By now, you are probably tired of being constantly told to wash your hands, cough into your elbow, and stay in your house and six feet away from other people. You may be frustrated from searching for toilet paper at five different stores and waiting in hour-long lines to get your favorite groceries… let alone wondering how you will pay your bills if your job is considered “non-essential”. This pandemic and quarantine has been rough on all of us, especially if you add the worry of actually getting sick into the mix.
I work in two busy emergency departments, risking exposure to COVID-19 every day. I have taken care of several COVID positive patients; fortunately none of them very sick. Staying healthy is obviously a big priority for me, especially with a baby at home! Fortunately, I have some great tips that I personally use while working on the front-lines, to not only keep myself virus-free, but also to keep my sanity!
- Stop stressing! Easier said than done… but did you know that cortisol, the hormone released from the adrenal glands when you feel anxious, dramatically depresses your immune system? In fact, that is its purpose: to keep the immune system in check. This is the last thing you want to be happening during a pandemic! Figure out what exactly is your source of stress. Is it finances? Boredom? Fear of illness for yourself or a family member? Then tackle that concern with a list of ways to mitigate it. Learn how to meditate or pray, tapping into the peace these activities provide. Consider some of the benefits of being stuck at home such as quality family time, reading that new book that has been sitting on your shelf for months, learning a new skill, or starting a home business. Try some relaxing natural remedies that I find helpful: Magnesium is an essential electrolyte that relaxes muscles and nerves, soothing anxiety. Most people are deficient in it. Take up to 400 mg before bedtime or try a fizzy magnesium drink that I enjoy called CALM. I also diffuse mood boosting and relaxing essential oils such as lavender, clary sage, wild orange, frankincense, vetiver or sandalwood. Try the following blend I call “Chill Out 2020”: 2 drops vetiver, 3 drops lavender, 3 drops sandalwood, and 2 drops clary sage. Make sure you use a reputable brand for the highest quality pure oils.
- Elderberry extract: Those little purple-black berries you may see on your hikes are actually potent medicinal gems! Elderberry is a powerful antiviral that decreases the duration and severity of influenza symptoms in many studies. Since COVID-19 is a virus, it is likely that elderberry could be effective against this virus too.
- Medicinal mushrooms: There are many medicinal mushrooms available with anti-viral activity. I like to get my mushroom fix from FourSigmatic which makes mushroom-infused coffee and tea powders that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine. I love their Chai Latte and Mushroom Coffee instant powders and peanut butter protein powder with adaptogens and mushrooms.
- OnGuard essential oil (clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary, cassia): This essential oil blend from DoTerra is my must-have during any viral season. These oils are powerful antioxidants, anti-bacterials, and anti-virals. I use a drop in my water at work, diffuse it if I feel like I’m coming down with a bug, and use the OnGuard hand sanitizer which smells like Christmas!
- N-acetyl cysteine (N-AC): Commonly used in the ER for Tylenol overdoses, this powerful antioxidant has anti-inflammatory effects which have been beneficial in specific strains of influenza illness. Although data is limited, based on its mechanism of action it may help decrease the inflammation associated with other viruses such as COVID-19 . I have a bottle in my medicine chest just in case!
- Skip sugar: Try to limit intake of processed sugar and sugar-filled pastries or undiluted fruit juice. Sugar directly inhibits white blood cell activity for up to four hours. This would be unfortunate if you happen to touch a virus-contaminated surface right after eating a delicious cupcake! Treat your sweet tooth with fresh fruit instead. My new favorite healthy dessert is frozen organic cherries topped with Forager Plain Cashew milk yogurt and a sprinkle of granola.
- Vitamin C and D: I take 1000 mg of vitamin C and 1000 units of vitamin D per day as a supplement since these vitamins have known immune-boosting qualities. Studies in China suggest it may be a helpful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for the lungs of COVID patients when given IV. You can increase intake of vitamin C-rich foods such as hot peppers, bell peppers, kale, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, and lemon. Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to increased risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.
- Digestive enzymes and probiotics: Many of us have undiagnosed gut issues from the damage of processed foods, food allergens, and infections. When the gut lining is damaged, we can’t absorb the immune-boosting nutrients in our food. Digestive enzymes can help with the process of breaking down our food into easier to assimilate particles. Probiotics improve the population of our colon’s good bacteria which are responsible for 70% of our immune system! Keep their numbers high with a probiotic supplement and eat plenty of high fiber foods to provide the pre-biotics that these good bacteria feed on. My favorite brand is Youngevity’s Ultimate Nightly Essence .
- Exercise in moderation: regular daily exercise is known to improve the immune system and circulation, but intense exercise can actually depress your immune system. With the gyms closed, you can enjoy hikes, bike rides, YouTube workout videos in your living room, or buy a trampoline like I did! Jumping exercises help move your lymphatic fluid around so that the white blood cells in your lymph nodes can filter out any viruses or pathogens before they wind up in general circulation.
- Sleep: Don’t skimp on it. Your body repairs itself and regenerates during sleep, and lack of sleep can cause elevated cortisol which (as we learned in tip #1) depresses the immune system. It is tempting to stay up into the wee hours watching Netflix if you’re not working, but it is important to keep your circadian cycle as close to normal as possible. Try to go to sleep before 10 pm (the healthiest bedtime for your adrenals), and wake up at the same time each morning.
Stay healthy and positive, friends! Our bodies have amazing abilities to keep us healthy and fight infection – just give them the tools they need!
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