From a historical point of view we already know that humans are naturally really good at adjusting and solving problems which can be perceived by our senses. But unfortunately, we aren’t as good at problem solving when it comes to things we can’t see, touch, hear, smell or taste. What do you believe about something we can’t directly make sense of? And based on that, what actions do you take? Answers to these questions differ from person to person. But one thing we know for fact is that a healthy and strong body and mind improves our immune function against external dangers.
Let’s get down to COVID-19 prevention.
Table of Contents
First things first. What actually is COVID-19? Let’s get a little technical.
The virus enters the lungs through the air and binds to receptors called ACE2. The virus then enters the body through these receptors, duplicates and binds to more receptors in the lungs and respiratory tracts. These virus particles cause inflammation, because your body is trying to fight the it. This is what’s causing a discomfort/pain in your respiratory system.
Your body releases cytokines (inflammatory messengers) to signal the body to start inflammation. Inflammation is what is needed to fight disease. Think about having a cut on your skin. It will swell up and get a reddish colour around the cut. This is a inflammatory reaction of the body to heal itself triggered by the immune system. When the immune response is really strong the body starts over-producing cytokines which is a phenomena called ‘cytokine storm’, which can be harmful to the body. Why? Because inflammation is needed for recovery, but needs to be turned off on time. Cytokines are created by fat tissue, which makes overweight and obese people more likely to experience a cytokine storm — or in other words; experience more inflammation.
Now, what's the deal with COVID-19?
The virus binds to receptors on the lungs and the respiratory tract, but also the cytokines bind to these receptors, which causes inflammation. This inflammation creates a barrier inside the lungs (like a coat) and oxygen will struggle to find its way through the cells into the bloodstream. We all know oxygen is the main ingredient for life. Try holding your breath in context to not eating or drinking… Our cells will break down with a lack of oxygen. So, when tissue and/or organs lack a supply of oxygen they will start to stagger and break down. This creates damage in the organs and takes a huge toll on your body.
To put it in simple terms: when the immune system isn’t strong enough it doesn’t really know how to turn on and off the inflammatory response on time. If your body can’t turn off inflammation on time you’re headed for trouble, because your own body will start to damage itself whilst trying to fight the disease.
I’d lie if I’d say that genes don’t play a role here. But your lifestyle, dietary habits and mind style determine the strength of your immune system for about 80%. It’s the immune system who is responsible for the intensity and the course of the infection. Why do some people not get it and others do? A strong immune system beats it. Why are some people effected heavier than others? A weak immune system struggles to recover the body.
And this leaves me (as well as other holistic experts) begging the subtle question — why the **** aren’t we focussed on boosting our own build in defence mechanism!?
The immune system, a health crisis and your responsibility
I find the immune system one of the most fascinating things of the human body. Which I’ll get more in depth about in another article, but it’s interesting to know that our immune system consists out of 3 layers. The first layer is the one we’re being pressured to focus on by most governments and mainstream media — wash your hands, keep distance, stay inside, sneeze in your elbow, etc. To keep it simple we can look at the other 2 layers as the mechanisms to cope with, recover from and fight infiltrators like bacteria, viruses, infections, parasites, etc.
Unfortunately our current environment often triggers us to move into a direction that doesn’t necessarily make our immune system thrive. We’re missing essential information about how to keep our body and mind healthy and happy and we’re being triggered to make choices that do not support our health and wellbeing — screens, smart phones, cheap processed food and expensive raw food, comfort, mainstream media, social media, etc.
Yet at the same time, it’s your own responsibility which choices you make. Which does not mean that the current health crisis is your fault, but if you learn to take responsibility for the actions you take you become a part of the solution.
The essence is pretty straight forward: move away from the things your immune system doesn’t like — highly processed food, sugar, alcohol, physical inactivity, negative thoughts and relationships, stress, polluted air, etc.
And move closer to what it loves — fruits and vegetables, physical activity, positive thoughts and relationships, relaxation, clean air, human contact, etc.
The strength and vitality of your body goes hand in hand with your immune system. Prolonged sitting is the new form of smoking. Which means that being inactive and not getting your ass up could have great health concerning consequences.
Movement boosts blood-flow, digestion, supports the lymphatic system, improves mood, well… the list is endless.
Practical advice: go out for a walk for half an hour each day or take 10.000 steps a day, preferably in nature. Some people try to counter physical inactivity with weight training a few times a week, but low intensity physical activity is really important for plenty of important processes such as maintaining a natural pH-balance, fat metabolism, cell regeneration, etc.
I’d recommend weight training 2-3 a week on top of an active lifestyle though. It improves bone and joint health, muscle strength, metabolism and more.
The best thing? It’s free.
