Is COVID a Canary in the Coalmine for Our Health?
5 Tips for Moving our health not to a "new normal," but a "new phenomonal."
In the early 1900s, before technology to detect carbon monoxide existed, the coal miners would carry canaries down into the mines to detect carbon monoxide. Canaries are very sensitive to carbon monoxide, and served as a warning signal to miners when levels were unsafe. Because of this, canaries have become a metaphor for warning signs.
Is COVID the canary in the coal mine for our health?
I think many of us take our health for granted, we don't really think much about it, until a health issue crops up. I always say, if we don't prioritize our health, it will jump up there on it's own.
One lesson that I think COVID has made very clear, is that our health needs to be at the top of our priority list. I would argue that never before in history has it been so clear that our health is so important. A recent study that looked at 5700 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the New York City area, found that the most common co-morbidities for COVID were hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Having these conditions led to more severe cases and poorer COVID outcomes. So while COVID- 19 does strike some young healthy people, and some may even have severe cases – we know that the majority of devastating outcomes are happening to those with underlying health conditions – some of which are out of our control (age), but many of which a linked to lifestyle choices.
This virus is teaching us the importance of taking care of ourselves goes far beyond our weight or how we look.
Unfortunately, I am hearing over and over that many of us have seen our health not improve over the COVID quarantine, but decline.
Our gyms have been closed, many of us have been shut in our homes and isolated for extended periods, we may be dealing with increased stress levels, financial issues, and unfortunately - many of us have sought comfort in sugary or processed foods and alcohol - all of which can add up to weight gain and health issues - some are calling this "the COVID 19" because people have gained as much as 19 pounds during the quarantine.
If you are feeling like your health has declined, just know - you are not alone, and you do not have to continue on that path.
I always say health is a journey, not a destination. If you get off track, just get back on track when you can.
Each and every day - we make a choice about what we put into our mouths, and how we take care of ourselves. We can all make the decision TODAY to choose health - so we can look & feel our best, but more importantly - so we can improve your immune system and overall health.
So as things are opening up again, and we will be getting out and about more - the time is NOW to make positive changes to our health. If we have seen our health decline, we can make that decision to not let it decline further.
I keep hearing about the "New Normal" that we are all moving into. But how well was the old normal working for us? I say, instead of a new "normal," why not move to new phenomenal?
Below are 5 tips that can help you get back on the right path to your health goals:
5 Tips for Moving our health to a "new phenomonal:"
Consume a Low Sugar Diet
Reduce stress levels
Optimize Vitamin D & other key nutrients
1. AVOID SUGAR:
If you have ever considered taking a break from sugar -- now is the time to do it! IN addition to being the #1 reason for weight gain and a sluggish metabolism, eating sugar is one of the worst things we can do for our immune system, because sugar lowers our white blood cell effectiveness, which makes us more vulnerable to viruses and bacterial infections.
Chapter one of my book 'The Perfect Metabolism Plan' is titled "break up with sugar" because the #1 step to reach a healthy weight, and keep your metabolism humming, is to eat for blood sugar stability. If you need more support in breaking up with your sugar habit, consider taking my course The Break up with Sugar Program.
Getting control of your blood sugar is the #1 thing to do to lose weight and reduce your risk of diseases. Stop all sweetened beverages, skip the desserts, and limit refined carbs (which are converted to sugars rapidly). Not only will you see the excess weight start to release, you will be reducing your risk of every major non-communicable disease. To learn more and boost your motivation - read 20 Reasons to Break up with Sugar.
Many of us have been shut out of the gyms and swimming pools, and have not been getting the regular exercise necessary. I've noticed that my exercise routine has declined a little bit during the COVID quarantines as well. But I do try to make an effort to at least get out for a nice walk every day.
Exercise is important for metabolism, but also for reducing inflammation, controlling stress, and boosting the immune system. So if you are not able to get back into a gym - just get outside for regular walks, buy a few weights for your house, or find an online workout program. If it has been a long time since you have exercised regularly - start small with short walks, and just improving your range of motion with some light stretching and body weight exercises. A little goes a long way.
Exercise is a powerful mood booster, as well as important for our metabolism. Exercising outdoors will also give us exposure to vitamin D, so that doubles the benefit.
3. ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET
An inflammatory response - is normally part of a healing process, but sometimes this natural response can switch into something that can be harmful, even lethal. One of the severe outcomes of COVID is an immune response called a "Cytokine Storm." This happens when the immune system goes into overdrive.
“Cytokines are inflammatory immunologic proteins that are there to fight off infections and ward off cancers,” explains Randy Cron, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and medicine, and author of the textbook Cytokine Storm Syndrome (Springer, 2019). “But when they’re out of control they can make you very ill.” Simply put, a Cytokine Storm is when the immune system goes into "severe overdrive" in response to an insult or infection (like a virus). According to Dr. Cron, up to 10% of the population could carry genes that make them more prone to this type of immune system issue.
