15 years ago I developed and then recovered from a rare autoimmune disorder. Luckily, I have been symptom-free for some time now. One of the good things to come out of that time is that I now pay considerable attention to my immune system and how to keep it working at its best. There is nothing like spending the better part of a year in a hospital to focus one’s attention.
Here are my top areas to pay attention to. There is always fine-tuning that can be applied to these depending on everyone’s circumstances; consider these a good baseline to start from.
Even a slight disruption in sleep will have immune consequences
Sleep: This is number one, and with reason. There is a vast body of information on how even a slight disruption in sleep will have immune consequences. In the time before my autoimmune issue, I had been commuting NYC-Paris twice a month, and my sleeping patterns were a disaster. I now prioritize sleep over everything. My mission during the day is to prepare for getting a good night’s sleep. I go to bed at the same time every night, I have the same pre-sleep routines, and I wake up at about the same time every day. We each need to understand what works for us: the room temperature, the lighting, how much exercise and when to do it, when your dinner should be and what you are eating for dinner. These are all personal choices, and my suggestion is that if you are not sleeping as you would like to, investigate what works best for you and stick with it.
Keeping Immune Cells Strong
Immune Cells: Our immune-response cells are not that different from our other cells: they require proper energy to function well. I take two Basis capsules every morning to help me keep all my cellular energy levels at their best. Basis from Elysium Health helps boost my NAD+ levels, which will otherwise naturally decline with age. Elysium Health has extensive peer-reviewed human research showing the effectiveness of Basis on NAD+ levels. They are rigorous in their sourcing of ingredients, and in the specific composition of Basis. I have personally spoken with their lead scientists and feel fully confident in all of Elysium’s products. This is a great company.
The blood doctor from my autoimmune days recommended that I regularly test my vitamin D levels and make sure they don’t fall, as he feels there is a linkage with immune response. I try to stay out of the sun, which impacts my vitamin D levels, so I daily take a vitamin D3/K2 supplement. By taking a vitamin D supplement and Basis, I feel that, at a cellular level, I am in good shape.
Intense Exercise Without Over-Exercising
Exercise. As regards immune function, the main things are to do rigorous heart-pumping exercises balanced with enough time for the body to recover. Over-exercising without proper recovery time will reduce the body’s ability to respond to pathogens. We also need frequent exercise at a high enough intensity to keep our bodies in shape. This balance between these two needs is something we all struggle with — getting the correct mix of intensity and recovery. With age this gets even trickier as the time needed for recovery increases, while the speed of muscle atrophy from inactivity also increases. It was so much simpler when we were younger and could just exercise as much as we wanted. The simplest way to measure if you are over-exercising is to measure your resting heart rate nightly before sleep. Quickly you will come to understand what your normal resting heart rate is, and if it is elevated you should dial back the exercise stress for a couple of days.
Balanced low-glycemic diet. This simply means keeping the stress reaction from heightened glucose in the blood to a minimum. This is not the same as paleo vs vegan vs any other diet. It is about understanding the glycemic load of food and keeping it low, and eating a thoughtful diet that includes leafy green vegetables. The specifics of one’s diet are highly personal. However, a good starting point is always a balanced diet with a low glycemic load; then fine-tune from there.
If I act in a different way, my mindset will change
Positive outlook. This may seem less actionable than the others, but it is just as important, if not the most important. The question is: how do we do this if we are on the other side of it? I find I can’t will myself to a better outlook, but what I can do is choose to take actions that cause my outlook to change. The fastest and easiest way to do this is through simple acts of kindness, being selflessly helpful — if I act in a different way, my mindset will change. If I am feeling pessimistic, all I have to do is say hello to a stranger and give them a compliment, open a door for someone, smile at my neighbor. These simple actions change my outlook. I’ll have a more positive outlook and my immune system will perform better. If I feel more optimistic, I am more apt to take positive action on all the steps above.