Coronavirus is stealing all the headlines at the moment. But cancer is still a far greater threat, with a much worse mortality rate.
Strengthen your immune system and you’ll reduce your risk of almost every chronic disease, including cancer. You’ll also be better able to withstand the coronavirus as well as pathogens of any kind.
Over the years, we’ve talked a lot in this newsletter about how to boost your immune system. The good news is, strengthening your immune system is easier and more affordable than you might think.
Your immune system in action
Your immune system is like a team of assassins at your body’s beck and call to protect you against pathogens and the damage they can do to your health.
And it’s called a system for a reason.
Your immune system includes organs such as your skin, spleen, lymph nodes, thymus, and bone marrow. Plus, a variety of cells like B cells, T cells, and NK (natural killer) cells. It also includes macrophages – the “big eaters” that seek out and gobble up dangerous invaders similar to the video game Pac Man. It even includes the “good microbes” in your gut.
To work effectively, your immune system must sort the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” In other words, it has to discriminate between your body’s own cells and the invading organisms. When your immune system can’t decide which is which, then there’s trouble.
You don’t want your immune system attacking your body, but that’s what happens with type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, routine allergies, and other autoimmune diseases. It’s pretty obvious why these maladies are labeled “autoimmune.”
Scientists aren’t sure, but this may be what’s happening with coronavirus infections. Here’s what some of them think. . .
Coronavirus triggers an autoimmune response
Some leading doctors now speculate that the coronavirus likewise sets off an autoimmune response. It appears that the virus triggers a storm of inflammation, and the immune system attacks at will without hitting the right targets. This may be one reason some sufferers become gravely ill.
“These viruses need time to adapt to a human host,” says Akiko Iwasaki of the Yale School of Medicine, in a recent interview with The Atlantic. “When they’re first trying us out, they don’t know what they’re doing, and they tend to elicit these responses.”1
Cancer, on the other hand, doesn’t usually cause an immune overreaction, but rather an immune malfunction.
Cancer hides from your immune system
One big problem with cancer cells is that they’re masters of disguise. Your immune system “thinks” they’re part of you, so it ignores them instead of fighting them.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) investigated how cancer tricks the immune system. The Oncology Times wrote about their work saying, “Cancer cells genetically change and evolve over time. Researchers discovered that as they evolve, they may lose the ability to create interleukein-33 (IL-33). When IL-33 disappears in the tumor, the body’s immune system has no way of recognizing the cancer cells and they can begin to spread, or metastasize.”2
This explains how your body can effectively stamp out cancerous cells naturally popping up in the body on a regular basis, until one day, your immune system fails and cancer begins to grow out of control.
Whether you’re worried about cancer, the coronavirus—or both—there’s a number of ways to improve the healthy performance of your immune system.
lifestyle tweaks you can start today
1. Solve nutritional deficiencies. Deficiency in a single nutrient can devastate your immunity. Embrace whole foods, including fruits, veggies, beans, seeds, and nuts. You need adequate but not excessive amounts of protein. Enjoy at least one cruciferous veggie daily. Eat produce in all the colors of the rainbow. Follow an immune-boosting supplement protocol; more on this in a minute.
2. Avoid sugar like the plague. Sugar pummels your immune system. One study found that 100 grams of sugar – less than four ounces — dampened immune response within 30 minutes. And the impact lasted for five hours. Sugar also cut protective white blood cell activity by a whopping 50 percent within two hours!
3. Slash stress. Stress crushes your body’s immune response. It increases cortisol levels, which interfere with cell signaling. Cortisol also reduces the number of antibodies in your gut and respiratory tract. This means you lose your first lines of defense against pathogens. Here are some easy, affordable ways to fight stress: Learn to breathe deeply. Get out into nature. Facetime with your best friend. Meditate and pray.
4. Laugh. Have you laughed yet today? Your mood and attitude have a huge impact on your immune function. When you’re happy and optimistic, your immune system works better. When you’re depressed, so is your immune system. Go watch a comedy tonight! Merely smiling, for no good reason, makes you feel better. Try it.
5. Sleep eight hours. During sleep, your brain repairs and regenerates cells, tissues, and nerves. This in turn balances hormone levels and boosts immunity. Turn off screens, dim lights, reduce noise, and avoid alcohol in the evening to prepare your body for your best sleep. I find not removing technological distractions from my nightly routine affects my sleep. I hope the same isn’t happening to you.
6. Get plenty of exercise. Exercise activates your immune system and moves immune components through your body. Exercise primes your T-cells for action and boosts your spirits.
7. Stay hydrated with clean, filtered water. Water helps produce lymph, which transports immune cells throughout your body.
8. Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often, and use your arm (not your hand) to open doors and push elevator buttons. I wrap my fingers in my sleeve if I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt or jacket. Finally, make sure you cough into your sleeve, not your hand.
