A Dose of Dr. E: Diabetes & COVID:
4 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Naturopathic doctor Jody Stanislaw gives excellent advice on how to stay healthy in body and mind, and shares four easy things you can do at home to give your immune system a leg up.

 

Video Transcription:

Steve:

Hello Nation! I’m here with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Jody Stanislaw, and today we’re going to talk about boosting the immune system. I’ll let Jody do her intro.

Jody:

Thanks for having me Steve. I’ve had type 1 for 40 years and when I decided I wanted to go to medical school, I went to a holistic medical school in Seattle. I have a doctorate in holistic medicine, and I also became a CDE because I thought that was important, and now I’ve been working virtually with type 1s for almost 10 years. So it’s very exciting. People are interviewing me also about how to do a telemedicine practice. Today I wanted to really inspire patients because there’s a lot we can do to keep our immune system strong. We’re thrown into this bucket of ‘everybody with diabetes is at a higher risk’ and that’s not always necessarily true. We’ve got to take it deeper than that. What I want to cover today is how we can keep our immune systems strong, and also empower you to not freak out and feel like just because you have diabetes you need to hide in a ball with fear. That’s not what we’re about here. Fear is actually weakening to your immune system.

Steve:

You’re so right. I was just speaking to a clinical psychology friend of mine, Bill Polonsky, and fear is not good, but you have to break down what you are fearful of. If you’re fearful of your mother dying right now then talk about ways to help prevent that, and it does take away the fear.

Jody:

Fear and worry are like a rocking chair – they give you something to do, but you don’t get anywhere.

Steve:

Yes that’s right. So Jody, what is the immune system? I know it’s supposed to prevent us from getting sick, but dive a little deeper than that.

Jody:

It’s a collection of cells, organs, and tissue throughout the body. We have an incredible army. We have the thymus, the spleen, we’ve got cells like macrophages, leukocytes, and even immune system tissue in your GI tract and in your bone marrow, so we’re very well equipped to fight infections. And you can actually look on your recent lab work to see your white blood cell count…your immunoglobulin count. Immunoglobulin is the protein that fights infection. And you can see literally on a lab how strong your immune system is. But if you don’t have that capability, you can also just think about whether you are someone who’s always getting sick. That’s obviously a weak immune system. But there are absolutely things we can do to keep it strong. And of course now it’s more important than ever. And those of us with type 1, the number 1 most important thing, which could be a whole other interview itself of course, is getting good blood sugar levels. That is absolutely the determining factor between a person with diabetes who has a very weak immune system, vs. a  person with diabetes with a strong immune system. If you have an A1c of 5, 6, something like that, your immune system is not being hampered by diabetes. Assuming you have a good pattern.

Steve:

Include 7 in there too!

Jody:

Yes, seven!  Above 8, 9,10…that’s going to be really damaging and inflammatory to the immune system.

Steve:

Jody, the one thing I wanted to put in my video on coronavirus and diabetes that I forgot to mention is that there is a very strong body of literature stating that once the blood sugars go above 200, you start measuring the function of the immune system – the phagocytes, the white blood cells – they’re all diminished. So that’s why I said if your control is no good, you’re at risk for not only this virus, but any type of infection.

Jody:

Absolutely.

Steve:

For those of you who are freaking out because your A1c has not been good, don’t freak out! Now is a good time to stay home, be extra vigilant, and work on your diabetes control.

Jody:

Yes, and I’m going to go into things you can do right now. The immune system isn’t “yay you’re good” or “you’re bad” – there’re many different levels and variables, and blood sugar is just one. It’s a major one, but I want to go into all the other things we can do right now today to improve it.

When I work with patients, I always start with what I call the Four Pillars of Health. These are the most important areas of your life and even if you have great blood sugars, if these four areas are a mess, your immune system is going to be a mess.

Pillar # 1 is food. What are you eating?

There are foods that actually boost the immune system, and there are foods that weaken the immune system. Foods that weaken the immune system are foods that are processed, high in sugar, things that are quite obviously unhealthy for you. A healthy whole foods diet is going to be great for the immune system. Since I’m a naturopath, people are always asking me, ‘What supplements should I take?’ The first thing I always say is, ‘What foods are you eating?’ Because the best way to get supplements and vitamins is through your food. There are certain foods that are really good for the immune system: bell peppers (especially red peppers), citrus fruits, tomatoes..those are all high in vitamin C. Broccoli, spinach, all the green vegetables, garlic, onions, and blueberries (blueberries are also low glycemic). So that’s always my first step. Pillar number 1 is food.

Steve:

I’m always very cautious about a lot of promises about supplements, but I’ve heard you say that vitamin C is a good thing to take, and the foods you’re suggesting are rich in vitamin C.

Jody:

I would much rather you increase your vitamin C foods than take vitamin C pills, for sure.

Steve:

That’s such practical advice, I really love that.

Jody:

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, said ‘Let medicine be your food and let food be your medicine.’ So that’s where I go.

Pillar # 2 is sleep!

If you’re staying at home right now, you have no excuse for why you can’t go to sleep at 10 o’clock. Sleep is so good. It’s when our bodies replenish. It recharges all of our cells. We all know how we don’t feel good when we don’t get good sleep. Well guess what? Your cells are feeling the same way. When you wake up and feel great, your immune system cells feel great. Eight hours of sleep starting at 10pm is actually much more restorative than eight hours of sleep starting at noon or 1pm. So you’ve got to get 7-9 hours of sleep, and ideally starting around 10pm.

Pillar # 3 is exercise.

