Couch to the Summit

Icon Collap
...
Home / How to Protect Yourself From and Overcome the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) 

How to Protect Yourself From and Overcome the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) 

By James Stewart - Editor Couch to the Summit

It is sad when the world faces a pandemic situation, because many people will suffer and some of those people will die. It is important to be concerned and vigilant, but becoming panic stricken is going a step too far. The mainstream media is notorious for fear mongering and fanning the flames of worry, whether it is to increase revenue, or to influence people to act and behave in a certain way. Excessive fear is truly counter-productive, because it weakens immune system function making people more susceptible to viral infections. So, stressing about the coronavirus is one of the worst things you can do.

Stress induced immune depletion was discovered in the 1980s, when psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and immunologist Ronald Glaser, PhD, found students’ immunity went down every year under the simple stress of the three-day exam period. They found the test takers stopped producing immunity-boosting gamma interferon and infection-fighting T-cells, the natural killer cells that fight viral infections. (1) 

As things stand now, if you are fit and healthy you really don’t need to worry about the COVID-19 coronavirus as if the end of the world is coming. Of course, this can change and viruses can mutate to more dangerous forms, but on current evidence, COVID-19 is a more contagious and slightly worse variant of the seasonal flu. Most healthy people will be flattened for a while, but will make a full recovery. 

If there is any good news, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control (CCDC), reports a zero-mortality rate for humans under the age of nine. This is unlike the flu, which infects and kills children regularly. However, serious health risks and death increase dramatically if you are immunocompromised or elderly. 

In the United States alone, the CDC estimates during the current flu season there has been 32 million flu illnesses, 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths. (2) The death count of the typical flu strain is still 10-20 times higher than the coronavirus, but this could change since the virus looks like it won’t be able to be contained. 

Just like with the flu, your best line of defence is always going to be improving your health and fitness. This—more than anything else—will lower your chances of a serious outcome occurring even if you do catch the virus. Better health choices mean your chances of making a full recovery rise dramatically if you do catch it, and better health choices also improve your chances of not catching it at all.

 

Why Cardiorespiratory Fitness Matters

The mortality rate of COVID-19 is running somewhere in the range of 1-4%, which is quite a bit higher than the seasonal flu’s 0.1%. Still, of those who have died, the large majority have been elderly or people with compromised health and immune systems. For all people under 50 who have contracted the virus, the mortality rate drops to less than 0.5%. People contract the virus, suffer mild symptoms and then recover. So, if you are healthy and under 50, then you really don’t have much to worry about at all (on current information). 

If you are unhealthy and over 50, then you are at a far greater risk. The mortality rate for those over 80 is 15%, over 70 is 8% and over 60 is 3.6%. However, it is not too late to start improve your chances. Even 85% of those over 80 are surviving the coronavirus.

5e583c47fee23d4cf4755b27

According to the WHO’s on analysis of 44,000 cases of COVID-19 in Hubei province, around 80% of people have a mild form of the disease, 14% develop a more severe disease such as pneumonia, 5% have critical disease, and 2% of cases are fatal. Among those that died, most had pre-existing conditions, which are largely preventable by healthier lifestyle choices, including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

Healthy people do catch the virus, but invariably only suffer mild symptoms and recover, just like the typical seasonal flu. The seasonal flu typically escalates into pneumonia and worsens to organ failure in the serious cases. COVID-19 turns serious in the same way the flu does in those with poor health. 

Multiple studies show strong links between cardiorespiratory fitness and chances of viral infections escalating into conditions like pneumonia. One particular study (Kunutsor, Laukkanen, Laukkanen, 2017) demonstrated cardiorespiratory fitness is linearly associated with pneumonia risk, revealing an increase in fitness as your best line of defence.

Danish researchers also found a high level of physical activity into older age is associated with a reduced risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term for respiratory conditions that narrow the airways. The researchers concluded that any physical activity should be encouraged to delay development, progression and death from COPD. 

Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) can be measured by Vo2Max, a measure of the body’s ability to use oxygen during exercise. The researchers found the estimated risk of COPD diagnosis was 21% lower with typical CRF and 31% lower in people with high CRF. The estimated risk of death from COPD was 35% lower in people with normal CRF and 62% lower in those with high CRF. (3)

Ultimately, people with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are far more resilient to underlying COPD say the researchers. This is because COPD risk also declines linearly with increasing fitness. The important caveat is you need to be aerobically fit, not just physically active. Unfit people of all ages are highly susceptible to the impact of viral infections on their overall health.

