High sugar consumption could make you susceptible to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In these trying times, that candy bar you turn to for comfort could put your white blood cells in a temporary coma, making you prone to infection and diseases. The effects could last hours, so if you feed your sugar fix sporadically throughout the day, your immune system could be continuously compromised.
Removing sugar from our diet is one of our best defenses against COVID-19, book author, nutritionist and lifestyle medicine physician Dr. Blescenda Varona told Lifestyle.
“Studies have shown that within an hour of eating sugar, our immune system declines by 38 percent,” Varona said. “The body can heal itself, but it needs to be in its best environment. Remove sugar first to improve the immune system.”
Varona said that, generally speaking, there are three reasons people get sick—inflammation, low immune system, and nutrient deficiency. That’s why, she said, many COVID-19 patients have diabetes. People with diabetes are nutrient-deficient and have inflammation.
“I have seen how making lifestyle changes reverses diabetes, hypertension and other diseases. During this one-month quarantine, people must learn how to go natural,” she said.
Modifying your lifestyle can change how your immune system protects your body.
Fruits, for instance, must be eaten whole. Remove the fiber, and all that’s left is fructose. Fiber is the antidote of sugar. Juicing, Varona said, is a misguided concept. “If the person is eating right, supplementation of vitamins is not needed,” Varona said.
Here is Varona’s Power Immunity recipe to fire up the body’s immune system naturally.
1. Remove sugar and eat more plant food.“When you eat plant foods, you get both the known and unknown nutrients,” Varona said. Years ago, she said, scientists didn’t know of phytonutrients. Today, there are more than 25,000 identified phytonutrients. They may not be essential to keep you alive, but they help keep your engine in tip-top shape and could prevent diseases.
Each color of fruit has its phytochemicals; green and red tomatoes have different compositions. The principle of good nutrition, she added, is to eat a variety of food, as you never know what you might be missing.
Eat locally grown fruits and vegetables. Eat what is in season. “They’re cheaper, have fewer pesticides, and have higher nutritional value. There is a lot of produce, and supply is abundant.”
2. Drink more water. That’s eight to 10 glasses a day for women, and 10-12 for men. Drink two glasses upon waking up with some calamansi or lemon, she said, to turn the body alkaline, and wait an hour before eating breakfast.
Hydrate between meals, but not during mealtime. If you drink water during mealtime, you dilute the digestive enzyme.
Water is an essential constituent of the body. Sixty percent of the body is water. When you’re dehydrated, it will have a direct effect on the immune system, she said. Mucus is a mix of water and protein; they trap bacteria, dust and other tiny particles and pull them down into your stomach, where enzymes destroy them.
“Just slight dehydration, and viruses have a better chance of survival,” Varona said.
3. Move more. It’s no secret that regular exercise can do wonders for your immune system.“Exercise is not just for weight reduction. It flushes disease-causing viruses and bacteria from the lungs—you take deep breaths rapidly for several minutes—and improves the immune system,” she said. Blood flow improves, delivering immune cells to the site of the infection quickly and efficiently.
No need to perform a hardcore mountain climber burpee. Walking will do, she said, but make sure you clock in 150 minutes a week.
4. Good sleep. Varona recommends seven to eight hours of sleep in complete darkness. Wear a sleep mask if necessary. Melatonin is released in response to darkness. High melatonin will raise the concentration of infection-fighting antibodies, the first line of protection.
“On the other hand, poor sleep will increase inflammation and infection,” Varona said. Poor sleep also leads to higher levels of stress hormones.
5. Sunlight. Early morning sunshine can stimulate happy hormones in the body, she said. Vitamin D is produced between 10 a.m. and
2 p.m. No need to go out sunbathing at noontime, though. A mere 10-15 minute sun exposure at least twice a week of a body part will do—any body part. Some of Varona’s patients expose only their legs; others, their hands. Natural sunlight will trigger the body’s production of the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D.
6. More joy.Mental health is important.
“Do 300 smiles and laughs a day—even with a mask. Laughter is so powerful. It will increase the immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, improving your resistance to disease,” Varona said. Plus, you’ll produce all those feel-good endorphins for an overall sense of well-being. INQ