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By Dr. Shawn Morris N.D.
Natural Health Family Medicine Practitioner 

Addressing Novel Coronavirus

Here’s To Your Health

 

Last updated 3/19/2020 at 3:02pm



Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is at the top of most people’s minds, given the significant impacts on health and the economy. As we weather the outbreak, adhering to sound hygiene practices is critical. Simple steps work — like regular hand-washing for 20 seconds, maintaining 6 feet of space, avoiding large gatherings of people, and staying home when sick.

Although inconvenient, the social distancing approach that led to school closures can effectively slow the spread. As most of us know, symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, and, in some cases, difficulty breathing.

Coronavirus attaches to receptors in the lungs to deplete surfactant — a lubricating compound — causing a dry cough. If you think you might be infected, stay home, rest up, stay hydrated, and eat a balanced diet.

Emergency rooms and urgent care clinics are best equipped to handle patients with more concerning symptoms, like respiratory distress that may be pneumonia. Elderly patients and people with diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and other chronic disease are at greater risk for complications.

Check in with vulnerable family members, and ensure they have a plan of care in place with their physician. Fortunately, most cases are fairly mild. Note that any information presented here is for informational purposes only, and not meant to substitute advice from your physician.

At this point, there is no research on particular therapies that may be effective in treatment. A naturopathic approach focuses on lifestyle medicine, like diet, sleep, hydration, and balancing stress. Despite a lack of proven therapies, common sense, healthful nutrition is always a good idea.

Focus on plants, whole grains and protein, and skip added sugars, artificial ingredients, juices, soda, and deep-fried foods as much as possible. Support a vital microbiome by adding in probiotic foods like unsweetened yogurt and sauerkraut along with prebiotic foods like tubers (yams, sweet potatoes), oatmeal, wild rice, and mushrooms.

A balanced diet supports the immune system and calms inflammation. For inspirational recipes, check out the website http://www.oldwayspt.org — a database for Mediterranean diet meal ideas. Keep hydrated to help out the lymphatic system — the network of vessels and nodes that carries immune cells and clears bacteria and viruses. Caffeine-free herbal teas like hibiscus, ginger, and lemon balm are hydrating, as is water with fresh squeezed lemon & lime. Skip sodas, juices, and more than 1 cup of coffee or alcohol daily.

Sound sleep is immune supportive as well, and experts recommend adults get eight hours nightly. Even one night of quality sleep improves white blood cell counts. Ensure your bedroom is dark, peaceful and quiet, and you might try a calming herbal tea with passionflower or chamomile before bed.

Managing stress is equally important, and, needless to say, a major challenge for most of us right now! High levels of stress hormones depress white cell activity, limiting our ability to mount an immune response. With all the alarming information coming our way, take some time to unplug, breathe, and connect with nature.

You might try a guided breathing exercise (UCLA has high quality, free exercises available), or just pause and take a few deep breaths every so often. Taking time to talk with friends and loved ones about your concerns — possibly over the phone — is a tried and true way to diffuse tension. For many, there are stark financial stressors, with children kept out of school and small businesses seeing significant losses. Let’s all do what we can to support local business while advocating for community members facing economic hardship.

Adhering to a balanced lifestyle leads to a healthy immune system, increasing our ability to fight infections. Coupling healthful lifestyle with steps to avoid spreading or contracting the virus is the best defense available currently.

Countries like Singapore and Hong Kong that acted quickly to limit spread have prevented larger scale outbreaks, revealing the effectiveness of a timely approach. We can take responsibility as a community by attending to our individual health, practicing good hygiene, and staying home if we feel any cold or flu symptoms. By taking these steps, we can do our part to keep vulnerable people as safe as possible.

 

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