 

You are Never Too Old or Too Unfit to Start

Life becomes increasingly less forgiving after 40-50 years of age. COVID-19 exemplifies the high stakes of this reality. However, it is a huge myth you can’t increase fitness, strength, or lose weight past a certain age. You may look at younger people doing amazing feats, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start moving your own body within your limitations.

Fit people are more likely to stay well and active through their middle years when heart disease, cancer, cardiovascular problems, and other health issues begin to crop up in these age groups. It is important to start as early as possible, but it is not the end of the world to begin at any age. There are many examples of people in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s who have started fitness training and greatly improved their health, even in a short period of time. 

Exercise can be a dirty word to many people. There are so many people who believe they’re too overweight, too weak or too old to get back in shape, but no matter who you are, what you do, you absolutely have the power to change and improve your immune system function quite quickly. 

If you dread the thought of exercise, then I suggest you reframe how you look at it. Strive to find more adventure in your life and incorporate your fitness activity with a passion like photography, nature hiking etc… You want to find a passion that motivates and excites you to move your body and takes your mind away from what effort and pain you have to suffer through. If that is how you perceive exercise, then the thought of exercise is causing you stress, which lowers your immunity. You have to find a way to be excited by the exercise you do each day, otherwise this alone defeats the purpose of its intended health improvements.

 

Don’t Make it Complicated, Just Start Walking…Today!

I always recommend anyone wanting to start on the road to improving their fitness start with daily low-impact walking—preferably in nature—as frequently and as often as possible. Make it as easy as possible to succeed and get your body used to being comfortable moving around in the outdoors. Only once you are used to be outside consistently and your body is adapting to the walking increases, should you start exploring increasing the intensity of your regime.

Many people make the mistake of starting their new health kick by trying to take up running, joining a gym with high intensity fitness classes or heavy weight training from the word “go” before their body is adapted and ready for it. Beginners are often filled with high levels of initial enthusiasm and don’t have the experience to know when to back off, which can increase injury risk. The enthusiasm can also be hard to maintain consistently over weeks and months. Several outcomes are common: the initial high wears off; injuries occur; become over-tired; over-sore; and suffer too often. This is why so many people go back to old habits, and can’t make exercise a consistent part of their lifestyle. 

If exercise becomes something you endure rather than something you enjoy then you won’t maintain the commitment no matter how mentally strong you think you are today. Even I can’t maintain an exercise commiment when I don’t enjoy what I am doing, even when I have big goals I want to achieve fueling my motivation. The only way to build consistency and keep you coming back is to make movement an enjoyable and sustainable experience in your own mind, and in an environment you feel comfortable in.

The good thing about walking is anyone can do it, it doesn’t cost anything, and it won’t cause injury and a lot of suffering. It doesn’t place great strain on the body and has wonderful all-round benefits. Walking can take you to amazing places, take you on an incredible adventure, and it is certainly healing for the body even if you have joint issues. The only caveat is you shouldn’t force yourself to walk through pain. If only 30 minutes is what you can do before pain hits, then be consistent with 20-minute walks, or whatever you can handle pain free. I’m sure in time, you will be able to walk more often pain free as your body gets used to moving again.

My advice is you should never run, or do any high intensity movements, until you can walk really really well. This means not just walking on flat urban terrain, but on hills and even mountain trails. 2000 years ago, Hippocrates informed the world that “Walking is a man’s best medicine” and I don’t think anyone since has proved him wrong. 

Walking—especially in nature—is a fantastic antidote to when you don’t feel well. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days. (4) Furthermore, regular walking greatly reduces the risk of cardiovascular events. A meta-analysis of studies between 1970 and 2007 demonstrated regular walking lowered the risk of heart attack and stroke by between 15-30%.

