This year, we’ve been hearing a lot about wellness. Most everyone is concerned with maintaining their health and supporting their immune systems during the pandemic. But there’s a lot of noise surrounding how to do just that. And it can be tough to sort through the nonsensical versus science-backed approaches.
That’s because mainstream medicine (and the lamestream media) have been quick to criticize questionable wellness approaches that don’t work. But we rarely hear from them about all of the natural approaches that do work to support our immune systems and general health.
Meanwhile, some shady promoters saw the pandemic as a golden opportunity to get the public to pay for useless “remedies” by pandering to their fears. Sadly, these panaceas are often endorsed by some dense, credulous celebrity. And much of what gets sold in the name of modern-day wellness has little or no evidence of being effective at all.
Of course, that doesn’t mean wellness isn’t real.
But is also doesn’t mean you should stock up on the latest lotions, potions, and pills peddled by a modern-day version of Professor Henry Hill (the likeable con man played by Robert Preston in “The Music Man”). To paraphrase the professor’s famous sales pitch: “Yes, we got trouble, right here in River City, with a capital ‘T’—and that rhymes with ‘P,’ and that stands for…pills.”
Fortunately, through the thick fog of the germ war against the coronavirus, some basic truths are still shining through. And what they reveal is that wellness that actually works is basically as simple as committing to healthy, natural practices daily—both as individuals and as communities.
So let’s take a look at what you can do to naturally support your immune system and general health as the pandemic persists—and cold and flu season begins…
Moderate exercise: Get outside and move
It’s well understood that moderate exercise boosts your immune system and helps fight diseases. Various studies and decades of research demonstrate that a regular, moderate amount of exercise lowers your risk of cancer, dementia, heart disease, and mood disorders and mental illness.
But the key, as always, is moderation. I’m not talking about CrossFit classes, pricey gym memberships, and sweaty group sessions with “coaches.” In other words, you don’t need to run marathons or do other excessive exercise (what I call “excess-ercise”) that can be damaging and dangerous for your bones and joints, heart, gastrointestinal tract, genito-urinary system, and kidneys—as I often report.
All you need is a total of 140 minutes of moderate exercise per week. (Not per day, as some deluded “excess-ercise” aficionados suggest.)
In fact, the best and safest “return on investment” for healthy exercise is through outdoor activities like gardening, hiking, swimming, and walking. And you don’t even need to do these activities every day (although a daily dose of Nature has its own health benefits).
Studies suggest that spending at least 120 minutes of your weekly 140 minutes exercising outdoors in green spaces results in better physical and mental health. Plus, moderate outdoor physical activity allows you to get some sun, which activates the natural vitamin D production in your skin that supports your immune system and many other aspects of health.
If that isn’t reason enough to get outside in Nature, remember this: Sunlight and ultraviolet light help disinfect viruses and other microbes, too. And there’s evidence that coronavirus spreads less outdoors than it does indoors (like in a sweaty gym).
So when Nature and the great outdoors is your “fitness center,” you cover all of your health bases. Just make sure whatever activity you choose is moderate in both exertion and amount of time—remember, aim for around 20 minutes daily, or 2.5 hours total per week.
Mental and emotional health: Stay connected to friends and family
One thing coronavirus has taught us is that our physical and social surroundings affect our health—not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.
For instance, do you reside in a place that feels unlivable? Now more than ever, you may consider moving away from crazy, costly, competitive, and congested urban areas. If that’s not a possibility (or a personal realization yet), again, simply prioritize getting out into Nature—and away from crowds—as often as you can.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop nurturing your social relationships. As I discussed in last month’s issue of Insiders’ Cures, studies show that loneliness and isolation play a major role in physical and mental health—especially in the age of coronavirus.
And being in a big, crowded urban area certainly doesn’t assure you still won’t feel lonely and isolated. In fact, a seminal book published in 1950—The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denney—describes how crowded social conditions actually create or contribute to loneliness and isolation.
(Even though the phrase “alone in a crowd” is well known, the words “lonely crowd” don’t actually appear in the book. Instead, they reportedly were chosen for the title by the publisher.)
So, take a look at your community connections. While you might need to socially distance due to coronavirus, that doesn’t mean you can’t be—and stay—connected to your loved ones. You can still “reach out and touch someone” via phone or online video chat. Or use your corona downtime to develop a new hobby, and connect to a new group of friends online who share that same hobby.
Diet and nutrition: Eat healthy, balanced meals
We all know that what we eat has a major impact on how well our immune systems are able to combat viruses and diseases. I can’t stress enough just how important a balanced diet with a variety of whole foods is to good health.
So when it comes to diet and nutrition, here’s my checklist for optimum immune health:
- Avoid sugar and refined carbs. Studies show these ingredients can hinder the development and effectiveness of the white blood cells that help fight viruses, microbes, and infections.