We’re always busy and on the move, constantly thinking and overloaded by triggers and impulses. This results in chronic stress, which is a perfect breeding ground for disease. It elevates the level of cortisol (known as the stress hormone) which down-regulates the immune system. Our body screams to slow down but we don’t listen, instead, we often accelerate because we don’t wan’t to face and acknowledge the symptoms of our body and the discomfort of slowing down. And that’s exactly why we need it. Now, there’s two types of relaxation — active and inactive.
Active relaxation is doing things that give you energy. Do things that make you happy such as a sport that you love such as yoga, going surfing or playing tennis, but also dancing and singing. Surrounding yourself with positive people boosts your energy levels. Or what do you think of vitamine H? Humour is a big one, look for things and people that make you laugh. Even simple things such as walk in nature can be really relaxing, especially with someone you love! But you can also have sex. Shit works.
Inactive relaxation speaks for itself. The best one? Hugging and snuggling ;). This releases oxytocin which helps you relax and improves you mood, to love and to feel loved and all the goods! Try to get enough deep sleep which is about 7,5 hours. You probably know the story about blue light and screens before bed, but have you tried it? I challenge you to try no screens at least 1 hours before bed for a week. Tell me how you feel. It’s a small act, but has a great effect!
Oh, and it’s free.
A well nourishing diet can’t be substituted by supplements. Think about it, what you eat literally becomes what you are. You break down the molecules of the food you consume to sustain and build your body! To get really in depth into a health-promoting diet check out these 6500 words which includes 23 tips. Yes, it’s a 30 minute read, but see it as and investment and your body will be thankful forever.
Because I already wrote a full article around healthy eating habits I just want be practical. Sugars feed the bad bacteria in your body, so be cautious with your processed sugar intake. Try to eat 2 pieces of fruit a day and 500 grams of vegetables. Sounds like lot? Focus on getting enough vegetables with your lunch and you’ll easily be able to make it. Eat salads, spoon up extra veggies with dinner, eat a carrot or bell pepper with a dip as your snack and make yourself a green smoothy in the morning.
Immune boosting supplement
Without micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) our immune system can’t thrive. Micronutrients don’t only help our immune system function better, it also helps to regulate and improve your whole physical system, which in turn helps us feel more energised and vital. Which helps to improve our immune system, but also our activity level which, and you guessed it, improves the immune system. We’re full circle.
Let’s use the analogy of a car: when the tank is empty, good luck getting out of the parking lot! The same goes for sickness and disease. If you don’t have enough fuel (nutrients), your immune system can’t accelerate and properly fight the infiltrators. The immune system takes a sufficient amount of energy when it’s time to get to shine. But if the body is properly fuelled it’s no worries. If you have to drive your car 200 miles with a full tank it’s no problem, yet if you have to drive that distance with an empty tank and 5 bucks in your pockets you’ll probably get a sweaty back and a tense butt.
Unfortunately it’s not always as easy to get an optimal amount of nutrients merely from our diet. That’s why supplements can be a great addition to your arsenal. Supplements are useful for several different reasons and situation:
- To support the body in times of stress (like COVID-19), whether it’s physical (injury, headaches, cuts and bruises, etc), chemical (flues, viruses, toxins, etc) or emotional (family tragedy, anger and frustration, PTSD, etc).
- Because we can’t get a sufficient amount of certain essential nutrients. Examples are vitamin D in winter (unless you eat 5 portions of herring a day) and b12 if you’re vegetarian or especially vegan (unless you eat animal shit).
- Because our soils are depleting. Which means we have less essential nutrients in the soil and thus plants can’t absorb them.
- Because we’re using up more nutrients in our body. To process all the impulses and impressions our body needs and uses nutrients. Think of stress, information, social-life, work, etc. but also because we have more toxins in our body from (processed) food, air pollution, electric pollution, polluted water, shampoo, make-up, etc. And lastly because of high physical activity — of which are only a few.
- Because your diet doesn’t provide your body with the essential nutrients. Which isn’t ideal.
Vitamin D3 and K2
One of the most important vitamins to support our immune system! But also for joint, teeth and bone health, good muscle function and more. It affects about 900 genes so a deficiency results in endless of varieties!
Vitamin D is not only a vitamin, it’s a hormone too! Research shows that there’s a connection between low Vitamin D levels and low immune system, depression, eczema, joint pain, etc.
You can get your supply straight from something all of us love — the sun. The sunlight is strong enough for a good supply of this essential vitamin when it’s in a certain angle: when you shadow is smaller than your body. But if you live in a country with a cloudy, cold and grey winter you’ll be forced to get your supply from another source. Fish is a good source, but you’ll have to eat buckets of fish to stock up.
Measure twice, cut once.
Ok, you don’t have to cut. Neither you have to measure twice. But I really recommend getting your blood levels checked. If your vitamin D level is below 80 nmol/l (30 ng/ml) it means you really have to get a supply from somewhere. Personally I try to aim for a minimum of 125 nmol/l (50 ng/ml) of vitamin D in my blood.
