Full disclosure, I am a supplement pusher. That’s what I do, and it’s all good stuff, but while many people are out of work or on a decreased salary, I thought it was time to talk about what we can do that’s cheap and still wildly effective!
SLEEP IS CHEAP!
Our immune system works while we sleep.
During the day, our body is busy trying to keep us from running into walls, keeping us upright, managing our body temperature while we run in and out of the house, observing our surroundings to keep us safe, and mentally managing everything from criticism to bad weather to crying babies.
But when we sleep, we don’t have to do any of those things. We rest, and we repair.
Just as your body is tired at the end of the day, so is your immune system. That is why we tend to get fevers at night, and after we rest, why we are better in the morning.
This is why we go to bed when we are sick and we need to sleep!
Societies that incorporate naps into their daily life, have less cardiovascular disease.
Gazillions of studies show that sleep helps not just our immune system, but our mood/affect, energy production, regulation of our hormones, digestion processes, detoxification ability, in fact, most key processes work while we rest. Essentially sleep is when we grow, repair, and heal. And it is CHEAP!!
So slug it! Sleep in or go to bed an hour earlier. Try to get an extra hour in.
You’ll also want to make sure it is dark when you sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping, unplug all electronics in your room. Don’t bring your phone or your computer into your bedroom. Avoid blue light from phones, computer and TV after dark, but especially for the last hour or two before bed. If you must use your electronics, then invest in a good pair of blue light glasses.
If you fall asleep alright, but can’t stay asleep, you most likely have blood sugar issues, and eating a protein snack before bed can help stabilize your blood sugar through the night and help you get a little more sleep.
DECREASE YOUR STRESS
We all know this and I’m the millionth person to tell you this but listen… any stress on your system will compromise your immune system.
Even good stress like working out or going for a run is stress, we just don’t want too much of it at one time because there is a tipping point.
The things that stress us most are the things we can’t fix.
And right now, there’s plenty of stressors we can’t fix.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t DO something about it.
There is ALWAYS something we can do.
Where is YOUR stress coming from?
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side write down all the things that are stressing you out. On the right side go down and list for each stressor something you can do to help alleviate that stress.
So if you are having a hard time making a car payment, you might write “make a budget”, or “work 3 extra hours this week”, or “stop buying diet soda” (hint hint).
If you run into a stress and you cannot find any way of alleviating it or fixing it, you must still write something down. You need to make an action for each stress.
It may be just as simple as saying a prayer, or to meditate on it on your next run.
If you still can’t think of an action item, then you do something for someone else. You call friends or family and check in. You make cookies for a neighbor, volunteer your time, drive some seniors shopping in your neighborhood, rake someone else’s lawn. It may not directly fix your problem, but taking a positive action to make someone else feel better, makes us feel better. Stress is, after all, a perception that can be modified by our behavior.
EAT A LOW SUGAR, LOW CARB DIET
When we are stressed, we turn on our fight or flight system. Which means we need more fuel and we need it yesterday.
Sugar is our rocket fuel which is why we have intense cravings for the stuff. It’s what we need to run, fight, think, smell and move well, which is important if you’ve got a tiger on your tail.
We have one nervous system and it is either “on” (fight or flight) or “off” (rest and repair. When in fight or flight mode, the blood is preferentially shunted to the lungs for air and to the muscles so we can fight or run. Glucose is made from fat stores to provide energy. Resources are then taken from other systems like digestion, immunity, repair, hormone regulation, fighting inflammation etc.
It will therefore, be harder to eat a meal. It will feel better to eat sugary snacks all day. Thus the weight gain with stress.
So the first thing we need to do is manage the stress. Make your list people, and start working it.
If you find you are still “wired and tired” go for a walk to burn off some of that rocket fuel. It will be easier to sit and eat a meal when you return.
Break the cycle by eating some protein at every meal, every snack. Choose the protein first and work the rest of the meal around it. We cannot run and digest at the same time, so an increase in protein will not only give you more nutrients than carbs, but will also send a signal to the body to down-regulate the fight or flight system. You may actually find you are tired and ready for a nap.
