What to do during COVID-19-agedden? My husband insists that the apple fritter and fried chicken he just brought home from the grocery store will help while we binge watch our favorite movies tonight. Hmm. We normally eat healthy. I can imagine you have your own scenario of this going at home. We try to be healthy, but hey, stressful times call for stressful measures, right? Perhaps in moderation, folks. As a physical therapist, I’m planning on continuing to work, and want to do my darndest to remain well. Here’s what I’m prioritizing:
Sleep. We know it boosts the immune system. But it’s a challenge to get a good night’s sleep if you are prone to over-thinking things, and worry. Try a mantra, a simple sentence repeated slowly and deliberately, over and over again. Let your mind fixate on that. Breathe into it. Get your parasympathetic nervous system involved here, the calming part of the autonomic nervous system, and give your sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight guy”) the night off. This will better enable your body to repair itself.
Also, try a cup of warm milk, or any warm non-stimulating liquid for that matter, and then listen to relaxing music, thirty-sixty minutes prior to bedtime helps. Sipping, relaxing, praying…it’s all good. We’ll get through this.
Diet. You already know I now have fried food in my arsenal. To be honest, we rarely eat fried food, but I’ll admit it pops up during times of stress. That being said, tomorrow we will return to healthy eating. Really. We will do this because we know eating well boosts the immune system. You know it, I know it. No one needs to remind us, but yes, in general, go easy on the sugar and fat. Sugar inflames tissue, and feeds bacteria and viruses. Get your green leafies and fruits into your hands. And to my husband’s credit, he also brought home fruit and veggies.
Also, don’t forget to include digestive enzymes, which are known to inactivate some viruses. Your gut will thank you.
Exercise. Exercise is great on so many levels. It will fatigue you so that you have a better chance of sleeping well. It will also keep you tuned up. Exercise helps your metabolism keep burning up whatever comfort food you’ve been ingesting. And it will also energize you and enable your body systems to operate more efficiently. “Moving, and moving purposefully,” as I like to call it, is also known to be the most effective anti-depressant you ever could hope for with the added benefit of helping out your heart.
An interesting study by Warren et al in 2015 addressed the effects of obesity, exercise and lack of exercise on immune system response in mice. They found obesity impaired the immune system’s ability to respond to viral infection. When obese mice exercised during their viral infection, their immune system response was normalized. If non-obese mice exercised during viral infection, they had an early reduction in viral lung load and reduced inflammation, meaning, they were less likely to have any lung complication and less likely overall to be affected by the virus.
What kind of exercise, you ask? Moderate exercise, which was seen to also boost the immune systems of post-menopausal women, a population known for reduced immune function. In general, there is strong evidence to support the hypothesis that moderate intensity exercise reduces inflammation and improves the immune response to respiratory viral infections. Both short and long term moderate exercise down-regulates excessive inflammation within the respiratory tract and aids in activating innate anti-viral immunity. That basically means, exercise and you have a much better chance of staying well compared to your sedentary friends. And even if you do get sick, it won’t be that bad. You’ll be able to kick that virus’s you-know-what pretty quickly.
Okay, that’s great and all, you say, but what to do when I can’t get outside, especially as more and more of us are being strongly encouraged or advised to stay home? There are plenty of apps and YouTube videos to work out with and be challenged by, including those that use equipment and those that don’t. I have my favorites, and continue to add more. (Adidas Runtastic, Nike Running Club or Training Club, for example). You can still get outside, and in fact that is recommended. Personally, I love to run, and I also enjoy a good indoor work out using free weights, kettle bells, exercise bands, a kick boxing bag, cycling on my trainer while watching Virtual Active (check out vafitness.com) and working with good ol’ fashioned body weight.
Addressing these three behaviors will go a long way in nourishing your mental and emotional health as well as the physical side of things. All three of them will go a long way in helping you feel like you have a little control over a seemingly out of control situation.
I was just tying up the bow on this piece I was writing, when our granddaughter called. She and her boyfriend who are attending an acting school outside of Paris, are sick. Evidently he has had a fever and dry cough, which now has reduced and changed to a productive cough. She seems to have a cold. They have checked in with the authorities who advised them to self-quarantine. They are drinking plenty of tea and Emergen-C, but she was wondering what else they could do.
Before I share my advice, let me give a little background on me: my dad was an ear, nose, and throat MD, and head and neck surgeon, and Mom was an RN. Both researched alternative forms of treatments before going to the big guns of pharmaceuticals. I grew up treating asthmatic symptoms with mega-doses of riboflavin, and rarely used an inhaler. I’ve also treated my ventricular tachycardia with l-arginine, an amino acid, and I have the blessing of a cardiologist for that, by the way. My folks taught me this approach, and I try to keep up on what’s out there, but I am not a naturopath. Maybe in my next life. That being said, I and my husband rarely get ill.
So my disclaimer, is there. And now I’ll share with y’all what I advised:
Teaspoon Honey: it boosts the immune systems and has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
Peppermint, ginger, lemon teas, for the same reasons.
L-lysine amino acid 4000 mg if sick, 1000mg daily for maintenance during this season.
If you have a cough, boil distilled or filtered water. Pour that along with 5 drops of any eucalyptus, peppermint, or frankincense essential oil in a bowl. Tent with a towel and breathe in the vapors; hold it in your lungs and sinuses for as long as you can. Do this for 10–15 minutes 3x/day or more.
If you have a sore throat: gargle with a hydrogen peroxide mixture of 2 oz of water, 2 oz hydrogen peroxide. Gargle for 15 seconds, spit, repeat for 1 minute. 4x/day. This is what Dad prescribed for any patient with a sore throat. My addition? Brush your teeth afterwards. The taste of hp is gross but the benefit is whiter teeth.
This is simple advice for an overwhelming time of life. And while the simple sometimes gets maligned for being too basic, perhaps that is needed at such a time as this.
So, along with all of your hand washing, social distancing and not touching your face, try practicing these basic activities with purpose. And in doing so, do remain calm, do pray, do be kind, patient and generous.