Over the past month, I’ve blogged a few times about coronavirus
prevention and treatment ideas, from a holistic physician’s perspective.
You can read those here:
So today I want to add onto these tips with some less commonly heard, wonderfully uplifting ideas that you can implement (yes, even while practicing social distancing!) to feel strong, centered and resilient.
Today let’s go way beyond the “wash your hands & isolate yourself” recommendation that you have heard a thousand times and add some important tips gleaned from the medical literature after studying the course and resolution of earlier pandemics.
And yes, there have always been pandemics throughout human history, as this infographic (sent in to me by William — thank you so much!) highlights so well, which puts the coronavirus pandemic into amazing perspective:
As you know, the world population continues to grow dramatically, so for the coronavirus to impact the same percentage of the population as, for example, the Spanish Flu (shown above in green) it would have to kill 150 million people globally. Not infect, but actually kill — these are mortality figures, not infection rates.
And even that would be only 1/4th as virulent as the Bubonic Plague, shown in dark purple above. For the coronavirus to have a similar death toll as the Bubonic Plaque, it would need to kill 600+ Million people around the globe.
While this is possible, we can see that at least for now the coronavirus is certainly not yet anywhere near this death toll, so while we monitor this pandemic and watch it evolve, one of the best things we can do is scour the medical literature to learn from these much more severe, past pandemics to see what spreads disease and what stops it.
So that’s what I’m doing. I read up on the medical literature from past pandemics, and was to share some of the key points with you here:
- This New Zealand study, published 2010 in Emerging Infections Disease evaluating the spread of the H1N1 Spanish Flu (a pandemic in 1918-1919) aboard a ship, showed that crowded conditions increased death rates significantly (specifically, sleeping inside cabins dramatically increased mortality rates over sleeping outdoors in hammocks.)
- Another study (published in 2012 in the American Journal of Public Health) on the mortality rates from the 1918 pandemic in Virginia, USA, found that crowding was the single largest factor in the spread of the disease, increasing infection risk 10-fold and dramatically increasing morbidity and mortality as well.
- My favorite of all, this awesome study (published 2009 in the American Journal of Public Health) showed that open air hospitals treating patients during the 1918 pandemic actually had lower mortality rates than closed air hospitals, citing fresh air, direct sunlight, and use of respiratory masks in substantially reduced deaths over indoor hospital facilities.
What we find when evaluating pandemics is that indoor, manmade conditions make pandemics worse.
Staying indoors decreases fresh air, increases exposure to recirculated air, lowers natural Vitamin D levels, creates ongoing circadian rhythm disturbances, and causes tremendous mood disorders.
In the end, it’s all about a balance — maintaining distance and avoiding crowded conditions, while not being entrapped by the artificial indoor environments that disrupt our sleep with artificial lights and electronic exposures, decrease our natural levels of anti-inflammatory Vitamin D, and jeopardizes our ability to stay active and emotionally uplifted.
Throughout history, fresh air, sunshine, and grounding (typically all three combined in “seaside prescriptions”) have been a go-to treatment for untreatable disease. (A wonderful of the history of sunlight therapy was published in Medical History in 1997, and awesome overview of the tradition of prescribing time at the ocean for open air treatment of resistant disease was published in 1769 by Dr. Richard Russell here.)
Today, I’d like to go through each of the different ways we can still practice social distancing and decrease transmission rates while not jeopardizing lowering our own natural immunity by staying cooped up 24/7 in indoor artificial environments.
My Favorite Tips For Keeping Healthy
While In Voluntary Quarantine:
1. Increase Your Exposure To Sunlight:
The typical recommendation during pandemics is to practice social distancing, but most people interpret that as a command to “stay indoors.” Not a good idea, for multiple reasons.
The first is that sunlight is germicidal. This medical study (recently published in 2020 in the Journal of Infectious Disease) found that sunlight exposure decreased the survival of aerosolized influenza virus by 93% — decreasing viral lifespan from 32 min (with no sunlight exposure) to 2.4 min in full sunlight.
Wow. As antivirals and other prescription interventions fail to control transmission, thank goodness for the natural viricidal properties of sunlight! This medical literature review, published in 2013 in the Journal of Hospital Infection) suggests that infections caught indoors is a major contributor to worldwide morbidity and mortality rates and urges medicine to consider optimizing sunlight when designing architecture for healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics.
