Research Review: The relationship between exercise, inflammation, and respiratory immunity

The relationship between exercise and the immune systems is intensely complex with many moving variables. Exercise generally improves the immune system. The more exercise done, and the more regularly, the more the immune system is boosted. However, there is always a tipping point. Athletes are often pushed into longer bouts of exercise, and/or more intense training. This goes as well for some “general exercisers” who don’t consider themselves “athletes,” but will grind out intense workouts that are on par for athletes. I have seen this with recreational marathon runners, obstacle course racers, and people going “all in” for 30-, 60-, or 90-day challenges with their gyms or trainers. They may not think of themselves as “athletes,” yet they are putting in long hours and hard sessions, sometimes multiple workouts per day. Anyone working out intensely for over 45 minutes, more than 4 times a week, I would argue should call themselves at least “recreational athletes.”

In addition to increases in bodily pains and risk of injury, it’s not uncommon to see upper respiratory illnesses (URIs, ie: coughing, congestion, sinus drainage) and upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs, ie: common cold and influenza) in recreational and elite athletes.  In fact, URTIs are suggested to be the most common type of infection in the athletic population. But if exercise boosts the immune system, why is this happening?

Some exercise is good.

Indeed, some movement is good. Quality and consistent movement is great. Studies show that “moderately active” living poses greater resistance to pathogens by boosting the immune system surveillance of the body. “Moderate exercise” is somewhat subjective, but tends to range around 30 minutes of movement at 60-75% intensity, 4-6 days a week.

Animal studies showed that exercising for 20-30 minutes right before being exposed to a virus decreased morbidity and mortality from it, even if it was just a single session of exercise and the mouse had been sedentary outside of that bout. That lead to suggestions that exercising before traveling on an airplane, or going into other high-crowd areas, could help prevent illness.

Now, extend that exercise from a single session to a routine: research that looked at 12-15 weeks of moderate exercise saw that incidence and duration of URTIs was significantly lowered compared to sedentary individuals. Longer duration of the routine meant better adaptations in the immune system.

Acute Exercise, or just getting started

Some of you have heard me say over and over that “stress causes inflammation and health problems” and expand that ‘stress’ can mean emotional, mental, chemical, or physical. In this case, we’re looking at the physical stress of exercise, which also elevates cortisol (chemical stress.) You are tearing muscles, straining lungs, and working your heart. As many people who have “fallen off the wagon” of exercise can attest, getting back into the workout routine is the most physically painful part, compared to a few weeks in after your body has adapted. This is called the “General Adaptation Syndrome” (GAS) where the body isn’t used to the physical stress. Every exercise stress applied results in specific biochemical, neurological, and mechanical adaptions in the body. The first 2-3 weeks of this are called the “Alarm Phase” or “Shock Phase”, and typically muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and discomfort are all more extreme at this time.

Training load or volume alone does not give full information on the level of stress that an athlete (and their immune system) is under. Indeed, the way training in distributed or periodized is of key important also. Periodization is breaking down a training plan into smaller, progressive stages to build safely over several weeks or months. Rapid changes in training load (i.e., increasing too quickly) was a better predictor of URI risk than total load alone. This shows that it’s not just the amount of training, but jumping in too quickly can be detrimental to the immune system.

This is different than someone who has adapted to longer or more intense levels of exercise over time. Much like their bodies are adapted to recover faster between training sessions, the immune system also learned to rebound more rapidly.

Can it be too much?

That tipping point of “too much” strenuous and/or prolonged bouts of exercise can temporarily reduce the immune system (“exercise-induced immunodepression”) for a few hours to a few days, depending on the nature of the exercise and the health status of the person, as well as the rest time before the next round of exercise. This immunodepressed state is the time the individual is at higher risk of contracting a URI or URTI.

The less adapted to high frequency/intensity/duration of training, the higher the stress levels spike, and the lower the immune system plummets after. What goes up, must come down. But in time, you can taper the peak and the drop.

After Intense, Acute Exercise

How many people have had the experience of going through a prolonged period of intense stress (semester at school, large work projects, extended home situation) and when this intense period finally eases up, they get sick? It’s like the immune system fires on all cylinders to help get you through the stressful time, and then it rests when you do. Likewise, this can be seen in athletes.

A research review by Walsh et al. suggested that athletes most often would report URTIs either during the high-intensity and tapering period prior to competition (e.g., swimming, team sports) or in the period following competition (e.g., long distance running). Essentially, the times of illness were more common during the high intensity period (high stress and inflammation in the body), or about 1-2 weeks after as the body gets to rest (incubation period.)

