“What you can’t see can hurt you” is the lead line of “The Invisible Man.” Based on H.G. Wells’ 1897 classic novel, this Hollywood sci-fi thriller revolves around an evil scientist who discovers the secret of invisibility and torments his ex-girlfriend. No one can see him, yet he’s deadly.
It's the same with coronavirus and other viruses. They’re invisible. And they can kill.
How can we protect ourselves from viral assassins we can’t see? “Wash your hands, cover your mouth if you cough, and disinfect surfaces,” urges the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This is sound advice. Yet infections still occur. So, what should be our top strategy? Knowledgeable physicians and nutritionists agree that our best defense against invisible foes is to build the body’s natural ability to fight disease. Then if we’re infected, our cells can kill the killer, rather than the killer killing us.
Enter: Your Immune Army. Your immune system is your foundation for good health. Its protective network wards off harmful bacteria and viruses. It also dismantles harmful toxins and acts as a surveillance system against abnormal cells. Its defenses include physical barriers like the skin and inflammatory responses to injured areas. It also defends with specific immune responses to germs or infection.
Winning the Battle Within. Repeated “insults” to the immune or stress system can weaken your defenses. This can increase inflammation, impair health, increase the risk for certain diseases, and even shorten life. Constant stress, poor diet, and a lack of exercise or sleep can cripple your immune “army.” Alcohol and smoking do the same. Healthy lifestyle choices, positive social connections, and trust in a loving Creator boost, build, and balance your defenses. Together, they’re like well-trained troops for your immune and stress system health.
Mobilize Your Defenses. No paratrooper would sew his parachute when the plane’s door is open. That’s the time to jump! Strong immune health cannot be purchased. Products that promise a quick fix in a crisis are misleading. The only way to be prepared for times of stress is by practicing good physical, mental, and spiritual habits every day. It’s not too late to start! You can boost, build, and balance your immune defenses against viral bullies. And please, always work with your healthcare provider.
Boost with Antioxidants. Antioxidants are powerful immune boosters. They remove harmful oxidants or free radicals from the blood stream. Oxidants are toxic by-products of normal metabolism. They also occur as a result of exposure to smoke or other environmental toxins. Free radicals can damage DNA and weaken the body’s immune system. Antioxidants reduce damage and strengthen the immune system. You can increase them and improve their effectiveness by:
- Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Citrus, cherries, and berries are especially high in antioxidant nutrients. Green leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli are rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E. Eating a wide variety of green and yellow vegetables increases blood levels of carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants linked to lower levels of stress-related symptoms like insomnia and irritation.
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is also essential to healthy immune function. If in doubt about your Vitamin D levels, your doctor can order a simple blood test to check.
- Getting more dietary fiber. Colorful vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds deliver immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Along with fiber, they help regulate blood sugar and balance insulin. They also lower stress hormones and inflammation. Plant fiber helps control appetite and manage weight. Excess body fat triggers unwanted inflammation, one reason why obesity increases the risk for many chronic ailments and infectious diseases. Drink plenty of water instead of sweet drinks to improve circulation and cut immune-zapping sugar calories.
- Eliminating red meat, high-fat dairy and fried foods. A diet high in animal fat, refined grains, sugar, and fried food increases free radical damage. Free radical damage is linked to increased risk for infection, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers. Instead, power up on plant protein with beans, vegetables, whole grains, and multi-grain pastas. Vegetarian meat substitutes can be used in place of meat products. Use olive oil and lemon as a salad dressing. Focus on omega-3 fats by including more walnuts and flax seeds in your diet.
Build with Exercise. Exercise not only protects the immune system but also strengthens it. Regular brisk walks can bolster both the antibody response and the natural killer (T cell) response. It lowers body-wide inflammation and improves metabolic health. This is a real “kick in the gut” to viral invaders! Daily exercise improves mood, lowers anxiety, and increases a sense of well-being. The mind and body work together. These positive mental states have the additional benefit of boosting immune health.
Balance with Stress Management. Chronic stress is a hit to immune health. It can cause depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, irritability, and even panic. Constant negativity and worry can cause a racing heart, fatigue, and sweating. Muscle aches and pains, headaches, and sleep disorders can also result. Our thoughts and words are the raw materials for action. Do you focus on problems or solutions? What are some healthy ways to handle stress? Try taking a walk, talking to a friend, or reaching out to someone in need. Many find peace in talking to God in prayer and memorizing His promises. Identify what is in your control and trust the rest to God. Take time to identify and act on the most important priorities in your life. Is your work, family, and social life in balance? These are a few ways to tame stress and protect the immune system. “Pare down, or you’ll wear down” is good advice.
Believe and Trust. This world is a battleground, not a playground. We all have skirmishes to fight in the physical, mental, and spiritual realm. The principles shared here will help you reduce the risk of illness and fight smart when it does occur. Yet in this broken world full of heartache, injustice, and sin, there is no perfect guarantee of freedom from trials and sickness. That’s why we all need a real, yet presently invisible Helper. That Helper is Jesus Christ, our Savior, Healer, and Best Friend. Not only did He die on a cruel cross for our sins, but He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
God has given us principles to reduce risk. Yet if we do suffer, He will not abandon us. “The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed” (Psalm 41:3). “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29).
Whatever happens, God invites you to trust Him now. You can look forward to a wonderful eternity without pain, tears, sickness, or even death. He’s promised this wonderful future to all who give their hearts fully to Him.
In this coronavirus-infected world, our invisible Helper is able to conquer all invisible foes. Don’t be afraid. Keep looking up!