A lot of people have asked me to provide insight on the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all learning as we go. I’m sharing my current take on the issue, with the aim of providing a balanced, informative, and empowering perspective.
I’m writing from a unique vantage point, as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner actively engaged in research and clinical practice, as an American living in Italy, and as someone who has experienced immune dysfunction first-hand.
What makes COVID-19 such a threat to public health?
COVID-19 has been largely spread by completely asymptomatic people who remain perfectly healthy themselves throughout the contagious period, allowing the virus to spread like wildfire across communities. While it is hard to say what the best balance is in terms of public policy and best practices in daily life, it’s prudent to suspend any unnecessary travel and to close schools as a preventative measure, even before there are confirmed cases in your community – thus I applaud France’s proactive policy.
My preliminary suggestions
Please don’t panic! It’s bad for your immune system and the body’s repair processes.
Depending on where you’re located, there may be safety regulations in place that trump some of these tips. Of course, you should follow your local regulations!
- Choose balanced information and empowered action over fear and panic
- Wash your hands, practice good hygiene, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Keep sick children home
- Avoid unnecessary travel, especially over long distances
- Avoid unnecessary trips to hospitals, medical offices, etc., not only to limit the potential spread of the infection but also to allow medical institutions to focus their resources on treating those who are in need of immediate medical attention.
- Avoid unnecessary social contact, handshakes, and unnecessary proximity – stay at least 1 meter (a little over 3 feet) away from others
- Eat balanced, healthy, nutrient-dense foods
- Hydrate well
- Rest and sleep appropriately
- Take care of your physical and emotional needs
- Don’t use toxic/alcohol based sanitizers on the hands of babies, toddlers, or young children
- Get out in the fresh air and sunshine, and keep your home well-ventilated
Eat for healthy, balanced immunity
- A variety of plant foods – a variety of seasonal and local vegetables in many colors, textures and flavors; culinary herbs; spices. Bioflavonoid-rich foods appear significant: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14756366.2019.1690480
- Probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, and beet kvass
- Prebiotic foods such as Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion, chicory, onions, and garlic
- Foods, herbs and spices that support balanced immune and antioxidant function – rosemary, cinnamon, purslane, turmeric, okra, and more!
- Homemade or high-quality store-bought broths and stocks as a base for soups and stews
- Omega-3 fatty acids and foods rich in zinc and vitamins A, C, and D – enjoy a combination of oysters, cod livers, cod liver oil, high-quality fish oil, and pasture-raised eggs, dairy, and meat products.
Herbs and supplements
A lot of people are trying to assuage their fears by loading up on immune-boosting supplements. There are a lot of recommendations floating around, some sound, and some less so. My biggest concern is that many people, especially those with immune imbalances, autoimmune conditions, and/or mast cell activation issues, may do more harm than good by taking supplements that may inappropriately overstimulate the immune system or otherwise throw it out of balance.
So father than asking “What supplements are good to take during the COVID-19 outbreak?” let’s try asking, “What supplements are safe and effective for me/my loved ones to take during the COVID-19 outbreak?”
Even the best protocols by the most trustworthy authorities are not a replacement for individualized care. So check with your health care provider before taking anything that could interact with any medication or affect a health condition you have. For example, if you have reduced or imbalanced immune function, have an autoimmune condition, or are taking immunosuppressant drugs (including steroids), certain immunostimulatory products may be contraindicated. The immune system is very complex, and it’s important to avoid pushing the wrong pathways.
Putting it all together
Ultimately, we must be proactive, with a spirit of looking out not only for ourselves but also for others. Let’s get out of a space of fear and panic and into a space of informed, empowered action so that we can keep ourselves, our families, and our communities as safe and healthy as possible. If you have any kind of complex health condition, it’s a very good idea to seek out individualized care. And, I personally think it’s a good idea to work on immunomodulation before doing any immunostimulation.