This post is updated daily. Scroll down for the latest prevention and treatment info, stats, evolving CDC guidelines, and other important news.
What about the flu?
My son caught flu B in January. He had been eating his usual Good Food Fighter-approved clean diet, but then there was a ton of airplane/train/uber travel, a big party, a huge presentation and then a colossal extended pig-out weekend with truckloads of sugar and hyper-processed carbs and also nonstop activity, stress and crowds, all things that challenge the immune system. We flew back to Austin and he landed with a fever. Back home, he defiantly rejected many of our staple remedies because he is now a teenager and won’t tolerate anything bitter, smelly, or unfun to swallow. “If you make me take that I’ll throw up“, he warned. So we compromised and he took the ones that were the least offensive.
His fever lasted three days —which I attributed to a generally healthy immune system—and then he quickly snapped back.
What happened next? After he coughed and sneezed on me for 72 hours, tossed sticky tissues all over the house, drank from multiple water glasses (including mine) and common containers, touched everything in the kitchen, and snuck repeatedly into my bed and onto my pillow, I got sick, too. It started with the customary sore throat, then a mild temperature. I didn’t see a doctor but assumed that I had caught the dreaded flu, so went full throttle with my health-restoring regimen. Amazingly, my fever lasted only one day and then receded. ONE DAY, PEOPLE! The one-day flu.
What’s my secret?
Here’s the cocktail:
- Elderberry. As flu season ramps up, I start taking this daily. According to my pharmacologist, who is also a biochemist, Israelis pioneered some of the earliest elderberry studies in HIV patients and found that the plant caused their viral loads to plummet and their CD4 counts to go up. Since then, studies in patients with colds and flu have confirmed elderberries’ unique ability to prevent viruses from penetrating cell walls and duplicating. You can now find elderberry products almost everywhere. Look for a brand with the highest milligrams of elder and lowest sugar per serving, or a tincture.
- Umcka. An African herb used for centuries, its astounding effectiveness has recently come to the attention of the Western world. Studies demonstrate antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and immune-boosting properties.
- Zinc. This mineral stimulates anti-viral immunity. Do not use nasal spray as it can cause loss of smell.
- Oregano drops. Oregano is possibly the most powerful essential oil. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti allergenic. Look for a brand that sources wild or organic.
- Garlic. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine and origin of the “Hippocratic Oath” prescribed garlic to his patients over 2000 years ago for a huge range of ailments. There are currently thousands of peer-reviewed articles attesting to its medicinal attributes. It has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and inhibits flus and colds. I recommend eating it raw if you can tolerate it and not in supplement form. Otherwise cook with it frequently!
- Vitamin D in double doses. Studies show that it protects against colds and flu. Unless you’re sitting in the sun all day, you need more!
- Grapefruit seed extract. This concentrated form of grapefruit has antimicrobial properties. Great for traveling.
- Apple cider vinegar. This age-old remedy is a health tonic as well as a probiotic.
- Viracid. This supplement combines many of the above anti-viral herbs and vitamins.
- Kickass Biotic. This tincture combines 11 potent herbs.
- Echinacea Goldenseal Propolis throat spray. All three of these medicinal herbs have been used for centuries to soothe and heal sore throats. Some studies show that the active compound in Goldenseal (Berberine) is more effective than Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) at fighting flu viruses.
- Gargling! This is what our parents and grandparents did and it still works. Do it hourly or as often as you can.
You don’t have to use everything on the list, and there are a lot of options. From my experience, the more you do up front, the shorter the duration of the virus. If you only do one thing, I would suggest the Viracid. If you’re willing to do three, add Elderberry and Zinc.
I also consume my medicine by:
- juicing carrots, celery, beets, carrots, and ginger. Why? Read my article about it here.
- drinking chicken or beef bone broth. Homemade is best but if you’re not up to the task try to find it hot. Otherwise, buy a frozen version. Read more about it here.
