How would you rate your immune system?

By now we are all well-aware that the coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory virus that can cause illness, occasionally severe or life-threatening, in susceptible individuals. We also know that most people infected with this virus don’t exhibit any symptoms at all, or may experience only mild, transient symptoms. Doesn’t that seem strange to you? Even though we are dealing with the EXACT same virus, some people get very sick while others are not significantly affected. How can we make sense of this inconsistency? Is getting sick just a random event? A matter of lousy luck and nothing more? We all know that the answer is no. The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are at higher risk because what determines how severe a COVID-19 infection becomes is the robustness or weakness of our immune systems.

It is understandable that many of us want to “boost” our immune systems to strengthen our ability to neutralize this virus and keep ourselves healthy. The question is, can this be done? And if so, how do we do this most effectively? The first step in answering these questions is to recognize and accept the inescapable truth that there are no quick shortcuts to magically achieve optimal health and immunity. Like a perfectly tuned, world-class symphony orchestra, the immune system is a complex, highly coordinated system that involves many moving parts that all need to work together in concert and perfect harmony to achieve the desired result. Attempting to improve your immune system by just taking an “immune boosting” supplement, such as vitamin C or zinc, is like tuning only one or two instruments in a symphony consisting of thousands of players. It just doesn’t work, and it misses the point:

You can’t “boost” a system that’s already working at peak efficiency, and a weakened immune system needs much more than just a meager “boost.”

Remember, the normal state of the healthy body is to consistently have an optimally functioning, exquisitely tuned immune system that responds quickly and appropriately when necessary, but then rapidly returns to baseline. In addition to fighting off invading microbes, a healthy immune system also identifies and kills precancerous and cancerous cells, repairs damaged tissue, heals wounds, and detoxifies foreign chemicals entering our bloodstream from our digestive tract. If you have a history of frequent infections, poor wound healing, diabetes, heart disease, cancer or precancer, autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation, or are overweight, your immune system is compromised and needs to be optimized..

Achieving a powerful immune system requires a comprehensive approach.

Taking a pill or powder is not a magic bullet solution. What is most important right now is to follow a healthy lifestyle. We need to stay calm and keep stress levels down as much as possible. We need to get adequate sleep. We need to remain socially connected, but physically distanced. And, perhaps most importantly, we need to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Study after study has shown that fresh fruits and vegetables contain unique micronutrients not found in other foods that can powerfully strengthen our immune system. On the other hand, comfort foods such as sweets, white flour foods, processed foods, fried foods, soda and alcohol all weaken the immune system. These foods are pro-inflammatory, and if you keep your immune system busy fighting off junk food, it can’t effectively fight off viruses.

So now more than ever, with the coronavirus epidemic underway, I implore you to take pause and consider what is truly important to you and your family. Eating healthy isn’t a burden, it’s a privilege. We are so lucky to live in an era where nutritional science has advanced to the point that we have learned not only how to best protect ourselves from infections, but from so many of the typical chronic diseases that cause so much needless suffering and rob too many people from enjoying their later years—but this privilege is only available for those who choose to take advantage of it.

Your life or the life of a loved one may just depend on it.