There’s a lot of unknown and conflicting information about the “new” Corona Virus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that leads to a potentially fatal respiratory illness know as COVID-19. As of March 11, 2020, the Corona Virus has been recognised by the World Health Organization as a worldwide pandemic. We have known about the new virus ever since it hit China, but now that it is at our door fear is spreading like the virus itself. We need to understand who is at risk and what to do to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. Identifying symptoms, too, is an important part of the process so that we can get help and avoid infecting others. While many people will only get a mild or asymptomatic version of the virus, preventing its spreading will help make sure that the people most at risk do not die from it.
In this article, I want to mention a few key facts worth knowing while I am putting together an online class for you later this month. When you’d like to enrol in this free class, go to How To Protect Yourself From The Corona Virus to get the updates.
Just so you know I am personally based in Switzerland, and have family in both Switzerland and France, so am following the news in these countries mostly.
Here is what I am talking about in this article:
First Things First: How Does Our Immune System Work?
How Does Our Immune System Work?
Our immune system is essential for our survival. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. It is our immune system that keeps us healthy as we drift through a world of pathogens.
Our vast network of cells and tissues is constantly on the lookout for invaders, and once an enemy is spotted, a complex attack is mounted. The immune system is spread throughout the body and involves many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues and can distinguish our tissue from foreign tissue — self from non-self. Dead and faulty cells are also recognised and cleared away by the immune system.
Let me take a moment to introduce some of the main characters of our immune system.
The immune system is incredibly complicated and utterly vital for our survival. Several different systems and cell types work in perfect synchrony most of the time throughout the body to fight off pathogens and clear up dead cells.
White blood cells circulate in the body in blood vessels and the lymphatic vessels that parallel the veins and arteries. White blood cells are on constant patrol and looking for pathogens. When they find a target, they begin to multiply and send signals out to other cell types to do the same.
Our white blood cells are stored in different places in the body, which are referred to as lymphoid organs. These include the following the thymus (a gland between the lungs and just below the neck), the spleen (an organ that filters the blood n the upper left of the abdomen), bone marrow (found in the centre of the bones, it also produces red blood cells), and lymph nodes (small glands positioned throughout the body, linked by lymphatic vessels).
The Role Of The Antigen
An antigen is any substance that can spark an immune response.
In many cases, an antigen (short for antibody generators) is a bacterium, fungus, virus, toxin, or foreign body. But it can also be one of our own cells that is faulty or dead. Initially, a range of cell types works together to recognise the antigen as an invader.
Antibodies (a special protein) lock onto the antigen, but they do not kill it, only mark it for death. The killing is the job of other cells, such as phagocytes.
This is where and when your immune system becomes your defence system. Everyone’s immune system is different but becomes stronger during adulthood after we have been exposed to more pathogens and developed more immunity. (That is why teens and adults tend to get sick less often than children or why children raised on farms have fewer allergies than those not exposed to as many foreign bodies).
Who Is At Highest Risk?
Older adults (Over 60) and those who have existing medical conditions that show that their immune system is impaired are at a higher risk. Here we’re talking lung disease, heart disease and diabetes for example. But also other chronic inflammatory conditions.
The director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier says, the highest risk of COVID-19 is for those over age 80 who have other medical conditions.
If you or someone you know fits into a high risk category, stock up on groceries and any required medications, leave space between you and others, avoid crowds and travel, clean your hands and your house often, and stay home as much as possible.
Good Health General Guidelines: Number One Defence
Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take towards keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and is bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as:
- Thoroughly washing hands
- Avoiding smoking
- Controlling your blood pressure
- Exercising regularly
- Cooking meats thoroughly
- Watching your diet
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Getting adequate sleep
- Avoid getting in big groups
How To Protect Yourself, Your Family And Your Community?
Even though the Corona Virus has been recognised as a pandemic, please…
#1. Don’t Panic: The Importance Of Stress Management
It is important to stay calm and focused on reality. While this situation and the word pandemic are very scary, panic only minimises our ability to think rationally. Fear makes people do crazy things, and if we want to stay one step ahead of the virus, we need all our head. One of the greatest ways to curtail panic is with knowledge and awareness.
Here are also a few numbers to put things into perspective: As of March 13, 2020, 5,405 deaths have been reported. What you don’t hear as much is that the World Health Organization estimates that 290,000-650,000 respiratory deaths occur each year associated to the influenza virus (the “regular flu”) vs. . This data is not meant to lessen concerns about the corona virus pandemic, but to put things into perspective with regards to protecting yourself from all infections.
