Sorry to harp on this topic, but it’s really bugging me…

A rallying cry of the last several months is for us all to “wear masks…wash hands…and socially distance”—all in an effort to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from COVID-19 while we wait on pins and needles for a miracle cure to be found “immediately.” Don’t hold your breath.

To be clear, it traditionally takes 10 to 15 years for a new vaccine to be developed, tested and made publicly available. New drugs take a similar amount of time when starting from scratch, mostly to allow time for thorough testing for effectiveness and risks. A miracle could possibly occur for COVID, cutting the time down for development of testable prototypes given the lessons that researchers learned about vaccine development during the 2003 SARS outbreak. And while they are testing new drugs like Remdesivir, researchers also are testing assorted preexisting medications for “off label usage,” such as hydroxychloroquine, so there is a chance of reducing the timeline for treatment development.

Meanwhile half the country is chomping at the bit to return to “normal,” and half the country is panicked that they will do that and spill germs all over the country, thus creating another deadly spike.

Yet, we all have the ability to reduce our odds of infection and transmission even without drugs. It’s called strengthening our immune systems with a few lifestyle changes. Here’s the problem—it is boring and requires a little more effort than taking a pill. Net-net, to me, even with a little more effort, it’s still a whole lot easier and far less stressful than living with lines, masks and in-store quotas forever.

Given how powerful our immune systems can be, I’m not giving up. In fact, I’m hosting a six-week FB Live class about strengthening the immune system that started yesterday—it is called “The Immunity Lifeline” ( There’s still time to join me, leading holistic practitioner Dr. Jake Teitelbaum and Dr. William Li, author of the best-selling book Eat to Beat Disease, in this powerful program that helps you understand where your immune system sensitivities are and how to rev them up.

Let me give you some perspective on how powerful and easy it is to improve your health, improve your immune system, reduce illness and, as a result, reduce health-care costs with something I wrote a few years ago on a very similar topic. (I could have written it all again, but honestly really liked what I previously wrote—I hope you do, too.)

Do you want to live longer? Feel better? Say goodbye to those annoying aches and pains? How about no more indigestion?

It’s doable. And it’s free.

So how come there are so many of us who are overweight and achy?

Two reasons: The steps to get there are boring. And…it takes more effort than just popping a pill.

What’s the secret to all that great health? I will tell you, but you have to promise to finish reading this blog, and to not say to yourself, Oh that…I don’t want to do that.

Study after study…doctor after doctor…healer after healer all say the same thing: Eat a healthy diet and move your body. You will increase your life expectancy and reduce your health problems between now and dead.

See? I told you it’s boring. And now you’re thinking, I don’t have time to exercise, and I like cheeseburgers too much to change my eating. But it really is the truth, and it frustrates the heck out of our editors in our weekly story meetings when we choose not to provide a detailed report on a new study that demonstrates reduction in disease risk or other great health benefits because the punch line is to eat more fruits and vegetables or to get up and move instead of sitting on your keister.

I hear similar frustration from our health experts at our monthly dinners when they, too, acknowledge that the key to good health lies in the individuals’ choices. Keep in mind that the vast majority of our chronic illnesses (heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and even many cancers) are essentially self-inflicted. Meanwhile, we complain about the health-care system on every level, while choosing not to make changes that would reduce our need for it. And then complain that we don’t feel well. Isn’t this a little crazy?

Let’s see if I can help you overcome objections…

First, let’s talk about time. You say you don’t have time to exercise? Sure, exercise takes more effort than taking a pill. But consider this…how much time does it take you to go to the pharmacy and wait for that prescription? How about the time it takes to fight with the insurance company about the fact that it didn’t approve your prescription or that the price was exorbitant? Or the need to return to the doctor’s office and wait and wait for your seven-minute appointment to check in on how you’re doing with that prescription?

Now let’s talk about medication side effects (actually, the cascade of side effects, because most people aren’t on only one medication). Far too often, a side effect creates another condition for which another drug is required. Which means more trips to the pharmacy. More fights with insurance. And more visits to the doctor. Not to mention more costs.

Are you really getting better or simply managing your symptoms?

When you think about all the time and frustration involved in taking medications, perhaps that 30-minute walk each day doesn’t sound so bad. And in fact, for cardiac health, there is increasing research that shows short bursts of exercise can have similar positive effects on your heart. It takes only 10 minutes a day for high-intensity interval training to work wonders on your heart. Think about all the time spent scrolling through Facebook or binge-watching your new favorite show on Netflix. There must be 10 minutes in there somewhere for some jumping jacks. You can even do them while watching TV.

And how about those food choices? I will tell you a story, which I may have told before. I had an enormous sweet tooth when young. Lived on sugar as a teen and through my twenties. Then, at age 34, I had a health scare that forced me to stop eating wheat, sugar and dairy. I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it sugar-free, but I felt so crappy and was so nervous about my health that I completely followed the rules. In short order, I was feeling much better. The fascinating thing was that while I missed my sugar initially, what I came to discover was that eating it actually made me feel really bad—light-headed and jittery. The problem was that I had always eaten sugar, so I wasn’t aware of what it was doing to me. I had never been free from its influence. Once away from it, I discovered how absolutely horrible it made me feel. Wow! That was an eye-opener and a life changer.

Think about the foods that you eat. Do you really feel better after you eat them? Sure they taste great going down. I ate pizza for the first time in many, many months when visiting some cousins last Sunday. It tasted so good going down. The sauce and the hot, gooey cheese were in perfect combination, and the crust was light, yet chewy. Truly spectacular—for the first five minutes. Then, like with the sugar, the crust made me light-headed and the sauce gave me indigestion. So where was the fun? I should have stuck with the grilled chicken and farm-fresh mixed-greens salad. Sounds boring, but I really feel so much better after eating quality fuel for my body. I have more energy and don’t have that foggy head thing I get after eating doughy foods.

I did a podcast with Michael Murray, ND, author of our newest book, Bottom Line’s Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, about the impact of food on our skin, our moods and on assorted ailments. He’s spent his entire career studying the impact of different foods on our bodies—how food helps and how it harms. Dr. Murray spoke, in particular, about the significant improvements in mood and depression when patients changed their diets, including removing sugar. When you consider the cost and risks associated with antidepressants, which aren’t even effective in many people, doesn’t it seem crazy not to make some dietary changes and see what you can do on your own? And for free?

The facts are there, and yet we cling to our habits and our beliefs. I find that horribly sad. Sad for individuals and sad for our entire broken health-care system. Wouldn’t it be great if you weren’t so reliant on it? You don’t have to be. Ten minutes a day. That’s all. Just a little walk to start. A little fresh air. A few jumping jacks. Or put on some music and dance. And then try to switch out some of those sweets and pastas, and just see how you feel. Is your head any clearer? Energy better? Perhaps your joints are a little less achy. I know how hard it is to feel restricted in your dietary choices, but give it a try. You may surprise yourself—I sure did!

If I’ve inspired you adequately to learn how to boost your own immune system, join Dr. Teitelbaum, Dr. Li and me for this neve before event.

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.