5 Lesser Known Health Hacks to Avoid Catching the Coronavirus
1. Limit Your Sugar Consumption
While we all know that refined sugar is unnatural, many people are unaware of the havoc that it wreaks on the body and immune system. With the sugar industry worth over 100 billion, ingenious marketing and funded research papers are widespread; it is perfectly understandable that we're fooled into believing that sugary vitamin C drinks and "zero cholesterol" breakfast cereals are beneficial to us.
Alarmingly, I have seen many families stock-piling pastries, biscuits and frozen desserts to enjoy at home during the enforced Coronavirus quarantine period. Sugar is a potent immune system suppressor, putting your white blood cells (WBC) into a temporary coma and making it easy for pathogens to establish themselves in your system. This reduction in immune functionality occurs even after the ingestion of one dose of glucose, and lasts for hours.
A large study carried out in the 70s revealed that the phagocytic capacity of neutrophils (a type of WBC) is alarmingly lower after consumption of a moderate dose of sugar. These cells become sluggish, simply not responding to the bacteria or viruses introduced (Sanchez et al., 1973).
Since the Coronavirus is capable of rendering vulnerable individuals incapacitated, we must all completely eliminate sugar from our diets so as to avoid a). falling ill ourselves or b). being silent carriers for long periods of time and endangering our loved ones.
Feel free to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, but do not be tempted to guzzle pints of juice for added vitamin C. Even if no extra sugar is added, the high post-prandial rise in fructose that occurs after drinking juice will pose an inflammatory burden on your body and weaken your immunity.
2. Ensure You Are Getting And Absorbing Zinc
Nearly all of us are deficient in zinc, since modern agriculture results in produce that is less mineral-rich and more and more people are following vegetarian/vegan diets.
I do not recommend the hasty consumption of supplements, as many are not necessary. However, we all consume combinations of food that a). our ancestors would not have accessed and therefore b). that work against our body's capacity to absorb and utilize minerals.
The tannins in tea, coffee and chocolate (and many other plant products) reduce zinc absorption by up to 100%, meaning it is therefore prudent for everyone to supplement zinc on a daily basis. Even those eating an abundance of ethically-sourced animal products like beef and liver could easily be deficient, and we should all strive to eliminate any possible causes of immune impairment during this pandemic.
There are some other key caveats to zinc supplementation:
- Zinc must be consumed at the same time as vitamin C to be of use to the body.
- Most commercially-available forms have an extremely low bioavailability, and can hardly be absorbed. Zinc gluconate, zinc acetate and zinc sulfate are the salts most commonly found in over-the-counter supplements and sprays, and are unlikely to offer any significant benefits.
- is a great product that contains a powerful dose of vitamin C, 15mg of zinc picolinate (the best-absorbed form of zinc available) and echinacea, for added immunity. I have been taking two a day for 2.5 weeks, and all far so good! This
By the way, take care to ensure you stock up on whatever you need as soon as possible (supplements, books, household detergents..); we hope that platforms such as Amazon will remain in service, but a pandemic of this nature is unprecedented. We sadly cannot predict how our world will be affected in the following weeks, and our luxury compromized.
3. Remember You Are Strong and Relax
The coronavirus is a real threat, and we should be assuming a paranoid stance and ensuring that we limit our exposure to others. However, please remember the importance of limiting anxiety in the maintenance of overall good health.
If intrusive thoughts overwhelm your mind and you experience the physiological signs of anxiety for a significant period of time, you will have elevated plasma concentrations of cortisol.
Cortisol reduces the immune system's ability to fight viruses by decreasing the number of lymphocytes circulating in your blood (Maydych et al., 2017). This makes you far more likely to fall ill and develop severe symptoms upon contact with a pathogen like the Coronavirus.
I am sure you remember a time in your life when you were stressed and, as a consequence, constantly felt 'under the weather' and displayed permanent cold symptoms.
Relaxing and feeling empowered will do wonders for lowering your body's stress load. The placebo effect is of great importance in not only neuroscience but also immunology; it is crucial to engage with whatever mindfulness-promoting techniques work for you. Believing that you are strong, immersing yourself in your passions, entering flow-state at least once a day and phoning loved ones will decrease your inflammatory burden and up-regulate key immunomodulatory genes.
This is the time to prioritize whatever makes you feel 'whole', and to follow your bliss.
4. Drink Mushroom Tea To Better Fight The Virus
As a neuroscientist, I am permanently trying to discover 'biohacks' (i.e. supplements that boast enough health benefits to be worth incorporating them into our lives).
While matcha tea has been my staple for years, I have recently discovered mushroom tea (a caffeine-free alternative). Completely non-psychoactive, it puts you into a lovely, relaxed and lucid state of focus and flow due to it's anti-inflammatory properties and ability to boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
Beyond promoting mental health, medicinal mushroom preparations offer very real benefits to the immune system in the face of flu-type viruses. For this reason, it is a cornerstone of traditional Russian medicine and is also drunk on a daily basis in Finland and Sweden.
Cytokines are the proteins responsible for stimulating WBCs, which mediate all immune reactions in the body. Research on mice elucidates that the mushrooms Chaga, Reishi and Lion's Mane regulate cytokine production in mammals(Ko, Jin and Pyo, 2011), which explains its application in virus prevention.
While some preparations can be bitter, this of Colombian coffee, Lion's Mane and Chaga just tastes like velvety, delicious coffee. Lower in caffeine than a regular cup of coffee, it immerses you in the "mushroom alpha wave state" with a little familar added energy kick. Four Sigmatic mixture
5. Keep Up With Your Cardiovascular Exercise
Though you should practice social isolation as far as possible and definitely not attend group exercise sessions, it is recommended that you strive to exercise and increase your heart rate for at least 30 minutes a day.
Doing so will not only upregulate BDNF, serotonin, dopamine and endorphins (all of which will keep you level-headed and optimistic should we face a prolonged quarantine period), but will also stimulate your immune system.
Cardiovascular exercise pushes antibodies and WBCs around the body more quickly and enhances their production (Natale et al., 2003), in addition to increasing your body's temperature; just like the fever that the Coronavirus induces, this benign systemic temprature increase will help to kill the virus should you be carrying it (even if you are asymptomatic).
Ko, S., Jin, M. and Pyo, M., 2011. Inonotus obliquus extracts suppress antigen-specific IgE production through the modulation of Th1/Th2 cytokines in ovalbumin-sensitized mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 137(3), pp.1077-1082.
Maydych, V., Claus, M., Dychus, N., Ebel, M., Damaschke, J., Diestel, S., Wolf, O., Kleinsorge, T. and Watzl, C., 2017. Impact of chronic and acute academic stress on lymphocyte subsets and monocyte function. PLOS ONE, 12(11), p.e0188108.
Natale, V., Brenner, I., Moldoveanu, A., Vasiliou, P., Shek, P. and Shephard, R., 2003. Effects of three different types of exercise on blood leukocyte count during and following exercise. Sao Paulo Medical Journal, 121(1), pp.09-14.
Sanchez, A., Reeser, J., Lau, H., Yahiku, P., Willard, R., McMillan, P., Cho, S., Magie, A. and Register, U., 1973. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(11), pp.1180-1184.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Lucy