People who walk regularly may also be younger on a cellular level. Cardiovascular exercise has been found to preserve and lengthen telomeres, parts of DNA which shorten as we age. One study determined VO2max (cardiorespiratory fitness) as being positively associated with greater telomere length. (5) Shortened telemores dramatically increase the risk of cardiovascular events and death. (6)

Doctors measuring life expectancy also discovered how fast we walk strongly correlates with how long you might end up living. In fact, walking speed is actually a more accurate predictor of life expectancy than the age or sex of people. Researchers discovered people who walk one meter per second (or faster), consistently live longer than age and sex matched peers who walk at slower speeds. This test was especially accurate for people older than 75. (7)

Your body determines the best walking speed for you, as one of the autonomic processes in your sub-conscious, so if you are ill, you’re not going to have the spring in your step that a healthy individual would. Basically, ability to walk fast reflects vitality and health because the proper functioning of multiple body systems, such as the cardiovascular, nervous and musculoskeletal systems, are needed to provide energy, control and coordinate the movement. The researchers noted, simply going out and trying to walk faster won’t make you live longer, unless of course you are consistent with your power walking, your fitness will certainly improve! As your fitness and overall strength improves, you body will then program your natural walking speed to regain that spring in your step. (7) I could list point after point of the benefits of walking to mental health and many other areas, but you get the point.

Walking briskly for 15-20kms a week can be a realistic goal for a beginner. As your body builds up strength from a regular walking routine, you can slowly progress the time and distance, then add power walking or power hiking into the mix, and then transition into running if you want. 

Now, to really increase your cardiorespiratory fitness, you want to begin walking regularly up stairs or up steeper mountain terrain, which will have more beneficial effects than simply walking or jogging around the flat lands. Walking up stairs and mountains also improves your joints and corrects a lot of biomechanical dysfunction through your lower back and hips. Mountain running and hiking was the only thing that helped my chronic back pain after years of pain. 

You can then progress to doing walking interval training on hills and stairs, which is where your fitness can be maximised in a really short session (< 15 minutes). Stair climbing is an emerging sport that is growing in popularity due to its safety and distinct benefits to participants. It’s also over really quickly! If you are time strapped and looking for bang for your buck, then stairs should be your choice.

In terms of running, you can start conditioning your joints for the impact loads of running by adding a few seconds of fast walking, hiking, or running, into your regular walking regime. Then you can start building those intermittent running intervals into minutes and eventually to an hour or more. 

The same premise goes for the gym and lifting weights. I believe you have no business lifting a weight if you cannot even handle your own bodyweight really well first. I believe strength training should start with functional bodyweight exercises that move your body through different planes of motion. Exercises like push ups, pull ups, dips, squats, lunges, planks are all great examples. The added benefit is you can do a lot of these types of exercises at home, so you don’t need a gym membership to get started. Once you have built up strength through functional bodyweight movements, you can start adding some weight with some functional compound weight lifting exercises to progress further if this is what you enjoy.

Personally, I believe weight lifting should not be excluded from a training approach to increase fitness, because of it’s benefits to overall strength, bone density, metabolism, hormones and the immune system. Aerobic exercise is catabolic, and you should be offsetting that with anabolic strength training. However, stairs and mountains do have an anabolic effect on aerobic exercise.

The benefits to walking and bodyweight training results in drastically reduced injury risk and increased adherence, because you are not throwing an ill-equipped and inexperienced person into an advanced form of training where their inexperience might count against them. Safer exercises can be adapted to a person’s lower level of ability and slowly incremented. This helps to manage the training progression without forcing someone new to exercise to suffer or push their body too hard than they really should. I cannot emphasise enough how walking and functional strength are really important in the health equation.

Trail running is one sport that is consistently growing in popularity because it gives you a lot of bang for your buck with all these elements. You can combine the tremendous benefits of running, with added proprioception (balance) demands, varying elevation changes which increases bone and muscle strength, along with time in nature and adventure in beautiful places.

 

Start Really Small and Build Consistency First

Being consistent daily is what matters more than the duration or intensity of your training sessions. Beginners often start with 30-, 45- or 60-minute training sessions, that when you add time to prepare, both before and after training, along with commuting, starts to turn a new exercise program into a 2-hour (or more) time commitment each day. For someone not used to fitting this into their daily schedule, it will be hard to maintain on more challenging days.

My recommendation for achieving success on any new challenging goal or regime is to break down what you are trying to do into the smallest chunk you can. The chunk should be small enough that it doesn’t overwhelm you, or cause any stress when you think about it. You must be willing to commit to doing it each day, no matter what other adversity the day brings or how tired or run down you feel. If you can’t do it, make it even smaller until you can!