If you’ve been doing the stressed eating for some time, you may need to start with smaller meals. An easy thing to do is to divide your meals in two and stretch them out through the day. Smaller meals will be easier to digest and absorb while we work to get off the stress treadmill.
Hippocrates, still recognized as the Father of Medicine said over 2000 years ago, “give me a fever and I can cure anything”.
Heat does two things. Heat kills bugs that cause infection. Heat also sounds the alarm to the immune system that signals there is an invader in the house and it needs to get to work.
A hotter body temperature is protective simply because it’s an inhospitable environment for bugs. Critters that can live comfortably at 97.5 might not be so comfortable at 98.6 and unable to survive 99.6. People with lower body temperatures then, are more susceptible to infection. Which is why mom always told us to stay warm, button up the coat, and sleep warm.
Many people have reduced body temperatures, a reflection of lowered metabolism. It’s not normal, but it is very common, and so these people will be more susceptible to infection.
Those who are immunosuppressed or have low thyroid function, people that have been ill, cancer patients, people with adrenal fatigue, will tend to have lower temperatures and therefore be more prone to infection.
Many people believe that a fever is a sign the body is losing a fight with infection, what they don’t realize is that fever IS the fight. Fever is the cure. You don’t want to stop a fever or lower a fever because you take the fight out of the dog and now the virus or bacteria can run its course. So to fight infection, heat your body UP.
Saunas, hot Epsom salt baths, sleeping with socks and even a hat or scarf on, and going to bed with hot water bottles, are all ways to prevent and fight infection.
SAVE MONEY ON MEDS
Taking fever reducers lowers the body’s temperature which not only hampers the immune response, but signals the immune system that it was a false alarm and stop wasting precious time and energy calling up the troops. We feel better, but now it will take longer to fight off that bug than if we had a high and fast temperature.
Because the coronavirus is novel or new, meaning we have never encountered it before, the branch of our immune system that remembers past infections and makes antibodies so that we have a “memory” and therefore a faster, more effective response, is not working. That is why the fever becomes an even more important key ally in the fight against infection. So stay warm, raise your body temperature to assist your body if you feel an infection coming on.
Use fever reducers sparingly, if at all. Tepid bath, cool compresses on the head and neck, or a hot water bottle on the feet, can help bring a temperature down.
Stay well hydrated with nutrients and electrolytes during the fever. Bone broth or vegetable juices are ideal.
Another medication you are going to want to use sparingly are your antacids or acid stopping medications. If you are just buying this over the counter, you may be able to switch to a digestive enzyme which helps break the food down in your stomach so it empties faster and less likely to produce reflux. The acid in your stomach is one of your body’s first lines of defense against infection, as airborne particles may find their way into our mouths and down to the stomach. Coronavirus and most all other infections are killed in highly acidic environments, which your stomach is, unless you are using acid stopping medications. It is a beautiful design, so that even if we are exposed to an infectious agent, we have this very effective first line of defense.
Another line of natural defense we have, is the cough. Our throat and lungs are lined with a viscous, protective mucous which catches fine particulate that may get into our throat and lungs. Mucous is moved along out of the lungs and up the throat by fine hairs called cilia until it reaches that place in the throat where we cough stuff up. If we spit it out, great, we’ve just taken the trash out of our lungs. If we swallow it, the stomach with all it’s acid will neutralize it. An absolutely beautiful system!!
If we take a decongestant, that dries up our mucous, which is that protective layer in the lungs and nasal passages. Yes our nose stops running and we stop coughing as much, but now the irritants are staying in the lungs or nasal cavity instead of being washed out, and we increase the risk of complications like sinus infections or pneumonia.
In general, we usually want to help our body do what it is doing. If you have a cough, you want to help clear the lungs, so you make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids so your body can continue to make more mucous, and you might put a hot water bottle on the chest or back to loosen up some mucous so you have a more productive cough.
So save some money on OTC cough and cold meds and instead invest in a good old fashioned hot water bottle (1,001 uses!).
Thank you for sharing your precious time with me. I hope this has been helpful.
The main reason for healing is love.
Lolin Kathryn Hilgartner, DC, CNS