The coronavirus SARS-2 (COVID-19) of today serves as a wake-up call for every one of us to pay attention to the health of our immune systems. Now is the time for us each to take charge of our health so that we may successfully make our way through the COVID-19 pandemic and whatever other health challenges come our way.
While the specific status and needs of each of us may differ, there are some generally relevant principles and practices that can help us optimize our natural immunity. That’s the focus of this post.
You know that a lot of people, even those who have already contracted the virus, are thinking about when they’ll have a chance to receive a vaccine for COVID-19.
Whether to get a vaccine for this virus is a highly personal decision that needs to be made based on a combination of recommendations from medical experts and careful consideration of one’s individual and/or familial risk factors. Your health care providers can help you decide what’s best for you.
If you haven’t already been vaccinated for COVID 19 and are thinking about doing so, there are some important steps that you and your loved ones can take to prepare your immune systems for a more resilient response to the vaccine.
Even if you decide against vaccination, these steps can help you optimize your immune function, which will be essential for your body to manage the virus well if contracted.
Six Self-Care Steps for Optimizing Immune Resilience
1) Manage your stress levels.
Managing personal stressors during this prolonged pandemic may seem an impossible task, especially if you need to juggle your work as well as your children’s remote classwork from home, or you’re out of work and your finances are running low, or you live with others who struggle with COVID-19 or other illness.
Science has shown that on-going stress sets up one’s body to fight, flee, or “freeze” in place in order to escape from a serious threat. In the process, digestion and other physiological functions are slowed down dramatically, or paused. When such a state is prolonged, it compromises the immune system.
Clues to a stressed-out body include such symptoms as low energy, gastrointestinal challenges, mood swings, brain fog, joint pain, skin issues, sleep problems, PMS or hot flashes or other indicators of reproductive hormone imbalance.
Try to find ways to bring some degree of levity, calm, and joy into your days. Even little such moments can help you to better weather what you cannot alter. Some ideas:
~ Start by smiling, even laughing if possible.
~ Connect with someone you care about.
~ Tune into and adjust your physical activity and diet for more steady energy.
~ Make an extra effort to get the sleep you need.
2) Calm your nervous system.
Rest and relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, gentle yoga, and spending time with nature can help you reduce stress in your nervous system, which will in turn improve your immune system’s ability to help you when needed.
Breath work enables the body to shift into rest, digest, and repair mode.
Research studies show that exposure to nature confers multiple benefits – improves heart health, regulates stress hormone levels, boosts recovery time from illness, and increases infection-fighting and cancer-combating cell activity.
And yoga practices have numerous age-old health benefits, including regulation of breath, stretching and toning of limbs, joints, and organs, and settling of one’s nervous system.
3) Care for your gut.
In the weeks prior to and after receiving a vaccine, take special care to eat as well as you can. As much as possible, choose whole (unprocessed) anti-inflammatory foods: notably simple and lean meals consisting of colorful vegetables and fruits for maximum vitamins and minerals, good proteins, and a moderate amount of beneficial fats.
Ideally, for seven days or so before your vaccination, you’ll also put aside starchy and processed food products, especially refined sugars, flours, and oils. Starches and sugars suppress immunity and make viral infections worse.
If possible and you tolerate them, eat small amounts of fermented foods (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, unsweetened yogurt) or take probiotic supplements, which over time may help balance the beneficial bacteria in your gut micro-biome. Your gut requires a well-balanced bacterial make-up in order to perform its essential digestive and immune functions.
If you know you struggle with digestion-related issues, such as constipation or diarrhea, gas or bloating, or abdominal pain, I urge you to seek out gut-healing support from a nutrition-savvy health care provider well before your vaccine.
In fact, because the human gut contains over 60 percent of a person’s immune system, fortifying your gut health may be the most important step you can take to regulate inflammation and ensure immune resilience during this pandemic!
I’d be happy to help you find the right practitioner for your gut-health needs.
4) Support your liver.
For several weeks before getting a vaccine, take extra care of your liver. Your liver plays a central role in helping your body detoxify and eliminate unwelcome substances, such as some of the vaccine constituents.
There are a variety of ways you can give your liver extra attention. Try one or more of these:
~ Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or kale. Other liver-loving foods include beets, apples, carrots.
~ Consume vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus, bell peppers, strawberries, raspberries, parsley, sprouted legumes, and rosehip tea or fresh-squeezed lemon water tend to be helpful.
~ Sip on herbal teas, like green tea or dandelion root tea.
~ If tolerated, take a tincture or capsules of the milk thistle herb.
As well, consider avoiding, or at least limiting, alcohol for roughly seven days before and three days right after the vaccine. Alcohol tends to deplete key nutrients, strain the detoxification organs needed to properly detoxify unwanted substances, and may also suppress immune function.
If you’d like more information about any of those or other ways to support your liver, please let me know. I’d be happy to help you think through what’s appropriate for you.
5) Stay well hydrated.
For several days right before and after your vaccination, drink plenty of clean water between meals. Hydration facilitates proper circulation of blood, lymphatic fluids, and immune cells.
6) Prioritize sleep.
Get plenty of good-quality sleep during the days prior to and just after your vaccine. Loss of sleep causes inflammation, destabilizes hormones, and exacerbates underlying health conditions. Sufficient sleep is fundamental for proper immune system function!
BONUS: If Vaccination is imminent within days.
This short list will help you prepare your body for an imminent vaccine inoculation:
A) Avoid acute stressors. B) Get adequate sleep (8-10 hours).
C) Avoid anti-inflammatory agents for two days pre- and post-vaccination.
Additionally, D) note that if you are experiencing an active infection of any sort, it would be best to postpone your vaccination until a later date when you are infection-free.
If you have questions about how to prepare your body for an optimal vaccine experience, I’d like to hear from you. Please contact me through my website: https://renewvitality.com
Finally, stay tuned for my next blog post about nutritional supplementation for supporting your physiological and immune functions during this COVID-19 pandemic. I’m committed to helping you take the best possible care of yourself!
1) Dr. Sarah Ballantine, The Paleo Mom Podcast https://www.thepaleomom.com/podcast-covid-19-mrna-vaccine/
2) Dr. Mark Hyman, The Doctor’s Farmacy Podcast, with Dr. Patrick Hanaway – “The Functional Medicine Approach to Treating COVID-19 and Post-COVID Syndrome” https://outlook.office.com/mail/search/id/AAQkADkyZWY2NzY2LTZiY2MtNGYzNS05MDE5LWM4YjQxMTE0ZGUxNwAQAN%2FTV7qlT55Jrxwjc3ND4YM%3D
3) The Institute of Functional Medicine, https://functionalmedicine.widen.net/s/jsx6jjtfvm/pandemic-pre-vaccination-protocol?fbclid=IwAR3AOM3dkWQOMae86naPfxVYhXpcWDCjYaoxDeF-paUeY7yXQNL5ZD7EUgk ; https://www.ifm.org/…/covid-19-vaccines-in-phase-3-trials/
4) Andrea Nakayama, 15-Minute Matrix Podcast: Episode #161 with Dr. Elana Roumell re vaccine preparation; #132 with Allison Post rabout self-support; #127 A. Nakayama Maps COVID-19; and #129 with Donna Jackson Nakazawa on COVID-19 brain-related stress
5) Wholistic Kids & Families, Dr. K. interview with Dr. Elroy Vojdani https://youtu.be/luYp1Nx3EuM