Covid-19: How To Strengthen Your Body For The Fight!
Thanks for reading my blog, and all the comments and questions! I am learning a lot about what’s on your minds. Please feel free to ask anything, and to suggest topics. I am still working full time (for which I am very grateful) and now homeschooling three kids and helping run our little farm, so thanks for being patient with me! I also like to take my time to carefully think about things, and research them using lots of different sources. I want you to be able to count on me for accurate information, not just opinions (although I have PLENTY).
I am going to start leaving off the new case numbers/death tally. I think most of you know what’s going on with the numbers now, and frankly there’s not much that’s changing rapidly day-to-day like it was (that’s a good thing, actually). I’ll jump back in and give updates if I see anything worth pointing out. I use a few different sources, but my “go-to” (which many of you know about already) is https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/. I also like https://www.covid19.healthdata.org, which gives projections for peak infections. For local info from Georgia, the Dept. of Public Health gives twice-daily reports at https://www.dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report. Many of you have asked about the reliability of reporting, and I have found it to be quite lagging and inconsistent. I don’t really know why that is, but I suspect they are getting a lot of info in a lot of different formats. It probably takes them awhile to sort through it, remove the duplicates, and verify the accuracy. I hope that as time goes, this will be more standardized and reliable.
What To Know: How COVID-19 Works, and How You Can Strengthen Your Body
I am so excited about this topic. Understanding how the virus works, and what we can do to protect ourselves from its effects on our body, is something we can actually DO. We can obsess all day long about the numbers, the plan, and the politicians, but frankly, we can’t do a whole lot to change the outcome of any of that. BUT- we can talk about how to mitigate the damage the virus can do to our bodies. But PLEASE keep in mind that I AM NOT A DOCTOR, and THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE!
First, like I’ve said before, we need to peek at COVID-19’s playbook. Knowing how it works can inform us of how to stop it in its tracks. We are still learning a lot about it, but there are some basic things we do know. Viruses can’t replicate by themselves. They need human cells to do that. Our cells don’t just let anything wander in willy-nilly off the streets, though- they have specific mechanisms to recognize stuff that’s supposed to come in vs. stuff that should stay out. Think of it like security at the airport- if you show the right ID and boarding pass, they scan you, and if you aren’t dangerous, they let you in. Well, SARS-CoV-2 (the proper name for the actual virus, COVID-19 is the disease) snuck a boarding pass and ID and got past security. It “tricks” your cell into thinking its something that belongs inside the cell, and it lets it in.
SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t just attack any cell in your body. It attacks a very specific type of lung cell that has “cilia” on it. The cilia are like little hairs that sweep mucus and bacteria out of the lungs. OK, here’s what’s SUPER SNEAKY and awful about this virus. Let’s go back to the analogy of an airport with security. Let’s say the bad guy (virus) slips past security (the outside of your cell), and the guards then notice he’s doing something fishy So they call for backup, and try to get the cops (your immune system) to come help. But the bad guy jams all communication, so the security guys can’t get a signal out to the cops to come help. That’s what the virus does- it sneaks in, then shuts down your immune system, so it can replicate undetected. When you have symptoms of being sick from any virus, the symptoms you notice are actually your own immune system. Nasty cough? That’s your body trying to expel it from your lungs. Swollen glands? That’s your body making antibodies. Fever? That’s your body trying to kill the virus. But since SARS-CoV-2 is flying under the radar, you don’t have symptoms for a long time. And that, my friends, is how we are spreading it for so long before we have symptoms. It’s busy replicating and killing cells like mad, but you don’t even know it.
But THEN- suddenly, in some cases, your body FREAKS. OUT. I mean, can you even blame it? It realizes that it’s being overrun by SARS-CoV-2 and didn’t even know it. So now we are going to call in not just the local cops, but the ARMY The NAVY. The AIRFORCE. And MARINES. You’ve got WAR. This is called a “cytokine storm,” and your body drops a nuclear bomb on itself. Cytokine molecules summon various immune cells to swoop in and attack an infection. Normally they turn on only briefly, then shut off when help arrives. But when a storm occurs, they keep sending the alarm long after it’s needed.
