Tips and Tricks to Build Resilience against COVID-19



Here we are, heading into week 4 of an almost nation-wide quarantine. We’ve all been bombarded with news and media regarding the pandemic and recommendations on “do this, take that.” And perhaps feeling paralyzed by the limitless online options to pass our time instead of feeling clear and empowered on appropriate next steps.


I want to answer some of the most common questions I’m getting as a healthcare provider and offer an alternative approach to protecting yourself and your family at this time.


Is COVID-19 more dangerous than the seasonal flu?

This is a more complex question, and the answer is both yes and no.

  • The mortality rate of COVID-19 is still TBD. The prediction started around 4% and has dropped to somewhere between 0.5-2%. However, we are likely going to see this lower as more people get tested. The mortality rate for the flu is 0.1%, which is much lower.

  • It appears that COVID-19 spreads more easily than the flu. With current numbers trending towards anywhere from 1-3 people getting infected for every one person that has COVID-19. With the flu, it’s generally a 1:1 spread.

  • On the flip side, COVID-19 is less dangerous to certain demographics, like children and infants, who are typically at higher risk for the flu. There have been 136 deaths from the flu virus this year alone in the US.


Some stats, as of April 5th, 2020:


COVID-19:

  • ~ 1,216,422 cases worldwide; 312,245 cases in the U.S.

  • ~ 65,711 deaths reported worldwide; 8,503 deaths in the U.S.

FLU:

  • Estimated 1 billion cases worldwide; 9.3 million to 45 million cases in the U.S. per year

  • 291,000 to 646,000 deaths worldwide; 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. per year


Why is COVID-19 more dangerous than the flu in some populations?

Most common flu viruses attach from the neck up. COVID-19’s main attachment sites are from the neck down (lungs, heart, digestive system and kidneys). As a species, we haven’t seen this type of attachment by virus in a long time. Which makes us unprepared and more vulnerable as a population of individuals with many preexisting conditions in these organ systems: heart, liver and lungs.


If I get COVID-19, will I have lifelong immunity?

We don’t know if you can get reinfected. A small number of people have tested positive, then negative and positive again, but it’s hard to say if this is due to testing errors (there is a high false negative percentage being reported on the test, upwards of 30%). Yet, many doctors believe that once you have COVID-19, you should be at a much lower risk of reinfection as you will develop antibodies to the virus which are stored like an army in your immune system’s memory.


What can I take to protect myself against COVID-19?

The million dollar question! To date, there are no known cures to COVID-19. And in general, there is no one size fits all cure to any virus. While certain diets, herbs and preventative therapies may work for one person, it does not mean they are right for you.


Instead of focusing on how to fight against COVID-19, what if we tried to adapt to the reality at hand and work towards building up our collective immunity so that we are all stronger?


Hear me out….


It’s very possible that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time. And while most of us have never lived through a pandemic, this WILL NOT be the last one. This virus is shedding light on many areas for improvement globally, nationally and individually. In a very traumatic way, it’s showing us how compromised we are as a nation. Unlike China and South Korea, where those severely affected were 80+, the US is seeing larger populations of younger people being hospitalized because so many Americans have compromised lungs, livers, kidneys and hearts.


A lot of people seem to be banking on antiviral pharmaceuticals or a vaccine for protection, but those do not guarantee protection and they certainly will not give you health. Healthcare officials and providers need to prioritize and support individuals in getting HEALTHY. So that when the next virus comes, or if COVID-19 returns in the fall (as predicted), we are more resilient and can experience milder infections that are less deadly.


Teaching Americans how to build healthy, robust immune systems sadly has never been the focus of conventional medicine. This is evident in fact that zero teaching happens in allopathic doctor settings. They simply don’t have time with an average of 7 mins to spend with each patient. Don’t be me wrong, I am so thankful medical doctors exist and their place in the healthcare system is so valuable during emergency situations, like surgery. Yet, their training is lacking in prevention and ways to support true health. They get anywhere from 0-20 hours of nutrition in their medical training, with a majority of their hours being in pharmacology. Modern medicine has become overly streamlined, with most recommendations stemming from a flow chart algorithm instead of looking at the individual and the events in their life and lifestyle habits that have contributed to their current state of health.


So what do you suggest?

