COVID-19 Good News & Bad News

August 2020

You already know the bad news; over 170,000 deaths in the United States alone from Covid-19. And you’re reading about some of those that survived now have chronic health issues that may never heal. It’s tragic, unacceptable and largely preventable in my opinion.

The answer doesn’t lie with just one thing. Both good and bad health is always multifactorial. But there does appear to be a common denominator in those that have the worst outcomes with the disease. Those with insufficient Vitamin D levels, below 20 ng/l, have a 12 times higher mortality and those with insufficient levels, between 20 and 30 ng/l, have a 7 times higher mortality rate than those with higher levels of Vitamin D. You’ve heard me say this before in a previous article. I’ve been preaching the benefits of vitamin D for a long time. Ten years ago I posted this YouTube video extolling the benefits of Vitamin D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHhfzYiPjrY.

This piece is about life style and how resilient we are to all types of assaults on our health. What I mean by resilience is your ability to fight off an infection or to come down with an infection in the first place. What you do every day impacts your health and specifically your immune system. As a society we have taken for granted our health for decades. We want the quick fix. The one treatment, the one vaccine to make everything okay again. For optimal health we need lots of things and you don’t want to leave out anything if at all possible.

First you must get adequate sleep and rest. The research on this is profound. You need sleep to regenerate all cells including immune cells. Those that are particularly important in fighting viruses are T-cells and natural killer cells. They need melatonin, the sleep hormone, to function properly. Do you feel rested when you wake up? Are you getting adequate rest at night? I hope so. It’s too important to disregard.

How is your water intake? Unfortunately, most of us are dehydrated, me included. So what does that have to do with your immune system and your ability to fight infections? A number of studies have shown that when you become dehydrated, you are more prone to infections due to dysregulation of your immune system. Of course water is critical for normal bodily functions. But when you get dehydrated general immune interactions, communication and immune signaling become compromised. Blood volume decreases and with that your lymphatic system also becomes compromised. And if you didn’t already know your lymphatic system is a key player in your immune system. Bottom line you must stay hydrated all the time. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. So if you weigh 150 pounds drink a minimum of 75 ounces of water throughout the day.

You should already be aware of just how important exercise and motion is for your health in general. The studies leave no question to the benefits of exercise but it’s also critical for proper immune function including the movement of immune cells and signaling molecules to all tissues. The lymphatic system is also dependent on motion to do its job. So get up and move every day and throughout the day. Prolonged sitting is thought by some to be as dangerous as cigarette smoking. So get up now and go to your kitchen for a glass of water and leave the cookies in the jar.

Better yet, don’t buy the cookies at all. The food you eat directly effects your ability to mount an immune defense. Eliminate processed sugar and concentrated sugars from your diet. That includes fruit juices, colas, candy bars and anything that has a high amount of concentrated sugar. Eliminate inflammatory foods. What may be inflammatory to you might not be to your significant other. Wheat, gluten, grains, and dairy are often an issue with some of us. Hopefully, you are already aware of food sensitivities that you have. Do eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially those that are colorful. They are chocked full anti-oxidant flavonoids. Diversity is key. Don’t eat the same fruits and vegetables all the time. It will really help your gut and your microbiome. Eating fermented foods and yogurt help to diversify your gut flora. Much of your immune system resides in your gut. Taking care of it has multiple benefits.

Inflammation is your enemy so reduce your inflammatory food intake. Cut out fried food, processed food, foods that come in boxes and bags. These are going to deplete your antioxidant reserves and lead to more inflammation. I know you know this but sometimes we just need a reminder.

We usually think of inflammation as the evil bad guy but in fact we need a certain amount of inflammation to repair a wound or fight an infection. What we want is a balance between our pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory systems. When your body is chronically inflamed it actually impairs your overall immune function to deal with a bacterial or viral infections. The more inflamed you are the less resilient your immune system becomes. So first eliminate those things that are inflammatory and as mentioned earlier eat an anti-inflammatory diet, try to avoid environmental pollutants and losing a few pounds of fat is beneficial in reducing inflammation. Fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation even intermittent fasting has multiple benefits which means you try to not eat for 12-16 hours in a day. Diabetics should consult their physician before starting any fast.

Did you ever think that laughing or for that matter crying could have an impact on your immune system? In fact they have profound physiological effects on the human body and a direct impact on immune function. Don’t you feel good after a good laugh? Dr. Kharrazian tells us that laughing triggers a release of opioids, and opioids have a very powerful effect by activating important immune cells called T-cells, natural killer cells and regulatory T cells. I encourage you to watch funny movies, and YouTube clips of your favorite comedians. Personally we love to watch Seinfeld bloopers and just about anything Robin Williams is in. But that’s just us. Find what makes you laugh and watch that before you go to bed.

If laughter is so good for us how could crying be beneficial? Turns out crying also impacts the release of opioids that support the immune system in the same way as laughing. Dr. K says if you’re dealing with chronic immune issues or you’re trying to improve immune resilience, it’s really important to think about some of the things that you have had some troubles with and just address them, and really experience that release by having a good cry.

So you definitely want to laugh and have comedy in your life when you’re trying to improve your immune resilience, and you also want to deal with some underlying emotions, crying and dealing with those emotions really help to modulate overall immune function.

This article has been about life style and immune resilience. As much as I want to discuss inflammation, genetics, and strategies to deal with those I’m going to save them for another article.

Yours in good health,

Dr. Charles Hough

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