By Roberto Tostado, M.D.
This pandemic has exposed our human fragility and compromised immunity from a steady diet of processed foods and a medical system that manages disease with drugs instead of healing with nutrition. We are vulnerable to infection, disease and death from this affliction of bad food and bad medicine.
However, our quarantined existence can give us pause to reassess our habits and choices to create a healthier lifestyle for ourselves and loved ones and not consent to chronic disease and poisoned foods any longer. We have been weakened and debilitated by our own industries with chronic illness such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease becoming “normal.” We can shift the paradigm as a global community and make this disease-care model obsolete by choosing healing foods. These hacks are to help empower you through food, meditation and laughter from your home to start rebuilding a stronger self to create a sustainable future.
Start by stopping junk foods, crap food, processed foods to reduce sugars, preservatives and chemicals that lower our immunity, seriously! Studies show sugar can increase inflammation while raising the stress hormone cortisol. Increased stress lowers immunity making us more susceptible to disease. Sugar also decreases the fighting ability of white blood cells known as neutrophils in our immune system allowing bacteria to do more damage and cause more severe infections.
Toxins in our body from processed foods like cold-cut meats, cereals, sugary and salty packaged snacks can be removed by antioxidant defenses and the liver. When we are overwhelmed by these toxins in our foods, we experience oxidative stress (meaning damage to our healthy cells) which results in chronic and degenerative illness. Reducing sugar and processed foods makes a positive impact in our immunity. No more F’ing around!
Instead of complaining that all the meat is gone at your market, load up on fruits, vegetables and legumes that help heal your body. These foods provide vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants naturally, not the synthetic-fortified varieties you see in cereals and other manufactured foods.
Vitamin C is a virus killer and promotes anti-oxidation to remove harmful toxins that damage our cells and cause disease. Lemons, oranges, grapefruit and berries including strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are filled with vitamin C and help fight off infections.
Apples, kiwi, mangoes, pineapple and vegetables in the cruciferous group like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, bok choy, beet greens, okra, Brussels sprouts and kale. Like I tell my patients, bitter is better! Pick the greens you love the most — or hate the least — to eat in daily salads, soups or as a side dish to give your liver the best foods to remove toxins from the body. Bell peppers, cayenne pepper and garlic also contain this immune-boosting vitamin.
If you have fruit trees or a vegetable garden, pluck them and serve them to your family or share with your neighbors.
Anti-oxidants are vitamins like the fat-soluble D, A, K, E, water-soluble C, B Complex and minerals like Zinc and Magnesium, which are critical for normal physiological function and immunity. Zinc increases activity of our T lymphocytes and NK (or Natural Killer) cells, which protect our body from infection.
Coronavirus is known to kill these “front-line soldier” immune cells, making our defense system weaker against microorganisms. You can find Zinc in salmon, sardines, clams, oysters, nuts, seeds, legumes like lentils and chickpeas (garbanzos), quinoa, brown rice, kale, beet greens, asparagus, peas, eggs, mushrooms, lamb and other proteins. Zinc can decrease incidence of pneumonia in the elderly. Take Zinc supplements of 50 mg daily as an immune booster.
Magnesium is anti-inflammatory, improves sleep (the best anti-aging medicine) and reduces stress, which is critical to establishing a strong immune system and a more positive mindset in these times of uncertainty and anxiety. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, beet greens and collard greens have high magnesium content that can also decrease asthma symptoms. Magnesium citrate and glycinate are better absorbed supplements at 300-400 mg daily.
Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K are absorbed better with good fats in our food. These immune-supporting vitamins are found in eggs, fish, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil and avocados to increase energy and antioxidant power.
The common theme and take-home message here is that wholesome foods are full of these antioxidants that help keep our immunity strong compared to processed foods that are depleted of natural minerals and vitamins. Health begins in our kitchen, not the doctor’s office, so stock up on these powerful immune-boosting foods.
Probiotics are an easy way to add healthy bacteria to your gut, which is the main serotonin-production factory -– that’s the happy hormone that reduces anxiety and depression. Our large intestine is home to trillions of cells called our microbiota or microbiome that are extremely important for our immunity and prevention of disease. Foods with probiotics include kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha and kimchi. Listen to your body when you eat fermented foods to see if they agree with you.
Probiotics are not prebiotics, which are dietary fibers like apple skins, garlic, onions, banana, artichoke, beans that all help feed the friendly bacteria already in your gut. The most common groups include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There are different species and many strains. Your gut flora is highly sensitive to your diet and studies show that an unbalanced gut flora is linked to numerous diseases including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Again, it’s about less processed foods and more fresh foods in general. Probiotics and prebiotic fibers can help correct this balance to help prevent disease and strengthen immunity. Take a probiotic that’s in the billions to trillions of good bacterium and yeast for a healthier gut and stronger body.
Vitamin D is a big DEAL! It helps increase our immunity to fight off infection at the gut level and systemically, along with numerous functions like preventing osteoporosis, dementia, heart disease and autoimmune disease. You can eat eggs, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies (try it on your next cauliflower-crust pizza!) or wild mushrooms to get Vitamin D.
Sit or walk outdoors for an hour between 11 am–3 pm to optimize absorption of sunlight with legs and top exposed as best you can without any sunblock to produce Vitamin D in your skin. It’s not about baking in the sun but allowing our bodies to increase our D levels.
Supplement with D3 daily at 3,000- 5,000 IU to achieve true normal levels of 55-80 ng/ml in your blood. Have your doctor check your D level routinely. Unfortunately, most people are walking around with low levels below 30, which doesn’t help prevent disease. So “D” up!
Finding inner peace is a challenge when the world seems to be falling to pieces. Meditation comes in different forms and is an ancient practice to basically calm the eff down and decrease stress: staring at a candle a few minutes, lying quietly in a tub, sitting in your yard, gardening, listening to music or going on a nature walk to escape the negativity outside to reduce the negativity inside your head. Calming the mind lowers blood pressure, slows our breathing for better oxygenation to our organs and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone. Quieting our minds can help us remove mental toxins of anxiety and fear which can suppress our immune system.
Quarantine to protect others, but don’t quarantine your mind with negative thoughts. Go outside and connect with nature. Or, do NOTHING! This is the time to detach and reconnect with yourself. Take time to be alone to free and calm your mind from the toxic news. Practicing some form of meditation daily for about an hour contributes to better health in a very direct way.
Laughing is immune boosting — no joke. Studies indicate that laughter can provide immune protection for a few days, so laughter is serious medicine. Watch comedies regularly or share humor with friends to create a positive mindset. Be informed, but not a news junkie. Too much emphasis on negativity increases anxiety, fear and cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and too much of it compromises our immunity. Reducing information overload will allow you to sleep better, which is the best antidote to stress. Less stress more smiles!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Roberto Tostado is Board Certified in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine by the American Board of Anti-Aging & Regenerative Medicine (ABAARM), and certified in Regenerative Medicine by the AARM (Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine). He is a Fellow of Anti-Aging, Metabolic and Functional Medicine with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. After earning degrees from Columbia University and the University of Michigan Medical School, he completed a USC Medical Residency at The California Medical Center in Los Angeles. His recent book, “Wtf* is Wrong with Our Health?” (*What the Food), A Rebel Physician’s Manifesto for Reversing Disease and Increasing Smiles” (2019) is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. He hosts a weekly wellness audio podcast on HealthyLife.net.