How to Maintain a Strong Immune System in a Pandemic

Greetings Beasts! I hope you are doing well in the lockdown. A friend of mine from California called and asked me what I am doing to stay healthy in the quarantine. Amid social distancing, mask wearing, and Netflix binging, I reflected on the basic habit of just taking good care of my body to strengthen my immune system. The rest of this post is what I wrote to my friend Terry in California. He shared it with a bunch of people and that gave me the idea to share it with you. Enjoy!

Who would have thought that some of my best athletic days would come about in my 50s? I continue to train with my eye on the Spartan World Championships in December. One of the best things I am doing during the lockdown is taking care of my immune system, which is the first defense against any disease, not just a coronavirus. In the rest of this post I will share three key areas of focus for a healthy immune system and offer a tip that can help you and others improve in this area.

The first area I focus on is food. The American diet is notorious for causing obesity and a host of other ailments. God created us to receive nutrients from real food. When I began to eliminate processed foods from my diet and replace them with more fruits, vegetables, clean proteins, and healthy fats, I dropped 18 pounds of excess weight in under eight weeks. And my goal was not even weight loss! I feel much better now, my energy is up, and my brain is more creative. As Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food”.

My tip in this area is to go through your kitchen and throw away the processed food that is not contributing to a healthier body. Then, replace those items with something from the produce section of the grocery store. I realize this is easier said than done. Most processed foods contain exorbitant amounts of sugar which is addictive. It may not be easy to part with some processed foods, but it is worth all the effort to do so. Unhealthy sugar is an immune system suppressant.

The second area I focus on is water. Our bodies are 70% water. The general guideline is that humans should drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day. That differs depending on height, weight, and age but I think most people would say they do not drink enough water, and this is an easy area to begin a new habit for a healthier immune system.

My tip in this area is to begin each morning with a 16oz glass of water. That alone gets you 25% of the way towards the recommended goal. I chug 8oz of water first thing, and then sip on the other 8oz as I am getting ready for the morning. After my water, I will have a cup of coffee or tea with breakfast most mornings.

The last area I focus on is sleep. There is so much restoration that takes place in our bodies when we sleep. The general guideline for sleep is 7-9 hours a night which I know seems laughable to many people, especially parents of small children. However, I discovered the power of sleep when I was recovering from a fractured C-5. I was told I would be in a neck brace for 8-10 weeks. My neurosurgeon advised me to stay still as much as possible and sleep at night as much as possible. I averaged 8-9 hours of sleep a night during that time and was out of the brace in four weeks. As a matter of fact, my physical therapist would not work on me at my first appointment without double checking with the neurosurgeon. She was surprised to see me out of the brace so quickly.

My tip in the area of sleep is to keep a sleep log. The goal is to create better awareness for how much sleep you are getting and how your body feels in the morning. I wear a Garmin fitness tracker which automatically tracks my sleep. Over the last week, I have averaged 7.5 hours of sleep a night. I am someone who needs at least seven hours of sleep to feel rejuvenated, so, with a 7.5-hour average, I am in a good sleep zone for my body and therefore contributing to a healthy immune system.

There is so much more I can share about cultivating a healthy immune system, but these three tips are a good place to start. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. It is not an exaggeration to say that our bodies are amazing. The challenge is to take good care of them whether we are facing a pandemic, training to compete in OCR, or just trying to live a good life. Be well, Beasts!

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