Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
As we head into the middle of winter, it’s an excellent time to take an assessment of where your immune system is at. Regarding COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, while there is much news focusing on vaccines and boosters, I prefer to focus on building your immune system and teaching you simple ways to stay healthy. And if you do get COVID-19 or the flu, there are things you can do to help you recover. To maintain a stout immune system is fourfold: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
With the passing of the holiday season and the threat of Omicron dampening many get-togethers, the first physical thing you can do is check your diet. Have you been lax on your immune-boosting supplements such as zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D? Have you overindulged in the desserts and holiday chocolates and treats? Start cutting back or eliminating sugar because refined sugar creates inflammation in your body and dramatically reduces your immune system.
Water is also essential, and according to the Mayo Clinic – “individual water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live.” Did you know that “every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly? This is because water: gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements; keeps your temperature normal; lubricates and cushions joints; and protects sensitive tissues.” Without adequate amounts of water leads to dehydration, which makes you tired.
So, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
Twenty percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks. So if you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow, rest assured you are adequately hydrated.
The last two physical actions are getting eight to 10 hours of sleep and making sure you get some form of body movement, stretch or exercise for at least 20 minutes daily.
Emotional and Mental Ways
Take a mental and emotional check on how it affects you in regards to COVID-19. Until you get a firm grip of how you genuinely feel about getting COVID-19 or the potential guilt of giving it to a loved one, then you won’t make rational choices.
According to Medical News Today, “Many studies have shown that chronic exposure to stress, anxiety and negative moods generally can affect physical health to a large extent.” Just last year, chronic stress was discovered by researchers to have a negative impact on memory. Furthermore, feelings of distress can raise the risk of having a stroke.
Specialists from Pennsylvania State University in State College discovered that negative moods might change how the immune response functions and exacerbate inflammation. This research by Jennifer Graham-Engeland, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University, appears in the journal “Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.”
Negative moods have been correlated with inflammation since inflammation occurs naturally, as part of the immune response when the body reacts to infections or wounds. High levels of inflammation are also associated with poor health and a range of chronic health conditions.
“Graham-Engeland and team noticed that individuals who experienced negative moods several times per day for extended periods tended to have higher levels of inflammation biomarkers in their blood. The scientists also note that if they collected blood samples from participants soon after they had experienced a negative emotion such as sadness or anger, inflammation biomarkers were all the more present in the blood. Experiencing positive moods — even for a short while before collecting a blood sample — was associated with lower inflammation levels. However, this was only true for male participants in this study, the investigators specify.” (medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324090#Negative-moods-and-inflammation)
Fear, anxiety and negative moods can cause inflammation, but positive attitudes can lower inflammation is the key takeaway here. So choose on creating a positive mindset and this can be achieved by associating with positive, like-minded individuals, limiting news and sensational media exposure, researching ways to stay healthy and building your immune system just if you should get COVID-19, take a mental health day from work and enhancing your intuition. To bring more peace of mind, according to the CDC website:
“Immunity to a disease is achieved through the presence of antibodies to that disease in a person’s system. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to neutralize or destroy toxins or disease-carrying organisms. Antibodies are disease-specific. For example, measles antibody will protect a person who is exposed to measles disease but will have no effect if they are exposed to mumps.” The CDC defines two types of immunity – active and passive.
“Active immunity results when exposure to a disease organism triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to that disease. Active immunity can be acquired through natural immunity or vaccine-induced immunity. Natural immunity is acquired from exposure to the disease organism through infection with the actual disease. Vaccine-induced immunity is acquired by introducing a killed or weakened form of the disease organism through vaccination. Either way, if an immune person comes into contact with that disease in the future, their immune system will recognize it and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight it. Active immunity is long-lasting, and sometimes life-long.”
The last way to boost your immune system is to focus on spirituality and connecting to your intuition and inner knowing. One way to do this is to create a meditation practice. You can do it comfortably in your own home or do a meditative walking practice. The main focus is to quiet your mind and become mindful of what thoughts enter your mind. If you have difficulty quieting your mind, a trick I have used is just let the thoughts come through and after a while, it becomes white noise, similar to having the television or radio on while cooking or cleaning. Sometimes not resisting helps you to get what you want.
Finally, you can also create a greater mind-body connection and pay attention to how your body responds when under stress and when at ease. Your body is your sacred temple and being more mindful about staying in balance will help you determine when you are stressed and with this awareness, you now have the opportunity to take action and let go of that stress.
Enhancing your immune system by staying in tune with your body and managing your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual state is critical in navigating 2022.
The choice to either thrive or survive is up to you. In closing, remember you have the power and freedom of choice, so do what’s best for you and in doing so, you are doing the same for your loved ones and the greater community.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (drchadsato.com), in Mänoa Valley, O’ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.