If you find your exercise commitment slipping from 1-day to 2-days or more, then stop and re-assess the reasons why. See if there is anything you can do to make the inertia of starting easier. Focus only on the next really small action you need to take. Also don’t wait to be in the “right mood” before starting exercise.  Once you simply start by committing to just a few minutes, it becomes easier to continue and motivation will follow. Your body wants to go the path of least resistance, this is why starting is always harder than continuing once you have started.

In terms of walking, start small, commit to going out for a 1- or 2-minute walk or climb some stairs for a minute or two. Anyone can do anything for two minutes, no matter how busy or tired you feel. Allow yourself to go longer if you feel better once you get going, but also allow yourself to stop if you don’t feel up to doing more. Simply try and increase the time in small increments each day, and over a longer period of time, you will be on the road to really long walks. Keep your walking simple, there is no special way to walk. Just walk and intently enjoy your surroundings. 

 

Spend Time in Nature to Improve Health and Lower Stress

Scientists discovered exercising in nature reduces the perception of effort compared with the same exercise performed indoors or in an urban environment. Not only that, they found the perception of effort was less even when you are working harder. If you find exercise hard, then try doing it in nature more often.

Exercising in nature is far better for your cardiovascular system too. It is important to walk in a pleasant environment, a park or in nature, not along busy city roads if you have the opportunity. Remember the goal is to improve your cardiorespiratory health, so walking in areas with pollution from traffic is going to be counterproductive. Car exhaust fumes are highly toxic to the human body. They damage lung tissue and enter our blood vessels causing free radical oxidation throughout the body. Just like smoking, pollution will cause arteries to harden, along with asthma, allergies, and other breathing difficulties. This is something you want to minimise to protect your health against respiratory viruses. If you have no choice, the best time to walk (or run) would be very early in the morning before peak hour traffic when the air particulate matter will be at its lowest.

Also, in a pandemic situation, the gym is probably the first place you should avoid since you will have a lot of people touching the same equipment, sweating and breathing heavily in an enclosed environment. Outdoors, you can avoid people and breathe in all the fresh air you want.

Exercise outdoors (especially in forests or mountains) in the fresh air is routinely found to have positive effects on your physical health and mental health (mood). Interestingly, the first five minutes of outdoor nature exercise appears to have the biggest impact on mood and self-esteem, suggesting an immediate psychological health benefit. This will transfer to improving your immune system health. (8)

Craig Anderson, a postdoctoral researcher and fellow at UC Berkeley, found awe is one of the active ingredients explaining why dramatic landscapes are good for our health. In one study, he found the more awe people felt during an outdoor adventure, the happier and less stressed they were in the following week. Lowering stress is really important for our immune system health.

One reason for this health affect is not just perceptual, but due to the differences in the energetic charge in natural places. Pollution and electromagnetic radiation generate positive ions, which are carbon dioxide molecules stripped of an electron in the surrounding air. Positive ions are harmful to the body due to their oxidising effect, but can be diffused and rendered harmless by antioxidising negative ions, which nature provides in abundance. 

The highest concentrations of negative ions exist in natural, clean air, most abundant in environments, such as dense forests, mountains, waterfalls and beaches. Researchers have found exposure to positive ions for two hours increases anxiety and stress levels, but is similarly reversed by the same level of exposure to negative ions. (9) Negative ions have been found to notably enhance immune function, revitalise cellular metabolism, purify the blood and calm the nervous system. 

Why do we like the beach so much? Crashing water—from waves or a waterfall—creates immense negative ion generation, which is why it feels so rejuvenating when we visit these places. Dr. Michael Terman, a PhD, of Columbia University in New York, studies these ions and writes, “The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods.” (10)  

Don’t wait for only perfect sunny weather to do outdoor exercise. Some of my most enjoyable and rejuvenating adventures have occurred when it is raining, because of the negative ion rich environment during rain storms and calming affect it has on my mind. Many people don’t go out when its raining, but as long as you are wearing layers you can put on and take off and remain warm and comfortable, breathing in the oxygenated rich air is very therapeutic.

You can also buy negative ion generators to use in your home environment, they are also called air purifiers if you google it up.

 

Time in the Forests to Improve Killer Cells

I spend a lot of time in the forests in the mountains and I also find my time there to be highly rejuvenative and important for my physical and mental health. Scientists in Japan have discovered a key reason why forests improve our health. The researchers recommend we stop and smell the trees, because the invisible chemicals (called phytoncides) released from trees are act like a miracle drug. (11) Phytoncide derives from the Greek and Latin words for “plant” and “killer,” are antimicrobial compounds designed to ward off pests. At the low levels produced, we actually find them pleasant.

The Japanese immunologist’s found improvements in NK “Natural Killer” cell counts occurred during forest therapy and attribute it to the aromatic volatile substances (scents) released by trees. NK cells are white blood cells capable of quickly destroying cells infected by viruses and are critical for healthy immune system function. 

The researchers confirmed the theory by extracting essential oils from Hinoki cypress trees and used a humidifier to send the steamed aroma into several hotel rooms. They then compared the results with a control group in other rooms who didn’t receive the scents. The phytoncide group showed a 20% increase in NK cells and people in those rooms reported feeling less fatigue compared with the control group who exhibited no detectable changes. They found a one-day trip in a suburban park had a marked effect, boosting both NK cells and anticancer proteins for an entire week afterward. (11)

In my apartment, I use an essential oil diffuser that releases a blend of forest essential oils (pine, fir, cedarwood, eucalyptus etc) aroma. I especially like this when I am working on the computer or feeling any form of mental or physical stress.

 

Bare Skin on the Earth

How often does your bare skin touch the Earth? One reason people love the beach, is because it is one of the few times we put our bare feet on the ground and feel the restorative affects from the Earth. Wearing shoes all day, we shield our feet from the intense electron-rich Earth with a layer of rubber. Rubber is an insulator, one of the least conductive substances on the planet, destroying the electrical connection between our feet and the ground.

Dr. James Oschman, a PhD in biology from the University of Pittsburgh, began to study this area of science after hearing many subjective reports of people walking barefoot on the Earth and receiving positive outcomes in feelings of health and well-being. Some of the research done to date, supports the idea regular grounding on the Earth is an essential element of health along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity. (12)

When grounded, the diurnal rhythm of the stress hormone cortisol begins to return to normal levels, greatly improving the function of the body’s immune system. The expert’s recommend about 90 minutes of feet on the ground for the 80-90 minutes for the free electrons from the earth to reach the bloodstream and begin improving your immune system health. (13)

If you are out on a hike or walk in nature, take off your shoes and socks and sit with your feet on the ground for a while. You can double this up with some meditation or mindfulness practice which will help to lower your overall stress and increase your immune system function.

Rudolph Tanzi PhD, from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, explains meditation is one of the ways to engage in restorative activities that provides relief for our immune systems. His prediction is that this would then lead to healthier aging. (14)

 

Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Improve Your Immune System Health

The best decision you can make in life is to commit to living a healthy lifestyle. This doesn’t mean a lifestyle of excessive abstinence, solitude or suffering. Instead, it becomes the product of a conscious realisation every action has an impact on your health and fitness.

Furthermore, you can still have poor immune system function if you are aerobically fit. This can result from poor nutrition, toxin exposure, overtraining and/or chronic stress/anxiety. Fitness is just one aspect of a larger equation.

While I cannot go deeply into some of these topics in this article, briefly a couple of things I recommend regarding COVID-19:

•    Irrespective of your dietary preferences, aim for a minimum of 1-1.5grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day to support your muscle mass, immune health, and recovery from exercise. Record your food in a nutritional log (like cronometer) and make sure you are eating enough protein for your bodyweight and activity levels. Personally, I have found not meeting my protein requirements greatly lowered my immunity. For my weight 69kg or 152lbs, along with my high exercise regime, I aim for 200 grams a day and this has helped a lot. If I was less active, I would reduce that to 150grams.

•    I would advise eating a balance of the other macros: carbs and fats and not taking an extreme approach to reducing or eliminating either one. 

•    Log your food on cronometer for a week or two to see where you are not meeting your daily requirements in specific vitamins or minerals from your diet. Simply adding some foods into your diet that enhance those gaps can really improve your health.

•    If you eat meat, don’t ignore a strong focus on plant-based foods regularly throughout the week in conjunction. This includes leafy greens, mushrooms, beans, lentils and other plant protein sources are encouraged in large quantities for good immune health.

•    Avoid cooked fats, especially fried food. These are inflammatory to the immune system and clog your lymphatic system. If you have to cook with fat, use a stable oil under high heat like coconut oil. Eat a lot of healthy fats and minimise cooking: wild fish but sparingly for sustainability (and avoid high mercury species and farmed salmon due to toxin exposure), chia seeds, avocados, organic olive oil, unroasted nuts and seeds are all regular choices for me.

•    Try to eat whole foods as much as possible. Avoid eating foods with unnatural/chemical ingredients on the food label.

•    Eat organic if you can afford it, to minimise pesticide exposure. Research what fruits and vegetables are less sprayed if you cannot afford organics, and avoid the most sprayed ones or only buy those items organic. Simply washing produce does not remove the pesticides, because they are designed to be water resistant from the daily watering on the farm.

•    Filter your drinking water. Chlorine and other chemicals are in tap water to kill bacteria and make it safe for the public to drink, but these chemicals can also cause systemic inflammation. I recommend the Berkey water filter system since it eliminates all viruses, bacteria, and chemicals. I travel with the travel size so I never pay for bottled water wherever I am in the world.

•    Take lukewarm showers, not steaming hot showers, or better yet, buy a chlorine shower filter. Chlorine vapor from hot water is breathed in during hot showers, which will irritate and weaken your lungs. This is one of the major reasons of poor respiratory health in my opinion and a serious point to consider regarding COVID-19.

•    Sugar is known to weaken the immune system. White sugar that is. Brown sugar, especially muscovado, with all the nutrients kept in, does not appear to have the same negative consequences on health according to studies on animals. (15) I do not avoid sugar; I use muscovado and I use maple syrup as an energy gel in exercising during my shorter higher intensity training or races (rather than unhealthy white sugar gels) and I also eat a lot of sugary dates during longer endurance training days because they are also a high source of potassium. Scientists found the minerals that are taken out during white sugar processing (e.g. Chromium) are protective, so brown sugar does not have the same health consequences. I do not recommend sugar replacements such as aspartame as they can have destructive consequences on health.

•    Avoid coffee/caffeine. I won’t go in depth with my reasons here, but will in a future article. Briefly, coffee, doesn’t really recharge the energy systems in the body. Instead, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. This means every time you drink coffee you are activating the body's fight-or-flight emergency response causing your body stress and lowers your immunity. The energy you borrow from your body’s reserves always has to be repaid at a later date, and this process is damaging if done regularly (daily). If you just like the taste and ritual of coffee, use a caffeine free coffee replacement product like Akava which uses chicory root to create a similar flavour profile. I also avoid chocolate for this reason, especially as it is typically combined with white sugar. You can make your own healthier chocolate products if you must eat it. Personally, I enjoy making my own carob bars with muscovado sugar, hazelnuts, vanilla and coconut oil. Delicious! and its even safe for your furry friends to eat it with you.

•    Avoid alcohol. This one should be obvious. When alcohol goes thru the liver, your body creates a by-product called acetaldehyde, a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen. The health risks are long and make for troubled reading. Personally, I don’t believe moderation of a known poison is healthy in anyway. Any beneficial offsets you might get from wine, doesn’t offset the other problems. Best avoided if you want optimal health.

 

Supplements

I’m not a huge advocate of going over the top with supplementation because I believe a good diet should provide everything you need. However, there are some benefits as an adjunct to diet because there are limitations on what you can get from diet/environment based on specific circumstances and times of the year.

Below is information on what I do to increase my immune system and overall health, this may or may not be relevant to your own personal health journey.. I always recommend that you please do your own research and consult your own health professionals before taking any medicine or supplement.

Lung Support Herbal Teas

I’m a strong proponent of herbal medicine and have used it in my life for over a decade with great outcomes. I recommend for lung support during a pandemic to drink herbal teas made with these three herbs: Mullien leaf‚ pleurisy root‚ and fenugreek seed. If you can find it, I recommend 3 Lung Tea by Dr. Morse’s Cellular Botanicals, which has all three above mentioned herbs. You can also buy those ingredients separately from a herbalist or health food store.

