When the number of COVID-19 cases exploded last year, so did the number of products and services promising to bolster your immunity. You couldn’t get away from talk of IV vitamin infusions, mushroom extracts, and drinkable immune-boosting “shots.” You also couldn’t get away from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who became a household name after four decades of trying to make sure Americans don’t get sick. Ever the straight shooter, he explains that you can’t buy a good immune system. “If you don’t smoke, you only drink in moderation, you get a good night’s sleep, have a healthy diet, you exercise, and you do something to reduce stress, that’s going to keep your immune system healthy, not any of these dietary supplements and herbs and other things.” How he takes his own advice:
Do what you have to do. Then de-stress.
“I can’t alleviate stress during the day, because my day is one big stress period from morning to evening,” Dr. Fauci says. “So when I get home in the evening, I do a power walk for about three and a half to four miles, and that generally decompresses my stress. The other day, I was walking along Massachusetts Avenue, and son of a gun, I saw a fox run out of somebody’s yard into the woods.”
Know the exception to the “vitamins won’t help” refrain
When Dr. Fauci mentioned in September that he takes vitamin D and that low levels of that vitamin affect your susceptibility to infection, people heard “I take D” as “you should take D.” Not how it goes. “If you are deficient in D, then taking vitamin D supplements is important. If you have normal levels, it doesn’t make any difference,” he says. A doc can check your vitamin D levels via a blood test.
Start with a good breakfast
While no specific foods boost your immunity, Dr. Fauci says, an overall balanced diet can help you stay healthy. He aims for balance but sometimes errs “in the timing”; he can forget to eat dinner unless his wife reminds him. So he gets the day off to a good start with “a pretty consistent healthy breakfast—usually pomegranate juice and egg whites on an English muffin.” Lunch is light; busy nights can mean a takeout salad or salmon burger.
Sleep—or at least nap
We’re gonna give the doctor a bit of a pass on his own advice here, since his sleep took a hit to lower the disease hit for the rest of us. When COVID-19 first spiked, “I was getting a ridiculous amount of sleep, like three or four hours a night. Now I get anywhere between five and six, which is not bad,” he says, but “it’s not optimal.” On the occasion he has a half hour between appointments, “I’ll lie on my couch in my office and take a power nap.”
Keep COVID-19 away
Dr. Fauci wears a mask, washes his hands all the time, and “compulsively” sanitizes them. If you’re getting tired of being cautious, “you have to realize the seriousness of the situation,” he says. Currently, the U. S. has more than 250,000 deaths, “and the end is not in sight. That’s enough incentive to be diligent, I think.” But he knows it’s hard. “Don’t be discouraged. I think you should realize that it will end. Hang in there.”
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