COVID-19: How to Support Your Health During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Updated: Nov 5, 2020
What is COVID-19, and why all the fuss?
COVID-19 is a virus belonging to the family of coronaviruses (which includes the common cold, SARS and MERS). Coronaviruses originate in animals and some have the ability to jump to humans and be transmitted from human-to-human. All evidence to date suggests that COVID-19 jumped from animal to humans around the third week of November 2019.
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, meaning we’ve never seen it before, so there is a lot we still don’t know. It’s a highly contagious and infectious virus that spreads easily and rapidly from person-to-person through respiratory secretions. For most individuals, coronavirus will result in no symptoms or mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, sore throat, nasal congestion, and headaches. Children appear to be least impacted by COVID-19.
Higher risk populations can experience more severe symptoms—which may require hospitalization for an extended period of time or even result in death—such as difficulty breathing, mild or severe pneumonia, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), and sepsis or septic shock. Higher risk populations include individuals over 60 years old (with symptom severity increasing per decade over age 60), smokers, obesity, and those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, high blood pressure, cancer, Hepatitis B, kidney disease, and conditions that lead to compromised immune function, such as those being treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or immunosuppressant medications like methotrexate.
It’s important to note that many of these high risk factors are present in individuals across ALL age groups, and these risk factors won’t necessarily be apparent just by looking at someone. Italy and China have reported severe illness and deaths in every age group. Please do not make the mistake of thinking you are not at risk simply because you are young, and that you aren’t putting other individuals at risk simply because they are young.
Because coronavirus spreads so quickly and easily, social distancing has been recommended. The primary reasons for this are three-fold:
Individuals can carry COVID-19 and be contagious before showing any symptoms.
It’s imperative that we reduce the number of people at any given time that require treatment for COVID-19. This allows us to decrease the overall burden on our healthcare system, which does not currently have enough resources to handle a large number of people with COVID-19 infection. This also frees up room so that our most vulnerable populations who are hit hardest by COVID-19 can get the care they need.
This measure helps to ensure that those with other types of medical emergencies, or who require medical attention (think women in labor, unexpected trauma like car accidents, heart attacks, seizures, etc.) can get the care they need, despite the increasing demand on our healthcare system by COVID-19 infections.
While inconvenient, social distancing is an important and necessary step to ensure we lessen the burden on our healthcare system and are able to provide care to all those who may need it over the coming weeks and months. It’s not a question of if COVID-19 will spread nationwide, but when.
What can I do to support my health?
To date, there are no known preventions or treatments for COVID-19, and the information that follows is solely intended to empower you with tools to support your immune system and overall health. If at any time you begin to develop symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection, please seek appropriate medical attention immediately.
Food is medicine, and when it comes to supporting your health, what you eat serves as the foundation.
Focus on consuming a colorful, plant-passionate, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. Eating a variety of vegetables, leafy greens, and dark skinned berries helps reduce inflammation and provide your body with powerful nutrients and antioxidants that support overall health and immune function.
Consume healthy fats, which have anti-inflammatory properties that can help modulate immune function. Options include nuts (walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, etc.), seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin, etc.) and their oils (best unheated), nut and seed butters, cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, cod, etc.), avocados, extra virgin olive oil, and eggs. Nuts, seeds and their butters are also quite nutrient and calorie dense and have long shelf-lives, especially when refrigerated, making them excellent options to have available during this time!
Include probiotic-rich foods to support gut health and function (remember, 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut!), such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented vegetables.
Bone broth is a delicious and nourishing way to support gut health, and it can be incredibly comforting to drink.
Garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, and mushrooms have anti-microbial activity and are wonderful food-based ways to support healthy immune function.
Peppermint tea is a tasty and effective way to soothe a sore throat! Raw, local honey added to warm lemon water is another great option.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is found in green tea, helps reduce inflammation and enhances the immune system. Enjoy up to 4 cups of green tea daily. Remember, green tea has caffeine, so don’t consume it too late in the day! Use caution if you have an autoimmune condition, as some individuals with autoimmunity do not tolerate green tea well.