Immune system herbs

Many herbs can help boost your immune system. Some include: Echinacea, Olive Leaf, Astragalus, Oregano, Reishi Mushroom, Elderberry. I recommend doing some research and visiting a health food store to see what is available. You can find immune support blends in the supplement aisle that will include many of these herbs in a single mix. I prefer to buy in bulk from online herb retailers such as australherbs.com.au (Australia) or mountainroseherbs.com (North America). There are others…

Vitamin D

Human beings typically get vitamin D from sunlight exposure. However, everyone these days seems to avoid the sun like the plague. I feel the dangers have been grossly exaggerated and keeping yourself locked inside is not health in my view. Simply follow two rules when it comes to sun exposure: don’t burn and don’t get overtanned you no longer can burn. 
I only use zinc oxide sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are toxic to your body, especially your hormones.

The implications of vitamin D deficiency on the immune system became clearer in recent years. Low levels of this vitamin increased susceptibility to infection and autoimmunity. The vitamin D receptor is expressed on immune cells (B cells, T cells and antigen presenting cells) and it helps to modulate immune response. People typically get sick during the change of seasons from fall to winter, which is generally because they are no longer receiving sufficient sunlight on the skin.

Outdoor physical activity provides sun exposure linked to better health which is unavailable from indoor activity. In winter time, taking a vitamin D supplement is recommended. We can get some vitamin D from food, but not sufficient amounts. Some mushrooms contain vitamin D, but only if they were grown in sunlight or exposed to ultraviolet light.

I take 3000-4000 IU a day of Vitamin D3 in winter time or whenever I am not outdoors often enough to support my immune system, which is higher than the typical recommended dose. Personally, I didn’t find 1000IU was sufficient for me.

Liposomal Vitamin C

Personally, Liposomal Vitamin C is a must have supplement on a daily basis for me. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals and your immune system requires this vitamin on a daily basis to function at an optimal level. Vitamin C supports creation of antibodies and white blood cells that your body uses to fight pathogens.

The problem is that Vitamin C is water-soluble and your body can only absorb a limited amount of Vitamin C from the digestive system for use in the bloodstream and cells. As the dose of Vitamin C increases, less can be absorbed due to the limited number of nutrient transporters and there is no way for the body to store any excess. Taking a large dose of Vitamin C also causes major gastric distress when it leaves the body.

When Vitamin C becomes wrapped in double-layered phospholipid spheres (liposomes), it protects the vitamin in the digestive system allowing far more to be transported into the bloodstream without the gastric distress. 

You can purchase packages of Liposomal Vitamin C, but it is quite expensive and more affordable to make at home yourself if you plan on making a lot of it and can invest in some equipment for the process. You will require an ultra-sonic cleaner, a borosilicate glass beaker and a good blender to make the liposomes and encapsulate the vitamin C. I use the iSonic P4810+BHK01A Commercial Ultrasonic Cleaner with Beaker Holder Set for DIY Liposomal Vitamin C. It sounds complicated but it really isn’t, and it will save you a lot of money. I followed the instructions at qualityliposomalc.com.

Zinc

It is estimated at least 2 billion people are zinc deficient. This can cause health abnormalities and immune system issues. Zinc-deficient patients are found to have severe immune dysfunctions and die more frequently from infections. It is also important to help lower stress. A study on the effect of zinc on cortisol levels of medical students, demonstrated an inhibitory effect on the secretion of the stress-hormone cortisol. Intense exercise can also result in changes in zinc metabolism, so it is important for athletes.

Whenever I feel my immune system weaken, or feel a cold coming on, I immediately increase my Zinc Citrate dosage up to 150mg a day for a max of three days. My typical maintenance dose is Zinc Citrate 50mg a day. I don’t take it every day, but 3-4 times a week.

 

Do Your Own Research

There are a lot of resources out there on things you can do improve your health and immunity. Start the journey of research and make investing some time and effort in improving this area of your life will go a long way to helping you remain healthy with strong vitality.

If you want to speed up the process and feel less overwhelm…

 

Invest in a Health and Fitness Coach

I know it can be daunting understanding of the complexity of the many fitness approaches out there. If you are new to exercise and really serious about a dramatic health and fitness change, it is wise to work with an experienced coach who can ease you into the correct approaches. From this you will learn the information you need to then go forward in life on your own.

