to improve their immune response by decreasing stress and using right supplements. (Also see how to improve your immune system if you have asthma). But this virus is causing much more serious complications in overweight, hypertensive elderly and immunocompromised than in young and healthy individuals.
What exactly is immunocompromised?
Simply put, these are people whose immune system is weakened or not functioning normally. This can be for many different reasons, most common being diabetes, heart, lung, liver and kidney disease, lupus, some cancers, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition. Certain medications can suppress the immune response. These include chemotherapy, cortical steroids and certain autoimmune drugs.
My daughter thought that I completely lost my mind for yelling at the TV commercial for a certain autoimmune drug. In it, a pretty young girl, no longer embarrassed by her GI symptoms, merrily goes back to normal life. But as it went on, the narration continues: side effects include, lowered ability to fight infections and that serious and sometimes even deadly infections can occur.
Really? Serious or deadly infections? In the middle of a pandemic, when tens of thousands are dying from infections? Ok, I’m taking deep breaths. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that people may be taking medications they may not be aware are suppressing their immune response. If you’re taking any of the above, consider reevaluating it with their doctor, especially if they’re not lifesaving or an absolute must.
On the lab work however, weak immune system is when the White Blood Cells or WBCs are low. Lab range of 4,000-11,000 is considered normal, and since I practice functional medicine, my ranges are tighter so the range of 5,000 – 8,000 is my sweet spot. Lower the number, the more immunosuppression.
Children generally have higher WBCs. In the newborn for example, the normal levels are from 9,000 – 30,000 and could be one of the reasons why children are generally less affected from the coronavirus and have much fewer complications.
Keys to Stronger Immune System
Firstly, practice defense. Here is the defense is a best offence saying is very appropriate. I’m sure you heard it hundreds of times, but nothing beats keeping pathogens out of your air pathways.
Wash your hands
Maintain physical distancing
Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth
Wear a mask
If have any symptoms, seek medical attention early
This is absolutely the most important thing a person can do for their immune system. It’s even more important than diet, supplements, exercise and even stress.
Start with getting to bed on time. If you’re a night owl, consider getting in bed a little earlier and waking up more naturally, like you would normally wake up without an aid from an alarm clock.
Follow these tips to establish healthy sleep habits:
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
- Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
- Make your bedroom quiet, relaxing and dark. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
- Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
- Turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
- Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
- Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
Melatonin is a best-known hormone produced by the pineal gland during sleep. It’s an antioxidant and it helps to prime the immune cells such as Natural Killer cells, to hunt and destroy the bad guys, including the coronavirus. NK cells have been shown to be less diverse in older people than in children. Melatonin levels in children are 10 – 30 times higher than in adults and smokers have lowest levels of this hormone.
In addition, melatonin is a contender for the drug repurposing that have the potential to fight coronavirus, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it works, considered all the things it does for our immune system and has virtually no side effects.
If you have problems falling asleep or getting into a deep sleep and following a good sleep hygiene just isn’t enough, I recommend Melatonin SRT, a sustained released melatonin.
Feeds your immune system.
Give your immune system what it needs to thrive.
Fresh fruits and vegetables. Wide, rich and diverse plant foods supply your immune system with polysaccharides and bioflavonoids that enrich your immune fighting capacity.
Adequate protein. Protein helps to build up your WBC.
Probiotic rich food. Foods rich in probiotic bacteria such as yogurt, fermented food, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, cottage cheese benefit your microbiome which in turn strengthens your immune system.
Take a good probiotic supplement or here.
Things that undermine your immune system.
Sugar/Fructose. Suppress your WBC for hours after eating it.
Diet drinks. Have similar effects as sugar.
Skipping meals. Decrease production of WBC from the bone marrow.
Eating limited diet. Decreases the variability you need for a healthy and vibrant GI microbiome.
Smoking. No explanation needed.
Excess drinking. Anything more than 1 to 1.5 drinks a day on average and not to exceed 3 drinks a day is bad for your immune system.
In the Part III I’ll discuss exercise and how it can decrease the severity and complications from the coronavirus.
Stay healthy and strong,