- Stay away from processed foods, including plant-based fake meats and fake milks (see page 6). Many of these products lack vital nutrients and are loaded with toxic fillers that can wreak havoc in your immune system.
- Don’t overlook mineral supplements. We often hear about the importance of vitamins in a healthy diet, but we don’t hear as much about minerals. And that’s a serious omission, because most Americans are deficient in a variety of minerals. In particular, Americans have low blood levels of calcium and iron (which should come from food like grass-fed and -finished meats, not supplements), as well as iodine (which you can obtain naturally from sea salt), zinc, and selenium (key minerals found in egg yolks). (For insight about how selenium is connected to COVID-19, see the sidebar on page 4).
- Choose your dietary supplements carefully. You won’t be able to fix a poor diet solely with supplements. But dietary supplements can help fill in the gaps that exist in even the most balanced diets.
However, it’s important to remember that not all supplements are created equal. Some popular, run-of-the-mill dietary supplements are formulated without any real basis in nutritional science—especially when it comes to ingredient sourcing, manufacturing methods, and efficacious combinations of ingredients You’re not going to find information like this on a supplement label, so make sure to only buy brands you trust. (Preferably one with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee!)
Getting back to the basics
The bottom line is that when it comes to wellness, the immune system is key. And to support a healthy immune system, you don’t need to rely on phony pills and potions pushed by pandemic panickers.
All you need to do is go back to the basics: diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Because when all is said and done, these three staples will continue to help keep you healthy, long after this pandemic has passed.
Sidebar: Selenium: The sensible supplement for immunity
Nutrient deficiencies create fertile grounds for viruses and infections. These “host factors” have been recognized by physicians and medical researchers, primarily in France, for more than two centuries (although Louis Pasteur was a notable exception).
That’s why, since the pandemic was first declared in the spring, I’ve regularly reminded readers about the importance of vitamins A, B6, B12, C, and D for supporting a healthy immune response. And I’ve mentioned how critical minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc are for immune support.
In particular, selenium deficiency is an established risk factor for viral infections. Researchers recently associated the cure rate for COVID-19 in different areas of China with patients’ selenium status.
And now, a new study out of Germany reports that selenium deficiency is linked to a higher risk of death from COVID-19.2
The researchers studied 33 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and found they had much less selenium in their blood than healthy Europeans. The patients also had low concentrations and activity of enzymes that transport selenium and incorporate it into cells.
Researchers concluded that selenium may affect COVID-19 severity in several ways. Patients may have had low selenium levels before they got the virus, indicating the lack of the mineral may actually be a risk factor for COVID-19. Selenium levels may also decrease as a result of coronavirus, creating a Catch-22 in which the virus may actually erode the mineral that can help fight against it.
This study also sheds new light on why selenium reduced the risk of liver cancer in my study with Nobel Laureate Baruch Blumberg in China in 1987. We found that being a chronic carrier of the hepatitis B virus increases the risk of getting liver cancer by 200 times. (The virus actually caused the liver cells to become cancerous.)
We also found that selenium reduced the risk of cancer in people with chronic hepatitis. We focused on the anti-cancer properties of selenium, but its antiviral properties might have had a lot to do with it as well.
(Sadly, the tragic political oppression against Chinese citizens at Tian An Men [Temple of Heaven] Square in Beijing ended collaboration between the U.S. and China, and our research was interrupted—permanently, as it turned out. This year, we’ve seen more tragic political oppression by the Chinese Communist Party in the once-great city of Hong Kong, not to mention the rise of the coronavirus pandemic. One has to wonder whether they’re related.)
So, to help support your immune system, I recommend 100 mcg of selenium a day. Look for supplements that contain selenomethionine—the organic form of the mineral, which is better absorbed and metabolized in the body.
Sidebar: One upside of the coronavirus pandemic
There’s not much good news circulating when it comes to COVID-19. But one new survey reveals that the pandemic has led to a large majority of people adopting healthier lifestyles—at least in France.
France’s National Syndicate of Dietary Supplements surveyed more than 2,000 people, and this is what they found1:
- 80 percent changed their personal habits as a result of the pandemic
- 62 percent prioritized better health and immune system support
- Nearly 50 percent improved their diet and nutrition
- 36 percent began consuming more dietary supplements and natural products
Vitamin and mineral products were the most popular dietary supplements being consumed, with 37 percent of the people surveyed adding them to their wellness regimens. Another 28 percent tried omega-3 fatty acid supplements, and 23 percent opted for herbal or other botanical supplements.
Most of the French consumers reported that their supplement purchases were encouraged by health practitioners and pharmacists (which, sadly, is hardly the case here in the U.S.).
Data from Italy, which was initially hit hard by the pandemic, mirrored the findings in France. So, when all is said and done, I hope that you, too, can turn the negatives of this pandemic into a positive—at least where healthy living is concerned.
2“Selenium Deficiency Is Associated with Mortality Risk from COVID-19.” Nutrients 2020, 12(7), 2098.