The last few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing social distancing orders imposed on millions of people globally have been challenging to both physical and mental wellbeing.
As people shelter-in-place to protect themselves from the Coronavirus, it has never been more important to revisit how you care for your immune system and what steps you may be able to take at home to strengthen it.
At the same time, implementing steps to care for your mental health while being isolated has never been more important.
Caring for the two of those actually share quite a few parallels and could present an opportunity for many of us to come out on the other side of this with benefits to both our physical and mental health.=
To help make sense of what can be done, holistically, to strengthen our immune system and also give our mindsets adequate self-care while in home isolation, I caught up with Dr. Jason Helfrich. As the CEO of 100% Chiropractic with close to forty chiropractic clinics nationwide, Dr. Jason’s focus is on the connection between physical and mental wellbeing.
He helps his patients combine chiropractic care with physical and mental health strategies that not only alleviate physical health problems, but also help combat depression, anxiety and stress.
As the founder of Leave Normal Behind I am always connecting with individuals who are talented and purpose-driven.
The mission of LNB is to influence humanity in a positive way by inspiring others to become the best version of themselves, give back, create things that matter, love, and encourage others to do the same.
I am appreciative for Dr. Jason and below he sheds light on how our diet, sleep and many daily routines shape our self-quarantine experience and outcome.
Here we go !
These are scary times, can you talk a little about the importance of building your immune system during pandemics?
Dr. Jason: These are scary and uncharted territories for all of us. As we focus on following best practices to avoid contracting COVID-19, it is also important that we focus on keeping the host (our bodies) as healthy and strong as possible. There are so many incredible tools we have to help us build up our immunity. Our diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, sunlight exposure, stress relief and healthcare regiment are all essential.
What role does sleep play in immune system health and what do you recommend we do about it?
Dr. J: While there is no proof more sleep will keep you from getting sick, we do know that missing out on a good night’s sleep could adversely affect your immune system. When you get less sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation in the body thus resulting in a potential weakened immune response. These Cytokines are both created and released while your body sleeps, so you’re missing out on both if you’re skipping out on a good night’s sleep. Get yourself 8 hours of sleep to give you the best chance to prevent the cold and flu from taking hold in your body. Never underestimate the power of naps during the day! They serve as a reset for the body and also can provide valuable health benefits.
What role does stress play in immune health?
Dr. J: We all know that stress has a negative effect on how we feel. We also know it decreases our body’s ability to maintain a healthy immune response. According to a 2003 study in the Trends in Immunology, although there are many specific details yet to be delineated, it is becoming increasingly clear that products of the endocrine system, such as GC hormones and products of the nervous system, such as catecholamines, can alter the function of macrophages and lymphocytes as well as other cells of the immune system. Many stress coping mechanisms have multiple benefits such as weight control, Vitamin D, heart health, and breathing.
There was an article titled “Supporting your immune system” in the yoga journal that stated yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.
Find a way for you to de-stress and your immune system will thank you for it.
How can we all stay a little less stressed and anxious during social distancing?
Dr. J: Bring as much normality back to your life as possible. We all miss the interactions with our friends and loved ones. I think we all took for granted just how important the restaurant dinners, group exercise classes, and playdates were. Try to get together virtually as much as possible. Organize a virtual happy hour with your group of friends, kids are playing games online with their friends, even talking to neighbors from across the street can bring some social normalcy back to your life.
There are many online group classes to join in as well. My wife’s CycleBar actually allowed the members to take a bike home to continue the group classes individually. It’s amazing the ideas and creativity that come out of tough times. Most importantly, if you are blessed with loved ones at home, spend time together playing games, watching movies, throwing the baseball, going through old pictures, taking on a project, etc. You’ll never regret quality time with those that matter the most and this is a great time to enjoy those relationships!
Are there mental tactics that can help support immune health?
Dr. J: Practice gratitude and focus on things you are blessed to have in your life. According to Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life”, “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep”. Practice an attitude of gratitude and reap the benefits physically, mentally and emotionally!
In addition, gratitude activates the parasympathetic, rest and digest, relaxing part of the nervous system resulting in many positive effects such as a decrease in cortisol levels, a decrease in blood pressure and strengthening of the immune system.
What supplements or vitamins are most effective at supporting immune health?
Dr. J: There are many claims and studies showing the benefit of vitamins and supplements on the immune system. There are too many studies to list but most are available by simply searching the internet and finding credible sources and studies. We recommend the following frequently to our patients with great results.
Vitamin D, Zinc (needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in the inflammatory response), Vitamin C (probably the most popular supplement taken to protect against infection due to its important role in the immune system), Curcumin (Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and animal studies indicate that it may help improve immune function).
There are also many varieties of supplements combining multiple vitamins and minerals together. At our 100% offices, we have several that we use with great results.
Get yourself some natural Vitamin D by spending some time in the sun. Researchers discovered that sunlight energizes infection-fighting T-cells that play a key part in immunity. Specifically, the blue light that is found in the sun’s rays made T-cells move faster, which may help them get to an infection site and respond more quickly.
What role can chiropractic play in immune health?
Dr. J: There are many case studies and articles from chiropractic adjustments and supporting the immune system as well as countless stories and patient testimonials in chiropractic offices all over the world on adjustments helping the patients stay healthy. Chiropractic adjustments linked to the body’s immune response date back to the flu epidemic in the early 1900s.
One such research article from the Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics demonstrated a “respiratory phagocytic burst” of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) and monocytes. These white blood cells engulf and destroy (phagocytize) bad or damaged cells, thus protecting the body.
Chiropractors adjust an estimated 27 million Americans every year and most offices are filled with positive patient testimonials on how chiropractic helps them stay healthy and pain-free. Myself, my wife and our 3 boys are adjusted and checked weekly by a chiropractor and feel it is an essential part of us staying healthy and living our best life.
Is there anything a little unconventional that a lot of people don’t think of when it comes to tactics for supporting immune health?
Dr. J: Have sex! Sex supports your body’s ability to make protective antibodies against bacteria, viruses and other germs that cause common illness.
If you or anyone you know is leaving normal behind and would like to get in touch with me then please email [email protected]