It feels like an assault to our senses, creating panic or feeling out of control? As I type this article and prepare to share, the news about Coronavirus (COVID 19) is changing minute by minute. Together, we are witnessing a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in the US and around the world. The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency.
I want to take a pause from the brainSHIFT protocol and our #7DaySleepChallenge to address the coronavirus. As a physician (neurology and integrative medicine), I am concerned about the spread of misinformation that is leading to increased anxiety, panic, and insomnia.
Take a moment to pause, breathe, and then wash your hands with soap. I mean it. I stand and watch others in restrooms at work, hotels, airports, and shopping malls, and I am still surprised by how many skip washing their hands. Taking 20 seconds to scrub the front & back of your hands, and between fingers will do more to keep you healthy than all the overpriced gadgets and supplements, people are peddling on Instagram.
HOW CAN WE TREAT CORONAVIRUS (COVID19)?
At this time, there is no known cure or antiviral drug to treat the coronavirus. No vaccine is available, although scientists are working on a vaccine that will need to undergo clinical trials before it can be used publicly.
IS THERE A TREATMENT AVAILABLE FOR CORONAVIRUS?
Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for this new coronavirus. Treatment is therefore supportive, which means giving fluids, medicine to reduce fever, and, in severe cases, supplemental oxygen.
People who become critically ill from COVID-19 may need a respirator to help them breathe. Bacterial infectionS can complicate this viral infection and patients may require antibiotics in cases of bacterial pneumonia as well as COVID-19.
Antiviral treatments used for HIV and other compounds are under research at this time, but no concrete or scientific evidence is available to support their use in patients with coronavirus.
There is no evidence that supplements, such as vitamin C, or probiotics will help speed recovery from the coronavirus either.
HOW DO YOU IMPROVE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM NATURALLY AND WILL IT HELP PROTECT YOU AGAINST CORONAVIRUS?
As I mentioned previously, there is no known cure or proven treatment for the coronavirus at this time. A vaccine is in development and may be ready to start enrolling individuals in clinical trials; however, nothing has been proven effective yet.
I want to be clear; there are NO PROVEN natural supplements, herbs, essentials oils, or other natural therapies to prevent or kill the coronavirus. As a board-certified physician in Integrative Medicine, I am disheartened at the number of false claims I see on the internet of people trying to promote sales of essential oils and supplements during a time of panic.
There is a clear difference in finding ways to improve your immune response in your body against all infections. The current mortality data from the coronavirus indicates that individuals who have compromised immune systems and health are more likely to have severe and fatal outcomes from COVID-19. Traditionally individuals with chronic autoimmune disease, poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, and the elderly have compromised immune systems and are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
LIFESTYLE FACTORS THAT DEPRESS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM:
- chronic sleep deprivation
- eating processed foods, foods high in sugar, inflammatory foods
- the regular consumption of alcohol
- smoking of cigarettes and vaping
- poor nutrition
- high-stress levels
FOODS THAT IMPROVE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM:
Foods that are anti-inflammatory and/or rich in minerals and vitamins help to improve our immune system. A large influencing factor of our immune health is our gut microbiome, the bacteria that are in our gut. By consuming anti-inflammatory foods, we nourish healthy bacteria while foods such as sugar, alcohol, and processed foods feed bad or unhealthy bacteria, which can lead to more problems with our immune system.
Foods and spices that help our immune system:
- Bell peppers
- Green tea
- Sunflower seeds
WHAT ARE NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?
Again to be clear; these supplements have NOT been studied in patients with coronavirus. These supplements have been shown in clinical research to benefit your immune system.
In one clinical study, 15ml of Elderberry syrup reduced the symptoms of a cold and the duration of the cold/flu in individuals who were traveling by airplane. Some research suggests elderberry may increase the production of specific cytokines, chemicals that tell the immune system to rev up and fight off an infection. Elderberries are also chockfull of antioxidants such as vitamins A and C and various flavonoids – botanical compounds that protect cells from oxidative damage – which may help keep colds and cases of flu under control. No clinical data shows the benefit of taking elderberry syrup every day.
Vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection. Vitamin C helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Vitamin C is an essential part of the skin’s defense system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers. For example, people who have pneumonia tend to have lower vitamin C levels, and vitamin C supplements have been shown to shorten the recovery time of infections.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can are available through eating and drinking fermented foods or supplements. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and have been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including improving your immune response. Certain probiotics help the production of natural antibodies in the body by boosting immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes, and natural killer cells.
A large study that reviewed 15 articles found that taking probiotics reduced the likelihood and duration of respiratory infections. However, the quality of the evidence was low. Probiotics were better than placebo in reducing the number of participants experiencing episodes of acute URTI, the mean duration of an episode of acute URTI, antibiotic use, and cold-related school absence. These results indicate that probiotics may be more beneficial than placebo for preventing acute URTIs. Another study, including over 570 children, found that taking Lactobacillus GG reduced the frequency and severity of respiratory infections by 17%.
HOW TO AVOID PANIC, INSOMNIA, AND NEWS ADDICTION DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Are you feeling panic, scared to leave your home, or upset that you cannot find hand-sanitizer? Do you find it difficult to focus at work or stay calm at home because you are constantly checking the news online? Or maybe you’re on the other spectrum loudly proclaiming on Facebook that the coronavirus news is “just media hype” – that is psychologically known as denial?
The news about coronavirus is shocking and provokes natural fear and worry. Businesses in multiple industries are feeling the negative impact from canceled events and a decrease in travel. The reason we either enter panic or denial is that we feel out of control of the global emergency.
Here are some tips for rising above the panic:
- Assess what you can prepare for in case of an emergency, illness, or being quarantined due to exposure. An example is to stock 14 days’ worth of food and household supplies.
- Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news on television or checking the headlines online—schedule time each day to get the facts.
- Avoid arguments on social media. The increasing amount of negative comments is due to people projecting their anger and fear on one another. Either avoid social media or stick to promoting positivity, random acts of kindness, and peaceful thoughts.
- Prioritize your sleep. A lack of sleep worsens not only your immune system, but also your peace of mind. This period is a great time to join our free 7 Day Sleep Challenge that happens each month. Click here to sign up.
- Take a moment to pause and recite the loving-kindness meditation. I dedicate my mediation practice to:
- All of the people who have lost loved ones to coronavirus
- Healthcare workers on the frontlines
- And people who are quarantined due to exposure
Reciting the loving-kindness mediation is a mindfulness exercise that reminds us to bring focus away from ourselves and to share compassion with others around the globe. Click here to access the Loving Kindness Meditation.
To get the latest facts and recommendations on handling coronavirus, I recommend reading updates on the CDC and WHO websites.
- Coronavirus COVID 19 updates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
- Coronavirus vaccine development and research: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/02/11/hhs-janssen-join-forces-on-coronavirus-vaccine.html
- EPA Releases List of Disinfectants to Use Against COVID-19: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-releases-list-disinfectants-use-against-covid-19
- How to and when to use a facemask to protect yourself from coronavirus infection: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks
- Factors that most affect our immune system: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180228112413.htm
- Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848651/
- Vitamin C and immune function: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29099763
- Sleep and the immune system: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-sleep-bolsters-your-immune-system#The-importance-of-T-cells
- How aging changes immunity: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004008.htm
- How to wash your hands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d914EnpU4Fo
- Foods that boost the immune system: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system
- The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518
- Ascorbic acid in blood serum of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis and pneumonia: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15139458
- Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25927096