The Corona virus COVID-19 has disrupted the order and relative peace of our world with a vicious velocity that has caused many to feel vulnerable and anxious. However, notwithstanding this pandemic, we believe that the challenge can be met through the collective power of scientists and health care professionals and increasing personal responsibility around the world. And in the end, it may result in improved public health education of general hygiene, hand washing with soap (20 sec.) and better health habits.
Here are some recommendations for a Lifestyle Medicine approach of strengthening the immune system to give it a fighting chance against the virus. I put these 8 recommendations together under the acronym NEWSTART.
Move as far toward a whole-food, plant based diet as you can. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, kale and bell pepper. Eat plenty of fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and pomegranates. Enjoy high fiber foods, such as whole grains, beans and lentils, fruits and avocados. These foods are all high in nutrient content that will help the body develop a healthy micro-biome, reduce inflammation and give you a spectrum of micronutrients to maximize health. Eliminate animal products, such as meats, hamburgers, eggs, and dairy. And let go of these processed and engineered taste sensations, high in sugar, fat and in calories yet poor in nutrition and fiber. At the same time include more garlic known for its anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects. And daily use some Zinc tablets (15 mg)
Exercise daily, aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day. Make sure you work up some sweat! This virus has the highest impact on people’s hearts and lungs
Plenty of it! 10 glasses a day would be perfect. You need plenty of hydration, plenty of fluids, especially in case of a fever. Plenty of hot soups and broths – broths and soups are high in electrolytes. And when taken in steamy hot, they are also a natural decongestant clearing the sinuses of mucus.
Spend time outdoors, especially in the middle of the day. Walk your dog. Walk with a friend and still maintain social distancing of some 6 feet.
Be balanced, feel supported, and don’t fall for extremes. Learn how to handle your stress, especially right now. Here are some ideas to reduce stress: talk with friends and family; practice mindfulness and meditation; do deep breathing exercises. Seek support from friends. Feel supported by people you love. Express your feelings and listen to the feelings of others.
Air, Fresh Air
Do spend some time every day outdoors. At night, try to sleep with open windows if possible. Do deep breathing. Keep those lungs in good shape. These are the do’s!
Avoid bad air such as tobacco smoke. Avoid vaping. Avoid inhaling any substance which can be toxic to your lungs. Keep those lungs in good shape.
Rest and sleep are critical for maintaining a strong immune system to fight the virus. Aim to get 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night. De-stress your body – Establish regular times for going to bed and when you get up. Avoid TV or screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime. Also become more regular with your meals. Avoid snacking. Give the digestive system 4 to 5 hours of rest between meals. For some seniors, two meals a day may work well.
The last letter of NEWSTART is:
Trust in yourself, Trust in your friends, and Trust in God. It is a time of reflection– reflecting on Meaning and Purpose. Reflecting on good things that happened, finding joy and expressing gratitude. It’s better to light a candle than to curse the dark. Let us be that candle. This is also time for reflective prayer and meditation. And smile and laugh when you can. Your immune system will thank you!
PS: People and parents in particular, now sequestered in their homes, have written in asking for simple, easy, healthy and good tasting recipes. We are glad you asked. May we recommend the OPTIMAL DIET COOBOOK. You will find it on www.hansdiehl.com under “Resources to OWN” on special!
Hans Diehl DrHSc, MPH, FACN
Clin. Professor Preventive Medicine
Loma Linda University, School of Medicine
(Parts adapted from Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Institute)