Avoid ingredients that are known to suppress immune function or increase inflammation in most individuals: sugar, dairy, known food sensitivities, peanuts, alcohol, and refined grains.
Following are some of the most impactful ways to support your overall health and immune function:
Get plenty of sleep (7-9 hours per night), and the earlier the bedtime, the better (aim to be asleep by 9:30-10:30pm)! This is arguably the single most important thing you can do on a daily basis to support your overall health and immune function!
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces (e.g., if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces).
Make sure you incorporate stress-relieving activities into each day: deep breathing, meditation, prayer, exercise, relaxing baths, journaling, reading, FaceTime or Skype with family and friends, creative activities like coloring or other forms of art, listening to music, dancing, etc. Marie Forleo has created an incredible Support Guide packed with resources to support you during this difficult time.
Move your body daily! Mild to moderate physical activity is incredibly important for overall health and balanced immune function. But be careful—overdoing it is stressful and can weaken your immune system, so listen to your body!
Do your best to stay home and only go to public spaces when necessary (to buy groceries, purchase prescriptions or other medical supplies, etc.). If you have ANY flu-like symptoms, STAY HOME! If you need to sneeze or cough, use a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
Wash your hands (with soap + water for at least 20 seconds—to the tune of “Happy Birthday” twice) before eating or touching your face and when exposed to the public (people or surfaces) or anyone suspected of illness. While this protects you, it also protects others in the event you have contracted COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms.
Sanitize or disinfect common surface areas at home (countertops, door knobs, phones, remote controls, etc.) and, when possible, in public places (shopping carts, checkout screens and keypads, etc.).
Stay informed, but avoid over-exposure to the news and social media. Stress, anxiety and overwhelm reduce immune function!
Now is a great time to avoid alcohol and to stop smoking! Both dramatically decrease the health and responsiveness of your immune system. That said, if the thought alone of quitting smoking is incredibly overwhelming and stressful, use your best judgement as to what is right for you. Overall stress reduction during this difficult time is extremely important.
SUPPLEMENTS + the typical adult daily dose
(for most supplements, it's best to divide the listed doses throughout the day)
*If you are not already taking the supplements listed below, please consult your doctor before incorporating them. While I am a doctor, I am not YOUR doctor, and depending on your particular health picture, some of these may not be appropriate for you.
Supplements are a great way to support your overall health in addition to a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet. While there is no evidence to date that these products prevent or treat COVID-19, plenty of research shows they support overall health and immune function when taken on a consistent basis, and many have well established anti-viral properties. Several of these nutritional compounds also reduce inflammation, which is important for decreasing overactivity of the immune system during and after infection.
Quercetin: 2,000 mg (1,000 mg if taking the phytosome)
Vitamin D: 2,000-5,000 IU (aim for a serum level of 50-80 ng/mL)
Vitamin C: 1,000-5,000 mg (if you’re taking too much, loose stools will develop; if that occurs, just decrease your dose)
Vitamin A: 10,000-25,000 IU (please note: pregnant women should NOT take vitamin A; however, beta-carotene or mixed carotenoids, found in prenatal vitamins, are an option)
Zinc: 30-60 mg
Elderberry: 500 mg (caution in those with autoimmunity)
Selenium: 200 mcg
Probiotics: 50-100 billion CFU, though smaller doses are appropriate depending on the strain(s)
Curcumin (from turmeric): 1,000-2,000 mg (ideally with a standardized amount of 95% or more curcuminoids, and combined with piperine or black pepper extract to enhance absorbability)
Resveratrol: 150-250 mg
NAC (n-acetyl cysteine): 1,200-1,800 mg
Melatonin: 5-20 mg
Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA): 600mg
Inspiration During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Before wrapping up this article, I want to share with you an incredibly inspiring quote by Kitty O’Meara that brings hope, comfort and meaning to this challenging time:
"And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. "And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. "And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."
Share With Those You Love!
We need each other's support now more than ever, so please help to empower your loved ones by sharing this valuable information with them!
If there are any recommendations you feel should be included in this article, please let me know! Together, we can provide the best, most comprehensive support for one another!
In the meantime, stay calm, give extra love to yourself, and know I am here to help you and your family stay as healthy as possible!