Nieman et al reviewed marathon runners and respiratory illness. “Taking into account other factors influencing risk of URI (age, stress levels, and illness at home), the likelihood of URI was doubled in those who ran >96 km compared to those who ran 32 km as part of their weekly training programmes leading up to the event.”

It is interesting to note, as well, that some studies then went on to break down infectious versus non-infectious URIs. Meaning, sometimes the URI or URTI is based on a pathogenic infection (ie: bacteria, virus), and other times there is some other reason for feeling sick that didn’t have to do with a microbe. Reports show it can be due to inhaled pollutants or allergies, chlorine vapors for swimmers, cold and dry air; age; sleep quality; and more. These factors are less related to the immune system directly than they are related to inflammation. Once again, lifestyle factors pop up as important keys for staying healthy and keeping optimal respiratory functions. Keeping inflammation low before exercising may help reduce the over-inflammatory state brought on by intense exercise, and protect respiratory health.

So… What is the “Goldilocks” level? Not too little, but not too much too fast.
The J-Curve versus the S-Curve

The J-curve model suggests that an individual involved in regular moderate exercise is less likely to contract a URTI compared to a sedentary individual, but prolonged high-intensity exercise or periods of strenuous exercise training are associated with an above-average risk of a URTI. Like so:

The J-curves are the bold purple and red lines, showing that infection risk is average with a sedentary life. Then the immune system gets a boost, thus reducing infection risk, as a person moves into active or moderate exercise. But following that curve then leads to a split in research. At first, heavy or prolonged training seems to have a rebound effect, causing infection risk to go above average – but not always!

It seems that some athletes can reach “elite” status, and as their body adapts to these bouts of exercise, the curve instead moves into an S-curve and infection risk normalizes again, and the immune system can recover, coming back to average as the athlete-in-training adapts.

Lifestyle and the Elite Athlete

There have been some that suggest a prerequisite to achieving “elite” athlete status is an immune system which can withstand the strenuous nature of training and competition. Essentially, one cannot push to elite levels of training if the immune system cannot keep up.

And as past articles and posts have shown, there are ways you can help enhance your immune system through lifestyle, diet, and supplements.

Again, let’s think about that Alarm Phase. If the body is not used to the intense exercise, there is more inflammation and damage to the muscle fibers and tissues. Elite athletes, however, are trained better for this stress on the body. Likewise, elite athletes are usually tackling many aspects of their lifestyle to optimize their performance: sleeping well; properly fueling before, during, and after workouts; keeping a focused mindset; drinking plenty of water; stretching and recovering. They often tap into additional resources for support: keeping up on the latest in sport science, seeking out medical professionals, getting advice from nutrition professionals, working with trainers, and more. Genes may play a role, but this support team shows that managing other aspects is important and can help in prevention.

In the complexity of the immune system, the research does note that humans have demonstrated lower resistance to URTI when there is weakness or problems with other life stressors such as dietary deficiencies, psychological stress, sleep disturbance. In fact, the presence of nearly any of these other risk factors will cause a weaker immune response, and increase the risk of illness following prolonged exercise.

Lifestyle matters.

Could these lifestyle behaviors be another layer of protection for athletes and people looking to begin exercising, or boost their current training? Absolutely.

Overall:

Athletes and individuals involved in heavy training programs and/or prolonged bouts of exercise appear to have an increased risk of contracting URIs. This is likely related to regular acute (and possibly chronic) periods of exercise-induced immunodepression. Regular moderate exercise, on the other hand, appears to have the opposite effect and reduces infection risk. So if you are looking to boost your training, pair gradual increases in exercise with healthy lifestyle habits to keep your infection risk as low as possible.

WHAT SHOULD I DO, ESPECIALLY DURING THIS CORONAVIRUS CRISIS?

  • Move at least 30 minutes, 4-6 times per week. If you want to go above that, do so mindfully. There are benefits, but you want to give your body time to rest and adapt to an increased load. It is tempting for some who are finally getting their new quarantine routines down to want to double up workouts, or go for longer runs than they normally have time for. Be mindful, and gradually work your way up. This will reduce your risk of injury and illness.
  • Be sure to warm up and cool down appropriately.
  • Recover well. Stretch and foam roll. Rest and sleep to give your body enough time to recover between bouts of exercise.
  • Learn about proper form, get proper shoes, and ensure all other ergonomic aspects of exercise are optimized to reduce physical stress and injury.
  • Work with a trainer who knows how to periodize properly and can create workout plans that challenge you without shocking your system
  • Get a quality 7-8 hours of sleep each night
  • Fuel properly before, during, and after workouts to enhance the workout efforts as well as maximize post-workout recovery.
  • Nourish your body throughout the rest of the day as well to feed your cells with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, vitamins, minerals, and more. Again, part of the risk of URI is the inflammation that the physical stress causes on the body, within the tissues and lungs as well as the muscles. Consider joining the Wolf program.
  • Work with a dietitian/nutritionist to personalize your food and supplement needs.

Ready to take your exercise up safely, and protect your health? I invite you to schedule a complimentary New Client call with me, so we can discuss possible best options for you and your fitness!


SOURCES

Cohen, S., Tyrrell, D.A., Smith, A.P., 1991. Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold. N. Engl. J. Med. 325, 606-612.

Cohen, S., Doyle, W.J., et all, 2009. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch. Intern. Med. 169, 62-67.

Jones, A.W., and Dvison, Glen. Exercise, Immunity, and Illness. Muscle Metabolism and Exercise Physiolog. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7149380/pdf/main.pdf Accessed 20th April, 2020.

McGill, E.A. & Montel, I.N. (Eds). 2017. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. 5th ed.

Nieman, D.C, et al. 1990. Infectious episodes in runners before and after the Los Angeles Marathon. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness 30, 316-328.

Walsh, N.P., et al. 2011. Position statement. Part one: immune function and exercise. Exerc. Immunol. Rev. 17, 6-63.

Research Review: a look at the role of over- and under-nutrition and flu risk, fatalities over the last 100 years

{This article was summarized even more, and added to my overall research notes, which can be read at www.playfullyfierce.com/covid19. I update it regularly with new notes from published reviews}

Many Americans, while possibly consuming too many calories – are malnourished when it comes to actual nutrients and nourishment, therefore potentially increasing their risk of contracting a virus.

Notes from the article Back to the Future: Lessons Learned From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Ironically, a study was done in 2018 entitled “Back to the Future: Lessons Learned From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic” and made this observation: “Since 1918, the world has experienced three additional influenza pandemics: the 1957 “Asian” influenza pandemic, the 1968 “Hong Kong” influenza pandemic and the 2009 so-called “swine flu” pandemic. These pandemics, although mild in comparison to that of 1918, highlight the constant threat that influenza virus poses to human health. Given that almost 100 years have passed since 1918, it behooves us to ask: are we truly better prepared for the next influenza virus pandemic or are there still lessons to be learned?

In civil practice, we are following many of the same steps they did: try to clean up hospitals, use face masks, shut down maritime trade, ban mass gatherings, close schools and dance halls and churches. And like them, efforts were varied around the world, and had varying levels of efficacy.

But what did they find about nutrition and the pandemic, that could potentially apply today?


The 1918 Influenza virus was reconstructed and used in lab studies. Like I have talked about with SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19, the 1918 virus “triggered a potent, dysregulated pro-inflammatory response, which likely contributed to the severe lung lesions” as observed in victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic. So again, dysregulated inflammation was an issue. Additionally, this over-reacting immune response has also been observed in natural and experimental infections with both the highly pathogenic avian H5N1 virus (“Bird Flu”) and the 2009 pandemic influenza virus (“Swine Flu”)

The 1918 influenza pandemic had a fatality rate of >2.5%, “certainly higher than other influenza virus pandemics” as of 2018. But now in 2020, while Covid-19 fatality rates range because of inconsistent testing, it is estimated at roughly the same rate, if not higher, than the 2.5% of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

But the death rate range was vast from country to country. Death rates ranged from 2.5 people per 1000 people in Argentina, to 445 per 1000 people in Camaroon. This is likely due to a large array of variables, which this article explores.

In addition to exploring genetics, single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, or genetic mutations), quarantines imposed, and prior exposure to flu strains as variables, this article also looked at the correlation of host factors and lifestyle – which is what I will cover below. Yes, there are many variables, so isolating any one is difficult; and correlation is not always causation. But the points found with lifestyle were interesting and still seem to hold true with what we see in more recent years.

