We are truly living in unique and challenging times. The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is impacting everyone from our families and businesses, to our entire medical system, and is placing an inordinate amount of stress on all concerned.
At this point, it’s safe to say that we have all been hearing (and are likely overwhelmed) with a mass of information — and some misinformation — about how to avoid exposure to the virus as well as to avoid being an agent of spread to others.
For anyone who feels like they need additional clarification, the CDC has provided an excellent resource.
These resources are being updated constantly as new information becomes available.
Additionally, Providence has created a Coronavirus Assessment Tool. If you are experiencing concerning symptoms, this tool will help assess those symptoms as well as your risks for COVID-19 and make recommendations about the need for testing.
Beyond the excellent guidance about preventing the spread of the virus we are receiving from our public health officials, it is important that we also give some consideration as to how we can keep ourselves HEALTHY and WELL during this challenging time.
As a naturopathic physician who has been in practice for 20 years, with extensive experience working with infectious diseases such as HIV, Lyme Disease, and chronic Epstein-Barr virus, I want to offer some advice on a topic that I feel is getting overlooked: foundational and natural ways of supporting our immune system and promoting wellness.
The guidance we are receiving is that those of us with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable to adverse complications from a COVID-19 infection. Examples of such compromise include older age or the presence of other immune compromising conditions or treatments.
Given this, it stands to reason that if our immune systems are strong and optimally functioning, we might potentially reduce the chances of manifesting the more problematic complications, should we contract the virus.
I want to be clear — natural support of the immune system is important, but is NOT a substitution for the guidance we are being given by the CDC and local health authorities for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing, washing your hands, and avoiding touching your face with your hands are mandatory measures. I also want to emphasize the reality that there is nothing we know of at this time in the realm of natural medicine that will reliably prevent or treat a COVID-19 infection. There is simply not enough yet known about this unique virus to be able to make such claims.
Let’s not forget though that a strong optimally functioning immune system is critical for protecting your body from infection as well as supporting and speeding your recovery if you are ill. All of us should find benefit in focusing on basic, foundational means of promoting health and wellness – especially at a time like this.
Here are 5 Simple Things we can all do to support our bodies and immune systems:
- Eat Right
If the gut is healthy, the immune system will be healthy. During a time when grocery stores are facing shortages try to choose foods that are as nutrient-dense as possible, as opposed to choosing foods with empty calories and high carbohydrates.
Avoid foods that come in a box. Reduce your sugar and alcohol consumption. Focus on fresh whole foods, particularly colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. I will often tell my patients to “eat a rainbow of colors” every day. This will help ensure that you are getting the important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants we need to keep us healthy. If selection is limited, frozen foods would be the next choice. If that isn’t available, look to canned foods like beans, vegetables, meats, fish (sardines are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids), chicken/beef broths, and rice.
- Stay Active
Staying home doesn’t mean forgetting your exercise routine. Keeping active reduces stress hormones and stimulates endorphins, so make time for working out indoors or taking a walk outside. Exposing yourself to natural sunlight will also help your body manufacture Vitamin D, regulate your circadian rhythm, and promote a good night’s rest.
- Sleep Well
Sleep time is when our body repairs and rejuvenates itself from the daily wear and tear. Turn off your devices at least an hour before bed, and maybe read a book. Blue light from laptops and phones suppresses melatonin and can disrupt your sleep. Listening to relaxing music and taking a warm bath (with Epsom salts) or a warm shower are other good ways to “wind down” and help you relax.
- Manage Stress
Increased stress and high cortisol levels can weaken the immune system. This is a pervasive problem among adults, and recent events are not helping.
Meditation and breathing exercises are an excellent way of lowering cortisol, and there are several apps and methods out there to help. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a great way to immediately lower stress. You can find it and some other options at: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/
Remind yourself to focus on the things you can control right now — how you react to situations and the actions you can take.
- Consider taking Supplements
Multi-vitamins and fish oil are good for foundational health, but for immune support I recommend Vitamins A, C, and D, as well as Zinc. Additionally, quality probiotics are essential for supporting gut health, promoting natural antibodies, and keeping harmful bacteria at bay.
Use these supplements to help bridge nutritional gaps in your diet and support stronger immune system function.
There are many other specific immune supportive options that can be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. We are all facing similar challenges right now, and we will get through them together. I urge everyone to be kind to yourselves, your loved ones, and everyone in our world.
Ultimately, I am confident our community will emerge from this predicament stronger than ever. Until then, please know that I am here and available to support you on your wellness journey.
I am excited to announce that we now have the ability to do remote Telemedicine appointments so we can accomplish consultation visits without you leaving home. If you are an established patient, booking is accessible via the CHARM Electronic Health Records Patient Portal. If you are not an established patient, please reach out via the Contact Form on our website or call the office and leave a voicemail so we can connect.
Stay safe and be well!