“I’m doing all that…
Why do I still catch every passing bug?”
If you’re already doing many of these things but your immune system isn’t living up to task, ever wonder why?
Over time, your immune system becomes increasingly compromised. Toxins, pathogens, stress, medications, and more “clog” things up. This is one reason why older people are more prone to disease, illness, and pain – but it’s not the only one. Our immune systems age just like the rest of our bodies.
Fortunately, supplements can improve the function of your immune system. If you don’t already take supplements, now is an opportune time to add some to your daily nutritional regimen.
Supplements to boost your immunity
1. Vitamin D. Doctors report that 80 percent of their patients are vitamin D deficient. This is true even in sunny places like Southern California. Studies show that vitamin D protects against upper respiratory infections. Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for at least 17 types of cancer, as well as heart disease and stroke. It’s also linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and autoimmune disease.
For these reasons, many holistic doctors suggest 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily for adults. Yes, even during summer (especially if you spend your daytime hours mostly indoors or keep your skin covered to prevent sunburn).
2. Liposomal Vitamin C. Liposomes are spherical cells with an outer layer of phospholipids. The primary advantage of liposomal C is its high rate of absorption. Liposomal C is often seen as a good oral alternative to intravenous (IV) vitamin C. I take 2,000 mg per day. You can safely take more. At some point – ten grams or 10,000 mg, I’ve heard – people tend to get upset stomach and diarrhea.
When you have an infection, your immune system needs extra vitamin C to fight the invaders. This means that when you’re sick, your body burns through it faster than you might expect, so you’ll want to especially power up your C levels when ill.
3. A high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. Multivitamin and mineral supplements taken every day address underlying deficiencies. Choose a food-derived supplement for better absorption. Better yet, take each vitamin and mineral in a separate pill or capsule. You can then control the quantity yourself, and generally the quality is better than you will find in a multi. I take B, C, D and E and K, as well as zinc, magnesium and chromium. I get vitamin A from my diet. I get selenium from Brazil nuts. I also take small amounts of several other minerals — molybdenum, manganese, and lithium.
4. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). Over 33 studies show that NAC improves immunity by boosting glutathione in your body. NAC starts protecting your blood and lungs within a few short hours. In six months’ time, it reduces the frequency of colds and flu by 67 percent. It also builds muscle mass, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces heart attack risk.
5. Beta glucans. Thousands of studies back the immune-boosting abilities of yeast and maitake mushrooms. These two types of beta glucans are especially adept at commanding white blood cells and NK cells to destroy pathogens and tumor cells. Similar compounds are also found in medicinal mushrooms (more below) and come highly recommended.
6. Zinc. Deficiency increases your risk for infection. Zinc-dependent proteins are essential for optimal immune response against invading pathogens. Routine consumption of alcohol depletes zinc.
High-zinc foods include meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate. Don’t go crazy on the chocolate, though, if you’re watching your weight.
7. Selenium. Selenium boosts immunity to viruses and reduces virulence. It’s also linked to reduced risk of colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers. And reduces the risk of all carcinomas.3
One Brazil nut more than covers your daily RDA of selenium. Fish, red meat, eggs, chicken, and garlic are other good sources.
8. Elderberry. Increasingly popular for infections and fever. Studies show that it reduces the duration of cold symptoms in airline travelers. Also reduces the risk of upper respiratory infection. Other studies show a general immune strengthening benefit.
9. Medicinal mushrooms. Research shows that medicinal mushrooms have 130 therapeutic benefits. They fight cancer, pathogens, inflammation, and more. Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-tumor effects.4Other popular varieties include Chaga, cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane.
Picking your own wild mushrooms is dangerous unless you have the help of a trained mycologist, a scientist who specializes in fungi.
10. Vitamin E. This potent antioxidant fights infections and protects lung tissue. Studies show that vitamin E enhances immune function, especially in older people.5It also protects against heart disease and cancer.
Be sure your vitamin E supplement is full spectrum. It should contain all four tocopherols and all four tocotrienols.
11. Probiotics. Probiotics increase immunity and modulate pathogen-induced inflammation.6L. plantarum and L. reuteri offer good protection against pathogens.7 Certain probiotic strains decrease cancer cell proliferation and induce apoptosis (cancer cell death).8
12. Garlic. Studies show that garlic reduces your risk of getting sick and reduces the severity of illnesses. One study showed that garlic-eaters were 63 percent less likely to get a cold, and their colds were 70 percent shorter.9
Warning: heating garlic deactivates its medicinal benefits. Work-around: crush the cloves and let them stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking. Enjoy garlic’s savory benefits today.
There you go… 20 great ways to improve your immune health and give your body its best chance at fighting off cancer and the coronavirus. Which ones will you start today?
- Valverde ME, Hernández-pérez T, Paredes-lópez O. Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life. Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. doi:10.1155/2015/376387