Little hinges swing big doors.
– W. Clement Stone
Life is hard. Having an autoimmune condition can make it harder. Dealing with the stress, isolation and uncertainty of Coronavirus and world events can make a bad situation worse.
While this may be arguably the best time to prioritize your health and wellbeing, it can feel overwhelming to even contemplate. Who wants to add more potential stress right now?
I get it. I spend my days serving clients and a growing community of people seeking to beat autoimmune disorders. While some self-starters take my book, Beat Autoimmune and run with it, I often hear people say, “I do better with baby steps.”
Baby steps are just fine. As you take one small step forward in the direction of your goals, you’re on the right track. As you start to feel a little better with one step, you may feel motivated to take another, and then another. Before you know it, you’ve built some momentum with healthy habits that you can’t imagine stopping.
Bottom line: Baby steps are fine as long as you keep moving forward.
The seven science-based strategies below are the foundational ways I keep autoimmunity at bay and prevent COVID-19. Don’t let their simplicity fool you. It turns out that small healthy habits compound like the best interest, creating a beneficial upward spiral that will pay you dividends over time. My hope is that you might find one or two things that you can do right away. Good news that each is simple, pretty quick, and mostly free.
Seven simple strategies to beat autoimmune and prevent COVID-19:
Load up on vitamin C
More than 148 studies show that Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) may prevent and alleviate infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. Take 2,000–5,000 mg [ideally corn-free] vitamin C per day in divided doses, with or without food. The only downside of vitamin C is loose stools (“bowel tolerance”) which might be a bonus for people who are constipated. I personally take both the liposomal form from Quicksilver Scientific and several capsules of corn-free vitamin C from Ecological Formulas. Both forms are currently available in my Fullscript supplement dispensary for 15% off.
Get your D levels up
Doctors and scientists are observing that people with the lowest vitamin D levels fare the worst with COVID-19. Supplementing with vitamin D3 (and K2 to ensure calcium gets into your bones and not your arteries) is an easy way to fill up your immune system reserves and protect against autoimmunity and viral threats. Experts argue about optimal levels. Know your levels through a simple blood test, and at a minimum get yours over 60. Personally I get my D levels tested twice a year and optimize my level to 70 – 100 ng/ml, both with sun exposure and also with Metagenics 10K IU D3 plus K2 or 5 – 10K IU Quicksilver Scientific Liposomal D3 + K2.
Stop eating top inflammatory foods
Gluten creates a leaky gut in anyone who eats it; 1 Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, Hollon, J. et. al., Nutrients. 2015 Mar; 7(3): 1565–1576, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377866/#; and a leaky gut is the fast path to autoimmunity. Most people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to casein, the protein in animal dairy. In addition to promoting obesity and diabetes — both risk factors for autoimmunity and COVID-19 — sugar and processed foods block the immune system from functioning for up to 5 hours after eating it. 2Sanchez, A., et al.; Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Nov 1973; 261:1180-1184; http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract
Shorten your eating window
Intermittent fasting, also known as “time restricted feeding,” reduces inflammation, strengthens the gut barrier, and helps you move from being a sugar burner to a more metabolically beneficial fat burner. Beyond metabolic benefits, fasting has been shown to rejuvenate the immune system through a process called autophagy, which clears out old, “senolytic” (damaged) cells, making way for new, more robust immune cells. Consider stopping eating at 6 pm and don’t eat anything until 10 am or later for a 16 hour fast, also known as 16:8, for the 8 hour eating window. A couple days per week extend the fast by skipping dinner, or maybe miss breakfast.
Get more sleep
Research is clear that sleep deprivation, defined as 6 or fewer hours a night, negatively impacts gene expression and makes you more vulnerable to infections. 3 Asif N, Iqbal R, Nazir CF. Human immune system during sleep. Am J Clin Exp Immunol. 2017;6(6):92–96. Published 2017 Dec 20 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768894/ 4 Effects of insufficient sleep on circadian rhythmicity and expression amplitude of the human blood transcriptome; Möller-Levet, Carla S., et al.; www.pnas.org/content/110/12/E1132 If you have an autoimmune disorder you may need 8 or more hours. Do what you can to get in bed a little earlier. Those precious hours between 10 pm and 2 am are when your brain’s glymphatic system takes out the trash and you benefit from more deep sleep.
Move throughout the day
A review of eighteen studies found that those who sat for the longest periods of time were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease and had a greater risk of death compared to those who sat the least. Moderate daily exercise, like twenty to forty minutes of walking most days, reduces body-wide inflammation, and incidence of upper-respiratory illness. Because sitting for two hours can undo twenty minutes of exercise benefits, if you are able, make sure you stand and move throughout the day.
Just sit quietly
Science is resounding that meditation decreases stress, anxiety, depression, increases resilience and empathy, and increases the size of your brain!5Benefits of Meditation: 10 Science-Based Reasons To Start Meditating Today INFOGRAPHIC, Emma Seppala, Ph.D, http://www.emmaseppala.com/10-science-based-reasons-start-meditating-today-infographic/#.WFvz1LYrJ-U etc. Meditation sounds more daunting than it is. Just find a quiet place, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and follow your breath in and out for 5 minutes. Thoughts will arise, let them pass. Come back to your breath, in and out. Don’t think you have 5 minutes to sit? Start with 1.
Which strategy resonates with you? The one(s) that works will be the one(s) you actually do. Don’t worry about doing it all at once. Just pick one. Already doing several? Pick one more. So what will you do for yourself today? Go for a walk? Eat dinner a little earlier? Order that D3 with K2?
As you take one simple step in the direction of better health, take comfort in knowing that you’re also proactively preventing worse effects of COVID-19.
You can do this. Baby steps are fine, as long as you’re moving forward.
Take good care!
p.s. Want my help beating an autoimmune condition and optimizing your immunity? If you live the U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom. I collaborate with a naturopath who is an expert in resolving chronic infections and toxic burdens which are almost always part of the autoimmune puzzle. Together we provide comprehensive, customized treatment plans, and collaborative, caring support. Sign up for a complimentary 15 min discovery call to discuss how we might work together. If you’re truly ready to invest in your best health and life, I’d love to work with you.
Image Credit: Emma Simpson on Unsplash