COVID-19: Health tips to lower your risk (updated Sept 2020)
Also published in The White Rock Sun, March 2020.
COVID-19 is a current threat that we shouldn’t take lightly. Yet we should also try not to panic.
NOTE: This article was updated September 2020 to reflect the ongoing discoveries science is making regarding the nature of this virus.
As with any epidemic in the past, fear seems to guide us. Early in the pandemic, toilet paper, face masks, rubber gloves, and antibacterial hand sanitizers were immediately sold out in stores, proof that many were indeed responding with panic
It's best to set our fears aside. To avoid panicking, take control by taking sensible preventive actions instead. All sources say the protective measures used separately will not offer as strong a defense as when they are used together: Wear a face mask. practise physical distancing, and frequently wash your hands. 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 at least 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 virus(3) (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 ones(1), (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” remedies(6) such as using bleach(4) or Colloidal Silver(5), (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. If you are stuck in the house, use your imagination: Walk briskly up and down your staircase, walk briskly outside, bench step, do jumping jacks, do squats and lunges, use your bodyweight or improvised weights if you don't have the equipment for weight training. There's no need to just sit around. Surf the net for ideas! There are also online exercise classes offered by public and private fitness facilities. And if your local gym is open for business, they will likely be following the recommended safety precautions.
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. Stay calm by taking action to give you a sense of control – like following the preventive tips in this article.
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. Ultra-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?