By Terry Gips, Alliance President
It’s time for holiday gatherings, which add to the perfect storm of highly contagious and potentially life-threatening respiratory diseases that are filling our hospitals and their ER and ICU rooms with the “tridemic” cases of COVID-19, the flu and RSV. “A sudden spike in influenza and RSV patients in Minnesota hospitals is continuing to strain pediatric care capacity in the Twin Cities and statewide,” according to MSN. MN Department of Health data on showed only three pediatric intensive care unit beds have been available in the metro area, on average, in the last week.
Here are 18 easy, proactive steps we can take to protect ourselves and others over the holidays. They focus on ways to reduce exposure and strengthen the body’s immune system to fight Covid-19, flu and RSV. Other than the first (plus some modifications to the others), they are based on the outstanding Institute for Functional Medicine’s Functional Medicine Tips and Neutraceutical and Botanical Recommendations:
- Invest in a portable air purifier with HEPA filter (if your home doesn’t have a whole house air purification system) – They are as inexpensive as $80 and make very little sound. Keep it in any space guests are in and take it with you when going to other peoples’ homes.
- Wear a Mask – When in public settings or when around people outside of your household, wear a properly-fitting cloth face covering.” It’s important to use an easy-to-wear, comfortable KN95 face mask, especially when in public indoor spaces. They’re reusable, inexpensive and far more effective than the free flimsy ones many places provide. Did you notice that we had almost no flu in the previous two years when we diligently wore masks? This can make an immediate difference.
- Hand washing – “The most well-established way to prevent respiratory infections such as influenza and coronavirus is frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water.”
- Stress reduction – “Chronic stress can negatively alter immune system responses, making you more likely to get sick. Identify your personal stress reduction strategies and spractice them regularly.”
- Sleep – “Sleep has a big influence on immune function, so it is essential to get plenty of sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene and maintain consistent sleep hours—turn off screens, ensure the room is cool, quiet, and dark, and set a reminder to help yourself go to bed on time.”
- Exercise – “Moderate, regular physical activity helps to boost immune system function by raising levels of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies, increasing circulation, and decreasing stress hormones. Establish and follow an exercise program to not only help prevent respiratory infections but also to improve cognitive and physical resilience.”
- Nutritious foods/diet – “Research indicates that brightly colored vegetables and fruits boost immunity better than most supplements. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables—aim for 10 servings per day. Include fermented vegetables or other probiotic-containing foods.”
- Vitamin D — “Vitamin D enhances immune system function, reduces viral growth, and can reduce upper respiratory infections. 5,000 IU orally, daily.” It is “one of the most important and powerful nutrients for supporting the immune system. Numerous studies have shown that it helps reduce the risk of colds and flu.” Nearly all Americans are low so you should get tested and take 5,000 IU Vitamin D3 daily. Your level should be at least 50-70. Higher levels of vitamin D have been shown to decrease your risk of developing a severe case of, and dying from, COVID-19 (plus being preventative for cancer and more).
- Vitamin C – “Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system. Vitamin C has been used in hospital ICUs to treat COVID-19 infection. 1-3 g orally, daily.” Furthermore, “Vitamin C may help to prevent infections, including those caused by bacteria and viruses. Regularly administered vitamin C has been shown to shorten the duration of colds, and higher doses of vitamin C during an illness can also act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.”
- Zinc (gluconate preferred) – “A large body of research shows that zinc has strong anti-viral properties against many viruses. 30-60 mg orally, daily.” Furthermore, “Zinc plays a significant role in boosting immunity. Often available as lozenges, zinc can help to reduce the frequency of infections as well as the duration and severity of the common cold when taken within 24 hours of onset.”
- NAC (N-Acetylcysteine) – “NAC promotes the production of glutathione, a potent antioxidant that supports immune function. It also reduces the severity of the flu. 600-900 mg, 2x daily” NAC is a precursor to reduced glutathione, which appears to play a crucial role in COVID-19 specifically. Benefits of NAC include inhibiting expression of proinflammatory cytokines, improving T cell response and inhibiting the hypercoagulation that can impair the ability to exchange oxygen in the lungs.
- Selenium – “Selenium, a key nutrient for immune function, is also an antioxidant that helps boosts the body’s defenses against bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. It may particularly help to protect against certain strains of flu virus. Selenium is easily obtained from foods, with the richest source being Brazil nuts.”
- Probiotics – “Probiotics contain ‘good bacteria’ that not only support the health of the gut but also influence immune system functioning and regulation. Studies have shown that probiotic use can decrease the number of respiratory infections, particularly in children.
- Curcumin – “Curcumin has been shown to reduce inflammation and decrease viral activity for
COVID-19. 500-1,000 mg, 2x daily”
- Quercetin – Quercetin is found in fruits and vegetables and has a wide range of benefits, including decreasing viral growth. Regular: 1,000 mg orally, 2x daily”
- Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) – “Elderberry is packed with vitamin C, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. It has been used extensively in the prevention of influenza. 500 mg orally, daily”
- Green Tea or EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) – “In addition to reducing inflammation, green tea enhances the immune system and targets one of the processes involved in COVID-19 replication. 4 cups daily (green tea) 225 mg orally, daily (EGCG).”
- Resveratrol – “Resveratrol, a natural compound found in red grapes, has many beneficial health effects and has been shown in the lab to attack a relative of the COVID-19 virus. 100-150 mg orally, 2x daily”
On top of these, some integrative doctors also recommend time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting. They say that both have been linked to less severe COVID infection.
Here’s to a safe, healthy holiday season.