Improve your health by reducing the inflammation in your body.
Inflammation plays a crucial role in your body's defense system. Following injury or infection, your body releases various substances meant to help it heal wounded tissue or attack foreign invaders. But inflammation doesn't always help your body. Sometimes your body attacks its own cells, causing autoimmune diseases like arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
Inflammation may also be the reason why some people have asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 infections while others have more severe cases. To help you stay as healthy as possible, Dr. Mark Hyman, a leader in functional medicine, and Dr. Miles Spar, chief medical officer for Vault Health, came on The Dr. Oz Show on December 4, 2020, to explain how you can protect yourself against dangerous inflammation. Here are their anti-inflammation tips.
How Inflammation May Be Related to COVID-19
Scientists at George Washington University studied five different blood biomarkers linked to inflammation in their COVID-19 patients and found that higher levels of inflammation were associated with a greater risk of needing a ventilator or being admitted to the ICU.
“When COVID-19 lands in a pre-inflamed person, it is like putting gasoline on a fire," Dr. Hyman says. “The inflammatory explosion, known as the “cytokine storm," when the body attacks its own tissues and cells, is a major driver of the need for hospitalization, admission to ICUs, ventilator use, and death."
So how do you lower your risk of developing this harmful inflammation?
Start your morning with a cup of antioxidants. Antioxidants are natural substances that can help delay or prevent cellular damage. Some foods, including fruits like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, are naturally high in antioxidants. You can blend these fruits together with your favorite smoothie base and add-ins like leafy greens, almond butter, cinnamon and cayenne to get your daily antioxidant boost.
“Because of their high antioxidant content, berries have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits for both the heart and the brain," Dr. Hyman says. “Blueberries also contain quercetin, a flavonoid, that is so powerful that it's been linked to fighting cancer and also seems to be helpful in preventing COVID-19."
Toss in Some Turmeric
Dr. Oz recommends getting two teaspoons of turmeric per day.
“Turmeric is the key source of the polyphenol, curcumin — a major anti-inflammatory agent," Dr. Oz explains. “About 2 teaspoons of curcumin a day is a good wellness dose for keeping inflammation away and promoting gut health."
Of course, you don't need to eat it by the spoonful. You can get turmeric supplements or simply add it to your food. Try making roasted veggies with some olive oil and turmeric. You can also add ginger and chili powder for a little kick.
Step Away From the Sugar
If you're trying to reduce inflammation, start by reducing your sugar intake. According to The American Heart Association, the average American eats 18 teaspoons of sugar per day, three times more than the recommended 6 teaspoons.
Giving up sugar can be difficult if you're accustomed to sugary snacks. Instead, try weaning yourself off by swapping candy or sugary drinks with a bag of almonds and three pieces of dark chocolate. Then, a week later, have your almonds with two squares of chocolate, and then one square the week after. Dark chocolate is a heart-healthy snack, according to Dr. Oz, so it's okay to keep having a piece or two in moderation.
Add a Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that helps keep your bones strong. Your body makes its own vitamin D through a process that converts sunlight into calciferol, an active form of the vitamin.
New research from the University of Chicago discovered that those with a vitamin D deficiency were nearly twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19. While another study of COVID-19 patients found that supplementation with vitamin D reduced the risk of ICD admission by 93%.
Dr. Oz cautions that more research is needed, but adding a vitamin D supplement to your routine can be helpful since it isn't found in many foods and can be difficult to produce enough of during dark winter months (or when you're quarantining inside).
“Most of us aren't exposed to enough sunlight," Dr. Spar says. *Some have suggested that about 80% of our population is deficient or insufficient."
Dr. Spar recommends getting anywhere from 1,000 and 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. And look for supplements that contain vitamin D3. “The only active form of vitamin D is vitamin D3," Dr. Spar says. “Many vitamins and prescriptions of vitamin D have vitamin D2 – which is not biologically active."
Though these tips won't prevent you from catching COVID-19 — only following safety precautions, like wearing a mask and following social distance protocols, can lower your risk — they can help improve your overall health. And good health is important every day, not just during a pandemic.