04 Mar Coronavirus (COVID-19): Some things to know
Images by: NEXU Science Communication and US CDC
There’s been a lot of concern regarding the recent COVID-19 outbreak (potential pandemic) and I’m going to take a moment to address this, especially after reading quite a few concerned messages about this.
As cases rise (no matter how you look at this or where you swing on the spectrum of what you hold to be true) a sense of unease is to be expected. And no matter what the circumstances are, it’s always a good time to take care of our health.
Should you be concerned? Yes.
Paralyzed by fear? No.
Firstly, epidemic viruses are nothing new. They’re something to be aware of and we should undoubtedly take measures to protect ourselves, which I’ll get into but having crippling anxiety around this will only serve to further weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness in general.
Many news outlets – no matter what they’re covering – tend to sensationalize and heighten exposure to keep you watching. These outlets more often operate on fear and distraction. Be mindful of this. This also goes for the ever-wandering rabbit holes of sticky conspiracy theories. Take it all with a grain of salt.
Turn off the TV for a while and stay selectively informed—meaning, choose what you take in, from where, when, and what you will do with this info. Overwhelm is easy to fall into and can be counterproductive if left in a frazzle.
Now, with a cautious alarm, something I want you to quell some of your fears with is a sense of empowerment.
I want you to be reminded by how amazing your body truly is:
✿ You’re born with an innate immune system that literally engulfs foreign pathogens within your immune cells.
✿ Your acquired immune system is super-smart and possesses immunologic memories of previous invasions to act better with each exposure through an elegant tagging system.
✿ Your skin, mucus membranes, acidic fluids, white blood cells, acute inflammatory responses, and an ecology of friendly bacteria all assist your immune system in many ways.
✿ Your body is handling a slew of issues right now as you read this—both in ways we have amazingly discovered and in ways we have yet to learn.
✿ Your body and co-habitant flora mingle with billions of microorganisms daily. The fact that we rarely crumble to infectious diseases is downright miraculous.
Your immune system works every second of the day to keep you healthy.
The area of immunology is an ever-growing field that continues to expand upon the limits of our understanding. The area of micro-biome/virome research alone is incredible and humbling.
Your body is designed to heal. Trust that.
We’re bound to get sick from time to time. When you fall ill, the symptoms you experience are often the result of your own immune system tackling pathogenic microorganisms. It’s a call for you to rest.
As your body’s defenses ramp up in a symphony for your favor and combat invaders, you’ll soon start to feel better and stronger. What you can do now is support your immune system by equipping yourself with preventative measures first and foremost.
I’m going to dividing these educational* recommendations into:
Daily Measures, Diet/Lifestyle, Herbs/Supplements.
As always, keep a solid relationship with your personal doctor and engage with her/him in regards to your personal health.
It’s also general cold and flu season so the concern of assessing whether your condition is in fact COVID-19 or not is valid. Call your doctor to discuss your symptoms with a subjective differential diagnosis and any measures you need to take. Be especially vigilant if you are experiencing: fever, cough, shortness of breathe and/or digestive upset, etc.
- Wash your hands. You’re likely tired of this advice but it’s worth noting again and again. 20-30 seconds minimum (count it/sing the HBD song) under warm water. Chronic use of hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps can be problematic (bacterial resistance + not as effective overtime). If you don’t have access to running water, you can use these sanitizing solutions at 60%+. Hand-washing is especially important after restroom use, before eating, after coughing, sneezing, shaking hands (try to avoid this), etc.
- Avoid touching your face. We tend to touch our faces about 16 times an hour without really realizing it. This is an easy way to prevent getting pathogens into your mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth).
- Practice nasal irrigation. Your nasal passage can often be home to viruses for hours to days before symptoms develop. Irrigating your nose (saline neti pot or a spray like Xlear) may aid in the removal of lingering pathogens before they lodge and multiply. For those of us who practice wudu (ablution), nasal rinsing is a wonderful practice that we can continue doing regularly.
