This is part of a series of articles on Covid-19, please click here to see all of them…
Here in the Seattle area, ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still at the beginning of the outbreak, and everyone has lots of questions and concerns. My biggest priority: how can we not get it in the first place, or if we do, how can we fight it off? All the official recommendations from health groups seem to offer the same very reasonable advice, some of which has
- Wash hands often and properly.
- Social distancing.
- No hand shakes (I prefer fist bumping or the Vulcan salute, if people get it).
- Avoid touching your eyes or wiping your face.
- If sick, cover your cough, self-isolate, and wear a mask.
Does anyone else see some glaring omissions here? Everything is a DON’T. How about what to DO? Also, they are negative, scolding, depressing, alienating. Why can’t we use this outbreak as an opportunity to be empowered about our health, to work on our foods and lifestyle, to be closer to family and to community, to rediscover the real joys in our life? So I propose the following:
Get a good night’s sleep, all the time. I just discussed this last week in my blog post; we all need over 7 hours of sleep, it literally helps to fight off all infections by 3-4 fold.
Eat amazingly healthy. It’s just mind boggling how important are our food choices to not only boost our immune system (usually by stimulating IgA in our gut) but also are anti-inflammatory, lowering the cascade of hormones like C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. I can’t recommend enough the books by Dr Michael Greger, author of the non-profit and author of and the newer . He’s a cool geeky evidence-based advocate, so he and I have a lot in common! His bottom line isn’t so shocking: a plant-based diet is the way to go, for pretty much everything that matters to humans — decreasing cancers; preventing diabetes, obesity and heart disease; and for fighting colds and flu. Fill your plates with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans, with as little meat as possible, and as few processed versions of any of these, and you’re already doing an amazing job. Here’s a good video reviewing the literature on .
Think about supplements AFTER you’ve maximized food. Yes, there are of course supplements with some evidence to fight viruses such as colds and flu, but again if you’re skipping breakfast, eating fast food for dinner and stress-binging on Twinkies in the afternoons, what’s the point of spending all that time and money on your fancy supplements? Having said that, there is some good data for some supplements to help decrease the frequency and severity of colds — such as ; mushrooms; , and others. If you feel an urge for supplements, at least please get your research from evidence-based websites such as the , , and the , or any links filtered through the For example, from the always excellent ConsumerLab website. And stay away from all sites that try to sell you their own products, like Dr Joseph Mercola or Dr. Steven Gundry. Their biases and profit motive just instantly disqualifies their trustworthiness.
Keep exercising, or at least keep moving. So is exercise good or bad when sick? The evidence…is actually poor, when we’re talking about well designed studies. The found very poorly done studies and just couldn’t make recommendations either way. My take? Of course it’s important to keep moving! Staying in bed feeling sorry for yourself just makes you weaker and suppresses your immune system.
Chill out about the masks. I just wrote a new article about Covid-19 and masks here, the take-home message is an N95 mask helps healthy people to not get ill from sick people, and the surgical mask helps sick people not make others sick. But even if you had a bunch of N95s, and assuming that you were properly wearing it, almost everyone should not be wearing these all the time. They are good to have, but honestly if you’ve hoarded them, please consider donating some to your local front line teams, the fire stations and the clinics. We desperately need them right now!
Healthy mind = Healthy body. I’ve written a lot about mind-body medicine, but what do I mean by this, in terms of COVID-19? Here are my thoughts: Don’t stress out: This is an important take-home message: when you panic and are in stress mode 24-7, you raise all the stress hormones like cortisol, and this cascades to lower your immune system and make you less prepared to fight off the almost-inevitable exposure to COVID-19. Find things to be grateful about: This goes hand in hand with the stress comment; fascinating studies have shown that a sense of gratitude is our most effective state of mind to keep our immune system healthy. Reconnect with your neighbors: Do you even know your neighbors anymore? Instead of fighting with your neighbor over the last toilet paper at the market, why not go over to your neighbor’s house and ask them if there’s anything you can get for them at the market? What will happen if your elderly neighbors get sick? Have you talked with them to offer a helping hand, or just to brighten their day by checking in with them? And who’s going to help with your kids if their school is closed or if you’re too sick and self-isolating? Perhaps you and your neighbors can make a pandemic game plan to help share the burden in these next few months. I feel quite strongly that we’ve lost so much community spirit in our modern cultures, and perhaps there’s a silver lining in COVID-19, after all of this is over (which it will be, of course). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have not only survived but to have thrived? To be closer to your family and community? To have rediscovered the truly important things in life?
My Bottom Line
I take COVID-19 very seriously, and I think we all should, it is indeed at least 10 times more deadly than the flu, and things over the next few weeks and months could easily become chaotic. But I do feel we are focused way too much on the negatives right now and not reminding ourselves of how much control we have over fighting infections.
For what it’s worth, this is what I’m doing: When I get home from clinic I now take off my exterior clothes in a corner and keep them separate, making sure I’m not bringing viruses home to my family. I’m also getting a UV-C lamp to sterilize that corner at night. I’ve supercharged my food choices, including giving up all added sugars, which was really hard for me to do (I’ve been a sweets addict since childhood). I am doing my best to get over 7 hours of sleep. I am cutting back on alcohol. I am continuing my multivitamin and I’ve added Wellness Formula supplement twice a day. I am also super focused on enjoying every healthy moment with my boys and wife. I spend time in prayer, finding solace and strength in my faith. I feel a deep sense of gratitude that I am healthy, that my family is healthy, that I am surrounded by natural beauty and a close community, and every new morning is a blessing.
Follow me on Facebook: