About 10 years ago, I was sick often; I had a cold about every other month, lasting 10 days. Since then, building up my immune system has been one of the many ways I’ve been biohacking for health & longevity, and it’s worked for me: I’ve had one illness in the last 18 months, and it was just one day of fever and exhaustion, no sniffles, no gastrointestinal ick. So, I thought I’d share some of what I learned in order to help prevent Covid-19 infections, or perhaps reduce their severity.
Remember that with all of this, the best we can hope for is improving our odds – there’s nothing that will make us immune, just “more resistant”. Also remember that there’s tremendous individual variation; perhaps a particular supplement fills in something that’s missing in my immune response, but not in yours. Most importantly, none of this is a substitute for the basic precautions: Avoid large gatherings (or really any unnecessary contact) and wash your hands.
Liposomal Vitamin C – Vitamin C has been long associated with stronger immune response. Smaller doses (~200 mg) are helpful in preventing respiratory infections, while larger doses (~2000 mg = 2 grams) are more effective in fighting off existing disease. “Liposomal” means that the vitamin C is embedded in “liposomes”, small spheres of fat; the main benefit of this is that it improves both the amount and the speed of vitamin C absorption in your intestines.
Excellent general scientific summary of Vitamin C and the immune system:
Stamets 7 – Paul Stamets is famous as a mycological researcher. (He’s really into mushrooms.) He’s specifically studied the antiviral properties of certain mushrooms, in humans as well as in bees and other critters. His “Stamets 7” product is a combination of 7 mushroom species that are especially good at immune system support. I take one a day normally, and I think that’s part of why my last “illness” went so easily; but as long as Covid-19 is around, I’ll be taking 2 a day.
Find out more and order at Paul’s site:
Magnesium – this is pretty basic, Magnesium is a mineral our body needs for all kinds of cellular operations, from a strong heartbeat to digestion to sleeping at night. It’s also an important part of the operation of immune system cells, and our food supply tends to have a lot less than would be ideal. There are many forms – I like Magnesium Glycinate, at night, because it also helps sleep quality.
Source Naturals “Wellness Herbal Resistance Liquid” – this is not for daily use, but rather something to take at the first sign of a sore throat or other infection. There are a few products like this out on the market – perhaps you already have a favorite – the point of them is to help your body mobilize a rapid response to an initial attack; and they lose effectiveness if you take them every day.
Wim Hof’s Breath practice – Wim Hof is a crazy Dutchman who’s popularized a set of practices relating to mainly to cold – cold showers, ice baths, etc. All great stuff, but what I want to talk about here is his breath practice: he teaches a sequence of 30 deep, full breaths, which alter both your mental state and your general biochemistry. By expelling an unusual amount of carbon dioxide with this breath, you can actually raise your body’s pH for a short period of time. The theory is that this higher pH environment is very challenging for viruses, and give your body an opportunity to regain the upper hand. Adherents (including Mr. Hof) are very enthusiastic about the benefits in terms of avoiding diseases generally.
This is one where I don’t absolutely know that it’s of benefit – I haven’t seen the peer-reviewed studies, etc – but I do know it’s an interesting practice that doesn’t cost me a thing, apart from a few minutes on my couch. So I’m in!
Sweat. If you’ve got a Sauna, use it often. “Sweating out” a cold or flu is an established technique for both preventing and fighting off viral infections, although the science is more well established for prevention. Moving the water out through your skin can help your entire body’s drainage, freeing up space in the lymphatic system; and inducing a fever through a sauna helps weaken viruses the same way your own body’s fever would. (But if you’re already running a fever, do not sauna! Very risky to take your body’s fever higher than it’s already running.)
If you don’t have a sauna, there’s an alternative, as warmer weather approaches: Get out under full sun for 20-30 minutes at midday. If it makes you sweat without exercising, you’re getting a benefit. (Exercising has other benefits – the two types of sweating do different things.) Attics are also sometimes de facto saunas, though the air quality can be a concern. In all cases, be sure to drink plenty of water to replace what you’re losing; and shower off the sweat afterwards.
Sleep early, Sleep Often – our immune system functions much better if we’re well rested than if we aren’t. Pay attention to your body’s need for sleep. Let yourself nap if a nap seems called for. Rest as freely as a dog or cat might. The cost of pushing yourself beyond your body’s natural limits could be very high.
And De-Stress. The immune system always goes down as stress goes up. It’s a question of resources: If something genuinely stressful is happening, like being attacked by wolves, we need to put everything into running and fighting, and forget about the immune system for a while. Conversely, when everything’s calm, it’s a good time to put the body’s extra resources towards fighting off disease. The trouble is, the lower levels of our human operating system don’t really know the difference between stressful messages like “here comes a wild animal” and “here comes a deadline”. It’s way too easy for us to operate on the stressed-out side of our metabolism for long periods of time. Find whatever can help relax you. Meditate, take a bath, watch a rom-com now and then.
Love to hear your thoughts on tricks to enhance our resistance to this and other viral infections – please comment below!