On average a 2500 IU per day is enough. D3 is more efficient than D2, as it is absorbed way easier. Once vitamin D is in the body it needs to be directed to the right cells and tissues. This is when K2 comes into play. It’s like the taxi driver for vitamin D and makes sure it’s being delivered at the right place.
A rule of thumb: when the sun is in an angle that the shadow of your body is smaller than your body itself, it isn’t strong enough to provide you enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D extremely important and is essential for the immune system and helps white blood cells to destroy the virus.
An antioxidant which slows down the growth of the virus and makes the you less susceptible to it. It also slows down the cytokine production.
What’s interesting as well is that zinc helps you taste and smell. Are things starting to make sense (pun always intended)? Let’s put 1 and 1 together. Zinc fuels the immune system, when your immune system does the hard work it’s using great amounts of zinc, you’ll have to supply your body with zink, or… I’m assuming you get the point. Don’t be afraid to stock up!
I’m sure I can write a book about magnesium. It’s such a beautiful and broad mineral with endless functions and benefits. It helps your body and mind to relax, but it’s also used to relax your body and mind. What this means is that when you’re in stress your body uses more magnesium, but also needs more because otherwise it can’t properly relax. I just said the same thing twice, but it’s a vicious circle. One thing you’ll want to remember it that not all magnesium forms have the same bioavailability. What that means? The ability to be absorbed by the body. For magnesium to be absorbed well it needs to be bound to a molecule that the body knows how to absorb. There’s plenty of forms which are hardly absorbed at all, so beware.
Let’s get practical. Here’s 3 forms with a high bioavailability and some brief information:
Magnesium malate: malate as well as magnesium are important for the energy production, especially in rest and low heart rate.
Magnesium taurate: goes through the blood-brain barrier, which means that it reaches the brain and calms down the mind, which makes it good for mental stress and headaches, but also cramps.
Magnesium bisglycinate: also goes through the blood-brain barrier, but this form is ultra-big, so the pills and dosage have to be much bigger.
Resveratrol is what’s called a polyphenol, which is a health promoting substance found in wine, grapes and peanuts. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants: important nutrients which remove free radicals. This is a really important process, because free radicals are the main substances causing cell and tissue damage.
Now, in regards to COVID; more fat tissue makes more leptin (the hormone which gives you a feeling of satisfaction after you eat and which you become simultaneously less susceptible for when levels are often too high). More leptin makes more ACE2 receptors. More ACE2 receptors means more inflammation.
Simply put: resveratrol brings inflammation down, especially of you have a few extra pounds on your body.
Make sure you use resveratrol with bioperine (a substance found in black pepper) which works synergistically — increases the absorption.
Another antioxidant which helpt to protect the body. It’s important for immunity, but also for healthy teeth, hair and skin, bones, blood vessels, energy metabolism, nervous system and iron absorption. Quite a bit, aye?
The best vitamine C supplement form is magnesium ascorbate.
It is found in very high amounts in rose hips, but also in bell pepper, guava, black berries, broccoli, chicory, kiwi fruit and papaja. Don’t let the masses fool you with oranges. Yes, they contain vitamin c, but aren’t on top of the list.
Taking 2000 – 3000 mg/day helps you recover faster. Make sure you divide your supply throughout the day for better absorption and make sure to get yourself a high bio-active form of supplement.
S-acetyl-L-glutathion / NAC (N- Acetyl Cystein)
This is the mother antioxidant. Without going too technical, let’s say this mother feeds all the other antioxidants, so they can keep hunting down the free radicals.
This is the strongest antioxidant found in the body, and your body makes them itself. But, after the age of 25 the production slows down. After the age of 25 or especially in times of stress it’s recommended to help your body hunting down those free radicals a little.
Supplements are by no means a replacement for a healthy and well-balanced diet and lifestyle! Also I do not recommend experimenting with supplements without the necessary knowledge or guidance, especially if you’re using medication.
For more information you can always contact me for advice.
I highly recommend to be well informed about the form of the supplements, the brand and to read the labels. There’s a huge quality difference on the market and there’s plenty supplements on the market that I’m personally sceptic about, to say the least.
The healthier your immune system, the more resilient you are to COVID, as well as other threatenings to your health and wellbeing.
I believe that improving a healthy lifestyle as well as improving your health IQ is always a great investment! I’m an advocate for improving social health, because where, who and what are we without it? More health means more confidence, more vitality and more life force.
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I love to give advice as I have been doing a lot in the past months, but I don’t have time to dive in deep with everyone’s questions. It’s important for me to know your background and current lifestyle, symptoms, etc. I’m running coaching pilot’s for a small price to dive deeper and lay out a personalised plan to help people embody their health. Head here for more information.
Thank you for your time,