Many variables can play in to the body’s ability to avoid or fight off infection

Malnutrition

Host nutritional status has long been recognized as an important factor in the outcome of a variety of different infectious diseases. In India in 1918, the effects of malnutrition and famine on influenza severity were particularly pronounced.

[to note, per the USDA, 11.1 percent (14.3 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2018. The majority of Americans are not consuming the recommended amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or calcium-rich foods. And the 2015-2020 Dietary guidelines for Americans highlighted that much of the US population is under-consuming calcium, potassium, fiber, iron, Vitamins A, C, D, and E, choline, and magnesium.  In short – many Americans, while possibly consuming too many calories – are malnourished when it comes to actual nutrients and nourishment, therefore potentially increasing their risk of contracting a virus.]

“in any future influenza virus pandemic, we will face a “double burden” of malnutrition whereby a proportion of the world’s population will experience severe disease because of undernutrition and a proportion of the world’s population will experience severe disease because of overnutrition. Specifically, it is now well accepted that obesity increases one’s risk of being hospitalized with, and dying from, an influenza virus infection (Morgan et al., 2010; Louie et al., 2011; Van Kerkhove et al., 2011). Perhaps of even greater concern is the fact that obesity inhibits both virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses and antibody responses to the seasonal influenza vaccine (Sheridan et al., 2012). The challenge for future influenza pandemics is therefore not only to protect those affected by undernutrition (in particularly in light of the growing problem of climate change), but also the growing number of people living with obesity.”

What that means: undernutrition weakens the immune system due to lack of nutrients but also, “overnutrition” and obesity was also inhibited the immune system response, inhibiting the types of cells (CD8+ T cells and antibodies) that fight off the virus. Antibodies are specific to a vaccine or strain of flu; CD8+ T cells offer a more blanket-protection against the general flu virus.

Undernutrition is still reported as a problem for influenza pandemics of the twenty-first century and beyond.

“Despite the advances that we have made in pandemic preparedness over the last 100 years, there are also several new challenges that we face in the context of twenty-first century (and later) influenza pandemics. Today’s population demographic is dramatically different to that of 1918. Today, a large percentage of the world’s population is either elderly and/or living with one or more chronic medical conditions [such as heart disease, obesity, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and/or diabetes mellitus]. The number of immunosuppressed individuals (due to untreated HIV infection, transplantation or/and chemotherapy) is also increasing. This changing population demographic is of significance as each one of these host factors is known to increase the severity of even mild influenza virus infections.”


Take Away

In all of this, the 1918 flu had two waves – one in spring, and a stronger one in fall. Could the Covid-19 surge be the same, as global lockdowns begin “the hammer and the dance” with letting up, see a slight rise, lock down… let up, see a rise, lock down.. that could usher in another round? Whether or not that is our future in 2020, consider making some lifestyle changes and bolstering your immune systems now for whatever may come in the next 2 weeks or next 2 seasons.

There may not be much we can do about some of the variables in the previous illustration, but there is are some areas we do have some power to affect. Take control of your health, and protect yourself and your loved ones.


Check out the Next Level Health page for various programs to help you reduce inflammation, boost immune strength, and reach your health goals.


Sources:

Main Journal Article:

Short KR, Kedzierska K and van deSandt CE (2018) Back to the Future: Lessons Learned From the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 8:343

Supplemental Research Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6187080/

https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrient-inadequacies/overview%5D

Research Review: COVID-19, enhancing prevention, protection through nutrition and lifestyle

Review of Webinar:

Current Controversies in Natural Therapeutics of Immune Support:
A roundtable discussion with three renowned clinicians

[Dr David Brady, Dr Todd Lepine, and Dr Peter D’Adamo)
Hosted by Designs for Health and Diagnostic Solutions, Jason Bosley Smith

The government, CDC, and Public Health leaders keep saying “it’s when, not if” you will get sick. So instead of just sitting back, hoping social distancing and hand washing keeps you out of the battle, start preparing your body now for the fire that is all but inevitable within the next few weeks, and take control. There are things you can do.

“We don’t necessarily die by having the virus in us, we die by our immune response’s over-reaction to the virus.”