While an infected person will always be able to spread the virus to another (no way for sunlight to kill the virus inside of living tissues) so social distancing is still going to be absolutely necessary to stop the spread of a pandemic, at least we can be comforted to know that on outdoor surfaces, the virus has a much shorter lifespan. Meaning, if you are going to be out of your home — make sure you stay outside instead of in indoor venues, where sunlight can not work it’s magic.
The second is that sunlight actually prolongs life span, in a dose dependent way (meaning more time in the sun = longer life span.) I blog about this extensively in this article I wrote for you last year, right here.
The third is that sunlight allows our body to naturally make vitamin D, which is crucial to our immune system. As this medical literature review discusses (published in 2018 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences) Vitamin D not only directly boosts our immune adaptive response (meaning our bodies are better able to fight off new, novel, mutating and never-before-seen pathogens) but it also decreases inflammation, a leading cause of mortality during viral infection.
My Therapeutic Suggestions:
- Get direct sun exposure whenever possible, for at least 10 minutes or more daily, even during times of social distancing. I’m not saying to gather in big groups, I’m saying seek your own sunlight exposures in a way that honors social distancing such as:
- sitting on a porch, balcony or front door stoop every morning and every evening
- eating picnic lunches outside mid-day
- observing which of the windows in your home are sunny and at what time of the day there is a sunbeam and sitting in those precious light rays while drinking your morning coffee, your evening tea, while working on your computer like I am doing right now, or while reading a good book, etc… (the glass will stop the majority of UVB waves needed for making Vit D, so open the window if you can)
- even going for a drive or sitting in your car even without driving it if you have your own car and it’s a sunny day — be sure to roll the windows down and enjoy!
2. Even if you get direct sunshine outside or through a window daily, I highly recommend during pandemics that you supplement with Vitamin D as well. Some of the other supplements I’ve mention in the Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series include Vit C, Vit D, Probiotics, Vit B1, Serrapeptase, and Curcumin. I have every single one of these supplements available to you in my online dispensary right here, at a nice discount just because you are a reader of mine! I’ve put them all in my online catalog under the “anti-inflammatory” category:
3. Along with these tips to get direct sunlight and supplement with Vitamin D, take advantage of the fact that viruses can be heat-inactivated and bath daily in comfortably hot water, drink hot beverages often, wash clothes on the hottest water setting possible or run them through the dryer on highest heat setting available, and use the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher to sanitize dishes.
2. Increase Fresh Air Exposure & Boost Indoor Ventilation:
Again, the typical recommendations to practice social distancing to decrease transmission is being misinterpreted by many to mean “shut windows and doors tight.”
But like I explained at the beginning of this article, open air hospitals actually have lower morbidity and mortality rates than closed air hospitals do. Breathing and re-breathing the same indoor, recirculated air is a bad idea. Especially if you share your home with anyone else, or if you live in an apartment or multifamily unit that has central air.
My Therapeutic Suggestions:
- Be sure to move outdoors daily, ideally combining some type of stretch or cardio boost during this outdoor time. I’m very heart-warmed to see so many families where I live going on after dinner walks, riding their bikes, jogging in the early hours of the morning, shooting basketballs in driveway hoops, jump roping, etc… Whether you do it alone or with family or a friend, be sure to find some way to get your circulation up daily, and push yourself to make that an outdoor activity. I like to do my online Barre3 workouts in my garage with the garage door open, play tennis with my son, and bike by myself when I can. Other ideas include yoga, stretching, tai chi, hiking, running, rollerblading, etc…
- Go outside even if you don’t want to exercise. If you have limited mobility due to medical conditions or just want to relax when you are outside, still do it. Even taking a hot cup of tea outside at night and looking up at the stars and moon, when the rest of the world is shut up tight at bedtime, is wonderful for clearing the mind and grabbing a few minutes of beautiful fresh air.
- In addition to getting outside, be sure to deliberately increase ventilation indoors too. Increase the number of houseplants you have in your home, open windows whenever possible, consider sleeping with open windows at night, open doors when you can (I have an upstairs balcony door that I love to keep open all day, every day and I’m so grateful for it) and never let the opportunity, when you need to drive, to keep car windows open at least a crack.