Here are some further ideas to help you manage your stress:
Practicing a meditation technique counters stress by eliciting the relaxation response, which helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones. Elicit the response with yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, or deep breathing exercises.
Reframe your situation
See the upside rather than the downside of a predicament, as much as possible that is.
Lean on your social network
Friends and family are important to stress buffers. “You can cope better if you have people you can share your stressors with or people to help you.”
Cultivate positive thinking
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to think about what’s wrong. “We’ll have people focus on three things that are going well, or three things they’re grateful for each day,” Malloy says. “It could be as simple as enjoying a (virtual) cup of coffee or having a nice chat on the phone.”
Be realistic, not pessimistic
Do not be optimistic when it is not realistic. That will lead to disappointed. Try to be objective and come to a realistic assessment of your situation and be optimistic if it is appropriate.
“Think of a positive outcome, not a negative one. Consider an upcoming situation and visualise the positive qualities you want to bring to it.”
“Laughing can decrease stress hormones and boost the immune system,” Malloy says. Try watching a funny movie, reading a funny book, or even forcing yourself to laugh. “Laughter is contagious, and it’s not always dependent on humour.”
Stay nice to the people you spend all your time with
Whether it is due to the stress of being at home, or the pandemic, it seems that the corona virus has prompted more Chinese people to ask for divorce. This prompts me to remind us all that, in times of stress, we should be nice with the people we spend the most time with.
First, let’s talk about what you need in order to prepare.
The main thing you might face is prolonged periods of quarantine. This has happened in China and Italy both, threatening to start in other countries too, so it may happen to you. In the case of quarantine, you will have to stay inside your home.
According to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) there are some key things you can do to prepare (just in case):
- “Create an emergency contact list.” This should include emergency contacts for neighbours, friends, family, your health care team, employers, schools and your local health department.
- “Learn about your employer’s emergency operations plan.” Find out exactly what your plan covers as to sick leave, work from home possibilities and how your employer plans to deal with this outbreak.
- Most important, stay informed, look to credible sources for information about COVID-19 and reject gossip and hype, which only propagate panic and anxiety.
#3. Keep Yourself Updated
Here’s a live map of the corona virus, showing you the number of people who’s been confirmed as having been infected by COVID-19, how many recovered, and how many died. Now, the goal is not to bring your anxiety levels up, but the more cases you know are in your own country (or bordering countries), the more you know you might be at risk and need to amp up your precaution measures. Click on your own country to see what the numbers look like.
#4. Take Precautions
Let’s talk about what you can do to prevent getting the virus in the first place.
Follow the rules your governments have issued.
There’s a reason for them.
According to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC), clean your hands often for at least 20 seconds each wash.
Definitely wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. Soap and water are better than hand sanitiser if they are available, so please don’t stock pile hand sanitiser.
Did you know?
“According to the CDC, World Health Org and countless Medical Institutions you only need to wash your hands for a minimum of twenty seconds to keep viruses away!” But the more we wash our hands the more we are at risk for dry and cracked skin which invites infection and disease…
Clean your home well and regularly.
The CDC precautions continue, saying whenever possible avoid touching surfaces in public areas.
These that are touched by many, such as doorknobs, handrails, and elevator buttons. Handshakes need to be postponed for now. You can use your sleeve or a tissue when you touch these. Wash your hands right after contact.
Stay away from anyone you know who has a cold or flu symptoms.
The World Health Organization recommends at least a one-metre distance away from someone who is coughing or sneezing.
Follow safe respiratory hygiene.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), you should follow safe respiratory hygiene. When sneezing or coughing, make sure to cover nose and mouth with either a bent elbow or tissue. Throw away all tissues right after use. This is because droplets spread virus by way of spores.
If you’re sick, stay home.
Both the WHO and the CDC advise that if you are sick, stay home.
Even when you don’t know if it is Corona or just a cold, it is better to stay home until you feel well again.
According to a medical professional who spoke with CNN on March 10, 2020, a two-metre distance between people is a safe bet.
The elderly and those with existing compromised health are best served by staying away from crowds.
Dr. William Schaffner, an internist and infectious disease specialist from Vanderbilt University told CNN on March 9, that the elderly and those with existing compromised health are best served by staying away from crowds, so for now postpone going to concerts, philharmonic and other places where large crowds gather in small spaces.
