By Dr. Christine Horner, MD, author of “Radiant Health, Ageless Beauty”
As baby boomers, our risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering severe symptoms and even death is much greater than those who are younger. That’s because as we age, our immune system gradually loses its strength, which makes anyone over 60 years of age more susceptible to infections. The good news is there are a number of simple diet and lifestyle approaches and nutritional supplements that can help support your immune system and lower your risk of contracting illness, including the flu and upper respiratory tract infections such as the unusually contagious one we are all facing right now.
A strong immune system begins with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Research shows the most health-promoting diet is one that is primarily plant-based. So, fill your plate with lots of fresh organic, colorful fruits and vegetables because they are packed full of vitamins, minerals and certain substances, called phytochemicals, that act like natural medicines. Best yet, unlike toilet paper, these plants are easy to find in ample supply in most grocery stores!
When it comes to lifestyle, the best immune-supporting activities include daily exercise, getting good quality sleep and practicing an effective stress-reducing technique. Studies show that you can get most of the health-benefits that exercise has to offer in as little as 30 minutes of brisk walking a day. The keys to good quality sleep include not only the number of hours you sleep each night (7 to 8 hours are ideal), but of equal importance is the exact times that you sleep. Going to bed before 10 p.m. and rising before 6 a.m. appear to be the magic hours. Studies show that if you sleep during these times, you experience the deepest most immune-boosting states of sleep. If you stay up much later, such as midnight, on a regular basis, it stresses your body, causes imbalances and weakens your immune system. Because stress is one of the most powerful destroyers of our immune system, it is extremely important to minimize its damaging effects through the daily practice of an effective stress-reducing technique such as mediation, Tai Chi or yoga. If you’ve never learned one of these techniques—no problem, YouTube has many videos that can show you how.
Certain vitamins and nutritional supplements can also help to strengthen your immune system. Vitamins C and D are particularly important for your immune health. If you are deficient in either, research shows your risk of the flu and upper respiratory tract infections are much higher. Experts recommend that you take at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day. The amount of vitamin D you should take each day depends on your blood levels. The ideal blood level of vitamin D is in the range of 40 to 60 ng/ml. Because everyone absorbs and metabolizes vitamin D differently, some people require much higher doses each day compared to others. Some people might require 2,000 IU per day, while others may require as much as 10,000 IU per day to achieve the ideal range. The only way to know what dose is best for you is to get your levels checked. Right now, it may be difficult to schedule with your doctor, but you can still get your vitamin D level checked by ordering an at-home vitamin D test kit from www.nutrientpower.org. The kit arrives at your home with instructions. Shortly after you send your sample back, you will receive an email with your results. If your levels are very low, you will want to take the higher doses of vitamin D and re-check your levels in a few months. There is a free vitamin D calculator available at www.nutrientpower.org.
While people are stockpiling common immune-strengthening supplements like vitamins C, D and zinc, one group of overlooked nutrients that are critical during a prolonged period of inactivity is essential amino acids. Amino acids play a major role in protein synthesis and the formation of white blood cell and antibodies, which your body’s immune system uses to help fight off foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. With limited exercise options during lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing, muscle loss can play a bigger role than most realize – it can impair your immune system and increase your susceptibility to sickness. Lean muscle loss is a particular issue in those who are aged 60 and older. Each year beginning at age 30 to 40, muscle mass declines at an annual rate of 1.5-3% per year. If you become ill, your body will begin breaking down even more muscle to supply your immune system the amino acids it needs.
Studies show that if you take a specific combination of amino acids as a supplement, it not only supplies your immune system with the nutrients it needs, but it also helps to prevent muscle loss. An amino acid supplement called Rejuvenate consists of the exact combination of essential amino acids—including higher concentrations of leucine, valine and isoleucine—shown in the studies to be most effective. Rejuvenate has 25 clinical peer-reviewed published studies to demonstrate its efficacy, including increasing the body’s ability to rebuild and repair muscle by 57% with noticeable muscle mass improvement within just 30 days. In one study published by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, patients on bed rest gained muscle mass with Rejuvenate compared to those who experienced muscle loss who were not taking the supplement. Developed by one of the world’s leading researchers in protein and amino acid nutrition, Rejuvenate is affordable and easy to take. It comes in individual powder pouches and can be easily mixed with water. You can find it at major retailers and www.rejuvenatemuscle.com
COVID-19 has caused everyone to experience a lot of stress. At high-stress times, most people want to reach for comfort foods (high in refined carbohydrates and sugar), drink more alcohol and stay up too late binge-watching TV shows or movies. These are the exact wrong things to do, because they severely weaken the immune system. Instead, focus on everything you can do to help strengthen your immune system including all the healthy habits discussed here. Eat healthy, get the right amount of sleep at the right time and supplement daily with vitamins C, D and the amino acid formula, Rejuvenate. The goal is to come out of this COVID-19 pandemic stronger with healthier habits to prepare our bodies for whatever comes next.
Christine Horner, MD, FACS, is a nationally known surgeon, author and professional speaker and holds two board certifications: the National Board of Surgery and the National Board of Plastic Surgery. Horner was recognized as a leader in her field shortly after starting her plastic and reconstructive surgery practice because she successfully ran a national campaign to pass laws requiring insurance companies to pay for breast reconstruction following mastectomy. Her five-year crusade with the Breast Reconstruction Advocacy Project (BRA Project) led to the passage of a federal law that was signed by President Bill Clinton on Oct. 21, 1998. The law was unprecedented because it was the first law Congress passed requiring insurance companies to pay for a specific surgical procedure. Horner is the award-winning author of, “Waking The Warrior Goddess: Dr. Christine Horner’s Program to Protect Against and Fight Breast Cancer,” and is one of the country’s leading authorities on breast cancer prevention. Her most recent book, “Radiant Health, Ageless Beauty” won the 2017 Elit Award for Best Book in Health, Medicine and Nutrition and is a 30-day program to discover your own extraordinary health, beauty and longevity.