You can run up and down your stairs, you can walk your dog 20 times, you can garden, you can do some YouTube videos. But exercise absolutely mobilizes T cells, strengthens your immune system and certainly helps to take better control of our blood sugars. So doing sit-ups, pushups, whatever you’ve got, do it!

Steve:

I encourage my patients and friends now to try to get outside and get some fresh air. I think it’s very helpful to go for a walk with a friend or a family member. If it’s a friend you’re not quarantined with, just stay 6 feet apart. I think fresh air is key, and even if you live in a small apartment, whatever you can do, try to get some fresh air even if it’s just opening your windows.

Jody:

It’s one of our most powerful medicines. When people ask what I prescribe as a naturopath, I prescribe exercise, I prescribe blueberries, and I prescribe sleep. Because they’re more powerful than anything I can prescribe.

Steve:

I really like your practical advice.

Jody:
Pillar # 4 is emotional health.

Laughing brings more oxygen into your lungs, and it can lower your blood sugar because it lowers your stress. Laughter is good, and we also want to relax. I took a 2 hour nap yesterday in the afternoon that was fabulous. I want you guys to connect with your friends, maybe get some paper and write a letter, watch some funny videos, anything to keep your spirits high.

Before this whole thing happened I was on a year-long mission to prove that people with type 1 could live long and adventurous lives, and I was traveling to a different country every month for 6 months. So you can check out my YouTube channel if you want to be inspired.

Wayne Dyer, who was a spiritual teacher for many years until he passed away, is one of my all-time favorite gurus. He would always say, “There’s no level of my fear or depression that will help me or anybody else.” I’ve had patients this week tell me they feel guilty because they feel great and they’re in a good mood and they’re enjoying being home, and they feel bad that they’re in a good mood. So I release all of you from having any guilt from being in a good mood!  It doesn’t help anybody!

Steve:

Jody, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to do this video. It’s going to help a lot of people. So long nation, and thanks a lot Jody!

Jody:

You bet! Thank you!

13 Comments
  1. Avatar

    Good Morning Dr. E and Jody,
    I am so inspired by every piece of information that I have just read.
    I have had T1D for 65 years, free of any complications.
    I am humbled and grateful for all my good health.
    I am with Dr. Kings 50 Year Medalists Study at Joslin Diabetes Center.
    I follow every guide you spoke of in this article.
    My A1C since going on Control IQ went from 6.1 to 5.8.
    Thank you so much for these 4 guidelines.
    Maureen
    P.S. I tend to be a tiny bit compulsive 😂 with a good sense of humor, and again, grateful for my good health.

    • Avatar

      Wow, congratulations Maureen on being an example on living so well with diabetes! You could teach us all a thing or two! Thank you for being part of the TCOYD tribe – stay well!

  2. HOW WONDERFUL TO HAVE YOU EMAIL YOUR COMMENTS AND MAKE WE DIABETICS FEEL MORE CONFIDENT TO HAVE SOMEONE LIKE YOU GIVE US ADVISE WHICH WE ALL NEED WHEN WE ARE DOWN-THANK YOU–MY SON WHO IS TYPE ONE AND I ATTEND THE SEMINAR EACH YEAR WITH WONDERFUL DR.EDELMAN AND HIS STAFF-WE LOVE THE TIME WE SPEND HEARING ALL THE NEW INFO AND APPLYING IT ALSO–SEE YOU SOON LOVES

    • Avatar

      Thank you Shirley! We will be holding our Spotlight seminar online on May 20th, focusing on type 1 diabetes. Hope you can join us virtually! 🙂

  3. Avatar

    This is excellent information for all of us always! I disagree with the idea of “boost your immune system” at this time, though. One needs to control it. Most of the deaths from this virus are caused by the immune system going completely crazy and breaking down lung tissue along with the virus.

    • Avatar

      It never hurts to do what you can to try to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

  4. Avatar

    I’m sorry, but not everybody can get to bed at 10:00 pm. It easy for those who work 9-5 jobs. Some people work until midnight, some people work graveyard shift and start at 10:00 pm. Why does it matter when you go to bed as long as you 7-9 hours of sleep?

    • Avatar

      Hi Mark,

      Here is Dr. Stanislaw’s answer to your question:

      There are certain circadian rhythms that are optimized when we go to sleep soon after the sun goes down. Studies have shown that people who identified themselves as night owls or “evening types” were significantly more likely to have conditions linked with high blood sugar, diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory disease and psychological conditions, and it may shorten life expectancy.

      As for the issue with shift workers, here is a link to good article:

      https://www.sleepfoundation.org/shift-work-disorder/what-shift-work-disorder/living-coping-shift-work-disorder

      With an excerpt below:

      Shift work has been linked to certain chronic diseases and illnesses. Long-term night shift work is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, as well as metabolic problems, heart disease, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems and obesity. Insufficient sleep has been shown to change metabolism and appetite, and studies have shown that shift workers have higher levels of triglycerides than day workers. Added to these biological factors, shift workers sometimes have irregular eating habits and poor diet—both of which could increase their risk of metabolic problems as well.

      One of the problems could be that when a person works at night, the light exposure suppresses melatonin (which is normally secreted at night). People who work night shifts or rotating shifts also often don’t sleep enough, and long-term sleep deprivation is known to be bad for health. Shift work also disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms and causes them to become out of sync with the external environment and/or behavioral cycles.

  5. Avatar

    She just makes a person feel good…and in a very practical way. Good stuff!

  6. Avatar

    Bravo! Cheerful, informative, concise!!

  7. Avatar

    Thank you so much doe this helpful and very informative video. 🙏🏼

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