- devouring lots of foods with vitamin C, which is vital for white blood cells to fight infections and also for immune health. Many studies show that food sources are more effective than supplements, so eat plenty of oranges, spinach, kiwi, and sweet peppers. Intravenous Vitamin C is currently being tested on Corona patients.
- adding coconut oil to roasted or stir-fried veggies, smoothies, or oatmeal. There is currently a study testing the derivatives of coconut oil on Coronavirus.
- taking probiotics (like bifidobacteria) in the form of active cultures in whole, plain yogurt. Read more here.
- hydrating with green tea, hibiscus tea, or chamomile tea—I use loose leaf for maximum potency.
- Does Nutrition Matter?
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While there is much we do not yet know about the Coronavirus, or the disease it causes called COVID-19, we do know that it’s in the family of Coronaviruses which includes SARS and MERS. Because Corona is a new strain, there is still much we need to learn—how easily it is transmitted, how long it lives on surfaces, how virulent it is. But if it behaves at all like similar viruses the world has seen, there are certain actions that may reduce your chances of getting it and minimize its severity if you do. This also applies to the flu.
Like the flu, coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs and disperses small droplets containing the virus into the air. A person may be contaminated if they breathe in this air or touch a surface that the droplets have landed on and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Here’s how the virus hijacks your cells.
Basic recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization)
- Wash your hands often, especially after touching high-trafficked surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and credit card checkout machines.
- Use hand sanitizer if soap is not available.
- Don’t touch your face unless your hands are clean.
- Cough into your sleeve, not your hand, or into a tissue and dispose of it in a closed garbage bin.
- Avoid crowded places, especially if you are a senior or have a compromised immune system.
- Wear a standard surgical mask if you are coughing or have any cold/flu/viral symptoms so as not to infect others; wearing one as a precaution has been a controversial measure but is increasingly being advocated; if you wear one you are protecting others and if they wear one they are protecting you. By some estimates, 25-50% of those infected are asymptomatic so any of us could be carriers without knowing it.
- Self-quarantine for two weeks if you suspect you may have the virus.
What more can you do?
Believe it or not, there is much more that you can do!
Generally, a strong immune system is your best protection against viruses (and bacterial infection, and disease). And there are many, many ways to boost it.
- Eat a healthier diet. Most of us try to eat healthy, but there is always room for improvement. Because there is presently a specific threat, now is the time to reach for some new goals. Here are some suggestions:
• Reduce sugar intake immediately. Sugar suppresses the immune system. Fructose in fruit is fine. Substitute fruit for sugary desserts.
• Start making smoothies or juicing. Add coconut oil.
• Drink unsweetened herbal tea or flavored water (add slices of orange, lemon, or cucumber to a pitcher of chilled water) instead of soda, milk, or coffee.
• Fruits and veggies support the immune system. Eat a wide range of colorful, organic produce and make sure to include berries, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, a variety of mushrooms (Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake are especially known for immune support), and Iots of garlic.
• Include more roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables, stir-fries and salads in your daily menu.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can considerably improve the immune defense mechanism including against viral infections such as colds and the flu.
- Take protective supplements. Scroll up for my go-to list. My three favorites are:
• Vitamin D. Most people are deficient, so check your serum levels. I take a maintenance dose of 5000 IU and I double or triple it if I am under the weather. Aim for 20 minutes of sunshine every day and expose your arms or legs.
• Elderberry syrup or tincture. I take a spoonful/day during flu season and three spoonfuls if I start feeling sick. Not recommended for those with autoimmune conditions—check with your doctor.
• Zinc. When I feel a cold coming on I take a zinc lozenge every hour. I like Life Extension capsules; Cold-Eze are also effective and popular.
I will include a list of additional supplements that I am taking in a separate post.
- Consume probiotics. Mounting evidence shows that you can prevent and treat many illnesses with probiotics. Consider a supplement or foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha (with no added sugar), sauerkraut, and fermented soybeans like miso and tempeh.
