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Increase Immunity

Tips to Stay Well this Fall

By Amy Morgan


We’re returning to normal fall activities: school, sports, festivals. How can you keep your immune system strong to avoid catching a cold, flu, or the latest COVID strain?


Lonnie Schwirtlich, M.D., an emergency physician with 41 years of experience, has some advice to keep you healthy this season. Dr. Schwirtlich is the founding partner of Physicians Premier, a free-standing emergency room located west of Highway 281 on Highway 46 near the HEB Plus.


One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy immune system is to exercise daily, Dr. Schwirtlich maintains. Simple aerobic exercise for as little as 20 minutes five days a week will increase metabolic rate and get rid of toxins. An added benefit, regular exercise helps regulate weight, lowers risk of heart disease and keeps blood sugar levels in check. The risk factor that predicted those who experienced the worst cases of COVID was obesity – even in children, he cautions.


Don’t get stuck in a rut. Vary types of exercise to avoid an overuse injury that might derail your efforts. Dr. Schwirtlich suggests alternating swimming, biking, or  elliptical with walking to keep you moving.


Other ways to stay healthy: drink alcohol only in moderation and eat well. Dr. Schwirtlich recognizes that our diet of processed food makes it extremely difficult to consume enough fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, so take a multi-vitamin to achieve optimal nutrient levels. Dr. Schwirtlich prefers those made from freeze-dried produce. Check recommended doses of vitamins D, C and Zinc to make sure you are getting enough of those crucial immune boosters.

The CDC reminds us to wash our hands and use hand sanitizer. Do you remember when touching public surfaces was also discouraged? Dr. Schwirtlich suggests we revisit some of those best practices to reduce the opportunity to pick up germs. Our bodies were designed with defense mechanisms to stave off disease, but natural defenses can be overrun if the viral load of exposure exceeds the body’s ability to combat it. Plan for smaller crowds or hold gatherings outside to allow air circulation to decrease viral concentration. 


Lastly, don’t smoke (or vape). While most vape products don’t contain the tar found in traditional cigarettes, they incorporate oil to deliver chemical ingredients. The cells in our lungs depend on a compound called surfactant to allow them to open and close well, which affects breathing — important when fighting a respiratory illness. Any kind of petroleum product in the lungs breaks down that surfactant, Dr. Schwirtlich explains. The oils in the vaping products decrease compliance and can cause secondary infections when the lungs can’t clear fluid and breathe out contaminants. Smoking (vaping) is horrible for your immune system and body!


While nothing is 100% certain, taking a few simple steps can decrease your chances of becoming ill from your fall festivities. A bonus – your overall well-being will improve as you continue to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes.


Physicians Premier allows patients to access the care they need when they need it, saving time, money, alleviating concern and allowing for a healthier patient and community. Find them at MDpremier.com.

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