As of March 11, 2020, the authorities worldwide have issued recommendations that there not be large gatherings. Number depend on where you live. Many large events have been cancelled worldwide as a result. Respiratory infection spreads faster in poor ventilated areas and closed in settings.
#5. Focus On An Anti-Inflammatory And Immune-Boosting Diet
Hara Hachi Bu: Eat until you’re 80% full
Did you know that the act of overeating suppresses our protective system while promoting an inflammatory response?
Hara Hachi Bu means to eat until you are 80% full. You have probably heard about the Okinawan people and how they often live to 100. They are the longest-lived, healthiest people on the planet and they practice Hara Hachi bu.
Eat healthy foods, of course, but simply learning to eat until you are 80 percent full can do wonders. This may require mindfulness of satiety. Most of us have no idea what 80 percent full feels like. If you eat until you are full, in 20 minutes you will feel too full because it takes about that long for the stomach to communicate with the brain just how full it is.
It takes sometimes 15-20 meals to reset the muscle memory of the stomach to get used to less food and people need to trust that will happen. Most are used to eating until full, which is past satiation, and which keeps weight on.
Do not eat until you are no longer hungry, instead of eating until you are full. Try eating half of what you normally eat and then check to see how you feel. Once we begin to feel any stomach pressure, we are at the “80 percent full” stage. The challenge is to listen to a learned and mindful message from your stomach to your brain and honour it.
Diet and the immune system
Have you heard about the benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet to help reduce inflammation? The Mediterranean Diet is rich in minimally processed plant foods has been associated with a reduced risk of developing multiple chronic diseases and increased life expectancy. Data from several randomised clinical trials have demonstrated a beneficial effect on the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and breast cancer.
The exact mechanism by which an increased adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet exerts its favourable effects is not known. However, accumulating evidence indicates that the five most important adaptations induced by the Mediterranean dietary pattern are:
- (A) protection against oxidative stress, inflammation, and platelet aggregation,
- (B) lipid-lowering effect,
- (C) modification of hormones and growth factors involved in the pathogenesis of cancer,
- (D) inhibition of nutrient-sensing pathways by specific amino acid restriction, and
- (E) gut microbiota-mediated production of metabolites influencing metabolic health.
The diet has been repeatedly proven to impact inflammation and flavonoids play a large role in creating a healthy immune system.
The DASH diet is also a good immune system approach to better eating. It features menus with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products, as well as whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts. It offers limited portions of red meats, sweets, and sugary beverages as they contribute to inflammation. For this reason, the Mediterranean diet is considered to be a better approach to a healthier lifestyle.
Harvard Health makes a good comparison of the two diets:
You won’t get far on a diet you don’t like or find hard to prepare, McManus says. “I find out what people are comfortable with, what they might have grown up with, the foods they like. Then we choose a plan that works for them.” For example, if your idea of a wonderful meal is a pile of roasted vegetables and grilled chicken on brown rice, the DASH diet may be the plan for you. On the other hand, if you’d rather fill a plate with hummus, tabbouleh salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives and enjoy it with a glass of wine, you might find the Mediterranean diet easier to stick with.
Your health and your goals should also figure in. If you’re trying to get enough calcium without resorting to supplements, you may find DASH a little easier to follow. However, if you are lactose intolerant, the Mediterranean diet may be a better choice.
Check out the comparison here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/dash-or-mediterranean-which-diet-is-better-for-you.
I often recommend to my clients who want faster results to do the following tests to understand better how their body is working:
- Food intolerance testing. Though most of us have common allergens or intolerances, it makes sense when you have more complicated conditions to identify additional foods that are not good for you.
- DNA testing. The company I work with for DNA tests provides a clear picture of how your body uses the food that you eat, how you assimilate it, which organs might need further support and how. I find this fundamental information when you are fighting to create a state of health for yourself.
#6. Supplement Your Diet With The Right Supplements
The physicians of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service and the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine urge a nutrient-based method to prevent or minimise symptoms for future viral infection. The following inexpensive supplemental levels are recommended for adults; for children reduce these in proportion to body weight:
- Vitamin C: 3,000 milligrams (or more) daily, in divided doses. Did you know? A lack of vitamin C has been known to increase susceptibility to viruses (And FYI there are even three intravenous vitamin C research studies for helping to treat coronavirus now underway in China).
