Now more than ever, we need to learn how our immune system can be enhanced naturally and what we can do to strengthen our body’s defences against viral infections. We spoke with Dr. Walid Khairallah, Medical Director of Green Clinics Lebanon about the human immune system and what steps we can take to bolster our own defences to be COVID-19 ready. Dr. Walid is an endocrinologist and expert in evidence-based nutritional therapy, integrative medicine and functional medical care.
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HOW TO BOOST YOUR HUMANITY – IMMUNITY BOOSTERS WITH DR. KHAIRALLAH
Debora: Dr. Walid, this is the time when we need your advice the most. The information regarding the COVID-19 virus seems to change every day. The world is under lockdown and the numbers of infections and human losses are still growing. What is your take on this pandemic? And how are you dealing with the situation as a health practitioner?
Dr. Walid: These are very difficult times for mankind as a whole with everybody in lockdown at home trying to prevent the spread of this infection. Everything was brought to a halt. Most of us, including the medical community, are learning about this infection on a daily basis and trying to integrate this information and data into our practice so that we save lives and improve the outcomes of the cases.
Deborah: Why do you think people are having immunity issues now more than ever?
Dr. Walid: Unfortunately, the way people have been living for the past 50 years has affected in one way or another different parts of the immune system. From a dietary perspective, we can say that our consumption of sugar has increased tremendously over the past century. Having a diet based on refined sugars and carbs weakens our defences by depleting the immune system of the precious vitamins and minerals needed to fulfil its function on a daily basis. Another way sugar affects our immunity system’s response is by getting into the blood and binding with different molecules and enzymes. This creates what we would call a glycation process without enzymatic regulation -which is similar to what is seen in diabetic and pre-diabetic people. This glycation impairs the immunity system’s ability to function properly.
Sugar consumption also increases the proliferation of fungi in the body like candida, aspergillus and other kinds of mould. When these fungi flourish in the gut they release toxins into the body that can burden the immune system and make the body vulnerable to other microbes especially viruses. Therefore, making us more prone to infections.
Another factor that pressures our immune response is the negative effect of poor agriculture practices like the use of pesticides and herbicides. These toxins that have eliminated the nutrients available in the soil.
Still, another factor is the premature harvest of farm produce which is done in order to extend its shelf life at grocery stores. Today produce is harvested before the fruits and vegetables can adequately ripen which results in a poor density of nutrients and antioxidants in the food.
Debora: What can we do to improve our diets and make sure we are getting enough nutrition in order to boost our immunity?
Dr. Walid: Stick to the essentials – consume vegetables of different colours. Start with green leaves. These are very rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and important to protect the body against pollution and carcinogens. Broccoli is very rich in Vitamin C and it’s been shown that it can enhance the anti-viral immunity in the body. Red and orange coloured vegetables contain carotenoids, lycopene and vitamin A that are imperative for the anti-viral immune function. Other foods, with antiviral effect and immunity-boosting properties are garlic and wild plants such as zaatar, oregano and thyme.
Be sure to incorporate in your diet bone broths such as chicken soup. They not only provide calcium and phosphorus but also possess healing properties for conditions like leaky gut. They have a strong impact on helping to alleviate the symptoms of viral infections and are warming to the body when you feel sick.
WATCH THE VIDEO:
HOW TO BOOST YOUR HUMANITY – IMMUNITY BOOSTERS WITH DR. KHAIRALLAH
It is important to eat organ meats like liver at least once a week because they are rich in Vitamin A, B6 and B12, zinc, selenium and folic acid – all essential nutrients for the optimum functioning of the human body and blood cells formation. Another great source of vitamins is cod liver oil which contains Vitamin D, Vitamin A and omega fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory molecules important for the function of the immune system and brain.
To boost immunity it is important to consume enough good fats like nuts, avocados, ghee (clarified butter), olives and cold-pressed oils; and proteins such as red meats, chicken, fish and eggs every day. These foods bolster your defence system and support its detoxifying function so that it can synthesize and produce its own molecules that are necessary to fight infections.
Good quality carbs are a must, like whole grain rice and super-food grains such as quinoa, millet and fonio. Sweet potatoes and even white potatoes are also beneficial in moderation. Remember to avoid or reduce the refined carbohydrate intake especially sugar, processed foods and bad fats.
Drink plenty of water every day,preferably warm water because it maintains good lymphatic drainage.
Deborah: We know organic product is pesticide and herbicide-free and in so many ways better than regular produce. Can you give some options for those who cannot access organic products on what they should choose instead?
Dr. Walid: We know that organic foods have more nutrition in terms of minerals and vitamins. My advice in general for people, especially those who cannot afford or get access to organic products is to grow their own vegetables. There are so many different creative ways nowadays to do it in the backyard, balcony or terrace and do it under good practices and grow your fruits and vegetables the organic way or as organic as it can be.
You can also stay informed on which foods to choose by checking the Environmental Working Group (EWG) yearly report, where they show the fruits and vegetables that are most sprayed with pesticides. They call them the “Dirty Dozen”. The EWG site also includes information about the “Clean 15” which is the produce with the lowest amounts of pesticide residues or those that due to their thick skin do not absorb the pesticides, so you don’t have to really worry about getting them organic. It’s preferable to be organic whenever possible.
Environmental Working Group – Dirty Dozen 2020
Environmental Working Group – Clean 15 For 2020
Another alternative for people who cannot afford or get access to organic products is to try to eliminate or diminish the amount of pesticides on their food by using ozonated water to clean their fruits and vegetables. Soaking the produce for 10 to 15 minutes in the ozonated water disrupts or breaks down the molecules of pesticides.
Deborah: Nowadays our diets are restricted due to the current global situation and in the case that we cannot get all the nutrients from our foods directly, how do we supplement?
Dr. Walid: I always like to go to the basics. When it comes to supplements the first level are the vitamins and minerals that the body needs. When it comes to anti-viral immunity Vitamin D, C and A have been shown to play a crucial role.We can get Vitamin D from sun exposure. Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough of it specially under the lockdown circumstances. So ideally, we should supplement it. It depends on the person but in general 3000 IU to 5000 IU per day is important during infection.
Vitamin C is very important to fight infections, especially viral infections. The immune system uses Vitamin C in the form of l-ascorbic acid to enhance its own functioning to produce substances that neutralize the virus and stop its replication. It is also a repairing molecule that can restore any damage in the lungs tissue after an infection. Vitamin C is also important in the formation of strong collagen which is imperative not only for the health of the joints but important for the blood vessels. During an infection, the immune system increases its absorption of Vitamin C by fifty to a hundred-fold, which means it’s a very crucial element. Knowing that Vitamin C is safe and very effective, I highly encourage doctors around the world and patients to use it during infection.
Another key component is Zinc which stops viral replication. Also, Selenium helps in protecting the lining of the lungs against virus penetration avoiding health complication.
We also should supplement with Quercetin which is found in propolis which is a natural antimicrobial produced by honeybees. You can also find Quercetin in onions and apples. Quercetin is not only an antioxidant but also acts as a chaperone for zinc and helps it enter the cells to protect against viral replication.
Finally, but not least we have Acetylcysteine which improves the regeneration of Vitamin C and protects the lining in the body by boosting the regeneration of glutathione which is a major component in our lungs.
So this is a good package that would help a lot both as a preventive toolkit against infections and to alleviate the symptoms and shorten the course of the illness.