- Always cough/sneeze into a disposable tissue or your elbow and practice cleanliness/distance appropriately.
- Keep a healthy distance from people who are sick. 6 feet. Wash hands.
- Stay home when you’re sick. Keep sick kids home. Call your doctor to assess the proper incubation period and respective practices.
- Clean and disinfect (personal non-affiliated preference) regularly used objects and surfaces frequently.
- Clean and change your bedding weekly.
- Look into HEPA air purifiers for home-use if you haven’t already. This is the one we have at home.
- Consider a humidifier if the air is particularly dry to avoid irritation/weakness of the sinus tissues. This is the one we have at home.
IN CASE OF PANDEMIC:
- Continue with above practices.
- Be prepared for quarantine. Practice isolation. Have 2-3 weeks worth of food, water, and toiletries. (Again) no need to panic or go overboard to amassing supplies.
- N95 Masks (reserve for medical professionals due to the challenging shortage at this time.) Consult your local PHS.
- Note: Current incubation period of this coronavirus strain is up to 14 days. This may be variable. Consult your local healthcare authorities on most updated pathogen characteristics. CDC in USA (bookmark).
DIET + LIFESTYLE:
Use your heightened alert state as a productive opportunity to evaluate your current diet and lifestyle practices.
How can I eat in a way that nourishes my body better?
How can I support my microbiome?
How can I support my mental health?
Am I emotionally/mindlessly snacking?
Am I moving my body enough?
What steps do I need to take to adopt a healthier lifestyle?
How can I support my family further?
- FOOD. Maintain a healthy colorful diet with high quality protein, stable fats, and unrefined carbohydrates from whole foods. A nutritious diet supports your body at the cellular level and relieves your body of burden exposure from common industrial additives like colorings, sugar overload, oxidized fatty acids, etc. Eat probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and quality unsweetened yogurts to support your microbiome. Enjoy warm soothing soups like mineral rich bone broth and fibrous vegetable stews. Eat magnesium rich foods such as leafy greens, figs, avocado, some nuts and seeds, artichokes, asparagus, brussels sprouts, fatty fish, chlorella powder, and dark chocolate (there’s our excuse for cacao bliss 😊.)
- HYDRATION. Sip on water between meals, before your body feels thirsty. Add minerals to your water if needed such as a pinch of natural salt, apple cider vinegar, lemon water, uncaffeinated herbal teas, or even shilajit resin.
- EXERCISE. Stretch. Move your body. Moving your blood and lymphatic fluids is a great way to support circulation and renewal while keeping your energy up and mood elevated. Our bodies crave intentional movement. Keep your joints fluid.
- SLEEP. Practice good sleep hygiene so that your body has a chance to recalibrate and process everything you went through during the day. Try to sleep before 11pm (latest). Avoid blue light exposure (video) and food at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Sleep deprivation is a major immune dampener (along with stress, fear, and lack of physical activity, of course).
- Other. Stop smoking. This will only make you more prone to infection as you continue to dry out your tissues and add more oxidative stress to your body. Monitor your stress. Some acute stress is a good thing, however, chronic long-term stress can dampen every process in the human body (video on stress). Fulfillment. Find ways to stay connected with loved ones, engage in hobbies that bring you joy, and simplify your life in ways that return you to what truly matters.
- A note of breathing: Be sure to exhale as deeply as you inhale. We often breathe in shallowly but also barely let our breaths out. Set aside some moments for mindful breathing. Pause in between breaths and allow full long exhales out. Your lungs will thank you. (video on breath-work).
IMMUNE SUPPORTING HERBS + SUPPLEMENTS:
I won’t go into too much detail as each is of these is a world of its own and I’ve covered many before but some beneficial herbs/supplements to look into include:
- Ginger root (raw, tea)
- Astragalus root (dried, tea)
- Black cumin seed (seeds or oil)
- Turmeric + black pepper (fresh/dried root, tea or extract supplement)
- Garlic/Onion (raw)
- Dandelion root (tea or supplement)
- Thyme leaves (raw or dried)
- Olive leaf (raw, dried, extract supplement)
- Medicinal mushrooms (favorites include: Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Turkeytail, Cordyceps – excellent for lung health). I like the company FourSigmatic and enjoy their mushroom coffee/cacao.
