During this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many of my patients are asking me how to lower one’s risk of catching this virus, or optimizing your body’s defenses if you do catch this infection. Besides the standard list of basic recommended hygiene principles (frequent hand washing, using masks, social distancing, etc.), here are 5 additional simple things you can implement right away. These 5 tips will strengthen your immune system and prevent or minimize the effects of a coronavirus infection.
- Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. There are many studies showing that sleep deprivation lowers your body’s ability to fight infections. One study found that natural killer cells (NKC) are lowered by 72% compared to baseline after sleep deprivation. Here’s a good review article on sleep and immune function. If you have untreated obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important to address this condition ASAP.
- Make sure you’re breathing through your nose. The nose and sinuses make a gas called nitric oxide (NO), which has two important benefits. This substance helps to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. It’s been found to increase oxygen uptake by up to 18% in the lungs. Mouth breathing bypasses this important benefit. NO also has documented antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s not uncommon to see increased rates of upper respiratory infections in mouth breathers.
- Make sure your vitamin D levels are at healthy levels. The vast majority of people in the US are severely vitamin D deficient, mainly due to lack of sunlight exposure. There are countless studies showing significantly lower levels of illness when levels are higher than 40 to 60 ng/mL. Here’s a chart showing the various health benefits of having adequate vitamin D levels. Here’s another study showing that schoolchildren taking vitamin D had lower rates of contracting influenza A, as well as lower asthma rates.
- Doctors generally look down on taking vitamins, but there are numerous studies showing significant health benefits of high doses of vitamin C. Here’s one study showing that vitamin C reduced rates of catching the common cold as well as lowering severity and duration of symptoms. Patients with sepsis in the ICU were found to have much lower rates of death (8.5%) if given vitamin C, thiamine and hydrocortisone, versus the control group (40.4%). Search for vitamin C and colds or infections and you’ll find many other articles that support its use. Dr. Mercola has an excellent review of how to combat the coronavirus.
- Use this opportunity to re-evaluate what you eat, the water you drink, personal care products you use, and toxic exposures in your house and workplace. One slightly dangerous chemical (such as BPA, an endocrine disruptor) may not do significant damage, but if you combine 20 to 30 of these substances, your body won’t be immunologically healthy enough to protect you from any infections. Add on lack of quality sleep, low vitamin status, low natural sunlight exposure, and a poor diet, then it’s more likely that you will either catch a viral infection or have more serious complications. Go to my website or podcast page to see a list of topics that pertain to this issue.
The good news regarding this pandemic is that the healthier you are, the less likely you’ll suffer from complications. This is why it’s vital to start the right health habits now. If you’re relatively healthy and completely asymptomatic, follow the recommended guidelines and stay secluded as much as possible. As a country, we’ve been through similar trying times in the past, and as always, we will get through this together, and hopefully emerge stronger and healthier.