We need to get back to the basics. It’s so common to get caught up in what product to take instead of focusing on the basics. I find that many people, including myself, think we are doing all these things but when we really check-in with ourselves, we are not. These areas are truly the foundations of health. No vaccine or antiviral is going to guarantee you resiliency to various pathogens. We know that people without compromised immune systems are not at risk of complications from COVID-19 so we should be doing everything we can to educate folks on how to boost immunity and resiliency. I’m not saying it will prevent you from getting COVID-19, but it will certainly impact how your body can defend itself.


There is no need to panic or feel hopeless if these areas have not been priorities for you until now. Starting today is still 100% worthwhile. You have more control than you realize and I hope you finish reading this article more empowered.


  • Sleep

  • Nutrition

  • Gut Health

  • Stress Reduction

  • Movement

  • Fresh Air

  • Clean water


Let’s break them down, one by one.


Sleep: Sleep is HUGE when it comes to health. It affects everything from weight, mood, hormones, heart disease, memory and immune function. While we sleep our body works to repair itself. 7-9 hours/night is recommended. When we sleep, a hormone called melatonin is released, which has specifically been shown to be protective against COVID-19. And no, supplementing melatonin cannot replace good sleep.


Diet/Nutrition: It’s easy when stressed to fall into poor dietary habits. This can certainly be the most challenging area for many, but it simply cannot be overlooked. Sometimes adding things in is easier then taking things out. So start by taking inventory of how many vegetables you eat in a day. Aim for 5-10 servings, the more colorful the better. Most Americans fall very short on this list. Especially when you consider that a potato is not a vegetable, rather it’s a starch. Next, focus on eliminating or reducing processed foods, sugar and excessive alcohol. These foods all increase inflammation in our bodies and lower the immune system. Avoiding snacking or doing a 12 hour overnight fast are additional ways to up-level your dietary habits. When fasting, a process called autophagy occurs where cells essentially are eating up their own debris. This is an incredibly restorative process for our bodies to clean up shop.


Gut Health: Gut health is crucial to immune function. In fact 70-80% of our immune function is created in guts. When our guts are compromised, the level of inflammation in our circulatory system is increased and inflammation is a very bad thing in excessive amounts for nearly every aspect of health. If you struggle with IBS, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, etc. this is a really good time to work with a naturopathic doctor and work on restoring gut function. It will help protect you now from acute risks and well as being incredibly protective in the long run from chronic degenerative diseases.


Stress Management: Know that whatever you are feeling is OK. This is uncharted territory and we are all doing our best. Fear is a normal response to something new or when dealing with something you feel like you don’t have control of. When it gets overwhelming, that is when we see anxiety kick in. In anxious times, the best thing we can do is center ourselves. Focus on where you are currently and if you are in immediate danger. If the answer is no, breathe in your current safety instead of focusing on any potential danger or perceived threat. Breath-work is incredibly important for regulating the nervous system. When we breathe in oxygen, it signals to our body that we have our most basic requirement for life, air. And it lowers our stress hormone, cortisol. This is a great time to prioritize deep breathing and any activities that tap you into your center and get out of your head. And if that’s not enough, find a naturopathic doctor who can help you with your stress and anxiety. We have endless tools for this and you don’t need to do this alone.


Movement: We need to keep moving during quarantine, just like any other time. Exercise lowers stress, helps with anxiety/depression, increases immunity and in general is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, period. Aim for 30-60 minutes of movement/day. Find something you enjoy so that it’s sustainable. Working out should not be a chore. And walking is just fine!


Fresh Air: Parks and forests may be closed, but we can all still walk around the block or sit outside in our backyards, front porch or balconies. Humans need fresh air and sunshine. Open your windows, fresh air circulating through your home even if for 20 mins/day and try to get outside for at least 1 hr/day rain or shine. I guarantee you will feel a difference.


Clean Water: Our mucus membranes (think mouth, throat, gut, etc) have a natural immune system to block pathogens. If they are dry, it’s easier to get sick. We need to stay hydrated. A general rule is ½ your body weight in ounces/day. Ex: If you weigh 140 lbs, 70 ounces/day of clean water! There may be exceptions to this like congestive heart failure, but for most it’s a good rule.


Additional supportive measures...


Botanical Medicine:

  • Astragalus: This plant has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. Astragalus is used for many lung conditions like the common cold, upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), allergic rhinitis (hay fever), swine flu and lung cancer. It is antiviral and has been researched in treatment for Hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus-1 and HIV/AIDS. It is also in the treatment of many common heart and kidney conditions. It works by regulating the immune response we have to a virus, allowing the immune system to optimize it’s response and effectively restore balance in the body.


