When faced with the threat of a global epidemic, our immediate reaction is to go to a place of fear and isolation. What we must remember is that operating out of fear, leads us more often than not to make rash decisions.
Currently, the media is bombarding us on a daily basis with frightening statistics and news feeds on the Coronavirus outbreak, threatening us with the possibility of a pandemic outbreak.
But it is in moments like these, when we may be feeling incredibly vulnerable, that we must become the most proactive, and educate ourselves on the facts.
- The current coronavirus (COVID-19) is a mutation of past viruses that expressed minor respiratory symptoms. In other words, we may have all had one version or other of a coronavirus in the past, merely expressed as a mild cold.
- COVID-19 is 96% similar to the SARS virus
- The World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that of the current 87,000 individuals who contracted COVID-19:
- 80% develop mild symptoms
- 14% develop severe symptoms
- 5% become critically ill
- Illness severity is suggested to be correlated with age (>60 years old) and those with other coexisting conditions
- To put this into perspective, this is still well under the casualties that befall the world every year during cold & flu season. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2018-2019 of the 42.9million people who got the flu:
- 647,000 were hospitalized
- 61,200 died
- This is said to be a typical if not slightly lower than average year for the flu
- Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
- If contracted, allopathic medicine relies on helping the body continue to function via breathing support, until the immune system can hopefully fight off the virus
Now that we have the facts, what are we meant to do? It is important to understand that we are all susceptible in different ways to different viruses. Some individuals might get super sick, while others will simply suffer from a mild cold. Either way, our number one approach to protect ourselves and our loved ones should be through proactive prevention and ensuring that our immune systems are functioning at their optimal level. Continue reading for some science backed suggestions to help fight the threat of any type of virus.
- Nutrition: The way we choose to nurture our bodies in these moments of higher vulnerability may be one of the more important strategies to employ. This would be an ideal time to eliminate sugars in all forms, since sugar is thought to weaken our immune system. Instead opt for local raw honey or manuka honey to sweeten your foods and benefit from its antimicrobial and antiviral effects. Increase the intake of brightly colored fresh fruit and vegetables and particular immune stimulating foods that include garlic, onions, ginger, medicinal mushrooms, fermented foods, bone broth, apple cider vinegar. Give importance to sulfur-rich foods like cruciferous vegetables, eggs, beef, and dark leafy greens, as their consumption increases our master antioxidant, glutathione levels. Now is also the time to reduce or eliminate alcohol since it suppresses our immune system, and instead give precedence to proper hydration.
- About 70% of our immune system lies in our gut, so maintaining proper gut function and microbiome health are paramount when strengthening our immune system. Fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir or sauerkraut are wonderful ways to increase the healthy resident bacteria in our gut. Alternatively, certain strains of probiotics may provide increased antiviral effects, several studies linked benefits of certain strains, including one such as Lactobacillus plantarum with increased immunity.
- Herbs: The plant kingdom offers us wonderful options to help boost our immune system. Consider adding Astragalus, Elderberry, Echinacea, Turmeric, Olive leaf, Oregano and Mushrooms to your daily protocol. These potent herbs act as anti-virals when taken consistently over a long period of time and may be beneficial in boosting immunity.
- Sleep: Adequate sleep is one of the best ways to improve immunity. It does so by boosting T cell production and promoting the production of cytokines (a protein that helps immune system respond to antigens). Try to aim for at least 7 hours of sleep and try to get to bed before 10pm in order to capture the most productive sleep (deep sleep) for your brain and body. Now is not the time to be burning the candle at both ends.
- Hygiene: Washing your hands with soap and water is by far superior to using sanitizer. However, when the former is not available, the latter can work in a pinch. Clean and disinfect objects that are frequently used: phones, steering wheels, doorknobs, etc. When traveling on public transportation, bring disinfectant wipes and take no shame in wiping down armrests, tables, screens etc. Also, keep a distance of 1m (3ft) between yourself and another individual who is coughing and sneezing.
- Movement: Keeping the lymphatic system functioning at optimal levels is of paramount importance to a strong immunity. The lymphatic system helps the body get rid of unwanted materials such as toxins or waste. The fluid itself, the lymph, carries the white blood cells throughout the body to fight threatening antigens. This system does not have a pump and hence relies on physical movement for its transport. Daily walking, rebounding on a trampoline, and specific massages are excellent ways for getting our lymph circulating. A word of caution, avoid overtraining during periods of vulnerability as this may actually increase your chances of getting sick.
- Stress: This may be the most difficult but most important area to focus on when talking about our health. Everyone experiences daily stressors that if not handled properly leave the body in a continuous “fight or flight” mode. Excess adrenaline wears down our body and immunity. A conscious effort to transition from a state of high stress to more of a “rest and digest” mode would take us out of that feeling of burnout. Techniques to consider implementing would be: breathing tactics, meditation, a moment of self-care such as a bath or gentle walk.
- Supplements: While there are thousands of supplements, on the market, many of which can be beneficial, I choose to focus on these three non-negotiables: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc. Consuming a whole food diet rich in these foods and further supplementing with them, will give you an extra boost of protection.
- Other Strategies: A few other interventions that studies are showing to be beneficial for boosting immune function include sauna, mild cold exposure, safe but consistent sun exposure for Vitamin D, and stress management to reduce cortisol levels.
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As a Clinical Nutritionist, I am not providing health care, medical or nutritional therapy services, or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical, mental or emotional issue, disease or condition. The information provided pertaining to your health or wellness, exercise, relationships, business/career choices, finances, or any other aspect of your life is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider. Always seek the advice of your own Medical Provider and/or Mental Health Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your specific health or any medications, herbs or supplements you are currently taking and before implementing any recommendations or suggestions from Intuitas Integrative Wellness. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have received. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your own Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider.