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Dr. Mimi Guarneri is co-founder and medical director at Guarneri Integrative Health at Pacific Pearl La Jolla in California, where she leads a team of experts in conventional, integrative and natural medicine. She’s also the founder and president of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, and the author of The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals the Secret Language of Healing and 108 Pearls to Awaken Your Healing Potential: A Cardiologist Translates the Science of Health and Healing Into Practice. Here, she shares her top tips for strengthening immune health.

Q: How can we strengthen our immune systems during the ongoing pandemic and as we head into the annual cold and flu season?

A: People think they can just take a supplement and they’re good. But it doesn’t work that way. We also need a good night’s sleep, exercise and foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories like turmeric. I recommend the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in veggies, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Avoid sugar and alcohol whenever possible. Make sure to take daily nature walks. We also recommend wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding face-touching whenever possible since fully vaccinated people are still getting COVID.

Q: What kinds of supplements do you recommend?

A: Definitely Vitamin C, Vitamin D, an anti-inflammatory called Quercetin, medicinal mushrooms (available in capsule form) and a multivitamin with zinc. These are all evidence-based for immune support. We need a healthy gut with micronutrients. There are a lot of pre-existing conditions that exacerbate COVID, like heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and habits like tobacco use. Those are all avoidable.

We have to think about strengthening mucosal immune support because that’s how COVID first impacts us. We breathe it in. We need Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and nutrients such as folate, zinc, copper and selenium. I also recommend green tea and adding turmeric to the diet. These are all easy to access.

Q: What’s the importance of a good night’s sleep?

A: Evidence shows that those who get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night are at risk for a whole host of issues, including vascular conditions, heart arrythmias and diabetes. But it’s not just a matter of going to bed at least seven hours before you have to get up; you also need good quality sleep. If you go to bed eight hours before you have to get up, but you experience multiple nocturnal arousals, you’re not getting the restorative rest you need. We always screen new patients for sleep apnea. People will say, “I wake up multiple times a night because I have to use the bathroom.” No, actually your body woke you up because you weren’t breathing.

You can also mitigate sleep interruptions by avoiding caffeine after noon, and not consuming food or alcohol before bed. With alcohol especially, you fall asleep at first but then wake up later in the night. Make sure the room is cool and there’s no ambient light, so no TV, computer or phone screens.

Q: Where can people go for more resources?

A: Visit pacificpearllajolla.com for more information and make sure you’re working with a holistic healthcare provider, or make sure your primary care physician is trained in holistic and integrative medicine.