–Dr Todd Lepine

ABOUT COVID-19 AND WHAT IT DOES TO YOU

INFLAMMATION IN THE LUNGS

The coronavirus produces a protein that kicks off this domino-chain reaction of inflammation in the lungs:

The virus triggers NLRP3 inflammasomes, which then triggers  IL-1β (Interleukin 1β, a pro-inflammatory cytokine), thus causing more inflammation. This cascade of inflammatory chemicals targets the thin membrane where your lungs and blood normally exchange oxygen and CO2, thickening the tissues and making the exchange difficult.  All of this uncontrolled progressive inflammation continues, and the diminished gaseous exchange leads to hypoxemia (below normal levels of oxygen in the body) and damages alveoli in the lungs. Patients often develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome/Acute Lung Injury (ARDS/ALI). 

When you have the flu and feel “run over by a truck,” that is usually the result of excessive cytokines and inflammation. COVID-19 is similar, but those inflammatory agents more specifically attack the lungs.

What that means: the virus causes your body to release a host of chemicals that cause inflammation in the body. The inflammation seems to target the lungs in many patients, thickening up membranes there. This makes it harder to get oxygen from your lungs into your blood, and the CO2 back out – so breathing becomes more rapid and forced. This all results in shortness of breath and often an elevated heart rate.  [this is explained in a Facebook video here]. You need to reduce inflammation in your body now, and boost your immune system to prepare for anti-inflammatory protection later.

COVID-19 and GUT HEALTH

More recent research shows that the coronavirus is also very dominant in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract.

Digestive symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea) were tied to worse COVID-19 hospitalization outcomes: “Whereas 60% of patients without digestive symptoms recovered and were discharged, only 34.3% of the patients with digestive symptoms recovered.” The virus seems to be able to get into the GI tract; a strong and healthy gut may have a better likelihood of protecting your body from this invader.

What that means: in addition to inflammation in the lungs, many patients seem to have their gut lining attacked. The gut is one of the key aspects of health and immune protection. A damaged gut is often at the root of many other health problems. So if your gut is already weak, and gets attacked by the virus, it is a damaging circle that sets you up for more health problems later in life. Diabetes, autoimmune disorders, bone and joint problems, cardiovascular disease and more all have links to leaky gut and inflammation. You need to strengthen your gut health now to build better defenses and minimize your risks.

POSSIBLE NUTRIENT THERAPIES

Various nutrients are essential for immunocompetence, particularly vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, and B12, folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc. Micronutrient deficiencies are a recognized global public health issue, and poor nutritional status predisposes to certain infections. These nutrient deficiencies are also seen as part of the aging process; but in a way, aging IS inflammation, possibly cyclically because of leaky gut and nutrient deficiencies. Diet alone may be insufficient, and tailored micronutrient supplementation based on specific age-related needs may be necessary, as well as person-specific needs (gender, exercise routine, stress level, genetics, diet, etc).

Vit D plays a huge role in preventing respiratory viral infections and decreases gene expression of various pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-α, IFN- β, ISG15, CXCL8, IL-6, and RANTES.)

Melatonin is a potent inhibitor of the NLRP3 inflammasomes; melatonin spikes in childhood and then tapers off as we age. This may be another reason children seem to have milder versions of this illness.

Nitric Oxide can inhibit NLRP3 inflammasomes. It also reduces oxidative stress (oxidation damages the body), regulates hypoxia signaling (helps get more oxygen to your body), supports the strength and integrity of your mitochondria (mitochondria are the “energy factories” in your cells, making energy for your body), and modulates the immune defenses to stem the progression of cytokine storms (boosts your immune system to help calm over-production of pro-inflammatory cytokines). Nitric Oxide is most commonly found in beets. 

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can inhibit NLRP3 inflammasomes in proper doses, which decreases the inflammatory IL-1b secretions, without inducing any cytotoxic effects or cell death. Best Vitamin C food is papaya, followed by bell peppers. [you can read more in my Facebook post about Vitamin C here.]

Elderberry should be safe if you’re not in respiratory distress. If you’re not symptomatic, Dr. Brady says he would keep taking it. “Cytokine Storms” usually mean the cytokines are boosted 6,000x normal; elderberry is meant to be a gentle therapy, and so typically only boosts cytokine levels 1.5-3x normal.

[Side Note: “Cytokine Storm” warnings have been flying around social media, telling people to avoid Advil and Elderberry and probably other “anti-inflammatory” or “immune boosting” items. Yes, Cytokine Storms are a real thing, where the boosting of pro-inflammatory cytokine triggers the boost of another, and in an inflamed body, this can become a dangerous downward spiral of health. But, there are many types of cytokines as you may have noticed in this reading, some pro-inflammatory, but others anti-inflammatory. And it takes a lot to trigger a “Storm.” Elderberry does boost a few pro-inflammatory cytokines that normally help gently kill off microbes, but in normal dosing is not likely to have a negative effect on a person because it is such a gentle therapy, especially if a person is asymptomatic.]