- Manuka honey (raw)
- Bone broth soup (excellent way to also add in immune supporting herbs)
- Respiratory moistening tea (equal parts Marshmallow root, Slippery elm bark, and Licorice root)
- A note on Elderberry (syrup, extract): Elderberry is best used preventatively in cold and flu season, however, it is not traditionally used when you are actually sick or “coming down with something.” Elderberry mounts an immune response, which activates your own defenses but this can go on over-drive if your body is already fighting something. Herbalists go back and forth on this; I simply do not recommend taking elderberry after illness has taken place. There are so many other options available, including allowing your body’s defenses to do what it’s designed to do.
- Glutathione (master antioxidant and important part of lung epithelial lining) – liposomal form OR N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) (1/3 precursor to glutathione – if you can’t access s-acetyl glutathione).
- Vitamin C (IV, liposomal, food based – e.g., rosehips, camu camu, etc)
- Zinc (supplement, lozenges, food based – e.g., seeds, oysters, red meat, beans)
- Vitamin D3/K2 (supplement – pathogens block vitamin D so you may need more .: get tested)
- Vitamin A (supplement – talk with your doctor about proper dosing, food based – e.g., cod liver oil, liver organ, egg yolks, beta carotene rich foods)
- Colloidal silver (spray)
- Magnesium: Magnesium is critical for many body functions including relaxing bronchial smooth-muscle contraction. So many of us are already deficient due to a slew of issues (ahem: stress,pollution, excess sugar intake) but for now, try to up your Mg levels with any of the following: 1) Magnesium ‘oil’ on the soles of the feet before sleep. 2) Magnesium supplements ~ there are many kinds. Stick with magnesium glycinate if you tend to get loose stools with magnesium supplements since it’s gentlest on the stomach. Chelated options work well too. 3) Epsom salt baths. 10-15 minute soaks 1-3x/week. You may want to end the warm soak with a cold rinse to up your glutathione levels.
This is by all means not a comprehensive list immune/wellness supporting herbs and supplements. What I’ve listed here are common easy-to-access and better researched options that you may keep for your general wellbeing.
Nothing is intended to diagnose or treat without medical supervision.
**If you’d like access to my clinic online dispensary, you may access it here (enter name and email). This is something I’ve opened up to many of you, outside of my office, so that you can access professional grade supplements.
This does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. Rather, it’s a resource for you and your family to benefit from should you wish to.
EAST ASIAN MEDICINE PROVIDERS
For my TEAM clinicians and Eastern medicine herbalists here, you may be aware of materia medica that was studied during the SARS outbreak and other acute upper respiratory diseases that are being actively explored now. The Medical Treatment Unit of Wuhan’s Novel Coronavirus, Prevention and Control Headquarters issued a “Notice Regarding the Agreement to Recommend the Use of Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Pneumonia due to Infection from the Novel Coronavirus” which was compiled and translated by Dr. John Chen et al. You may access it here via eLotus. Any administration of such herbal medicines should only be given by a specialty trained herbalist in Eastern Medicine who is board certified and under the guidance of care throughout the course of herbal treatment. [3/4/20]
Be safe, alert, and elevated. Take care of yourself and have confidence that you’re doing your best.
Whatever comes and goes is a test. We will be tested and relieved in this life. Keep communication with your doctor fluid with any concerns you have.
Practice the expansive energetic feelings of gratitude, love, and compassion.
Your mindset plays a huge roll in how you feel overall.
There’s no doubt that mental health manifests physically. One. Your thoughts inform your body of your state.
[much of this is resurfaced from the original blogpost on March 4th 2020 as the content is still relevant today.]
Aïcha Sebaa | @drsebaa
Stay updated: CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)