As COVID-19 has spread around the world, data has shown that those with weakened immune systems are among the most susceptible to severe illness from the virus. A number of factors can cause a compromised immune system, and some of those, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition, are largely in our control.
At the same time, there are ways people can improve their immune system and in the process be better able to fight COVID-19, says Dr. Nammy Patel, DDS (www.sfgreendentist.com), author of Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living.
“COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while,” Dr. Patel says. “We can wait around for a vaccine, but the reality is we need to focus on building our immune system, because the stronger it is, the better we are prepared to counter and get over any kind of virus. “This pandemic is a wakeup call in so many ways. A healthy lifestyle, reducing the chances of having an underlying condition that can make COVID-19 symptoms much worse, has gained added importance. And a strong immune system is our biggest ally. We need to take this time that we have as a society to slow down and focus on our well-being.”
Dr. Patel suggests these ways to build your immune system:
- De-stress. “This is a very stressful time for all of us,” Dr. Patel says, “and stress is hard on the immune system. When your body perceives stress, the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol, which causes your heart rate and your blood pressure to increase. When we’re hyper-stressed, our immune system’s ability to fight for us is reduced, and we’re more susceptible to infections. But to help yourself and your body, start with your mind and find ways to relax. We’re not going to be in this predicament forever. Be patient and be positive.”
- Boil a healing potion. Dr. Patel combines cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, peppercorn, lemon, and sugar and brings it to a boil. “Drinking it on a daily basis, the properties from these spices activate your immune system,” she says. “Together they help your cellular function while detoxifying. It’s easy to do and ideal when working from home.”
- Do morning breathing exercises. “Twenty minutes of breath work in the morning is time well spent,” Dr. Patel says. “Breathing through your nose is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. You are activating nitric oxide, all the hormones, and your immune system to get rid of all the bad bugs, whether it’s COVID-19, influenza or whatever.
- Cook with healthy spices. “Being home all the time takes away the fast-food excuse and makes it vital to cook clean,” Dr. Patel says. “Try cooking with mustard seed, turmeric, chili pepper, Thai chilies. These are great at building antioxidants in our body and killing off bad bacteria.”
- Exercise daily. “Don’t let social distancing guidelines prevent you from getting necessary fresh air and exercise,” Dr. Patel says. “Keep your distance, yes, but keep a commitment to stay fit. A 20-minutes-or-more walk is ideal. That fresh air is filled with oxygen, the fuel we need to fight any bug. If indoors, yoga is great as a combination of activating the immune system and relaxing us internally. Doing 20 suryanamaskars – yoga poses – in your own home will activate your good-feeling hormones.”
“You can really take some control back in this unprecedented time by doing all you can to strengthen your mind and your immune system,” Dr. Patel says. “As you feel healthier and less stressed, you’ll come to the realization that you’re going to come out of this challenge better and stronger.”
About Dr. Nammy Patel, DDS Dr. Nammy Patel, DDS (www.sfgreendentist.com) operates a practice called Green Dentistry in San Francisco and is the author of Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living. A graduate of the University of California’s School of Dentistry, she is a leader in the movement to bring environmental sanity and well-being into the dental world. Dr. Patel focuses on helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health.