Taking Care of Yourself When it Comes to The Coronavirus
By Julie Wendt, nutritionist for Simply Nutrition
Every day for the last 3 weeks, I look at my news app and come across at least one headline at the very top that is related to the Coronavirus (now COVID-19) outbreak in China. It can be frightening to hear of large numbers of people falling ill and dying after contracting Corona! I even went out and got a medical-grade face mask to protect myself from exposure (note: the standard masks you see people wearing do not actually prevent exposure of coronavirus or any other virus). After I settled down a minute, I realized that I needed to ground myself and realize what I could control. I needed to focus my efforts on doing exactly that as it was unlikely that I would actually wear the N95 mask the entire time I flew from Washington DC to Los Angeles. In my calmer state, I remembered what I tell my patients all the time: I needed to do the work of controlling my lifestyle habits that we know optimize our health and help us achieve our goals. Whether you are worried about healthy brain aging, setting a personal best on the track, or avoiding a health outbreak such as Coronavirus, the seasonal flu, or preventing the recurrent sinus infection that you get every winter, it all comes down to making the choices that all you to optimize your health.
Of course, following the standard advice for avoiding all manner of contagious disease is wise:
- Wash your hands often (30 second minimum, with anti-bacterial soap!)
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Get medical attention if needed
But what else can we do to optimize our health and allow the built-in powerhouse known as your immune system to its’ best job at fighting off external invaders like Corona?
Manage Your Stress! Yes, sometimes that means NOT reading the latest news release about Coronavirus or the flu. And most often it means taking time out of your schedule to meditate (yes it really works), do breathing exercises, mindfully eat your lunch, practice gratitude and laugh. Your perception of your own life is exactly what you view it as, regardless of what that view may be. Try to see the glass half-full.
Get Enough Sleep! The immune system is tightly linked to your sleep-wake cycle as there are key immune activities that only happen when you are asleep. Prioritize getting enough rest- turn off the tv, smartphone, and computer. Your immune system cannot operate fully without 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
You’ve Got to Move It! Magical things happen in your body when you exercise. There are few topics in the health world that receive such universal agreement- moving your body helps optimize your health. Whether it’s an early morning jog, a trip to the indoor swimming pool, tai chi in the park, or yoga in the living room- make time in your day for 30-60 minutes of movement. Your immune system will thank you!
Mind How You Fuel Your Body! Contrary to our universal agreement about exercise, the health community is highly inflamed in debate about what to eat. Since this article is about supporting your immune system, I will defer an in depth discussion about what type of protein sources are best suited for human consumption. Rather let’s focus on getting lots of fruits and vegetables, probiotic-rich foods, and healthy fats into our bodies on a daily basis. Additionally, there are certain key nutrients that can help boost your immune system that you may want to consider taking as a preventative (consulting with your doctor or nutritionist to confirm it’s a good fit for your personal health history).
My top 5 immune supportive supplements are:
- Probiotics: A key to gut health and supporting immune response, probiotics are important during the winter months. Choose a multi-strain probiotic that contains about 20 Billion CFUs. Make sure to purchase this from a trusted supplier to ensure viability.
- Vitamin C: There are many types of Vitamin C to consider. Ester-C is a sustained release form. Since Vitamin C is water soluble, you need to take several doses throughout the day rather than one large amount all at once. Look for 1,000-3,000mg per day as preventative.
- Vitamin D3: Most people are deficient in Vitamin D and it’s easy to get tested next time you get blood work done to see how your blood levels look. Generally, taking 1,000-2,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 throughout the winter will provide good support.
- Zinc: Zinc plays a central role in immune function as it’s a key nutrient required for the function of the immune cells. Zinc deficiency is very common and after 2 weeks of supplementation, many people will notice an improvement in their immune function. There are many types of Zinc, the best absorbed forms are picolinate, citrate, and acetate.
- Medicinal Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber that support gut health and thus the immune system. In addition, mushrooms have a direct impact on how our immune system functions, promoting our immune function. Immune-specific mushrooms include reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, lion’s mane, chaga, and maitake.