- Socialize. Support your friends and let them support you. Social interaction is uplifting and diffuses anxiety so increase interactions with loved ones who make you feel good. Stress hormones suppress the immune system and positive interactions strengthen it. We now face “social distancing” guidelines to prevent widespread infection so use all the technology at your disposal to keep in touch. Do a good deed by calling elderly people you know to check on them.
- Laugh. Research shows that laughter impacts health through moderation of stress chemicals. Watch funny movies (make a list of your old favorites), call friends who make you laugh, read funny magazines, tell jokes, try to make light of things if you’re able.
- Take a break from the news. News outlets report on dire situations and tragedies because that’s what sells. Don’t be sucked into the 24-hour news cycle. Instead, read a good novel or spend time on a hobby.
If you are traveling
- Touch as few things as possible with your naked fingers.
- Keep your face as far away from other passengers as possible—6 feet is ideal.
- Opt for a window seat, which will best separate you from other passengers and human activity.
- Use alcohol-based wet wipes to sanitize your seat belt, tray, screen, and armrests. Spray your hands or use gel before touching your face.
- Use a tissue to open bathroom door, to flush toilet, to turn on water, etc., then discard it.
If stores are out of sanitizer
Amazon and the healthy living site Thrive Market and many, many others are out of hand sanitizer! (Here’s why). I hear that In other countries like Israel, shelves have been wiped clean as well. But fear not, because you can always make your own!
Here is a great article on how you can make your own if you need it right away. It’s not difficult and requires easily accessible ingredients.
The recipe recommended by the WHO has the consistency of liquid:
- 1 cup of 98% isopropyl alcohol
- 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide
- 1 teaspoon of glycerin
- ¼ cup, 1 tablespoon, and 1 teaspoon (or 85 milliliters) of sterile distilled or boiled cold water
An alternative, which is gentler on the skin yet still effective contains:
- 1 cup of 91% isopropyl alcohol
- ½ cup of aloe vera gel (natural or store-bought)
- 15 drops of tea tree oil (or another antibacterial/antiviral essential oil)
Are your favorite things a threat?
Your phone probably contains more bacteria than a public toilet or the bottom of your shoe. Studies show that almost 50% of the phones of healthcare workers harbored dangerous bacteria like Staphylococcus epidermidis (which my newborn picked up in a hospital) and MSRA (Staphylococcus aureus). And 92% had some microbial growth! So if you are in a healthcare setting, be extra vigilant.
Studies also show that a majority of cell phones are colonized by 6 different strains of bacteria. So when you wash your hands and then pick up your phone, you are recontaminating yourself.
If the outbreak comes to your area
Stay calm. Most cases are still mild or moderate. If you are over 60 or have an underlying health condition like asthma, be more vigilant and take more steps to avoid contact with others. Mortalities have tended to cluster around senior facilities with health-challenged residents.
Try to get an Argaman Technologies copper mask if you are at higher risk (see above). I bought mine here. This novel mask uses a patented blend of pathogen-killing copper oxide. It has proven effective in multiple studies including a recent one by the CDC. The company rushed a million units to hospitals and are now sold out, but they are manufacturing more and planning to sell them on Amazon for individual purchase. There is not yet a release date so check Amazon periodically. The reason these masks work to prevent spread is that the copper-infused textile kill all germs on contact, so removing it won’t contaminate your fingers. The company is also planning to manufacture hospital fabrics—bedding, nurse uniforms, lab coats, scrubs, and curtains,—and this will likely reduce the spread of staph and other pathogens which are currently rampant at hospitals.
Carry hand sanitizer in your pocket or purse and use it liberally when there is no soap and water available–after transactions in stores, using the gas pump, touching menus in restaurants, using exercise equipment, etc. Remember that your car keys, credit cards, and phone don’t have hands to wash themselves so consider wiping them down with alcohol regularly.
Hydrate your nose. You may not have heard this advice but it makes sense. Dry mucus membranes are more susceptible to viruses. You can either use a neti pot or a nasal irrigation system like Neilmed. Here are instructions.
