The writer is a practicing cardiologist, clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Bingham Farms. He is an author and has appeared on national TV, including “Dr. Oz” and “The Doctors Show.” The doctor writes twice-a-month health columns for Deadline Detroit.
By Dr. Joel Kahn
More than ever during the pandemic, a healthy lifestyle is key to achieving a healthy immune system. This topic has come into even more focus as President Trump is treated for the Covid-19. As an integrative cardiologist, I follow recent preventive data and implement advice for my patients. There is quite a bit of data on the overall topic of diet and immune health. But what about the plant diets that are becoming more and more popular in athletes, stars, and even medical staff?
It would seem intuitive that any diet that reduces or eliminates processed foods, excess salt and sugar, industrial seed oils, antibiotic and hormone residues, and excess animal saturated fats would offer an advantage in terms of immune health. Here are some studies that support this approach.
1) An international team of scientists studied the impact of 3 months of a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (eggs, dairy and plant foods) on immune health in volunteers that were eating diets that included meat and fish. The diet change did result in changes in the bacteria in stool samples. The balance of pro vs anti-inflammatory factors measured in the stool favored eliminating meats and adopting more plant meals.
2) Australian researchers performed a review of literature regarding vegetarian diets and inflammatory and immune health. They reported that inflammation markers like C-reactive protein were lower in vegetarian-based dietary patterns. Plant diets (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes) are considered to be anti-inflammatory diets that bolster immune health.
Micronutrients and Immune Function
You are familiar with the categories of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, termed macronutrients. There are a variety of micronutrients that are also important for a well-functioning immune system. A scientific article detailed the role of some of these nutrients in regards to defending against viral illnesses.
Adequate levels of vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D E, and folate along with the trace elements of zinc, iron, selenium magnesium, and copper were felt to be important. Finally, omega -3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA found in salmon, walnuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables were analyzed. The researchers concluded that adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids by foods or supplements (fish or algae oil capsules) help support optimal immune function.
What Do I Do?
I have set a priority to get 7-8 hours of deep sleep every night and usually take 0.5-1.0 mg of melatonin at bedtime because it has immune support capacities. I have made it a routine to incorporate 30 minutes of infrared sauna 4-5 days a week for relaxation, optimal weight, and detoxification. I work out every day for about 30 minutes and have added more stretching and breathing exercises.
I have begun sprouting seeds in glass jars at home and eat them daily as a low-cost way to get the freshest nutrients. I have added more “colors” to my diet with purple cabbage, red bell peppers, and daily servings of garlic and onions rich in sulfur for immune health.
I also eat more mushrooms of every type as part of the menu for vitamin D and immune support. I take a multivitamin/multimineral that has the micronutrients and omega-3 suggested by researchers.
I have also added supplemental vitamin C and quercetin in a single capsule after suggestions in March by an academic physician that these may support a healthy protection from illness. I avoid added sugars like sweetened beverages and drink filtered water in teas and black coffee. I have avoided gaining weight during the pandemic by using periodic fasting days.
What do you do?