In the United States, concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus continue to escalate.
“COVID-19 is a virus and currently there is no cure, but there are things you can do to keep your body in its best possible state to help fight off the infection,” said Anna Jurik, DC, MS, RD, LDN, an Attending Clinician at the NUHS Whole Health Center.
In addition to washing your hands and social distancing, here are some practices within chiropractic, naturopathic and oriental medicine that can help control how your body responds and whether you are a good host. However, it’s important to note that these measures will not treat or make you immune to COVID-19.
Get a chiropractic adjustment or perform proper breathing techniques
The effectiveness of chiropractic adjustments for immune system function was first discovered during the influenza pandemic in 1917-1918. During the crisis, a study at the time found that the death rate among influenza patients in the U.S. was estimated at 5 percent to 6 percent whereas the death rate among influenza cases who received spinal manipulation was estimated at 0.25 percent. Research since then has shown that chiropractic adjustments can actually boost disease-fighting white blood cell counts within minutes.
“Getting adjusted helps with stimulating lymphatic flow, which is part of the immune system,” Dr. Jurik said. “It also helps with overall well-being, if you feel better after an adjustment in general it can help you feel better overall.”
If you’re unable to get to a chiropractic physician there are practices you can do at home as well. General techniques chiropractic physicians recommend is focusing on proper breathing with a focus on using the musculature in the abdomen rather than the musculature in the chest and neck. This can help quiet the muscles in the chest and neck, decrease tension and calm the system.
Before sleep, Dr. Jurik recommends putting one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest to monitor your breath to help calm the system.
Perform hydrotherapy at home
Hot and cold contrast showers have been shown to be very beneficial to the immune system. In addition to being done at a clinic, hydrotherapy can also be done at home in the shower. The typical contrast shower consists of very warm water for two minutes followed immediately by cold water for 30 seconds and alternating about three to four times.
Research shows that like chiropractic adjustments, cold contrast showers can also increase white blood cell count. In fact, a 2016 study found that those who performed a hot to cold shower regimen had 29% fewer sick days over a 90-day period than a control group.
Improve your gut health
Our bodies are home to tens of trillions of microbial cells. The entire collection of microorganisms, which inhabit our body both inside us and on our skin, is known as the microbiome. In recent years, an increasing amount of research has emerged demonstrating the effects of the organisms that live with us, especially the bacteria living in our gut microbiome.
According to John Hopkins researchers, a large portion of the body’s immune system can be found in the gut. Ensure your immune system is in top shape by maintaining a healthy balance of gut microbes.
Aside from taking an over-the-counter probiotic, you can boost healthy gut bacteria by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Apples, for example, contain thousands of healthy microbes, according to a 2019 study. Many fruits and vegetables along with oats and flax seeds are also considered prebiotics, which help feed good bacteria. Sugar and processed food, on the other hand, are considered harmful to gut microbe diversity and should be avoided.
Consider acupuncture or moxibustion to strengthen your immune system
If you can, see your acupuncturist for regular acupuncture and moxibustion. During a session of acupuncture, a licensed practitioner gently places hair-thin needles under the skin at different parts of your body. Certain points can help stimulate and strengthen your immune system.
For those who are afraid of needles, moxibustion is another option. This special technique uses gentle heat applied to specific acupuncture points to strengthen the immune system.
With many working from home, movement is limited. Try to get out and go for a walk or clean and organize. Movement helps the immune system in so many ways, but it also helps maintain good mental health as well, Dr. Jurik said.
Luckily, there are plenty of activities that you can do without a lot of space or equipment. Yoga for example, can be done in front of the television. It calms the system and helps with muscular lengthening (stretching). You can find plenty of online instruction videos on YouTube or through apps that are inexpensive or even free. To make sure you’re getting the movement needed, it can be helpful to make a schedule for yourself and your family. Sitting around day after day can lead to a depressive state, Dr. Jurik said.
Don’t forget your mental health
With a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding news headlines today, it’s important to keep a positive mindset and focus on reducing stress. In the ND perspective, “Vitamin R,” which is associated with rest, revitalize, rejuvenation, and relaxation, is especially important during these trying times.
Research shows that stress can actually weaken the immune system. Loneliness and isolation has also been shown to make people more susceptible to illness. While social distancing is important at this time that doesn’t mean you have to cut out human interaction altogether. Communicating over the phone, Facetime, or Skype can be just as effective. Be sure to allocate time in the day to put away technology and spend time with family to play games and do other activities.
Consider taking supplements to improve immune system balance
There are various supplements that are shown to improve immune response and help protect against infection. Vitamin D, for example, plays a large role in immune system function, according to a study in the Journal of Investigative Medicine. In the United States, deficiency in this essential vitamin is very common, especially during winter months.
In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus root has been used as an immunostimulant for centuries. It also has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It can be taken as a supplement and in the form of tea.
Zinc, an essential mineral, is another way you can help keep your immune system strong. You can take it as a tablet or lozenge. Fifteen milligrams is recommended per day.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, vitamin C is one of the most powerful immune system boosters. The best way to get vitamin C is not just through supplements but through foods like tomatoes, kale, broccoli, red pepper and oranges, which also provides the body with other essential nutrients.
Aside from these methods, getting plenty of rest, eating well, keeping hydrated are all simple, but very effective ways to boost the immune system. Things like high sugar foods, simple carbs, staying up late and excessive worry can burden the body and lower energy levels that would otherwise be used to fight any infection.
“Decreasing the overall burden on your body by controlling the things you can control can help keep the symptoms manageable and potentially keep you out of the hospital,” Dr. Jurik said.
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