At Alpine Fit, we know it’s a confusing time with a lot of evolving information on coronavirus (COVID-19). As it spreads to new cities we still know little about it’s true impact and how to prepare for it.
Prevention advice can be summed up as: wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, avoid touching your face, cancel non-essential travel, stay home if you’re sick, and stock up in case of quarantine.
These are crucial messages for a global community, yet, we still wish for a silver bullet to know that our families, our communities, we will be OK.
Some of the early data has taught us that the highest risk is for the elderly and those with underlying heart conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disorders.
According to the CDC, 6 out of 10 Americans have a chronic disease including cancer, lung disease, HIV/AIDS, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
While chronic conditions compromise the immune system and increase susceptibility to illness, it’s important for all of us to do what we can to prevent acquiring and/or potentially spreading the virus.
So what can we do beyond hand washing?
While much of the solution is actually a longer term health system revolution there are things we can do right now to boost immunity.
6 Ways to Biohack your Immunity
1. Supplement with vitamin D.
A deficiency of vitamin D is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection. While 35% of American adults are clinically deficient in Vitamin D, even more have insufficient levels. For most people the recommendation is 5000 IU daily. (Note – if possible, get tested for your current Vitamin D levels to know your baseline prior to supplementing and if you’ve been tested and your medical provider recommends a different amount follow that advice. Also, D3 supplements are not vegan so if you’re following a vegan diet you may want to supplement with D2 which the body will convert to D3.)
2. Stay hydrated.
Water is the coolant system of your body. It supports the work of all of your major organs including your digestive system and your brain. Without adequate hydration your body has to work harder to support the many functions it’s responsible for and this causes a low level stress to the body that over time is depleting the system from its repair process and results in weakened immunity. The recommended intake is to drink your weight in ounces. Then, add one cup of water for each 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, each cup of coffee, and each alcoholic beverage.
There is no better time to swap ten minutes of watching the news for sitting in meditation. Meditation has been shown to reduce insomnia and improve quality of sleep. One in three Americans are not getting adequate sleep. We know that those who sleep less than seven hours a night are almost three times more likely to develop the common cold than those who sleep greater than eight hours.
4. Get moving.
Exercise has been shown to increase immunity and improve the efficiency and efficacy at which your immune cells fight off bacteria and viruses. Remember that any type of exercise is better than nothing at all. The goal is to get a minimum of 30 minutes of continuous movement 5 days a week. If you’re up for the challenge a study showed that after three 30 minute sessions a week for 10 weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) white blood cells were more effective at fighting off pathogens. This study had participants alternating between 60 seconds of high intensity walking and 60 seconds of low intensity walking. If you’re avoiding the gym and larger group settings now is the time to set up your at home gym with exercise videos, medicine balls, and resistance bands and get moving.
5. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
An anti-inflammatory diet is one that eliminates refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, and refined flours in preference of immune-boosting fruits and veggies, clean proteins, and healthy fats. When you eat a high sugar diet your immune system becomes inflamed and you’re not able to detox as effectively. Instead, eat a high amount of vegetables to achieve all the colors of the rainbow throughout the week to supply your body with the polyphenols, anthocyanins and other immune boosting phytochemicals. Lastly for diet, make sure that you’re eating plenty of omega 3 fatty acids through foods like chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and wild caught salmon as they are all immune boosting.
6. Take the edge off stress.
In addition to meditation, curb your stress by leaning into adaptogens (such as rhodiola, ashwaganda, ginseng). Adaptogens are the umbrella term for fungi and plant-derived compounds that help the body adapt to stress. Stressors like sleep deprivation, high demand and low movement workplace environments, exposure to toxins through our food and environment, as well as the bombardment of news all have impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Your body is not able to defend itself from illness and heal as well when it’s under chronic stress so we need healthful ways to support ourselves and our bodies by increasing stress resiliency. If you’re a regular coffee drinker try swapping a cup a day for an adaptogenic brew instead or use adaptogenic powder in your morning smoothie – not only will it help you adapt to stressors it will also mean less caffeine and a little reprieve for the adrenals.
While these steps alone won’t halt the spread of COVID19 they will help modify your individual risk profile and even change the trajectory of the disease if picked up by many. If we all do what we can we can become healthier individuals and a healthier society.