When everything around us is out of control, what can we control?
Hand sanitizer and face masks are sold out at most convenient stores. The stock market is plunging. Events, meetings and schools are getting canceled. Flights are empty as corporate America puts a hold on travel for employees. People aren’t shaking hands anymore...it’s elbow or fist bumps only.
Here’s the thing. As our population grows, so will our exposure to pathogens that hand sanitizer and face masks can’t destroy. These things also don't address the stress that we create due to fear and uncertainty.
- 1910- Cholera
- 1968- Hong Kong Flu
- 2001- Anthrax
- 2002- West Nile Virus
- 2003- SARS
- 2004- Bird Flu
- 2009- H1N1
- 2014- Ebola
- 2015- Measles
- 2016- Zika
- 2020- Coronavirus
We will always have setbacks, road bumps, and periods where things around us are out of control. There is obvious fear and uncertainty—and this creates stress which doesn’t help any situation—especially our health. When chaos happens, we have two options. We can play offense, or we can play defense. Think of defense as washing hands, limiting travel, or finding the less risky option. Defense is reactive and it tends to be the easier route. However, it’s offense that truly allows us to score and get ahead!
In this scary time, we are all looking for ways to protect ourselves. What if we could put on an invisible suit of armor that’s tougher than steel and extremely difficult to penetrate? Well, the good news is we can!
This armor is called our immune system. Our immune system is our body’s defense against infection and illness. Its job is to get rid of anything unfamiliar by destroying germs, bacteria and viruses. The cool thing is that we can build a strong immune system through our behavior. A healthy immune system starts with proper sleep, a healthy diet, and staying active with exercise.
"If you don’t exercise, eat nutritious foods, get daily sunshine, or get enough sleep, you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance against disease. "
Important nutrients to support a healthy immune system include A, B, C, and E vitamins along with essential minerals like potassium, zinc, and magnesium. The superfoods found in the center target of the Food Target (shown below), naturally contain a balance of these nutrients--"we don't need to get these in a pill". It’s important to note that we don’t eat nutrients, we eat food. Food is the most powerful medicine on the planet.
Another important nutrient for building and maintaining a strong immune system is chlorophyll, which tends to fall short in our current diet. Chlorophyll does three important things for the body--energizes, cleanses, and aids in digestion. Chlorophyll is found in dark green plants like wheatgrass juice, spirulina/chlorella (freshwater algae), spinach, collard greens, parsley, broccoli, and matcha green tea. The more color, the more antioxidants. This is what protects us from foreign pathogens.
Another important thing to note is that the majority of our immune system is made in our gut. Americans make 104 million visits to the doctors every year due to poor digestion. Maintaining a healthy gut is extremely important for building a strong immune system and we can't have a healthy immune system without managing stress.
Gut Health 101
The human gut is home to over 100 trillion bacteria, known as the microbiome. The microbiome is basically a cluster of microbes that live on or inside the human body. Microbes outnumber our human cells ten to one. We are dependent on these bacteria to help digest our food, release energy, produce certain vitamins, regulate our immune system, and keep us healthy by protecting us against disease.
Hundreds of species of bacteria reside in the gut. Some of them are friendly, while others are not. Good bacteria are found in yogurt, kombucha and the bacteria we consume from whole foods and fibrous plants (think of foods that rot or naturally brown when you bite into them). Bad bacteria are found on toilets, smartphones, public transportation handles, non-washed produce, and food borne pathogens. These are the bugs that can make us sick especially if we have a weakened immune system.
Basically, living a healthier lifestyle and eating closer to the center of the Food Target can help you maintain a healthy gut and a strong immune system.
Remember whole foods help to feed the good bacteria!
Dead foods, like foods found in a can, box, package, bar, gel, or sugary drinks, reduce the number of disease fighting bacteria in our gut.
The good news is that our body is truly miraculous. It has an amazing ability to heal itself when you give it the right ingredients.
In summary, the best way to protect yourself from disease is to eat a diet full of superfoods, heal your body with adequate sleep and rest, and incorporate some form of movement every day. Oh, and wash your hands!