What can I do to keep myself healthy for the 'new normal?'
The coronavirus, COVID-19 has altered how we live. It has affected how we shop, socialize, exercise and work. This public health crisis exposes many people to a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be socially isolated. Many older adults face social isolation during ‘normal’ times and many more experience isolation now. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. She’s also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. It can lead to a greater risk of depression, falls and exacerbating other chronic conditions like heart disease. It can have a negative impact on your overall health.
How can you stay engaged when social distancing?
It is important stay in touch with family and friends. With technology today, it is easier than ever to connect with friends and family. Many communication technologies are free or low cost. You can use video talk with WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Google Duo and Facebook messenger. Zoom comes in free and paid tiers. Skype is a good alternative to Zoom. It's a bit easier to use, but also works across various platforms and costs nothing at the outset. Google Duo is an app that comes preinstalled on the vast majority of Android phones. Facebook also offers two solutions: Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
"You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” – Wayne Dyer
Do what you can to avoid feeling lonely, even if you’re isolated. There is a difference between loneliness and isolation. We may be isolated, but we can work to not be lonely. Social media is another great tool to stay in touch with others, especially overseas. Expand your perspective to share kindness and compassion with one another whether it is a neighbor, family member, friend or stranger. In difficult times like these, using your support network, while still practicing social distancing can be very helpful. If you find that anxiety is interfering with your daily functioning or causing increased distress, contact a mental health professional and/or call a functional medicine doctor.
“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”– Oscar Wilde
Ways to help stay calm during times of stress or anxiety
Best to prepare, don't panic
Focus on the things you can control such as washing your hands, social distancing and keeping your loved ones safe. You can implement changes, including handwashing for 20 seconds as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Social distancing is key to stopping the spread of the virus. Buy organic food and supplies as you normally do. Proper rest and sleep support immune function and overall health.
"To lose patience is to lose the battle.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Calm Your Body and Mind
When you notice that you are getting overwhelmed or stressed, consider deep breathing. Taking a few deep, breaths can help quiet your mind and bring back a sense of calm. Focus on something positive: a beautiful flower, the sound of your child's laughter, the aroma of the essential oil of lavender. Then offer some compassion or encouragement to yourself. Affirmations like the following can be helpful to reduce stress, "I am courageous. I am strong. I am safe." Remember that we as a species are resilient and have overcome many hardships in the past. Exercise, especially outdoors is a great way to reduce stress and stay healthy. Stress lowers the immune system.
Activate Your Immune System
Humans have survived over 2 million years in a sea of infections because of our active immune system. The immune system consists of roughly 20 trillion cells that travel in the body looking for foreign invaders such as viruses. The immune system recognizes “self” from “non-self”. Seventy percent of the immune system surrounds the gut, hence gut health is crucial for immune health. Avoid excess alcohol intake or unnecessary antibiotics which can be detrimental to gut health. Keep your environment clean. Toxins interfere with the ability of the immune system to protect you against invaders, like COVID-19.
Nourish your body through a healthy diet with foods low in sugar and refined carbs. Adequate protein with plenty of fiber to keep your gut bacteria (microbiome) happy. Avoid hydrogenated fats and excess liquid plant oils (such as soy and corn). Sugar and refined carbohydrates are primary risk factors for infections, cancer, diabetes, obesity and more. Eat more organic plant based food rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, seaweed, mushrooms, and medicinal spices (like turmeric and ginger). Water is particularly crucial since the mucus that lines the lungs and sinuses is 99% water. Many people are chronically dehydrated and are not aware of it. Adequate water intake is essential in your immune system’s front line of defense. There are many minerals that are critical in immune functions, starting with selenium, iodine, magnesium, chromium, zinc and strontium.
“Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one.” - Astrid Alauda
Supplements to support your immune system
Probiotics are bacteria or yeast organisms that have beneficial effects on human physiology and health. Probiotic organisms are believed to work in part by enhancing digestion and immune function, by competing with pathogenic microorganisms for binding sites on mucosal surfaces, and by producing chemicals that inactivate or kill pathogens. We can use probiotic supplements and use fermented food like kimchi and sauerkraut to support optimal gut health.
The power of Vitamin D
There are many vitamins that play a crucial role in immune functions, including A, D, E, K, C, B-6, and B-12. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions as a prohormone (hormone precursor). Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin from exposure to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light. It naturally occurs in small amounts in foods, such as fish and mushrooms. As a modulator of immune function, vitamin D may help prevent both infections and autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D enhances the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus, promotes bone mineralization and remodeling, and is involved in regulating serum calcium and phosphorus levels. Vitamin D also plays a role in neuromuscular function and influences cellular growth and differentiation. In addition, vitamin D appears to enhance the secretion and action of insulin to support blood sugar.
