Tips, research, and more on staying healthy, and improving your immune system.
Tips, Research, and More On Staying Healthy, and Improving Your Immune System.
The question on everyone’s mind right now seems to be: How can I stay healthy? With flu season in full swing and more developments coming every day on the novel coronavirus, it’s helpful to be informed, prepared, and vigilant for your health and for the health of those around you. While you may want to get some basics (canned foods, and groceries), it isn't necessarily recommended to buy out your local Costco’s toilet paper supply to plan for Armageddon. What doesn’t hurt: following preventive guidelines to stay healthy and doubling down on your immunity arsenal.
Here are a few tips and tools that can generally support our well-being, along with resources from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that you can turn to for more timely updates.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR ABOUT COVID-19
COVID-19 is a form of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. It is a respiratory disease that was first detected in China and has now spread across the globe, with over 125,000 confirmed cases globally and more than 4,600 global deaths as of March 12 (see the WHO situation reports that are released daily).
- How it spreads: COVID-19 spreads from person to person through close contact or droplets that are produced when a person coughs or sneezes. People are most contagious when they have symptoms; however, it may also spread before people are symptomatic (CDC).
- Symptoms: Two to fourteen days after exposure, symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath may appear (CDC). Other, rarer symptoms such as sore throat and diarrhea have also been reported.
- What to do if you are sick: If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and isolate yourself, avoiding contact with other people and pets. If you live with another person, practice rigorous hygiene, disinfect surfaces regularly, and avoid sharing items. Call your doctor, tell them that you may have COVID-19, and ask them to alert your local or state health department. Have your doctor determine when it is safe to end home isolation (CDC).
- How serious is COVID-19: Most reports of COVID-19 are generally mild. However, older adults, those with existing health conditions, and people who are immunocompromised are more likely to develop a serious form of illness that may be fatal (CDC). This is why it’s especially important to isolate yourself if you have symptoms so that you do not spread it to susceptible people.
- How to protect yourself: There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, although there is one in development that may be available in one to two years. To protect yourself from infection, wash your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your face (read this New York Times article for tips on how to resist the urge). Disinfect items you touch often, such as your phone or laptop, with EPA-registered household disinfectants. Avoid close contact with others who may have symptoms (CDC).
- The flu versus COVID-19: Both the flu and coronavirus have similar symptoms, are contagious, and can be mild or severe depending on the person. While scientists know a lot about the flu, their knowledge of COVID-19 is still developing as they gather information. There is a vaccine for the flu; there is not an available vaccine for COVID-19.
SUPPLEMENTS TO NOURISH YOUR BODY
It's true that zinc has anti-viral properties. Zinc lozenges or other orally dissolving zinc formulas containing certain forms of zinc have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds, which are caused by viruses. (They appear to do this by acting directly in the throat, which is why the timing and duration of use matters when treating colds with zinc.)
Zinc has also been shown in a laboratory study to inhibit the replication of coronaviruses in cells (te Velthuis, PLoS Pathog 2010). However, there is no evidence at this time to suggest that using zinc lozenges can prevent or treat COVID-19.
Be aware that typical daily doses of zinc provided by zinc lozenges generally exceed tolerable upper limits for zinc, and for this reason, they should not be used for longer than about a week. Excessive intake of zinc can cause copper deficiency. Zinc can impair the absorption of antibiotics, and use of zinc nasal gels or swabs has been linked to temporary or permanent loss of smell.
Has been shown to inhibit certain flu and cold viruses, and one clinical trial suggests garlic supplements may help to prevent colds. However, there is no current evidence that eating garlic or taking a garlic supplement can help prevent or treat COVID-19.
Has been shown in lab studies to inhibit the replication of human flu viruses, including certain strains of Influenza A and B, and H1N1. Small, preliminary trials in people with the flu suggest that, taken with the first day or so of experiencing symptoms, elderberry shortens the duration of the flu. There is no evidence that elderberry extract can prevent COVID-19 or reduce symptoms in people who have been infected.
NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)
It's a derivative of the amino acid, cysteine, which is converted to the antioxidant glutathione. There is very early evidence that NAC may improve certain blood markers of immune system health but there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that NAC supplementation "boosts" the immune system to the extent that it will reduce the occurrence of illness, nor prevent coronavirus. A clinical study using 600mg of NAC taken twice daily during flu season found that it did not prevent infection but fewer infected people were symptomatic.
Below are a few herbs and plants with anti-viral properties.