- When you have no control over ventilation (like at the grocery story) you can still make deliberate changes to your behavior to decrease viral transmission:
- wash hands repeatedly throughout the day, especially before eating or food preparation, and use re-usable, washable silver hand wipes when you don’t have access to hot soapy water for hand washing
- don’t touch your face
- wear glasses instead of contacts
- change clothes right when you get home from being outside
- get into the habit of putting on fresh clothes before touching surfaces in your home that are less easily washed, like your sofa
- switch from morning showers to nightly showers to keep bedding decontaminated, or do both
- use disinfectants on indoor surfaces, my favorite are colloidal silver sprays like this one
- wear a disposable face mask over nose and mouth if you must be out and about in highly populated areas… consider keeping a reusable, washable face mask made from antimicrobial silver (like this one) in your purse or car so you are never caught without one when you need it
- similarly, wear disposable gloves if you must be out and about (grocery shopping for example) or working in field where you touch potentially contaminated surfaces
3. Restore Your Circadian Rhythm:
Everything living on this earth has a unique circadian rhythm — even microbes and pathogens if you can believe it — as discussed in this 2019 article published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.
Another article, published 2019 in Nature Communications, specifically shows the incredible impact of circadian rhythm on the inflammatory reaction of the human body — circadian rhythm has even been shown to play a role in lung inflammation during influenza infection.
The two ways we maintain a good, vibrant, healthy circadian rhythm is through exposure to sunlight and direct contact with the earth, which I will discuss in a minute. So the typical pandemic response of staying indoors to decrease proximity to others and practice social distancing has a dramatic impact on your ability to sleep at night and wake during the day, because it keeps you out of the sunlight and off of the earth outside.
Add to that the increased exposure day and night to artificial light, blue light input to the eye, and artificial electronic EMF exposures, and your body becomes easily confused as to what is day and what is night. Melatonin production goes down and cortisol (your stress hormone) goes up during times of forced isolation, decreased activity, decreased natural exposure to daylight, increased exposure to artificial lights, and of course increased times of fear, anxiety and depression.
The typical advice, to get morning sun to help reset your internal clock, still holds true. But actually there are two ways your internal clock is set, and both are crucial: it takes both sunlight exposure and direct earth contact.
Sunlight exposure will be taken care of by tip #1 (increase exposure to sunlight) and tip #2 (increase exposure to fresh air) above. Let’s also proactively seek direct earth contact to reset our circadian rhythm as well.
Scientists have known for decades that the earth is equally responsible for our day night rhythm after extensive experiments in isolating subjects from the earth in shielded isolation chambers, a unique study published in 1970 in Life Sciences and Space Research. Because it is actually the frequency of the earth (along with with exposure to light) that regulates our natural biorhythms, it’s easy to understand how grounding our body with our planet can help enhance restorative sleep at night and boost daytime wakefulness. It’s also easy to see why staying indoors, ungrounded, eventually leads to daytime sleepiness, nighttime wakefulness, and decreased quality of sleep at night, which is incredibly stressful to the body and ultimately decreases lifespan.
My Therapeutic Suggestions:
- Get outside and routinely make time to directly touch the earth outside, even if it’s just for a few moments a day. Longer time spent grounded will yield better results, but anything is better than nothing. Although I strongly feel that grounding directly outside is best, during pandemics or for my patients with mobility issues or other health concerns that keep them indoors, there are fabulous indoor grounding options that will allow you to ground your body for hours each day, even sleeping grounded all night long if you want.
- Support a healthy circadian rhythm in other ways — using natural sunlight to light rooms during the day, using a light box if there is not good natural light in your living area, wear blue light blocking glasses if you watch tv or use electronics after dinnertime, have a goal of 9 hours of quality sleep a night if possible, and read this blog post I wrote for you with my 14 favorite holistic ways to boost your sleep, naturally.
- Take melatonin supplements. Interestingly, melatonin is emerging as a possible treatment against lung complications from coronavirus infection, as melatonin directly decreases lung inflammatory cytokines. Melatonin has even been proven to significantly decrease lung inflammation in patients who are on ventilators. This article, just published March 2020 in Respiratory Research, found that a melatonin receptor agonist not only significantly reduced lung inflammation for patients on a ventilator, it also significantly reduced their inflammatory concentrations of cytokines in the lung. Because melatonin naturally decreases with age, it may be a unique factor contributing to the “agism” that the coronavirus is displaying. Infants and young children have the highest natural melatonin concentrations of all, which might provide natural lung protection that steadily decreases throughout the human life span. Melatonin concentrations peak at age 6, are cut in half by age 45, and are almost non-existent in the elderly 80+. Maybe this is why lung complications and death increases in coronavirus infections at age 40 and dramatically spikes from there. My favorite melatonin supplements, along with all the other supplements I’ve recommended in this article, are all waiting for you at a discount in my online pharmacy right here.
