March 20, 2020 By Cass (Edit)
By the most basic definition, radical self-care in the time of COVID19 means following two simple principles:
- Optimise your immune system
- Optimise your lung function
This resource has been created to help you focus on what you can do, immediately, right now, to reduce your personal risk of hospitalisation and thus reduce the risk of overwhelm of the health care system, which projections show being likely, if we remain on our current course, to be in early-mid April1https://email@example.com/without-serious-action-australia-will-run-out-of-intensive-care-beds-between-7-and-10-april-59f83b52756e in Australia. Of course this information is still relevant to anyone, in any country, even countries and cities already in lock-down, or even in areas where COVID19 is currently under control, as future waves are still possible, and even likely, until either 60% of the population is exposed, or a vaccine is developed.
Let’s dive in!
The coronavirus pandemic of COVID-19 has dramatically altered life globally in a matter of weeks. Just as much as it is now our civic duty to follow social distancing2https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-information-on-social-distancing.pdf directives, it is also our moral imperative to burden health systems as little as possible in the coming virus waves – this is especially critical in jurisdictions where government did not act decisively at the onset. We have incredibly accurate modelling available to us, and I personally believe better self-care could make a massive difference in hospitalisations and mortality. And none of the recommendations I am making are dangerous, rather the opposite: they all have evidence for being good for your health.
Principle 1: Optimise Immune System
To create a resilient immune system, your body must be exposed to bacteria and viruses – inside and out. And what’s really cool? The human body is a doughnut – the gut is really part of the “outside” – but they are very different environments. So to optimise your immune system, you need to consider both the “inside” and “outside” environments in different ways.
To inform your immune system so it can react appropriately to harmful invaders (including viruses) you need a wide range of bacteria in your gut. Gut diversity is correlated with health, and gut diversity tends to diminish with age, and poor diet.
On this basis, I theorise that one of the key indicators of mortality risk in COVID19 is poor gut diversity or dysbiosis. One of the strongest data supporting this assertion is the fact that COVID19 seems to be causing extremely high mortality in people with hypertension3https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-09/top-virus-doctor-says-high-blood-pressure-is-major-death-risk. Guess what is also correlated with hypertension? Gut dysbiosis4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4433416/. And some preliminary data from this paper5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32096367 correlates: “Some patients with COVID19 showed intestinal microbial dysbiosis with decreased probiotics such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium“.
So, how to improve gut diversity? Simple!
- dairy protein
Prebiotics – this means fibre. Both soluble and insoluble are important (but avoid fibre from gluten, it increases inflammation in everyone6https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wha30RSxE6w, not just coeliacs). Aim for a minimum of 20g/day. My favourite form of fibre? Shiitake mushrooms, which are especially amazing at improving immune function7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25866155 compared to other fibre sources. They are fantastic as jerky, too!
Probiotics – traditional probiotics are the best, including kimchi from Korea, miso from Japan, and sauerkraut from Germany. Notice how all those countries have lower COVID19 mortality? I’m not saying correlation=causation, but these countries all have very different approaches to their management, yet all have very low death rates. A bit of kombucha wouldn’t hurt either -anything fermented is likely to increase gut diversity.
Postbiotics – these are specific substances which you can ingest as food which actually will directly start influencing your immune system. My favourite of these are butyrate (C4) (which can also be broken down from fibre and makes a huge difference in respiratory viral resistance8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024637/) and stearate9https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4451278/ (C18) – which are present in good quantities in butter and chocolate (but make sure it’s low fructose!).
Fructose – in small quantities is not problematic. In large quantities (specifically, more than the ability of fibre to counteract): inflammation-promoting, which is bad news for your immune system. ALL food products at Wildélan follow a formula which provides more fibre than fructose to be approved.
Gluten – as above, going gluten-free can be beneficial even to those who are not coeliac.10https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07019-x#Abs1 As can going completely grain-free – but gluten is the worst culprit.
Milk proteins – a little bit more related to respiratory health, but still on the avoid list – milk proteins can really increase mucus11https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19932941 and with an unknown like COVID19, keeping the airways as clear as possible is extremely sensible.
