When I first started my health and fitness journey five years ago, I stumbled upon a podcast called The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson. He does a wonderful job of teaching the science behind health, fitness, and nutrition among other topics.
One of the most important episodes you can listen to is Immunological Adaptation: Viruses, Immune Cells, & Practical Support. You can listen to it in your favorite podcast player, or you can watch it right here:
8% of our makeup as humans consists of viruses. We have evolved over time with viruses, and they have helped us develop our immune systems. The coronavirus is not the first new virus, and it will not be the last one either.
An estimated 17 million people worldwide have recovered from COVID-19, many of whom didn’t even know they were sick until they got tested because they had no symptoms.
How could this be? We’ve been told that this is a new virus, so we have no innate immunity. We’re relying on the promise of a vaccine to give us immunity.
However, we have this thing called adaptive immunity. Our immune system is sophisticated enough to adapt to new threats and figure out how to effectively fight them off.
But only if our immune system is working properly and is not compromised.
COVID-19 has shown Americans just how unhealthy we are as a whole. 6 in 10 adults have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 adults have two or more.
How the hell do we live in a country where we find this acceptable???
People with chronic disease are more likely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19 because their immune systems are suppressed. The top three comorbidities found in this study were hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
Every single one of these comorbidities is a lifestyle-related disease that comes about from poor nutrition, lack of movement, and too much stress.
Public health officials and the media have told us that we must isolate, socially distance, wear a mask, vigorously wash our hands, and wait for a vaccine to save us.
Why on earth is there not an all-hands-on-deck effort to get our population healthier? Why are we not helping people with their nutrition, movement, and stress management?
We can use pandemic containment measures to protect our most vulnerable, including our older population whose immune systems naturally weaken with age. However, the majority of COVID-19 deaths are preventable if we work to get our population healthier.
Right now, this is not being done by public health officials or any of the experts that you’re listening to. Heck, the U.S. government subsidizes food that makes us sick and makes it more difficult for food stamp recipients to buy healthy food over junk food. The folks we depend on to keep us safe and healthy are doing a terrible job of it right now.
Therefore, it’s up to you to do what you need to do to get yourself and your family healthier. Here’s what you can do to give your immune system the support that it needs to do the job that it knows how to do:
- Eat real, whole foods. Foods that you can easily identify and don’t have a list of ingredients on a package. Mostly fruits and vegetables, with room for your favorite real, whole foods in other categories. Food is not just calories; it’s information. This information talks to your DNA and switches on or off genes that lead to health or disease. We have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years eating mostly plants with some meat and other items in the mix. The food manufacturing age, with GMO’s and other chemicals that have been put in food, has not been kind to us and has left us a nation riddled with chronic disease.
- Move your body. Your body craves movement. You don’t have to punish yourself for hours in the gym or take bootcamp classes. A 30-minute walk is enough to stimulate your immune system and increase production of natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are really good at killing COVID-infected cells. So much so that the FDA has fast-tracked the approval process for a drug that stimulates natural killer cell growth. You can actually skip waiting for the drug to come to market and just take a 30-minute walk!
- Make sure that you’re getting good sleep. Sleep deprivation affects production of your natural killer cells.
- Do what you can to manage stress (which will in turn help you get better sleep). Spend time in nature. Reduce screen time. Reduce time watching the news. Do whatever you need to do to get your stress levels down, because it affects your immune system and your level of natural killer cells. This is another place where our national response to this virus is failing. Do you think that doing nothing but isolating, quarantining, remaining socially distant, wearing masks, constantly washing our hands, and waiting for a vaccine to save us is making us more stressed or less stressed? Do you think the media coverage of this with their constant death-toll ticker and finding “perfectly healthy people who died from COVID-19” to report on is making us more stressed or less stressed?
I don’t say all of this as an expert. I say all of this as person who is tired of living in fear and thankful that I have found resources that have brought me back down to earth. It is highly unlikely that I haven’t already been exposed to COVID-19, and it is highly unlikely that I would have a severe reaction to it because I support my immune system.
In the early months of the pandemic, I was a stress-ridden mess. My PTSD was very triggered. I barely left my apartment. Whenever I’d go out for a walk, I’d have a hard time remaining upright and felt my body try to take me down right in the middle of the street. My allergy symptoms were consistent, and I constantly worried that they were COVID symptoms.
Whenever I went out for a bike ride, I would wipe down my entire bike with Clorox wipes because I was afraid that coronaviruses were raining down on it. I saw someone else had recommended doing that, so I did it too.
If we simply arm ourselves with good information about how our immune systems and viruses work in the real world, we can lower our stress levels, stop living in fear, and get back to living knowing that we will most likely be ok.