Stinging Nettle tea made from the leaves can help reduce the production of pro-inflammatory markers, such as TNF-α , IL-6, and CRP. Stinging Nettle root also has protective properties; it may have cytokines that kill off viruses and inhibit viral fusion. It has been shown to help protect against SARS. In mice, it also helped reduce fluid in the lungs, a common trait of pneumonia. 

Quercetin is being studied for its anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. It’s a pigment, found in many plants and foods: green tea, apples, berries, Brassica vegetables, capers, grapes, red wine, onions, shallots, tomatoes; many seeds, nuts, flowers, barks, and leaves; various kinds of honey. 

Resveratrol significantly inhibited MERS-CoV infection, and decreased its ability to replicate itself. So it is speculated that resveratrol may have similar effects on SARS-CoV-2. Found in red grapes

What that means: the foods you eat matter. Quality supplements matter. Find a clean eating diet, join my group for anti-inflammatory eating, or get personalized food help tailored to your specific inflammatory food sensitivities. 

BOTTOM LINE:

When our immune system is balanced and working well, it can usually take care of things! 

“We don’t necessarily die by having the virus in us, we die by our immune response’s over-reaction to the virus.” A controlled inflammatory response towards infection is good. It is part of a healthy immune system. But an uncontrolled inflammatory response can cause complications, and COVID-19 poses a greater risk of triggering a systemic over-reaction. Complications include pulmonary edema (fluid, swelling), and the cytokine storm. It is these uncontrolled, over-reactions of the immune system and inflammatory response that have been associated with more severe disease states and higher mortality. Thus, lessening and suppressing the hyper-inflammatory response may be very beneficial in preventing immunopathology.

What that means: if you can build a strong immune system, and keep inflammation controlled, you may be able to help prevent getting sick, having such severe symptoms, and have a better chance for a longer, better quality life after all of this is over.

STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM,
AND MAKE YOURSELF FIRE-PROOF
(or, at least, Fire-Resistant)

Think of the Coronavirus like an arsonist trying to set your home on fire. First, he has to make it to your home… then he has to get inside your home… then, he has to be able to ignite something. If you already have small fires in place, it is easier to fan those flames into something devastating. If you have flame-retardant materials everywhere, though, it will be more difficult. And, if he does happen to get something lit, it’s good to have a fire extinguisher available to try to squelch the little fire before it catches on to one thing then another, and quickly spreads through your house, destroying everything it can. How you protect your house, and have back-up plans, determines how great a chance you have at preserving your precious home.

Likewise, how you protect your body, and what healing systems you have in place, can reduce your risk of a devastating “fire” in your body, as the coronavirus sweeps through the country.

  1. So, keep your “home” (your body) away from the coronavirus exposure as much as you can! Stay home, avoid crowds, keep your physical distancing
  2. Keep the outside of your “home” strong and sanitized. Wash your hands; wipe grocery cart handles; clean after touching door knobs, car handles, delivery packages, etc; sanitize your countertops; wash work clothes immediately if your job keeps you in higher-risk areas; and practice other good general hygiene. 
  3. Put out current fires in your “home” as quickly as possible by reducing inflammatory foods and behaviors. 
    1. Cut way down on (or eliminate completely) processed foods, sugar, white flour/bread/pasta, high amounts of caffeine or alcohol, fried foods, margarine
    2. Remove common food sensitivities such as gluten, wheat, dairy, soy. Find out your specific food sensitivities
    3. Reduce exposure to toxic chemicals (cigarette smoke, pollutants, pesticides, sprays, fumes, etc)
    4. Reduce stress and cortisol
    5. Repay “sleep debt” from too many nights of too little sleep
  4. Make your “home” as fire-proof as possible.
    1. 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. So get it healed up.
    2. Get on high quality supplements (multivitamin, probiotic, omega-3s)
    3. Eat nutrient-rich foods with good antioxidants: dark, colorful vegetables; berries and other fruits; omega-3 fatty fish; whole grains or whole starches; nuts and seeds
    4. Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night
    5. Get sunshine daily
    6. Get your heart rate up at least 30 minutes a day
    7. Get off the couch, or out of the chair, and stretch every hour
    8. Drink more water
    9. Smile

SOURCES:

over 30 research sources from this webinar and on this topic can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1cQVap50vBpKDC1bgpfVtjIfDwaLSv6Dj

Ode to Organics

There has been a lot of debate about organically grown foods. What does it mean, does it matter?