  • Elderberry: Elderberry has been well studied as a treatment in other viral infections like the swine flu and influenza A & B. It contains anthocyanins, quercetin, polyphenols and vitamins and minerals like zinc, copper, vitamin C and magnesium which all are beneficial agents to the body’s immune function. Elderberry works by regulating if a virus can move in or out of cells, therefore reducing overall viral load. This can reduce severity and duration of a viral infection which is a win win! There is a lot of misinformation about elderberry’s ability to cause a cytokine storm with COVID-19, but those are simply rumors and have no research to back it up.


  • Melissa officinalis aka Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is also anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, AND it is calming to the nervous system. It specifically reduces 2 inflammatory proteins (IL-1 and IL-6) IL-1 makes you tired and IL-6 makes you anxious. Using this herb can touch the needs of many at this time.


Homeopathy:

Homeopathy is by far one of my favorite modalities of medicine. It’s severely misunderstood in our country, with many people writing it off as ineffective, but there is great research and clinical data showing how effective it is. I love homeopathy as it is a deep acting form of medicine, with effects on the physical, emotional and spiritual planes. It truly treats the whole person. I use this all the time personally and in my practice and can attest to how profound the shifts can be. One of my teachers, Dr. Paul Herscu, ND, MPH has reported treating over 140 cases of COVID-19 to date primarily with homeopathy and botanical medicine. Not one of his patients has needed hospitalization. Homeopathy is not treating the virus itself but rather helping support the individuals immune system so it can respond appropriately to the virus, thus not requiring advanced medical intervention.


UNDA Drainage Therapies:

These remedies are a unique combination of homeopathic formulas that are effective for both acute and chronic conditions. They work by draining the lymph nodes of various emunctories, i.e. organs of elimination (think kidneys, lungs, skin, liver, etc.). My patients absolutely THRIVE from using these remedies and always want to continue using them as they see huge shifts occurring within themselves from using. I hear “I don’t know if this sounds strange, but I can feel them working,” all the time from my patients. What I love most about these remedies is that they are curative, not palliative. They address weaknesses in various organs systems and drain congestion and toxins from the lymphatics surrounding said organ. This allows the body to get back into balance and function as it’s meant to. They also are incredible for acute illnesses and a great way to support the body’s natural ability to fight off infections.


Are you ready to take back your health today?

Naturopathic doctors are trained in disease prevention so that the body can heal itself. We are highly skilled physicians who have a deep understanding of how the body works and we can optimize health by working in alignment with nature. We go through a 4 year medical program and rigorous licensing examinations, just like medical doctors. Our focus is less on treating symptoms and more on helping individuals remove obstacles to cure so that their body’s own innate healing power can kick in and take care of them.


If you want more one-on-one support to ensure you are as healthy and resilient as you can be during this time, I encourage you to find a licensed naturopathic doctor you trust and invest in yourself. If you would like to schedule with me, reach out today. I am taking new clients virtually from anywhere in the world.


Thanks for being here. Sending my well wishes to you all!



References:


  1. Advisory.com. 2020. The 2019-2020 Flu Season, Charted. [online] Available at: <https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/03/17/flu-update> [Accessed 6 April 2020].

  2. Greenmedinfo.com. 2020. COVID-19 - Evidence Over Hysteria. [online] Available at: <https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/covid-19-evidence-over-hysteria-1> [Accessed 6 April 2020].

  3. Zhang, W. J., Hufnagl, P., Binder, B. R., and Wojta, J. Antiinflammatory activity of astragaloside IV is mediated by inhibition of NF-kappaB activation and adhesion molecule expression. Thromb.Haemost. 2003;90(5):904-914.

  4. Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995;1:361-9.

  5. Englberger, W., Hadding, U., Etschenberg, E., Graf, E., Leyck, S., Winkelmann, J., and Parnham, M. J. Rosmarinic acid: a new inhibitor of complement C3-convertase with anti- inflammatory activity. Int J Immunopharmacol. 1988;10(6):729-737.

  6. Bounihi A, Hajjaj G, Alnamer R, Cherrah Y, Zellou A. In Vivo Potential Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Melissa officinalis L. Essential Oil. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2013;2013:101759.

  7. Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di cara G, Frati F. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clin Exp Immunol. 2008;153 Suppl 1:3-6.

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