During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many patients are asking what they can do to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. There has been an increasing demand for different therapies that boost immune function, for protective equipment, and for medical supplies. As a result, there are also a lot of shortages of these necessities. It is important to focus on preventive medicine during these times so that we can do our best to stay healthy. In that spirit, here are several helpful things that you can do all on your own while socially isolating.
Limbic Retraining – focus on your mental health to help your body
In many of our patients with chronic inflammation, there are issues with swelling and over-activation in a part of the brain called the limbic system (which includes the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and hypothalamus). This part of the brain has many functions, but one of the most important is the regulation of emotional responses. When parts of the limbic system are inflamed, this can cause excessive amounts of fear, worry, anxiety, and other negative emotions and thought patterns. These emotions lead to a stress response, which leads to more inflammation, then more limbic activation… a vicious cycle! This can also contribute to a worsening of physical symptoms as a result of the increased inflammation.
A type of program called Limbic Retraining can help to break that cycle. You can see a list of available programs in our link section, but we typically recommend the Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) for our patients as it has the most published data backing it. From their website:
The DNRS program examines how various forms of trauma can affect the stress and protective mechanisms in the brain, how this affects overall health, and how this brain trauma manifests on physical, psychological, and emotional levels. Patients learn how to effectively interrupt the maladapted ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response and stop the flood of stress-initiated biochemicals that activate cytokine activity and inflammation. Patients also learn to remap the neural circuits that influence survival and stress mechanisms, thereby normalizing sensory perception, detoxification, immune function, and inflammatory responses.
Sinus Hygiene – remove dirt and germs from deep in your sinuses
Many of our patients are familiar with the concept of using saline rinses in devices like NetiPot to help promote sinus health and combat MARCoNS or fungal overgrowth, but peer-reviewed studies have also shown that proper sinus hygiene can help to prevent the spread of viral upper respiratory illnesses.
Our sinuses do a great job of filtering the air we breathe and trapping minuscule particles of dirt and dust, as well as bacteria, fungi, and viruses in a sticky layer of mucus from which they can’t escape. Flushing out the sinuses with saline will help to remove this mucus and debris, as well as to maintain proper moisture levels.
There are also several commercial products available that can be added to sinus rinses as a sort of “rinse aid.” There is a blend of essential oils called Alkalol, a xylitol rinse called Xlear, and of course a favorite of many of our patients, the herbal blend Biocidin. If you think that you could benefit from some additional sinus support, talk to your provider to help you select the best option! Also consider Navage, a product available through Rezilir Health.
Sleep Hygiene – recharge your immune system with a full 6-8 hours
It may seem obvious, but getting enough sleep can make all the difference when it comes to staying healthy and keeping stress to a minimum. Unfortunately, increased stress levels usually mean a decreased ability to sleep easily. That’s why it’s so important during this time to practice proper sleep hygiene – especially if you feel that you aren’t currently getting the full 6 to 8 hours that you need each night!
You can make an appointment with Dr. Steele to discuss proper sleep habits in more detail but there are a few general recommendations that can make a big difference. To begin with, make sure to avoid stressful activities in the late afternoon and evening. This includes not only physical activities like exercise, but also things like listening to the news, checking stocks, or paying bills. You should also make sure to have a light dinner with foods that are easy to digest and limit fluid intake about 2 hours before you go to bed.
Many individuals also find that they benefit from reducing the light in their bedroom – LED alarm clocks are a common source of nighttime light pollution, but even the standby light on your TV can contribute to impaired sleep. Try shutting off all electronic devices in your bedroom and making sure your blinds are closed to stop light pollution from outside. To further help your circadian rhythm, you can also try lowering the air temperature 2-4°F an hour or two before bedtime, or taking a cold shower about an hour before going to sleep to mimic the natural change in temperature that comes with the night.
Healthy Home Supplementation – skip the supplement aisle for the grocery aisle
In the past couple of weeks as the novel coronavirus as taken the country by storm, there has been a huge demand for supplements that help to support a healthy immune system. As a result, we are seeing national shortages of common supplements like Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea. But don’t panic! What most people don’t realize is that they already have most of what they need at home already (especially after stocking up on groceries!).
As many of our patients on the Wahls Diet already know, eating 5-7 servings of colorful vegetables and 2-3 servings of low-glycemic fruits per day is the foundation of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. If you can achieve these recommendations as part of a balanced diet, then you will be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to support a healthy body. In addition, you will be consuming a complete spectrum of powerful plant compounds called flavonoids that are being studied for their ability to reduce inflammation and modulate immune response. A win-win!
There are a few flavonoids that are of particular interest in our efforts to maintain a healthy immune system and support a healthy reduction in viral activity; quercetin – found in many fruits; myrcetin – found in oranges, nuts, and berries; apigenin – found in chamomile, parsley, and celery; and curcumin – found in turmeric. Many of these products are available for purchase through Rezilir Health. Please contact Dr. Steele to request an appointment to discuss which options best suit you and your health.
A final note – supplements that merit caution
In light of the aforementioned run on immune-supporting supplements, we also wish to share a word of caution. Due to the inflammatory “cytokine storm” that the virus seems to trigger in some patients, the integrative community is advising caution around immunostimulating supplements that have been shown in preclinical studies to potentially increase cytokines IL-1β and IL-18. This may include Elderberry, Echinacea, Arabinogalactan, Propolis, and Vitamin D. There are, however, other supplements that can support healthy immune activity without causing increases in these cytokines. The current recommendation is to use these supplements to help with prevention but to discontinue if you should begin to exhibit signs or symptoms of infection.
If you are taking any of these supplements and would like to discuss adjusting your supplement regimen, please reach out to your clinician to schedule an appointment.
We sincerely hope that these recommendations help you to stay happy and healthy during these times. As always, please reach out to a Rezilir team member if there is anything that you would like to discuss, or if you just need someone to listen to your story. We are here for you!
Further Reading: –
Alschuler et al., “Integrative considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Explore. 2020 (000): 1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2020.03.007 – Author Manuscript, “Saline Nasal Irrigation for Upper Respiratory Conditions”. Am Fam Physician. 2009 November 15; 80(10): 1117–1119. PMID: 19904896 – Besedovsky et al., “The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease”. Physiol Rev. 2019 Jul 1; 99(3): 1325-1380. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00010.2018