- Vitamin D3: 2,000 International Units daily. (Start with 5,000 IU/day for two weeks, then reduce to 2,000)
- Magnesium: 400 mg daily (in citrate, malate, chelate, or chloride form)
- Zinc: 20 mg daily
- Selenium: 100 mcg (micrograms) daily
Vitamin C, Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and selenium have been shown to strengthen the immune system against viruses.
Here’s my family’s personal immune boosting plan
Here are links to the supplements my family and I are taking right now to boost our immune system:
Supplements my husband and/or I are taking:
- Vitamin C (2-4g / day)
- Vitamin D3 (1 cap / day)
- Magnesium Inositol Relax (1/2 to 1 teaspoon / day) OR Magnesium chloride hexahydrate oil (once a day on your body while you’re still wet and getting out of the shower, so that it’s better absorbed). Take magnesium preferably in the morning.
- Zinc (1 cap / day)
- Selenium (2 caps / day)
- Liver gallbladder drops to support both the liver and the gallbladder functions (15 drops 3 times / day, at the beginning of every large meal)
- Multivitamin (30 ml / day)
- Probiotics for women OR Probiotics for men (1 cap / day)
- CoQ10 with PQQ (1 cap / day)
Supplements my 3-year-old boys are taking:
How does exercise change the immune system?
While it’s not completely understood, it’s believed that physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
Exercise also causes changes in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before.
The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)
Exercise, the microbiome and your gut
The microbiome’s role in health and disease is in determining whether changes found in the microorganisms inhabiting various organs are the cause or an effect of good or bad health. Most of what is already known about the microbiota in people with various health problems are based on observation, making it difficult to say which came first: the disease or the disrupted microbiota.
Recent animal studies provide a clue, but they are not proof of a similar effect in people. Until therapeutic studies underway are completed, people with conditions thought to be influenced by the microbiome have no choice currently but to rely on possible treatment suggested by animal research and some preliminary human studies.
For example, people with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, allergic disorders, and infections with drug-resistant organisms may benefit from taking probiotics, though some probiotics sold in health food and drugstores may be ineffective. It may be necessary to tailor-make the remedy for each condition or even each patient.
Meanwhile, people interested in fostering a health-promoting array of gut microorganisms should consider shifting from a diet heavily based on meats, carbohydrates, and processed foods to one that emphasizes plants. As Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a genomics specialist at Washington University School of Medicine, told The Times last year, “The nutritional value of food is influenced in part by the microbial community that encounters that food.”
We all have heard by now that each of us contains a pulsating little universe of bacteria within our guts. This microbiome includes countless different species of microbes in varying proportions that interact, compete, and busily release various substances that are implicated in weight control, inflammation, immune responses, and many other aspects of health throughout our bodies.
In broad terms, our microbiomes tend to be relatively stable, most studies show. But our microbiomes can change as our lifestyles change. Diet clearly affects the makeup of a person’s microbiome, as do illness, certain drugs, how much we weigh, as well as other factors.
Exercise also has been associated with variations in the microbiome. Past studies have shown that endurance athletes tend to have a somewhat different collection of microbes within their intestines than sedentary people do, especially if the athletes are lean and the sedentary people are not. Almost all the changes in people’s guts dissipated after six weeks of not exercising. By and large, their microbiomes reverted to what they had been at the study’s start. (The study suggests that even a few weeks of exercise can alter the makeup and function of people’s microbiomes. In theory, these changes could contribute to some of the broader health benefits of exercise, such as its ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body. More studies need to be done to prove this but the evidence of the importance of exercise continues to mount.)
What Are The Symptoms?
The CDC lists the following symptoms to look for, which are much like a cold:
- Shortness of breath
If you have the normal symptoms, call your health care provider for an evaluation.
Emergency Warning Signs
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish face or lips
If you experience the emergency warning signs, seek medical assistance immediately.
Obviously, if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 you should see your doctor or seek emergency services immediately to get tested and do not come into contact with others to prevent spread.
More Information And Resources
- General hygiene and cleanliness along with correspondence with your health care provider will go a long way.
- Wash your hands for twenty seconds often, especially after touching things many others have touched.
- Clean your house regularly, especially high use surfaces.
For more information on COVID-19, consult the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019.
How to “Disease Proof” Yourself, with David Katz, MD/MPH; What you’ll learn from this expert talk:
- How our forks, feet and fingers determine our long term health prospects
- What we learn from the ‘Blue Zones’ about living long, happy, healthy lives
- 6 simple steps to keep you, your family and your patients healthy