Immune support of Zinc
Zinc is an essential trace element and is involved in many biochemical pathways, including DNA and protein synthesis. It is essential for growth and plays a role in visual function, hearing, taste sensation, thyroid function, sexual development, immune function, and wound healing. Zinc also functions as an antioxidant, helps stabilize cell membranes, has an anti-inflammatory effect, and has antiviral activity against some viruses (e.g., rhinovirus and herpes simplex virus). Zinc status is a critical factor that can influence antiviral immunity. The global prevalence of zinc deficiency is estimated to range from ∼17% to 20% , with the vast majority occurring in developing countries of Africa and Asia. Importantly, zinc deficiency results in a compromised immune system, as evidenced by thymic atrophy, lymphopenia, and defective lymphocyte responses in animal studies. James A. Robb from the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine MD, a pathologist, and molecular virologist who, while at the University of California, San Diego in the 1970s, did pioneering work in understanding coronaviruses. He wrote the following email to friends and family:
“Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.”
"The greatest wealth is Health." ~Unknown
Vitamin C’s many benefits
Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant and plays a role in immune function. It is essential for the synthesis of collagen (one of the major components of connective tissue), which supports anti-aging. In addition, vitamin C has demonstrated antiviral and antibacterial effects in vitro; plays a role in microsomal hydroxylation reactions that catalyze cholesterol catabolism and detoxification of chemicals; and is involved in the metabolism of neurotransmitters. Many health experts recommend vitamin C as a preventative measure for viruses.
Iodine’s benefits are often overlooked
Iodine is a natural element on the periodic table of elements taught in chemistry. The human body is composed of twenty six of these elements, with both iodine and oxygen paramount to mitochondrial function and the production of energy. Without adequate iodine levels life is impossible. Iodine is the universal health nutrient and brings health on many levels. It is important to realize that the thyroid is only one gland of many glands and tissues that needs iodine. Other glands/organs/systems with high iodine uptake are the breasts, ovaries, cervix, blood, lymph, bones, gastric mucosal, salivary, adrenal, prostate, colon, thymus, lungs, bladder, kidney, and skin. Iodine is found and used in every hormonal receptor in the body.
“Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.” - Jim Rohn
From a worldwide perspective, the current level of iodine deficiency is pandemic. Over one fifth of the global population (1.5 billion people) is living on iodine deficient soils and are subject to significant iodine deficiency. According to the WHO, 72% of the global population is iodine deficient. This is a significant problem with significant consequences, as iodine deficiency is among the top two causes of mental retardation. Associated with this increased iodine deficiency is a 69% increase in cretinism, mental retardation, and ADHD in the last several decades. To make matters worse, there is a scientific principle named “Halogen Displacement”, in which fluoride, chlorine and bromine are found in almost everything today and displace precious iodine. Iodine deficiency, in the general population, yields 1-‐10% cretinism, 5-‐30% brain damage, and 30-‐70% loss of energy. In this holistic context, iodine deficiency is a major threat to global health.
Iodine destroys pathogens, molds, fungi, parasites, and malaria
Another major iodine role to consider is iodine’s power as a negatively charged substance to destroy all pathogens, molds, fungi, and parasites, including malaria. Iodine can be used both to effectively treat and prevent malaria. It is the most powerful natural antibiotic we have, and while it is not patentable, it may help the world with resistant infections. It is also said to be effective in treating tuberculosis. This effect was mentioned as early as June 1st, 1905 in the NY Times. As more antibiotic resistant bacteria emerge, iodine may become the “new” lifesaver on many levels.
Iodine supports immune function
Iodine plays a role in the physiology of inflammatory responses. This is important in the immune system. Iodine increases the movement of granulocytes (white blood cells) into areas of inflammation and improves getting rid of harmful bacteria by granulocytes and the ability of granulocytes to kill bacteria. Since all disease is associated with inflammatory response, iodine becomes supportive for anti-aging.
In summary, prioritize self-care
There are a lot of things you can do to help keep your immune system healthy:
- Eat fresh organic fruits and vegetables
- Use high quality supplements
- Get outside and spend time in nature, while still practicing social distancing
- Get enough sleep (8 hours)
- Spend time with your family and pets
- Practice gratitude of the good in your life
If your routine is disrupted, set up a schedule for when you sleep, eat, exercise, relax and work.
 Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2015
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 Shankar AH, Prasad AS. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68(2):447s–63s.
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