COVID-19: Health tips to lower your risk
Also published in The White Rock Sun, March 2020.
COVID-19, a strain of Coronavirus, is a current threat that we shouldn’t take lightly. Yet we should also try not to panic.
As with any epidemic in the past, fear seems to guide us. Currently, the stock market is falling while toilet paper, face masks, rubber gloves, and antibacterial hand sanitizers are immediately sold out in stores, proof that many are indeed responding with panic and fear. But unfortunately, wearing a face mask or rubber gloves won’t fully protect you from the virus. Neither will antibacterial hand sanitizers, because antibacterial products kill bacteria, not viruses. And what's with the toilet paper shortage?16 Many stores will deliver – and so can your friends/relatives – if you are quarantined and
It's best to set our fears aside. To avoid panicking, take control by taking sensible preventive actions instead. All sources say frequent hand washing is the best action to take. Health Canada advises to thoroughly rub all surfaces of your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well with warm water. Any soap is effective, but one with fewer “chemicals” won’t dry out your skin if you are frequently washing. Incidentally, a hand sanitizer is certainly useful when hand washing isn't possible, but it must have no less than 60% alcohol content to effectively kill a virus.
Another positive action to keep you busy (instead of stockpiling supplies) is to take care of yourself. The general diet/lifestyle recommendations 15 to keep your immune system strong are wise preventive practices:
1. Most important, ensure your diet is of high-quality foods. That means skip the junk: Avoid refined sugars and other highly refined/processed foods, as these lack the nutrients vital for a strong immune system. Research continually links poor health to processed/refined foods.1, 2
In addition, these foods usually have ingredients that offer little nutritional value and may negatively affect the immune system (like sodium, added sugars, hydrogenated fats, and chemicals you can’t pronounce).
2. Increase the amount of vegetables and fruit you eat for more nutrients like antioxidants, as well as the protective benefits of fibre. A high-fire diet has been shown to fight the influenza virus3 (well, in mice, anyway). Apparently, fibre feeds gut bacteria, which produces T cells that can kill viruses. And be extra diligent washing produce you buy in bulk bins (particularly vegetables and fruit that aren’t wrapped).
3. Opt for more variety in your food choices. This automatically widens the variety of nutrients you are getting to help your body fight a virus. Try to avoid always eating the same thing. For example, if you usually have almonds with breakfast, have walnuts sometimes or perhaps hazelnuts. Do you always eat potatoes? Try jicama, squash or sweet potatoes occasionally. How about quinoa instead of rice all the time?
4. There is no special diet (other than a well-balanced one) that will fight a virus, so there is no need to go low-carb, Keto or Paleo. And keep in mind, this is not the time to restrict your diet to a limited variety of foods. To fight a virus, your body needs as many nutrients from foods as possible and omitting foods or food groups will limit nutrients. Therefore go for balance instead: include
high-quality complex carbohydrates (not highly refined ones1, 2) like root vegetables, squash, and cooked whole grains. Add some high-quality protein such as meats, seafood, or legumes, nuts/seeds – and, if you like them, have dairy foods like kefir and yogurt for their probiotic “good gut bacteria” boost.
5. Drink plenty of water. This is also very important, as a well-hydrated body can work much more efficiently, allowing your immune system
to do its job.
6. It is unknown if any specific herb, vitamin or mineral will help fight this particular virus. In any case, we are all individual in our genetics and our nutrition needs: What may work for one person may not work for another. However, if traditional remedies worked in the past for you with the cold and flu, it’s possible sensible use (avoid overdoing any herb or supplement) might protect you from COVID-19, or lessen its severity. Avoid taking large amounts of the fat-soluble vitamins like A and D; an overdose can be just as harmful to your health as a deficiency (get tested for vitamin D deficiency first, before self-medicating high doses). And large amounts of any vitamin/mineral supplement will risk putting other vitamins and minerals out of balance in your body, creating even more health problems!
Be cautious also with current “internet” remedies6 such as using bleach4 or Colloidal Silver5, 13 internally. Both can be effective to sterilize and kill germs outside the body (i.e. on metal or hard surfaces), but there are risks taking them internally.
There can also be contraindications between herbs and medications you may be talking, so check with your pharmacist.
Whether or not you decide to supplement your diet, your main focus should always be on eating a wide variety of high-quality, unrefined whole foods to ensure you get as many nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) as possible. Read this article for more information on the benefits of food vs. supplements.7
7. Regular activity of gentle to moderate intensity has been shown – in countless studies and testimonials – to strengthen the immune system. Get up and move around.
8. Other important tips: Get sufficient sleep: seven hours minimum for adults. Also, learn to control your reaction to stressful situations. And that means not freaking out about COVID-19. Do your research if you read or hear something that is particularly disturbing to you (it’s usually not true anyway) and stay calm by taking action – like following the preventive tips in this article.
There are many fallacies circulating about COVID-19. Like using Tito's Vodka12 as a hand sanitizer or the tips in a viral e-mail from the Uncle with a Master's Degree.1 The World Health Organization (WHO) offers this site8 to help dispel myths. For more information and updates, visit this page.9 And for specific information for Canadians, including travel advisories, visit this regularly updated site.10
Be considerate of those around you: Sneeze or cough into the elbow of your sleeve, even if you aren't ill. Hopefully, you won’t contract this virus. But if you are feeling under the weather – Coronavirus or not – choose to stay home.
A former newspaper editor, Eve Lees has also been active in the health & fitness industry since 1979. Currently, she is a Freelance Health Writer and speaks to business and private groups on health topics. www.artnews-healthnews.com
SOURCES (many are embedded in the above article):
1. Processed foods linked to all cause mortality . . .
2. Canadian diet high in highly processed foods . . .
3. Fibre linked to flu protection . . .
4. Dangers of drinking a remedy similar to bleach . . .
5. Colloidal Silver precautions . . .
6. FDA warns about fraudulent treatments for COVID-19 . . .
7. Should be use supplements? Pills vs whole foods . . .
8. WHO: Busting some Coronavirus myths . . .
9. WHO: More details about COVID-19 . . .
10. Canadian Government travel info and update on numbers affected . . .
11. MYTH: "Uncle with Master's degree" e-mailing tips on the virus . . .
12. Myth: Home made Tito's Vodka hand sani not effective . . .
13. FDA crackdown on fraudulent treatments, including Colloidal Silver
14. Supplements not effective in strengthening immunity and some are harmful
15. Lifestyle choices to strengthen your immune system
16. Did Johnny Carson start a toilet paper shortage in the 1970's?