The covid-19 pandemic drags on, with a second surge looming. People have placed their lives on hold, consumed and overcome by distress. For many, the thinking seems to go like this. This disease can strike anyone, randomly, at any time.
Vaccines and medications will of course be important tools, and we will be grateful when they are proven and safely arrive. In truth, neither covid 19 nor other illnesses necessarily strike completely at random. Many external environmental factors can impact who gets exposed and who becomes sick. While some of these causes remain beyond our control, others we can influence, and we can actively reduce or avoid them to maximize our chances of staying healthy. Great examples of this are the social distancing measures that we have learned from the public health authorities. When you maintain 6 feet of distance, wash your hands frequently, avoid large crowds, and wear a mask, you greatly reduce your odds of exposure to covid 19.
But that’s not all. After being exposed to covid 19, some people come down with a severe and potentially deadly syndrome, while others have few or no symptoms whatsoever. This is not entirely random either. Imagine a ship is at sea and a severe storm sets in. A well-built and well-maintained ship is more likely to weather the storm, but if the vessel is neglected and fragile, it is more likely to sink. Similarly, those who are healthier, and have stronger immune systems, can better fight off a disease like covid-19.
We need more emphasis on how to reduce stress, and how to keep the physiology and immune system strong. That is to say, we need to give people proven tools to help each individual better fight off the disease.
Here is where integrative medicine steps in. Many times tested, scientifically proven strategies can help you to strengthen immune function, promote overall wellness, and stay out of trouble during the Covid19 pandemic.
• Stick to a regular routine. It is vitally important to get enough rest but sleeping too late into the morning can make us feel depressed and groggy. Be sure to get to bed by around 10pm every night, and to wake up around 6:30am. Take time to sit down and have a good, nutritious, well balanced, hot lunch every day. This helps not only to nourish your body, but also to settle down the mind. In addition to the daily routine, you can add a 24-hour liquid fast once a week, from lunch to lunch. Periodic fasting as a great way to rekindle digestion, reduce inflammation, and detoxify the physiology.
• There are many natural remedies which will directly enhance your immune protection and overall health. Sipping hot water throughout the day, including healthy spices in your cooking, such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, and fennel, all help to boost your body’s immune function.
• Exercise is a great prescription for stress reduction. Remember that exercise should remove stress from, not create stress for, the physiology. In other words, you don’t have to train for a decathlon, unless you want to. A brisk walk counts as exercise and is good for just about anyone. Provided you maintain 6 feet of distance, it is perfectly safe and appropriate to get out for a walk or jog, and in fact it’s very important to do so, especially during a stressful pandemic. The best time to exercise is first thing in the morning, then you can enjoy the rewards all day!
• You are what you eat. Favoring a plant-based diet rich in fresh fruits and steamed vegetables provides nutritional support and helps to maintain a healthy microbiome. Be sure to have your main meal at lunch, when your digestive capacity is at its strongest. Overeating at night can lead to the accumulation of toxins which in turn can clog the physiology and derange metabolic function
• Mind body and stress reduction techniques have been proven effective for improving anxiety, boosting immunity, optimizing wellbeing, and helping with other stress related mental and physical disorders. One of the most popular and widely researched is meditation. Many other approaches can also be helpful, including Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, guided imagery, positive affirmations, prayer and religious practice and getting out into nature.
You are encouraged to use all tools available, both conventional and integrative. In addition to following the advice of the public health authorities, adding evidence based integrative medicine approaches will boost your immunity, and help you to thrive and enjoy your life, free from fear. You can feel safe and secure knowing that you are doing all you can do to protect yourself and family from the covid 19 pandemic.
Source: DR. CHARLES ELDER MD MPH FACP. Dr. Elder received his MD and MPH degrees from Boston University School of Medicine and completed residency training in internal medicine at the University of Michigan hospitals. He has served as a primary care internist at Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW) for 28 years and has been the physician lead for the complementary and integrative medicine program at KPNW for 20 years. In this capacity, Dr. Elder offers a referral based integrative ayurvedic clinic, advising patients in the areas of diet, exercise, herbal medicine, mind-body practices, and other complementary medicine modalities. Dr. Elder holds a Senior Investigator appointment at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, where he has served as principal or co- investigator on a range of federally funded studies evaluating mind-body and other complementary medicine interventions in the setting of chronic disease management. For additional information, his most recent book is now available: Picture of Health: Transform Your Self-Care and Health Care Through Ayurvedic and Integrative Medicine.
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