To begin with: Organic vs. Conventional = HUGE business and money battles. Sadly, over a decade ago when I began to dive deeper into nutrition research, I was so disheartened to see that money and lobbyists are often driving forces behind a lot of health recommendations and pushes, not necessarily actual health science nor ethics.

The definition for Organics gets specific when it comes to processed foods, and I can touch on that in the future. But for now, we’ll look at fresh produce – fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables basically are either organically grown, or they are conventionally grown.  Other terms you may see, such as “Rainforest Alliance” or “Fair Trade,” etc, are nice and worth supporting – but don’t necessarily have anything to do with the organic growing practices. 

So back to those two main questions: what does “organic” mean, and does it matter?

I have a hunch that once we talk about what it means, you will be able to decide for yourself the answer for the latter query.

There are some key points laid out in the USDA Organic Standard rules [1] that crop growers must meet in order to be “certified organic”:

  • Land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years before the harvest of an organic crop.
  • Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials.
  • Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used.
  • Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available.
  • The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation and sewage sludge is prohibited.

It’s that last one that really gets most people. Think that that means if you’re NOT getting organically grown foods!

I personally and professionally recommend people do their best to avoid genetically engineered foods, irradiated foods, and sewage sludge.

If you shop at local farmers markets, just ask them about their growing practices, and how long their soil has been chemical free. The official “Certified” labels are expensive, so sometimes they may forego the inspections but still follow good practices.

If you shop at a grocery store, foods will be labeled.  Often, if you look at the number code sticker on produce, it will start with a 9.  For example, conventional bananas at my store have code number 4011; organic bananas are 94011. Then the sticker also states, “organic.”

Opponents of organic labeling continue to put pressure on the government. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at NYU, writes in her book What to Eat [2]:

“Opponents of organics – and there are many, work hard to make you doubt the reliability of organic certification, to weaken the Organic Standards (so you really will have something to doubt), and to make you wonder whether organics are any better than conventionally grown foods.”

She goes on to say:

“But as for attempts to weaken the rules, think ‘relentless.’ Political appointees at the USDA are always looking for loopholes that might favor conventional growers. Just before issuing the Organic Standards, for example, the USDA said it would be fine for farmers to use genetically modified seeds, irradiation, and sewage sludge, and still call their crops organic. After a barrage of 275,000 outraged letters, the agency backed off this peculiar idea.”

Fortunately, for now, the term “organic” is still meaningful thanks to those Organic Standard rules, though companies that work with GMO foods are constantly pushing to be allowed to introduce their foods into the “organic” sector.

I consider it an investment in my future health as well as the health of the soil and the earth to pay the extra for organics whenever possible. But, if money is tight, I encourage my clients to at least treat themselves to the organically grown versions of the “dirty dozen,” the top 12 pesticide-rich produce items; and worry less about those that have become known as the “Clean 15”  The Environmental Working Group updates this list annually.

So give yourself the best! Your healthy is worth protecting!


**Side notes:

The new addition of lines such as “When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used” do have me concerned. That line was not in the USDA Organic rules when I first researched Organics back in 2010 and wrote a similar post to this one. The vagueness of that line is the crack in the door that may later allow for “approved” controls that are money-driven. Something to watch.

The movies “King Corn,” “Future of Food,” and “Food, Inc.” are great documentaries going over the dangers of GMOs and what’s happening to our food sources!


Sources:
[1] USDA Organic Standards. Accessed 30 March, 2020.
[2] Nestle, Marion, What To Eat. North Point Press, 2007.
[3] Environmental Working Group, 2020 Ditry Dozen and Clean 15. Accessed 30 March 2020.

Inflammation and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndromes

Please share!! We’re in a time crunch now, especially in Ohio.

Reducing your body’s inflammation is CRITICAL for reducing your risk of getting infected and getting sick, and could help lessen the severity of symptoms if you do get sick.

I explain why inflammation is so detrimental with COVID19, and invite you to join me for a 7-day anti-inflammatory “bootcamp” online to learn what you can do to to reduce your risks!

Invite a friend or loved one, and join my group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/playfullyfiercewarriors/

We’ll kick it off Monday the 30th, but come say hi before then with some sneak-peeks through the rest of this week!