Here’s my personal answer to what has to be the most-asked question of the week! Please read to the end for important context and perspective.
- Don’t wear a mask, but DO wash your hands. Masks are useless for preventing the coronavirus, wearing them improperly can actually increase risk, and most health organizations-including the WHO-only recommend them in certain cases (i.e. health workers). If you HAVE the virus a mask may help prevent you giving it to others, but if you are currently healthy, forget about a mask, it’s useless.
- Make sure you have optimal Vitamin D levels. Nothing in the body works properly at low levels of vitamin D, especially the immune system. If your immune system is too stimulated, you can wind up with autoimmune disease, but if it’s too sluggish, you wind up sick. Vitamin D is the ultimate immune system balancer. You can get an inexpensive blood test for vitamin D from your doc or online from the vitamin D council, but make sure it’s the 25(OH) vitamin D blood test. Most experts consider 50-80 nmol/L optimal. When you supplement, make absolutely sure you’re taking vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), NOT vitamin D2 (which is what they usually use to “fortify” foods).
- Take Extra Vitamin C: It’s an old standby, but it works. Remember, “you can’t OD on C”-so just keep your tissues loaded with the stuff. I’d recommend AT LEAST 2,000 mg a day during any period when there are likely to be immune system challenges (i.e. flu season, outbreaks, etc.). How do you know if you’re taking too much? If you begin to get diarrhea, then your tissues are fully loaded. If that happens, no big deal— just cut back a bit.
- Zinc: Zinc is the uncredited superhero of the immune system. Up your intake to 50 mg a day during this period. Lozenges work, as do capsules or even liquid.
- Black Elderberry Extract: Sold over the counter as Sambucol, this stuff has been shown in Israeli research to cut the number of days that the flu sidelines you in half. That doesn’t mean it protects against the flu-and it certainly doesn’t mean it will protect against COVID-19-but since we know it cuts the severity and length of symptoms of the influenza virus, it’s a good bet that it would have an effect on other viruses.
- Olive Leaf Complex (Olive Leaf Extract): This is a great all-around tonic for the immune system. Compounds in the olive leaf have been shown to have anti-microbial activity against a wide range of microbes.
- And now, for my seventh (and most important) recommendation: RELAX.
You really can’t take actions that are specific to preventing this virus, but you can take actions that strengthen your overall immune system and your general resilience. The best protection against a hurricane is to build a strong home, and the best protection against an unknown virus is to build a strong, healthy, resilient body. That means good food, good supplements, good sleep, good exercise and good relationships.
Stress, anxiety and worry are the enemy of an optimally functioning immune system (think about how easy it is to get sick when you’re feeling “run down” or stressed out). There’s a whole science called psychoneuroimmunology that studies how what we think about influences our immune system. Your thoughts matter.
All of which to say is, let’s keep our “worry” in perspective. This is just another virus, the fatality rate is very low-significantly lower than the flu— and thousands of people are walking around with it with zero symptoms. It will probably be all solved within a year’s time, as most similar epidemic/pandemics have been.
Chances are good-not perfect, but very good indeed-that your life will be ultimately be unaffected by the coronavirus in any real, substantive way.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to wash your hands!
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, also known as “The Nutrition Myth Buster” ™ is a nationally known board-certified nutritionist and expert on diet and weight loss. He has appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS as an expert on nutrition has contributed to articles in The New York Times, Forbes, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair Online, Men’s Health, Prevention, and dozens of other print and online publications.
Dr. Jonny is the best-selling author of 15 books including The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Living Low Carb (now in its fourth edition), and is the co-author, with cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, of the controversial best-seller, “The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan that Will”. His latest book, Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now!— written with PBS star Steven Masley, MD— was published by Harper Collins in January 2016.
Follow him @jonnybowden www.jonnybowden.com