Remember that saying popularized in the Great Recession, “Don’t let a great crisis go to waste”?
While most of us are compliant with the sheltering at home decree, the wearing of masks, adjustment to life on Zoom, why have we given a pass to our collective need to boost our bodies’ ability to fight this virus?
People are questioning what ‘normal’ will we return to eventually, and seizing upon the chance to reboot our mindsets at work and home. But what is it going to take to get very real about this call to act on improving our health?
People who have been exposed to or contracted Covid-19 and have either had mild cases or remained completely symptom-free hold the secret to fighting this disease.
Their immune systems are working optimally, able to fight off the virus. Their white blood cells went on the attack against the foreign invaders and were successful.
Would your body’s immune system do the same?
No matter the contagion- whether the common cold, flu, SARS, HIV, Covid- 19 — we know that people with strong, healthy immune systems are going to do better than people with compromised and suppressed immune systems. In my studies as a Functional Medicine coach and as a patient formerly diagnosed with three auto-immune disorders, hormonal imbalance, leaky gut and an eating disorder, it is clear that we need to do some pretty specific things to build a strong immune system:
Develop and maintain a healthy gut microbiome;
Give up, get off, and do away with processed food and sugar;
Lower our bodies’ inflammation levels with whole, nutrient-dense foods and high quality, absorbable supplements;
Practice good lifestyle habits by managing our sleep, stress, exercise, social connectivity and personal well-being.
These four suggestions reflect an urgent need to fight the virus as well as a long-time a-coming need to stop making excuses about what we continue to ingest, despite knowing better.
People know that sugar and white flour are ruining our health. People know healthy fats are needed and should not be avoided.
People know that pesticides, plastics, metals like teflon and mercury and mold are toxins wreaking havoc in our bodies.
People know we are over prescribed drugs that, along with each of the above, are contributing to the epidemics we face in the steep rise in autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
We, including me, have to stop making excuses and get with the program! Stop bargaining with that birthday cake, those burgers, M&M’s and margaritas and make those changes. Getting out of denial may be the difference between life and death! Hippocrates said all illness begins in the gut. Your microbiome needs to be healthy. Most of us suffer from leaky gut which must be repaired as the first step in boosting your immune system. Summarizing Dr. Ruscio here:
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, caused by eating inflammatory foods, occurs when small gaps open between the tight junctions of cells that line your small intestine. These gaps allow undigested food particles through to get into your bloodstream and cause an immune system response, such as brain fog, joint pain, fatigue, impaired sleep, and digestive problems such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s, Lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, and brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
This pandemic is a call to action! To cut our attachment to unhealthy food that is compromising our lives. To get over our rationalizations and denials and just do what we know we need to do for our health. Don’t give in to the attachment to really unhealthy foods. Be a survivor of Covid. Be healthy for life.
The Pragmatics of What to Eat and What to Avoid Healing your gut by feeding your microbiome whole, low inflammatory foods is the repair. Once you clean up your act and your health has improved for a substantial period of time (i.e. 6–12 months), you can occasionally indulge in that unhealthy treat, if you must. But for now, no excuses- we are talking life or death! Here is a list of the best foods to consume, in prioritized order and adapted from Dr. Ruscio, Dr. Hyman, Dr. Christianson, Dr. Minich and Dr. Wentz. This list reflects largely what I have done to heal myself. You can experiment and find what works best for you.
Fresh Green Veggies: Organic veggies like spinach, kale, peppers, snap peas, brussel sprouts, lettuce, broccoli and zucchini. Nightshades like onion, eggplant, tomato if tolerated.
Fresh Fruit: Fruits such as berries and apples provide vitamins, minerals, and prebiotic fiber. Healthy Fats are your friend: Foods such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado are good sources of healthy fats to keep your brain, skin, and cells happy. Butter and ghee can be used in moderation. Wild Fish: Provides omega-3 fatty acids and protein to help keep blood sugar balanced. Emphasis on wild, not farmed.
Grass-Fed Meat and Eggs: Organic, ethically raised animals that provide beef, pork, and poultry also provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein to help keep blood sugar balanced. Nuts and Seeds: Source of protein, healthy fats, prebiotics, and slow burning carbs. Herbs and Spices: Provides flavor and anti-inflammatory plant compounds.
Bone Broth: Long-cooked broth from meat or poultry bones is rich in collagen and gelatin, both of which help heal leaky gut.
Cultured Dairy Products (if tolerated): Yogurt and kefir provide some good bacteria. Small amounts of cream and cottage cheese can be used in moderation, if tolerated. Roots and Tubers (if tolerated): sweet potatoes and carrots provide slow burning carbs, as well as prebiotics and fiber. Use white potatoes sparingly.
Fermented Veggies (if tolerated): Sauerkraut and kimchi increase your probiotic diversity and give a small boost to your probiotic community. Gluten-Free Whole Grains (if tolerated): Whole grains like brown rice, millet, and quinoa provide fiber and minerals, and are slow burning carbs.
Here is a list of inflammatory foods that should be reduced and ultimately removed from your daily intake. Shed a tear and say goodbye, and boost your immune system!
Gluten: includes wheat-based products like bread, pasta, crackers, tortillas, cereals and the grains spelt, rye, barley and kamut.
Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners (if you feel like indulging just remember that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. Is it really worth it?)
Processed and Junk Food
Commercial Sauces & Dressings
Alcohol and Sugary Beverages
Industrial Oils: Avoid canola, corn, cottonseed, soy, and safflower. This means avoid things like commercial potato chips, falafel, french fries.
Restaurant meals that use sugar, MSG, industrial oils, gluten.
I read everyday about progress the biologists and doctors are making to understand more how to stop this virus. I noticed that there are indicators that people with high reserves of Vit. D, NAC, glutathione in the body fare better against the virus.
As a person with a compromised immune system, I take supplements daily to build strengthen my immune system and keep my inflammation level low anyway. I take only capsules or powders, no tablets since they are not absorbed well.
I have increased my efforts to strengthen my immune system with this regimen: Vit D* Zinc* Liposomal Vitamin C* Liposomal Glutathione* NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)* Astragalus Fish Oil B12 Iron Vitamin A
*Early evidence exists that high levels of these are found in people whose immune system resisted contracting Covid 19.
**I also use prescribed LDN (low dose naltrexone)** for the lowering my inflammation levels and boost my immune system. If you want to know more about that wonder drug see my store here.
So don’t let this crisis go to waste. Use it to make your body- and mind- resilient to this virus! Use it to make the choices and changes you know you need! Use it to get fiercely well!
WRITTEN BY Rhyena Halpern Functional Medicine Health Coach. Designing our Third Acts, Autoimmunity, Healing, Food & Weight, Trauma, End of Life planning. SF Bay Area firstname.lastname@example.org