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A healthy immune system can stop problems before they start. (pixabay.com)

Unless you have been living in a cave, in a jungle, you will be aware that the world is experiencing something different. Yes, Covid-19, certainly different… yet oddly familiar. You may also be very frustrated by the fact you are having difficulty assessing what is true and not true with regard to this virus. They say “listen to the experts,” but then change their minds because they did not actually know enough initially, at least on policy, to make fully informed decisions. But I am not writing today to debate this, rather I wish to talk about something I do know for sure.

Covid has shown that when it comes to potential death, or the loss of life of loved ones, humans will act to avoid this at all cost. Our fear of the unknown, or more specifically our fear of death, is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it, along with bad or confusing advice, will cause mass panic.

There are things we can prepare for in life, and things we cannot. When it comes to Covid, or any virus for that matter, it’s actually a bit misleading to say we cannot prepare for such things, because we can.

As an individual the best course of action to prevent a premature death is be healthy; stay active and keep an eye on your dietary choices. For the average person this means that your best bet, in general, to avoid a premature death (aside from accidents) is to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and nutritionally, so that your immune system is as strong as it can be to fight off any would-be invaders.

I have written about this topic before, stating that eating well and staying active is the best place to start, but maintaining good nutrition also means ensuring your body is getting everything it needs.

If I walk into a doctor’s office seeking nutrition advice, they may just provide generic information that might not suit me. Yet there is one thing you can do for sure; make sure you eat your greens and take your vitamins (the ones you actually need, not the ones the guy in the store said to buy.)

So, how do you start? Well, the easiest additions are the vitamins and minerals that have consistently been shown, across numerous studies, to be good for you. These would be things like Vitamin C, D, Iron, etc.. And, NO, these will NOT cure Covid, but what nutrients like these will do is help your body to be in better shape to fight off any virus; so you can worry a little less about “premature death due to health issues.”

FACT: For Covid, the largest at risk group are those considered “elderly” (average 65+). See the death rates for these ages groups, also the devastating spread when Covid gets into “old folks homes.” For those who are younger, the number one risk factor is obesity (ie. being unhealthy.)

So, other than avoiding ageing (which, so far, we cannot) your best bet for the current, or next, pandemic, because there WILL be one, is to consider these questions:

Beyond this, optimizing your body through nutrition can be complicated; requiring a variety of tests, trial and error, and money (supplements are expensive.)

Most of us should start with a good, balanced diet plan, but some of us may need a boost for whatever reason (unfortunately, some will find they have bodies that don’t like to play nice, refusing to absorb nutrients correctly.)

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is water soluble (you just pee out the excess), it is a modest immune booster, it is readily available, and it is cheap (this is why i say it’s a great place to start)

Vitamin D, ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3), is often considered a “happy drug” as it can impact mood (the sun feels good!) and is very useful for general health regulation. In a place like Vancouver it is quite common to have lower than ideal levels of Vitamin D (plus high levels of seasonal depression). However, in a place like California you may get enough by just being out doors. One thing to remember is you CAN take too much Vitamin D, so be careful and look into testing your levels first.

Iron deficiency is common for a variety of reasons, especially in women. It can lead to a weakened or anemic body, which in turn will mean a reduced immune system. One of my students said the best way to see if you have low iron is to donate blood, because they test for free and will let you know (a nice perk for helping save lives). Though direct Iron testing is readily available, simple, and important. You might not even need to take supplements, it may be a simple matter of adding more protein to your diet.

The last thing that can really help your immune system prepare to fight attacks is managing your stress levels. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. While some 2.5% of the population hit the genetic lottery, requiring 4-6 hours of sleep a night, most of us “normal” people need a solid 8-10. The amount of research on sleep impacting immunity is so extensive it really is no longer theory but rather fact.

I am not an expert on these things (probably one of the most used words these days after “Covid,” and “stay home”), but I am someone who has investigated these topics myself, through primary sources rather than the mainstream media. BUT I understand how daunting navigation of health and nutrition information can be considering all of the conflicting data.

This is why I presented the most basic, cheapest, and easiest way to start, that is also backed by more studies than I care to read.

So, in preparing for the next pandemic, rather than running in fear and panicking, ask yourself “have I optimized my body so that it has the strongest immune system it can have?” Or are you just sitting around waiting to be told what to do when it is too late?

Be honest…

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Editor: Corey Owens

P.S. There are many other basic supplements that you may want to consider but we thought it would be best to keep it simple for now…

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OK this is the LAST ONE! I promise…for a while. This is the third in a series I like to call “What Pokémon Taught Me.” The first being “What Pokémon Taught Me About Losing“, and the second being “What Pokémon Taught Me About Being OK With Who I Am.

When I was young, I was out of shape and overweight. Eating properly wasn’t a foreign concept in my house growing up, but, based on my knowledge now I can say it really wasn’t put into practice. In the ’90s it was very common and acceptable to eat a lot of prepackaged, sugary snacks, because they were cheap and easy for parents; as, in that decade more than ever, it was common to see households with two working parents.

At one point one, I’m not certain what age, the most frequent meal I ate was macaroni and cheese (YES IT’S DELICIOUS, BUT SO BAD) and several cans of Coca-Cola. Kids can be mean, and, of course, I was always seen as that chubby kid. I was by no means obese, but carried enough extra weight for it to be noticeable. In 8th grade I made a mental shift; I stopped eating so poorly. Though my eating habits weren’t perfect, I still ate crappy school cafeteria burgers, I did manage to stop drinking Coke for several years. BUT, some improvement is better than nothing. I also spent that Summer working out every day. The difference was noticeable, I felt good and I was happy.

This change came from within, not from an example set at home (I often wonder where it came from). Now I am not saying it came from POKEMON, but I am also not saying the opposite. On this one though I think it might have actually come from Pokémon. In September of 1998, when I started grade 6, the series came out on TV in North America. At the end of grade 8 it would have been 2001, which means I was exposed to the Pokémon tv show three years at that point. Which, if memory serves, might have been one of the few shows I watched that actively discussed nutrition in it’s content, albeit casually.

You see, in order to be a good pokémon trainer (the thing I really wanted to be, but knew I couldn’t), you needed strong pokémon. This meant eating well and training hard. The training component is obviously the main component of the show, but as early as the first season Pewter City Gym leader Brock, a friend of the series’ protagonist Ash, regularly discusses the fact that what you feed your pokémon makes them stronger.

While some pokémon do not want to evolve to their next form (see previous post). The ones that do will first need to be strengthened through training and nutrition (unless of course they need an “evolution stone,” which is fine, some people need a little external help sometimes too.) This means that to be the best version of your pokémon-self you can be, you must eat the proper food and train regularly. This message, it seems, got into me, and after enough exposure it clearly clicked in my head.

So, as mentioned, at the MINIMUM I cut out the foods I knew were not great for me. I still did not know how to cook (which makes a HUGE difference), but I was still making progress in a positive direction. Later, when I was getting ready for the Army, many years ago, I started taking meal plans a little more seriously. In addition to continuing my regular training.

Just like a pokémon, you need to be fairly consistent with your diet and exercise in order to grow stronger and healthier. Of course, as with pokémon, your training and “battling” needs to become a lifestyle. Doing something you hate will not be a happy process, which means it is likely to fail. While you may realize, logically and rationally, that you need to change your diet and exercise regime (which should be obvious if what you have been doing isn’t getting you what you want), it also needs to be enjoyable.

This is why even in pokémon you see them eating sweets sometimes, but usually they are eating fruits, vegetables, and “pokémon food” designed specifically for them. Make the new routine enjoyable, and you will be more likely to stick to it.

I think you get the point. If you want to be heathier and happier (in most cases a scientific connection), then you need to make smart dietary and physical choices, to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

So, channel your inner pokémon, whether it’s Pikachu, Magmar, or Articuno, and make the changes you need today.