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the COVID-19 symptoms—fever, dry cough, achy muscles, fatigue, and especially, difficulty breathing. Chances are it’s just a cold but you want confirmation and your local health department needs to track exposure and illness. Your doctor will advise you about where to go to get tested. If you do not have a doctor or insurance, call an urgent care, walk-in clinic, or emergency room, and inquire about testing. You can also call the Ascension Texas hotline at 1-833-919-1680 to talk to a triage nurse. In Texas you can call 2-1-1 for info about low-cost or free providers.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19
Self-quarantine. Take every precaution not to infect others. Have all your food and essentials delivered and wear a mask at all times if you need to leave your house. If you live with others try to arrange a dedicated space to self-isolate and wear a mask as much as possible. If you must share a bathroom or other facilities, practice strict hygiene and refer to the CDC website for details. There are specific supplements that may help keep your case from becoming serious. If you have a pre-existing condition or are on medication, consult a health practitioner who specializes in supplements. if you are having trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
Remember that children are at less risk. Very few children have died and they tend to experience no symptoms or very mild ones. Still, it’s important to separate them from elders or those who are immune-compromised if they are attending a school or daycare facility where they have constant exposure to germs.
Corona Right Now
AS OF AUGUST 13:
- confirmed worldwide: 20,883,802
- dead: 748,545
- recovered: 13,566,207
- confirmed in US: 3,479,383
- dead in US: 169,263
- vaccines in development: 164
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center is one of the best sources of global news and is packed with valuable information.
Get up to the minute numbers from the Johns Hopkins’ Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). This site evaluates and aggregates data from the top five sites tracking the virus: the WHO, CDC, European Centre for Disease Prevention, China’s National Health Commission, and the Chinese CDC. This site, developed by an enterprising teenager, is actually more user-friendly and captures the same data. It’s noteworthy that a very high number of people have recovered. What is concerning is that many people who recover after hospitalization continue to suffer with side effects such as loss of taste, gut issues, fatigue, etc.
What we don’t actually know is how many people have contracted Coronavirus but don’t yet exhibit symptoms. Infectious disease experts believe that many thousands of people are not being counted because they are asymptomatic so have not yet gone to a doctor or else they can’t get a test kit. The numbers reported may actually be much lower than the actual cases. Read this astounding piece of statistical analysis which shows that COVID-19 is 30 times worse than the flu.
- If you are a child or teenager, your risk is very small.
- If you are over 60 or immune-compromised, your risk is greater.
- If you are a smoker or have asthma or another condition that impairs your lungs or heart, or if you live somewhere with severe air pollution (like in China), your risk is greatest. CDC Guidelines for high risk populations.
A Corona Cure?
These nine companies are working on treatments. However, vaccines must undergo three human drug trials before they are released to the public. One Texas company claims that they are almost there. Europe has just increased funding for Corona vaccine research. But unless a vaccine is rushed through the FDA, this will take at least 12-18 months. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is exploring other technologies that may be viable sooner. In the meantime, look towards prevention as your greatest means for escaping infection.
Vitamins and supplements. They are not all created equal, and many popular brands do not contain what they claim to. I will be doing a separate blogpost on specific supplements that can boost your immune system—most of us will probably be exposed to the Coronavirus at some point, and we want our bodies to be prepared.
Consumer Lab is an independent company that evaluates products and rates them based on quality, authenticity, and affordability, much like Consumer Reports. They have reviews on a huge range of products, from fish oil to prenatal vitamins and they answer reader questions like “Does CBD oil help fight colds and flu” and “Are there collagen supplements for vegetarians and vegans?” Some content is available to all but access to detailed reviews and ratings requires a subscription.
Now is the time to strengthen your immune system so that you have a better chance of escaping infection or of having a mild case of COVID-19. Although nothing in this blogpost can guarantee that you won’t get the virus, you can certainly improve your chances of not getting sick. Also consider bringing some of these tips to your parents, grandparents, and older friends to help them be better prepared.
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