Now is a perfect time to tune up your health and strengthen your resistance to illness like COVID-19. We know that we have to tune up and maintain our vehicles to improve performance and longevity and the same goes for your body, the vehicle you navigate life with.

A vaccine or effective drug for COVID-19 doesn’t exist at this time, so it’s up to you to stay healthy. The good news is, you can do this. The best option as always, is to understand and support your inborn defenses. The human race has gotten through many pandemics before, and we will get through this as well.

COVID-19 is a virus related to the viruses that cause the common cold. It’s characteristics are slightly different, so your immune system, doctors and public health officials are all scrambling to understand it. By far, the most capable and experienced player in this skirmish is the immune system you were born with.

Viruses are everywhere on our planet; the sea, air and soil. Scientists estimate the number of individual viruses on earth to be 100 quadrillion-quadrillion, or 100 million for each star in the universe. So relax, you’re not escaping them — nor do you need to. There are millions of varieties of viruses, but only two hundred varieties pose any threat to humans. Even if you are exposed to a virus, the vast majority will bounce off of healthy cells and are escorted out of the body. We have coexisted with viruses for eons.

COVID-19 is a microscopic speck of genetic material looking for a weakened host. It drifts in air, so being outside or in areas with good ventilation reduces exposure. Physical distancing and wearing masks are reasonable, albeit imperfect, steps to take that lessen your exposure. Whether or not you get infected depends upon the length and intensity of exposure. Reduce time in enclosed spaces and spend time with people you trust. Poor air circulation, closeness to others, and increased time of exposure all increase the chance of infection.

This virus enters via the upper airways, so sinuses and lungs are your first lines of defense. Take extra care to improve the health of these areas. Stop smoking, minimize exposure to allergens, drink plenty of water, and take vitamin A. If you are experiencing congestion, sinus irritation or infection, inhaling steam is helpful, especially if you add peppermint or Tea Tree oil. Using a “Neti pot” is also a safe effective way to clear the sinuses.

If the virus gets past your healthy sinuses there are additional layers of defense. The lower airways and lungs constantly remove dust, pollen and irritants. Deep breathing helps this process. Aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, does this well, or you can just sit and breathe deeply. This simple activity has huge benefits. Deep breathing acts as a pump for the blood and lymph, oxygenates blood, and is relaxing. Improved circulation of immune cells in the blood and lymph is very important. Resistance to disease depends on all parts of your health.

Stress suppresses immune function in many ways. Even thoughts of fear, anger or depression change the chemistry and function of your immune system. The Institute of Heartmath has found that “gratitude” is a feeling associated with optimal health. Being grateful for events in your life actually improves immune function.

It’s your body and you are the best mechanic to tune up your health and strengthen your immune system using these simple but powerful practices. Minimize your exposure to COVID-19 in the first place. Sleep plenty, drink water (take your body weight in pounds, divide by two, and drink that many ounces of water each day), take a multivitamin and extra A, D, and C. There are time-tested plant medicines that treat infection, pneumonia and inflammation. I have successfully treated many thousand cases of sinusitis and pneumonia using these methods.

Space here doesn’t allow for details and your needs may be unique. These suggestions are safe, but it is best to consult with a professional who knows you and has proper training. Any decision you make to improve your health is a step in the right direction.

Improved nutrition, activity, sleep and other factors all help tune up your health to combat COVID-19, and the benefits are far-reaching no matter where you start. Here’s to your health.


John Winters is a naturopathic physician, who recently retired after operating a practice in La Grande since 1992. He can be reached

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