SARS-CoV-2 also likely interferes with hemoglobin in red blood cells, which can prevent the red blood cells from transporting oxygen. Back to my analogy of the airport security, SARS-CoV-2 is cutting the power lines (oxygen) to the airport. COVID-19 also affects your blood pressure. This is one reason COVID-19 is more severe in people with high blood pressure.
Boy, that was a LOT, and I know some of you were like, “Come ON, just tell us what we need to DO!” But we all know you aren’t going to stick with something when you don’t know why you are doing it. So now you know what’s happening, let’s talk about how to stop it.
OK, guys, I know everyone is always hammering on us to exercise. But now we have a whole new reason. If COVID-19 is shutting down your lung cells, don’t you want to boost their numbers from the beginning? And if it keeps you from delivering oxygen where it needs to be, don’t you want to be an oxygen-efficient MACHINE!? You need to prepare your cells for WAR. This is basic training for them. Every time you “huff and puff” with aerobic exercise, you are increasing your “VO2 Max.” That means you are getting more efficient at delivering oxygen. And every time you sustain that “huff and puff,” your body gets a signal that you need more lung capacity. So just like a muscle, your lungs get bigger. That means more lung cells. That means you’ve got more cells to fight with. I’m not even going to MENTION smoking and vaping! So, every day, strive to “huff and puff” AT LEAST 30 minutes if you can. Walk, run, jump, skip- BREATHE. Personally, this is why I think it’s important to keep parks and public places open. We don’t all have the luxury of a yard or a treadmill. People need to MOVE and keep active and healthy!
Reduce Inflammation And Boost Immunity
There are two types of inflammation. One is acute inflammation. This happens when we are sick, and your body mounts a full attack on something. The other type is chronic inflammation, which results from lifestyle factors like stress and poor diet. Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system continually fights little battles in your body that it doesn’t need to fight. It wears your body down, and ties up your ability to fight acute infections when it needs to. So, when you’ve got chronic inflammation, your body is getting it’s signals all messed up, which can lead to “freaking out” (cytokine storm) when it does sense an invader. Remember how COVID-19 attacks? It goes undetected, then, in some people, there’s a HUGE over-reaction, which can lead to death. We don’t want a lot of “background inflammation” interfering with the signals and causing freaking out.
There are a ton of great books and articles with “inflammation diets,” and they seem pretty sound for the most part. Again, I am NOT a doctor, and you have to follow a diet that’s right for you, but so much of an anti-inflammatory just makes sense! Whole, natural foods, lots of fruits and veggies (PUT DOWN THOSE CHEETOS… I SEE YOU…), you know… get back to the BASICS. Also, we are all different. I know for me, dairy can be an inflammation trigger, so I don’t go overboard on it. You might be triggered by something else. But pay attention to what your body tells you when you eat! You know that awful, sick, heavy feeling you get after you down a huge coke and giant buttered popcorn? Yeah, steer clear of that.
There’s lots of good research that’s been done about supplements that can help with inflammation. We grow turmeric on our farm, so I take a TON of that. There are a lot of studies about what it can do to fight inflammation. (You can message me if you want to know more about that. We do sell it, but this is not a pitch.) Resveratrol (found in grapes, blueberries, and wine, or taken as a supplement) is also great. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish or in supplements), and zinc are all great too. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how much and when. And here’s another great one- there’s actually research that Vitamin D can help with COVID-19. You can get it in dairy, and in some green veggies, but you also need SUNLIGHT to process it! Another good reason to get outside and get some sunshine.
I rolled “immunity boosting” in with “fighting inflammation” because they are nearly the same in terms of what to do/take. I’d add in making sure to get Vitamin C (I personally love EmergenC). You are also supposed to reduce stress and get more sleep, but whatever, I feel like it’s MORE stressful to have someone tell me to “reduce stress.” And anyway, exercise and sunlight should help with that anyway.
Challenge of the Day:
I think I covered the challenges pretty good above! You guys are smart and you can connect the dots and figure out what changes to make. Making even small changes now really could help you fight off infection, and better deal with it if you get it. I am not great at a lot of this stuff myself, but I am resolved to BE BETTER. Right after I finish this bag of Cheetos.
X….[[[O]]]…..X…….[[[O]]] (my hugs are flexing their muscles)