To bolster your immune system, start with the basics, as always: Stay well- hydrated, keep a regular schedule that allows for 8 hours of sleep each night, and eat a healthy diet. If you want to occasionally have a treat, that’s fine. Just don’t make a regular habit of sugary, fried, or processed foods. Then try the following detox program to flush out your system and jump-start your defenses.
1) Just eat two meals daily. If you’re a breakfast person, your two meals of the day should be soon after arising, and then an early supper that’s wrapped up by 5 p.m. If you’re not ravenous in the morning, your scheme would be a brunch around 11 a.m., and then a light dinner around 6 p.m. This way, you can give your digestive system a rest for at least 14 hours daily; try it for 10 days in a row. If this schedule works for you, you can even adopt the two-meals-daily plan as a semi-permanent immunity hack.
2) Cold water walking. This is one of my favorite immunity hacks. First, begin your day with a full 12-oz. glass of water. Then in the bathroom, as you are brushing your entire naked body with a long-handled dry skin brush (always brushing towards the heart from all directions), fill the tub ankle-deep with cold water. If you don’t have a tub, use a large plastic container that you can easily stand in. Walk in place for 60 seconds in the cold water. This is wonderfully invigorating! Who needs coffee after morning cold-water walking? I like to brush my face with a softer, smaller skin brush while enjoying my cold-water tonic. Once you get used to the cold water, you can sit down in the water and splash up under your armpits for a few seconds before getting out.
3) Plan a “fasting mimicking” diet plan for 5 days. Since 80 percent of your health is determined by the food you choose to eat, thinking further about those choices make a basic immunity hack. I recommend planning at least five days of food to start your cleanse, while allowing for some adjustments, if needed, for the second half of the program.
The first meal of your day should ideally be the main meal, focusing on vegetables, clean protein, and some good fats. If you’re an appropriate weight or underweight, add some healthy complex carbs such as steel-cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, or a baked sweet potato. If you wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds, ditch the carbs.
Keep a glass container of chopped veggies to add to an omelet, or if you’re vegetarian, organic tofu for the first meal scramble. Lightly oil a pan with olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee, and sauté the chopped onions, scallions, garlic, ginger, and spices. Next add the mix of chopped veggies: celery, red pepper, leeks, sliced mushrooms, and grated beets. Avoid nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant). Whip up 1–4 eggs, depending on your appetite, with 1–2 Tbs. nut milk, yogurt, or water. I love a dash of nutmeg with eggs. Pour the eggs over the cooked veggies and add a handful of spinach. After 3–4 minutes on a medium-low flame, flip the whole thing over so the spinach wilts. Serve right away and add toppings as desired: B-vitamin rich nutritional yeast, toasted flax, sunflower or pumpkin seeds; pulverized kelp powder; a dash of turmeric; and maybe some sprouts. Yum.
Your second meal should be lighter. In the summer, there’s nothing like a big fresh salad. Start with local green, if possible. Add sprouts, chopped veggies (like the morning batch but add kimchee or other pickled produce). Slice an avocado. Add cucumbers. Consider topping with a can of small fish. The SMASH fish are the healthiest—salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardine, and herring. These are small enough to have not bioaccumulated heavy metals, which is unfortunately a concern with larger fish all over our small planet.
4) Get 45 minutes of exercise per day. No list of immunity hacks would be complete without exercise. And you don’t have to go crazy with it. Walking is terrific, especially up hills or stairs. If you feel uninspired about movement choices, try something new! Flow yoga, Pure Barre, stand-up paddle, spinning, ultimate frisbee, a different trail to hike —there are hundreds of options out there. Explore! The key is to do something every day. And drink most of your water during exercise, not with meals.
To keep your immune system in top shape, you need to eat right, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. It’s also very helpful to poop every day. Don’t hesitate to use a light, non-habit-forming laxative at the end of the day if you didn’t have a complete bowel movement. I recommend magnesium (start with 250 mg, but you may need more, especially women who lose a lot of magnesium in menstrual blood), Senna, or Swiss Kriss. Rehydrated prunes and apricots are very effective for some people. Try eating 2–4 at bedtime before tooth brushing, as dessert after dinner.