So right now it is important to focus on lowering our levels of inflammation. This can be done by reducing sugar intake (yes, sugar can increase inflammation too!), avoiding processed fats and industrial seed oils (like margarines and vegetable oils), and making sure we are getting plenty of inflammation-lowering healthy fats like omega 3 fats. Omega 3 can be found in foods like flax and chia seeds, hemp hearts, wild fatty fish (like salmon and sardines), algae, fish oils, and nuts like walnuts and almonds. Another potent inflammation fighter is turmeric (it is so powerful that it is sometimes called "natures Advil"). Learn more about preventing Cytokine storms with COVID by reading: Is Elderberry Safe Right Now?
4. REDUCE STRESS LEVELS
Stress. We can’t see it, or touch it…but we can feel it’s effects, and stress plays a major role in weight imbalances and a myriad of other health issues.
Many of us were functioning in a stressed out state all of the time before the added stress from the past 3 months of quarantines, virus fears, protests, and economic downturns - so it is no surprise that many of us are feeling overwhelmed.
Even just turning on the TV or scrolling our social media feeds can cause our stress levels to rise. Add into the mix poor diets, excess alcohol consumption, eating on the run, and not exercising can add to our stress as well.
I filmed a short Instagram video with some tips for managing stress and balancing mood - watch it here:
In addition - I have found that turning off the news, and limiting social media has been very helpful to my mental state - in fact, I recently deleted my personal Facebook account! I still have my business page on Facebook, and my Instagram account. But once I realized that Facebook was designed to divide people, I decided that I no longer wanted it in my life!!
Read: Stress a Hidden Factor in Disease and Weight Gain to learn more & get my 3 golden rules for lowering stress.
5. KEY NUTRIENTS:
Do not underestimate the importance of nutrients for our immune system! While they are not “cures” - lots of research shows that deficiencies in key nutrients increases your risk of viral illness, or developing serious complications.
Below are the supplements we are taking for prevention, as well as the supplements we have on hand in case of infection (best taken at first sign of illness).
Vit. D (20 mins sunshine daily or) 2,000 IU of Vit D
Magnesium - 150 mg taken with vitamin D for absorption/conversion of D to active hormone form). Best forms of magnesium are glycinate, malate, orotate.
1,000 mg of vitamin C (pref. Liposomal)
Zinc 30 mg/daily
Selenium 200 mcg/daily
We also have the following on hand in case of symptoms (which we would add in addition to above):
quercetin 500 mg/day
NAC 900 mg/day
increase liposomal C to 1,000 mg / 3 times a day (regular vitamin C can cause loose stools at this amount, which is one of the reasons we like liposomal C, it does not affect digestion, it is also highly bioavailable).
Find professional grade supplements in my Fullscript Supplement Dispensary - click on Categories and you will find my COVID prevention kit favorites.
Ask yourself: Am I Choosing Health Today?
In my line of work as a Nutritionist, a lot of people come to me because they want to “lose weight.’ I always tell them that I view weight as a symptom. I believe the majority of health issues (symptoms - including weight), are a result of imbalance. The past few months, we have all been out of our normal routines, and so it should come as no surprise that many of us need to get back to balance, and our good lifestyle and nutrition habits.
Build Your Health House Out of Bricks - One Day at a TIme
A friend of mine made the analogy to ‘The Three Little Pigs’ story, and it really resonated with me. This new virus is just the current "Big Bad Wolf," and we can be sure that it will not be the last. So a question we all need to ask ourselves: Is our health built out of straws, wood, or bricks?
My nutrition professor said “The things we do day in and day out have the biggest impact on our health.” It takes time and dedication to build a brick house. So those that have been painstakingly putting down one brick after another, making healthy choices day in and day out, are more ready when a Big Bad Wolf shows up on the doorstep.
If we have not been prioritizing our health, we might have a house built out of straws. All of a sudden the Wolf comes along, and we try to patch it up – taking supplements and eating healthy at that moment - it might make it a little stronger, but still will have weakness.
There will be other viruses and bacteria. Instead of trying to eradicate them all, we should be working on making ourselves inhospitable – this requires taking better care of ourselves with a nutrient rich diet, limiting our sugar intake, and managing our stress levels. Some nutrients that are particularly important for the immune system to work are zinc, selenium, vitamins D, C, and A.
I am so passionate about eating healthy and taking care of myself – because I have been on the other side many times. I struggled with weight issues as a youth, sugar addiction, and chronic health issues like pain and digestion issues through much of my life. After years of looking to doctors to “solve” my problems, I found most of my answers right at the end of my fork. We have so much more power over our health than we give ourselves credit for.
In times of a health crisis, we realize that there is no greater wealth than health. As the Dalai Lama said when asked what surprised him the most about humanity:
"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Please note: Sara Vance is not a doctor and is not providing medical services. All blogs are general in nature - all readers (especially those with a medical condition or taking prescription medications) should discuss any & all nutritional and supplement recommendations with their doctor before proceeding.