The best way to increase your cardiorespiratory fitness is by doing a combination of regular low-intensity endurance exercise (80-90% of physical activity of physical activity duration) combined with intermittent high-intensity training (10-20% of physical activity duration). High intensity training is what really increases fitness, but if it is not implemented correctly can quickly overstress the body causing a major drop in immune system function. There is a delicate balance to be found. Over-training, burn-out and chronic fatigue is a common occurrence in heavy exercisers.

Many of the most successful people in all fields of life, find success by working beneath mentors, people who have already achieved something they aspire to have. This is the fastest way to succeed because you don’t need to repeat the mistakes made by someone else who has already walked the path you want to walk along too. 

I strongly advise people new to exercise to utilise the experience of someone who has succeeded in a long-term application to fitness, and has the experience to customise a program suitable for your level of health and fitness. Being accountable to someone else, and having someone else embedded in your journey to share the experience with, is one of the most motivating factors in health and fitness for many people who have struggled to commit to programs in the past.

Here at Couch to the Summit, I provide two levels of coaching catered for people of any health or fitness level:

1.    Health coaching and exercise transition coaching for novices.
2.    Performance coaching for athletes.

Click here to learn more about these programs.

I work with a number of people already who are greatly enjoying the experience in my programs and giving great feedback on their results!

I can assist you in putting all of these strategies discussed in this article (and many more not mentioned!) into action. I can assist you in creating and implementing a successful health and fitness plan, freeing your mind from the overwhelm or uncertainty on what is the right thing to be doing. I am happy to help people of all health and fitness levels, even sedentary inactive people, and get you on the road to achieving great things you never dreamed would be possible. 

Please get in contact and we can discuss your options if this sounds of interest to you.  If you mention this article and the code NOFEAROFCOVID, I will deduct 30% off your monthly coaching fees in perpetuity.

 

Final Thoughts

If you start implementing some of the advice in this article, you will be better placed to survive any viral infection, now or in the future. Furthermore, knowing you are healthy takes a lot of the stress and worry away which also maintains a strong healthy immune system. Sometimes you can worry yourself to illness, as a self-creating prophecy. You all know people who say they never get sick, and it's actually true. Maybe their is some truth in what their inner speak is telling their body.

Best of luck in your health journey!

About the Author:

James Stewart has over a decade of experience as an elite level mountain-focused endurance athlete. He has participated at the top level in trail running, sky running, stair climbing, ultra endurance vertical events and ultra running, and also moonlights as an outdoor adventure photographer and writer. He has keen interests and many years researching health, psychology, nutrition and, also body mechanics, pain management and injury prevention. Learn more here.

20190808-K3__3257_INSTA

Bibliography

1. Stress Weakens the Immune System. [Online] https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.
2. Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report. [Online] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm.
3. Good physical fitness in middle age linked to lower chronic lung disease risk. [Online] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190618192032.htm.
4. 5 surprising benefits of walking. [Online] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-surprising-benefits-of-walking.
5. Telomere Length and Long-Term Endurance Exercise: Does Exercise Training Affect Biological Age? A Pilot Study. [Online] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0052769.
6. Leukocyte Telomere Length and Cardiovascular Disease in the Cardiovascular Health Study. [Online] https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/165/1/14/232589.
7. How Fast You Walk May Predict How Long You'll Live. [Online] https://www.livescience.com/35329-walking-pace-may-predict-life-expectancy-110104.html.
8. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/.
9. What Are Negative Ions And Why Are There So Many Studies on Their 'Health Benefits'? [Online] [Cited: 26 April 2019.] https://www.sciencealert.com/why-are-there-hundreds-of-studies-on-the-health-benefits-of-negative-ions.
10. Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes. [Online] https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/negative-ions-create-positive-vibes#1.
11. Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning. [Online] 26 April 2019. https://www.outsideonline.com/1870381/take-two-hours-pine-forest-and-call-me-morning.
12. Studies Show What Happens To The Human Body When We Walk Barefoot On Earth. [Online] https://realfarmacy.com/studies-body-barefoot-earthing/.
13. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650465.
14. New Clues Into How Meditation May Boost The Immune System. [Online] https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/09/06/new-clues-into-how-meditation-can-boost-the-immune-system/#62cf6b623698.
15. Some nutritional properties of unrefined sugar and its promotion of the survival of new-born rats. [Online] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/some-nutritional-properties-of-unrefined-sugar-and-its-promotion-of-the-survival-of-newborn-rats/1A7C8487D6A41037649B0012F7531A66.