If there is one thing we need to take from this experience…it should be an understanding of how important and precious a well functioning immune system is.
There are many people on this planet who through various circumstances have a compromised immune system…and I feel deeply for these people. Imagine how scary it must be to know your body is always at a higher risk, not just from Corona virus, but from the multitude of different illnesses that one can catch. For many even the common flu can be deadly.
And now lets reflect for a moment on how many of us on this planet abuse our immune systems. How many of us are sick with lifestyle induced diseases. How many of us take for granted our health, and live our lives in a way that has serious implications on our immune system and long term health.
The elderly and the immuno-compromised might be the burden on our health system during the COVID-19 crises, but the real burden on our health care system comes from the millions of people who are hospitalized every year due to lifestyle- caused diseases.
Heart disease, diabetes, many forms of cancer that are more probable due to lifestyle choices…these are the real burdens on our healthcare system.
COVID-19 is scary because we feel powerless. We can’t chose whether we get it. It comes on so quickly that we don’t have time to make sense of it.
Lifestyle diseases come on slow, so even though they are deadly in their own right, they give us the illusion of control. We can believe that we still have time to change course. But the problem with lifestyle diseases is that it takes quite an effort to make serious and sustainable changes to the way we live. Old habits die hard. So by the time you realize you need to change, its often too late for it to be easy.
Back to the immune system.
Without a healthy immune system we are constantly at risk of serious diseases AND we are also not living with optimum vitality and energy on a daily basis.
Maybe living every day with energy, vitality and health are not enough motivation for most of us to prioritize our health, so then lets take deadly viruses like Corona virus to really give us the kick in the ass we need. And let that kick reverberate the good side-effects through all our lives.
So how can we improve the state of our immune-system and give ourselves the gift of wellbeing? (Your wellbeing is also a gift to those around you by the way…when we are healthy we are less grouchy, angry, lazy etc..)
Its not rocket science really. While there is still a lot of controversy over the details of what exactly is healthy. There is a general consensus that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, low in sugar, and low in processed foods….will give you a great shot at a healthy immune system. If you want to know more we recommend reading ‘The Longevity Diet” by Valter Longo, a biogerontologist and cell biologist who is one of the world’s foremost experts on longevity.
If you don’t have the discipline to eat well, then at least supplement your diet with high quality micro-nutrients. Nowadays nutrient content in the soil has reduced so supplementing your diet is a good way to ensure that your body is getting the fuel it needs to keep your immune system healthy.
Stress is a killer for the immune system and our overall health. When we are stuck in fight or flight mode for too much of our day our sympathetic nervous system produces too many stress hormones. These suppress the effectiveness of the immune system. The immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. And that is why we become more susceptible to infections.
Even just light or moderate exercise has a very positive effect on the immune system and our overall health. As well as creating more white blood cells, exercise also helps us release stress and tension. You can read more about the many positive impacts of exercise including its inverse relationship with illness in this article.
Regular use of a sauna has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce your chances of getting sick. The heat draws out toxins, lowers blood, reduces stress and has even been shown to promote a response from endocrine glands and stimulate the immune system.
When going from the sauna into a pool or ice bath, the effects are even more pronounced. Cold therapy alone has also been shown to have therapeutic effects on the body, strengthening the immune system, reducing inflammation and making the body and mind more resilient to stress.
Because stress is one of the leading factors in immune-system deterioration in modern times, the anti-dotes to stress become even more significant for the immune system
Across controlled studies, mindfulness meditation appears to improve physical health symptoms and functioning across a variety of disorders, and increases measures of mental health, including reduced negative affect and increased quality of life. It is thought that these positive effects are mediated in part by reductions in psychological and physiological stress. Epel et Al
This list could go on, but these are our favourite 5.
At the end of the day, it is up to each and every one of us to take responsibility for our personal well-being and the strength of our immune system.
COVID-19 has revealed that we have a choice. We can continue abusing our bodies or use this as an opportunity to inspire ourselves to live a healthier lifestyle.
It is a service not just to ourselves. But to our loved ones, to the next generation (who inherit many of our dysfunctions) to the community as a whole and to our healthcare workers.