In addition to improving gut diversity, there’s a number of supplements I personally believe to be helpful for most people in supporting immune function & fight viruses.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
Vitamin D – if you don’t spend a huge amount of time outdoors, you’re probably deficient in Vitamin D.12https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/ This vitamin is crucial for immune function.13https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/ Best to get it from sunshine if you can, but if you’re not able to get outside, a supplement may help (but don’t go nuts – too much can be dangerous). I try to get at least an hour or two of sun a day, and if not, 1000mg Vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin C – many14https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170330115246.htm studieshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10543583 show that mega doses of vitamin C can significantly reduce the severity and length of viral infections. I personally am pre-loading with 2000mg daily right now, and if I get any flu symptoms I will up this to 6000-8000mg per day. The science is very clear on this!
Zinc – helps Vitamin C absorb, so you can do both together. Plus zinc is crucial for fighting COVID-19 – this video explains the science.15https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7F1cnWup9M&feature=youtu.be&t=92 Most people ARE NOT zinc deficient, so most will not need a supplement. I only take occasional zinc with Vit C.
Quinine – if you watch the video above, you’ll notice that chloroquine is discussed as an effective way to get zinc into cells. You need the zinc to start with though and improving its availability will increase your ability to fight the virus. If you are hospitalised with COVID19 it’s possible you may be treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine as these drugs are now being more widely tested. But why wait to go that far? You could go down the path of prophylactically dosing yourself with quinine, which is present in small and very safe quantities in tonic water, available throughout the world. It might make the difference in giving your cells that extra bit of zinc they need to fight the virus without medical intervention.
COVID19 has caused a rush on hand sanitiser and cleaning products, to the point where most of us are a bit worried about being able to keep our spaces clean.
Now in the world of COVID19, this is extra important and I absolutely advocate for thorough cleaning of hands and surfaces. The best and most available substances that kill COVID19 are alcohol and bleach for surfaces, as well as good old soap and water.
But as stated above – our inside is really “outside” – a moist, anaerobic iteration of “outside”, mind. Yet some of the commensal bacteria we host inside – we can also spread around outside. These products are available on the “Clean” page.
While I don’t have direct evidence of the specific probiotics present being directly able to deactivate COVID19 (I don’t have access to a lab of that level) I can point to some studies showing how beneficial some specific bacteria used in Counter Culture cleaning products are in inactivating viruses generally:
- Bacillus subtilis – Anti-influenza activity16https://aac.asm.org/content/aac/61/7/e00539-17.full.pdf
- Bifidobacterium – these and other immunobiotics improve cellular response17https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2016.00633/full
- Lactobacillus – many strains beneficial in respiratory infections18https://medipharmavision.cz/media/studie/D%C3%BDchac%C3%AD%20cesty/Probiotics%20in%20respiratory%20virus%20infections.pdf
- Lactococcus – antiviral effects19https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25129102
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae – block expression of viral mRNA20https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8321235
So – regardless of the focus on COVID19, these probiotics being introduced deliberately into your spaces, onto your countertops, onto your hands – they will inevitably get into your insides, and help bolster your immune system. That’s what the science says: and they can help fight viruses on surfaces even before they get into you.
That’s not to say you should not specifically be aiming to eradicate COVID19 where possible before it gets into you though. So my current protocol? Spray with 100% ethanol alcohol (sorry – we don’t sell that!), and then spray with Counter Culture products.
Principle 2: Optimise Lung Function
This is a much smaller section! Basically this principle focuses on improving mechanical lung function, which is going to be helpful if you do contract COVID19.
- Basic breathing exercises, or “pranayama”: especially breath-holding.
- Cardiovascular exercise, ideally a type which exercises your arms over legs (both is fine though!) Think rowing, tennis, martial arts for a few examples.
- Singing! The diaphragm is the muscle that helps your lungs fill and empty, and singing strengthens it.
- Loud whispering. This exercises the diaphragm more than regular speaking.
- Wind instruments – take up flute, clarinet, saxophone, or tuba. Your lung capacity will balloon!
- This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway – if you are smoking or vaping, now is a really really good time to quit.
So that’s the main stuff I can think of! I hope these strategies are helpful for you, give you some ideas and help empower: that you can do something while self-isolating. While we are physically separating, we can ideologically come together and by strengthening ourselves individually, we burden the system less and help out the most vulnerable.
Cass @ Wildélan