One of the ugly truths of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that so many people are at high risk of contracting the virus and then doing poorly once they get it. These would be people who are not actually considered “sick” on one hand, but on the other hand, they are also “not exactly healthy” either. These would include people who are obese or even overweight. Smokers would also be included, as well as people with chronic lung problems like emphysema and asthma. There was some concern that people being treated for hypertension might be more susceptible to untoward outcomes. And then we learned that people taking those acid blocking proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole are at increased risk too. Of course, anyone with an autoimmune or inflammatory condition is at risk. By the time it was all totaled up, it is estimated that some 80% of the adult population is at increased risk!
Perhaps misery loves company, but I believe that many of us could get out of that higher risk group. With a bit of focus and effort most of us would not only reduce our risk but improve our health such that we could live better, longer and more confidently!
Here are ten simple things most of us could do to improve our health and strengthen our immune system.
1. Get quality sleep on a consistent basis.
This is an area that many people overlook. They seem to think that they can get caught up later, but we now know that quality sleep makes a huge difference in our health in the long run. What should you do? Monitor your sleep, set goals and keep working to improve. Be consistent. Go to bed and get up at the same time regardless of the day. After monitoring your sleep for a few weeks, your patterns will become apparent. Take small steps to improve and maintain those steps over time. You will see improvement in no time!
2. Eat healthy food.
Especially colorful vegetables as they are full of carotenoids and polyphenols, which support healthy inflammation and oxidation cycles.
3. Take supplements to support immunity.
Take vitamin D. The “sunshine vitamin” is hard to make in Wisconsin during the winter months and 80% of the population has inadequate levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream. You really cannot get this from food, so a supplement is necessary. I recommend a combination of vitamin D3 and K2. Other vitamins and minerals essential for immune function that people commonly lack include vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, selenium and magnesium.
4. Exercise regularly.
Not having a gym to go to was one of the harder parts of the COVID-19 shutdown for me.
5. Consider nasal irrigation or rinsing
of the nasal passages.
Neti pots are the traditional method and that is what I use. Be sure to use distilled water and I also add some sea salt infused with essential oils.
6. Incorporate breathing exercise.
I like The Wim Hof Method which is a proven way to enhance immunity. It involves the following breathing exercise: 3 sets of 30 deep, rapid inspirations with forceless expiration (just letting the air out) followed by holding your breath for 1-2 minutes, full inspiration and hold for another 15 seconds and then relax for 3-4 seconds and repeat to complete 3 sets.
7. Expose yourself to cold for brief periods.
The Wim Hof Method also includes cold exposure. You could do cryotherapy or an ice bath, but I have found that finishing my shower with 2-3 minutes of cold water works. You will likely have to work up to it from as little as 10 seconds on your first try!
8. Meditate daily.
I use a guided version that I find online.
9. Incorporate periods of fasting.
Fasting is also helpful. I use a modified fast as I use coffee, MCT oil and butter to augment my fasting periods. I do a combination of “5/2” fasting, meaning I fast from 8 p.m. Monday evening to 5 p.m. Tuesday evening and again from 8 p.m. Wednesday evening to 5 p.m. Thursday evening. I also do a “18/6” on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays meaning I eat between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and fast the rest of the time. Again, I use coffee or tea often with butter and MCT oil to augment my fasting.
10. Try acupuncture.
Acupuncture stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in relaxation and immune enhancement.
Some of these ideas may seem a bit odd, but I have found them to be rather easy to implement and stick with over the long term. My oldest habit is exercise, which I have been doing for most of my 64 years and my newest habit is cold showers which I have been doing for 5 months. The key is to figure out how to do things you can “live with”—pun intended!
Michael Buyze, L.Ac. is a healthcare entrepreneur with some 40 years of experience in healthcare and expertise in acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, functional medicine, clinical exercise physiology, and nutrition. He owns and operates East Wind Healthcare, an acupuncture and wellness clinic with a 20-year history of helping people in the Fox Valley with offices in Appleton, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac. He holds Master of Science degrees in Chinese Medicine, Business Administration and Exercise Physiology. He and his team offer acupuncture as well as wellness programming for acute and chronic pain as well as many chronic disease states. Acupuncture consultations and wellness consultations are available by appointment. Contact information: East Wind Healthcare, 3000 N. Ballard Road, Unit#3, Appleton, WI 54911; 404 N. Main St., Suite 201, Oshkosh, WI 54901 and 180 Knights Way, Fond du Lac, WI 54935 (inside Fox Valley Wellness); Tel: 920-997-0511; Website: eastwindhealthcare.com.