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In light of current events, with schools closing, social isolation being encouraged or even enforced, and store shelves stripped of basic goods, it is important to remain lucid and solution oriented. The reality is that coronavirus (COVID-19) has now impacted many communities around the globe, and people are legitimately wondering if there are any steps they can take in order to stay healthy. So I wanted to share my perspective as well as some practical information with you. My heart goes out to any and all suffering amidst this pandemic.

That being said, crises can be great learning opportunities, as there are many conclusions to be drawn that can help us in the future. Challenges like this test our very beliefs, our systems, resilience, and assumptions. While governments are focused on testing, containing, quarantining, and flattening the curve, we must not miss the bigger picture.

Background

It is likely that COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease. These diseases occur when germs are transmitted from animals to humans. In fact, most pandemic scares in the last decades are connected to germ contamination from animal agriculture. Remember that SARS, MERS, Swine Flu (H1N1), Avian Flu (H5N1), Ebola, and AIDS all have similar origins tracing back to animal agriculture and or animal markets. Other zoonotic pathogens include: Hepatitis E, Yersinia, Salmonella, E-coli, C. difficile, and on and on and on. The reality is that wet-markets, farms, or slaughterhouses, are perfect breeding grounds for outbreaks of this sort. The conversation about avoiding animal products is more relevant than ever.

Common sense prevention

Even if you’re young and healthy I recommend:

  • Washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow
  • Clean objects and surfaces regularly
  • If you are feeling sick, stay home from work or school

On to the fun stuff…

Boosting your immune system

Nutrition

There is no diet that will prevent you from getting the virus. The best approach is to arm your immune system and support it to the best of your ability, so it is more effective at doing its job of protecting you, and additionally work on reducing inflammation in your body. How can we do that?

1. Crowding out. Focus on adding a wide variety of plant foods of all colors to your diet, since plants are loaded with powerful antioxidants such as beta-carotene, Vitamin C and E, and polyphenols that help to destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response. In addition, inadequate fruit and vegetable intake may help explain the loss of immune function associated with aging.

  • Excellent sources of beta-carotene: sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables
  • Excellent sources of Vitamin C: red peppers, oranges, berries, broccoli, mangoes, lemons, and other fruits and vegetables
  • Excellent sources of Vitamin E: nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli, avocado.

2. Feed your microbiome. Plants feed our good gut bacteria with fiber and resistant starch (prebiotics) and polyphenols. Load up on fiber rich foods and keep your gut happy, so it produces powerful anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

  • Excellent sources of fiber: Beans, lentils, ground flaxseeds, whole grains, fermented foods. Remember only plants have fiber.

3. Eat cruciferous veggies. Cruciferous veggies have been shown to reduce virus-induced markers of inflammation and improve immune response.

  • Excellent cruciferous options: Broccoli sprouts, brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, watercress, arugula (rocket), cabbage.

4. Eat mushrooms. Mushrooms contain ergothioneine a potent cytoprotectant (cell protector). In addition, consuming mushrooms may improve our mucosal immunity by accelerating the secretion of IgA (our type A antibodies). In fact, all that separates us from all the toxins, viruses, and bacteria out there in our environment is one microscopic layer of cells.

  • Mushroom options: Shiitake, button, reishi, chaga, portobello, king oyster, all edible mushrooms have benefits.

5. Other boosters: Alma (indian gooseberry), nutritional yeast, chlorella, ginger, turmeric, Vitamin D3 (get out in the sun, or take a supplement).

Lifestyle

Our immune system is also influenced by other lifestyle factors. Food is one tool in our arsenal — a very powerful tool that is — but there are also other factors to consider to sustain physical and mental health, especially in times of crisis. Here are some suggestions:

1. Stop smoking. There is no better moment for you to reconsider your smoking and drinking habits. Smoking tobacco puts you at a severe disadvantage by weakening your immune system, and compromising your respiratory system, making you more vulnerable to infections, and cancer. Drinking alcohol will impair the function of the liver, your major emunctory/detox organ, and make you vulnerable to fatty liver disease, and cancer. Consider quitting or drastically reducing your consumption.

2. Exercise daily. Moderate exercise training has been shown to improve immunity and reduce the incidence of upper-respiratory illness. Why not spend this time at home doing yoga, pilates, or calisthenics online? Ask your favorite yoga teacher if they are giving live online classes, I know Katrin in Paris is offering teleclasses.

3. Make time for relaxation. Stress weakens your immune system, flooding your body with cortisol and adrenaline. So make sure you schedule in fun and relaxing activities. Meditation is one of the most effective stress modulators. It could be as simple as sitting still and breathing or listening to soothing music for a while, you can also download Headspace for guided meditations.

4. Get quality sleep. Sleep allows our body to repair itself and keep our circadian rhythm in sync. Sleep deprivation has been linked to suppressed immune function, and therefore hinders our ability to deal with infections. So get adequate sleep by shooting for 7 hours (children and teenagers need more).

5. Take breaks from the media’s insanity. Why not put this time to good use and focus on projects you’ve been avoiding? Call people you haven’t been in touch with for a while, clean and organize your home environment, plan your finances, read, or create art, watch Gaia TV. Use your imagination!

 

These are difficult times, to say the least. I hope you noticed that getting ready for such a pandemic boils down to living an overall healthy lifestyle. My sincere hope will be that COVID-19 would serve as an impetus for you to finally take ownership of your health by adopting healthy eating and living habits — after all, it is your responsibility to keep yourself and your family healthy. It is even more important to do so as we age, to make sure our immune systems are running on all cylinders. Your future self will thank you for making the right decisions today.

Even though most of us will make it through this crisis, COVID-19 might just be the tip of the iceberg. I think the time is right for us to reconsider our food and lifestyle choices, and our too often destructive relationship with nature and the environment.

Resources

Be safe & let's keep the conversation going,