4. Create Uplifting Routines:
Again, the typical advice is practice social distancing. Well please do, but don’t mistake that for “stop your life.”
You can decrease proximity to others, be aware of leaving a 6 ft perimeter whenever possible with people who may have unknown exposures (anyone who doesn’t live with you, basically,) eliminate unnecessary travel, avoid crowds, no hand shaking, saving hugging only for those living with you in your home living space, etc… but that does not mean to sever connection or contact with the meaningful relationships in your life, nor does it mean to stop doing activities that you find pleasurable or interesting.
And even if you don’t have meaningful relationships nor any activities that you find enjoyable, it doesn’t mean this isn’t the perfect time to start! Actually, a voluntary quarantine situation is literally the perfect time to dive back into all of the hobbies you enjoyed as a child, or the classes you always wanted to take as an adult, or develop new skills that you never even knew you would enjoy.
From learning a new language to photographing your pets to finally beginning that manuscript you always thought you’d write, this is exactly and precisely the time to start exploring other sides of you than the routine “eat, work, sleep, repeat” robot that normal life forces you into most of the time.
My Therapeutic Suggestions:
- Maintain, develop and even initiate online communication when in person meet ups are on pause. We are so lucky that we get to text, Skype, send videos, call each other on the phone, and even (gasp!) write old fashioned letters to everyone we love. You can literally develop and deepen current friendships — and find new ones through online groups and social media — more than you ever would have time to during non-pandemic times.
- Never stop learning. Actually let’s put this one in all caps. NEVER STOP LEARNING! One of the best ways to stay engaged and stave off depression, anxiety and other mood challenges is to have goals and comforting routines in place. Because of this, I highly recommend joining an online classes that sends daily assignments or articles. Because this is literally my favorite recommendation out of the entire article I’ve written for you, I’m following through on this and providing exactly what I think will help most:
In this two week online class, you will get an uplifting, inspiring holistic health idea directly into the comfort and safety of your own inbox every single morning. So if you find your mind is constantly picking up on tension, fear and rumination about this pandemic (and whose isn’t?) this online class will be an uplifting treat, a way to gift yourself some mental and physical support from a holistic physician that you have known for years — that’s me!
This class is my way to make sure every single day I can offer something that perks you up and brightens your mood, and gives you something uplifting and actionable to look forward to daily.
It’s full of inspiring ways to attend to your mental and physical health while still practicing social distancing and maintaining healthy quarantine & prevention protocols. By the end of this class you will have found what ideas resonate most with you and used those to create a weekly routine that can continue to uplift you indefinitely!
Class runs March 29th – April 11th, 2020.
I hope this article today has allowed you to feel the knot in your stomach loosen a bit.
Bookmark it, share it, pin it, print it out, re-read it as needed.
And one more thing to help comfort you…
know that more solutions being created right now.
All around the world there is research ongoing into cures, treatments, vaccines, therapies and prevention strategies and more. All of these are coming. These are exciting, wonderful times! Think of all of the pandemics humans have survived without any help from modern medicine at all.
- Right now we have High Dose Vitamin C Infusion Trials being conducted in the United States.
- Dutch researchers have developed an antibody to the coronavirus that can be taken as a pill to treat, and even possibly prevent, coronavirus infection (thank you Darrel for alerting me to this one!)
- 10 different vaccines (and 6 different prescription medications) are in preclinical trials right now, you can see a list of all of them in progress right here. (no I do not need an email from you if you are against vaccinations please… I’m just pointing out all of the possible avenues of development, not recommending one over another.)
- We are exploring a novel, inexpensive, readily available breathing treatment utilizing Ozone Therapy (thank you Mark Bennett for the heads up on this!) being developed right here in the USA.
- We even have melatonin research ongoing right this minute by Cleveland Clinic Researchers conducting coronavirus research.
And that’s on top of the fact that naturally, everything has a time line, even pandemics.
There is a beginning, a middle, and an end to this, with or without conventional medical intervention.
Written and sent out with much love to everyone, everywhere.
PS — if you were sent this from a loved one and you’d like to be on my newsletter list to receive uplifting articles like this one, head over to my website sign up: