Fortunately, we are in a COVID lull. Man, I hope it continues to stay at this low case rate, hospitalization, and mortality rate. But we have all learned the lessons of being as strong as possible on many levels, not the least important of which regarding our immune systems.
There will always be viruses and other infections around us, so part of performing optimally means being able to avoid getting sick even when others around you are.
Fortunately, science has shown many behaviors, foods, and supplements that can help provide an immunity boost and keep your defenses strong.
The Importance of Understanding Your Biomarkers
First of all, what are some biomarkers of a potentially weak immune system? Our white blood cells are our immune army. They include antibodies, natural killer cells, T and B cells, helper cells, and many others that are important for healthy immunity. If your white blood cell (WBC) count is low, that could be a sign of a problem.
Also, if you have an auto-immune condition, you may have elevated numbers of WBC’s, but they are busy inappropriately attacking your own tissue, so we consider that an immune-compromised state. Such states are rare (around 3% of the population), so here are five things everyone can do to build up their immune strength:
1. Optimize Your Diet by Eating All of the Colors of the Rainbow
Each color represents a different phytochemical that helps the body in different ways. Many of them help various aspects of the immune system, such as flavonoids in kale, beta-carotene in carrots, and anthocyanins in berries.
2. Eat Less Sugar and Drink Less Alcohol
According to several studies, alcohol is metabolized like sugar, which can impair the immune response (especially to viruses).
3. Exercise – Yes, Exercise Boosts the Immune System
Studies have shown that increased circulation of immune cells after exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are essential for a robust immune system.
4. Meditation or Breathwork – Stress Actually Suppresses Immunity
In fact, prednisone, which can be taken to suppress the immune system for people with auto-immune conditions, is the same chemical as cortisol (the hormone that gets elevated when feeling stressed). So doing something calming every day can keep you healthy, as well as being at peace.
5. Supplement – Some Supplements Do Help Fight Off Viruses and Bacteria
For example, Zinc (around 20-30mg a day) acts as an anti-viral. And vitamins A, C, D, and E are all important for the immune system, as are the B-vitamins.
Are Men More Likely to Get Sick With COVID-19?
We saw that men were generally hit harder than women during COVID. This may be partly because women are generally more resistant to infections than men. Women also have higher rates of an over-active immune system causing auto-immune disease, so they clearly have a more active immune system. What this means for guys is that no matter the state of COVID or the flu, it is crucial to take some control back over your propensity to getting sick and nurture your immune system. Follow some of these tips to help yourself out.
If you are interested in a personal consultation to build your plan for a greater you, click the “Become a Patient” button below for all you need to know about taking that next step.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.