It’s cold and flu season and with the current pandemic of COVID-19 it can be a scary and confusing time for many. Through difficult times we Canadians know how to unite and care for each other and I would expect nothing less during the coming months. I have been impressed by our doctors and nurses working at the front line of this outbreak, exposing themselves to the threat of the virus head-on.
Experts in the field are estimating that 40-70% of the world’s population will likely get infected with COVID-19 this year.[i] It is our responsibility to slow down the transmission to allow our health care system to absorb the increased strain it’s going to face.
The good news with a viral outbreak like COVID-19 is that you can control your exposure and therefore reduce the risk of getting infected. By staying away from large crowds and practicing good hygiene you can reduce your risk of infection dramatically.
There are currently no cures or treatments for the virus so our next best action is to give extra love to our defence mechanisms; the immune system. Here are some tips to discuss with your health care provider to see if they can be of benefit to your health:
1. Sleep. Sleep’s effect on the immune system is vastly underrated when people talk about protection from colds and flus. Did you know that our T cells peak during early nocturnal sleep – these are the immune cells that recognize pathogens! [ii] To gain the most benefit try to get pre-midnight hours of sleep, and aim for your bedroom to be dark, quiet and cooler than daytime temperature.
2. Hydration. By keeping hydrated your digestion is going to run more smoothly, which in turn supports your immunity. Your biggest immune system is in your gut – this occurs via the microbiome, the lymphoid elements as well as the mucus lining.
3. Probiotics. Your microbiome consists of good bacteria that fight the bad bacteria, fungi and viruses from making your body their home. The microbiome also plays an intricate role in the immune system by supporting regulatory responses to food and ingested antigens. [iii] Probiotics don't need to come from a bottle; fermented foods are full of gut-loving bacteria. Make sure to stick to non-dairy fermented foods, like Kombucha, Tempeh, Kimchi, and Coconut yogurt.
4. Vitamin D. 54-84% of Canadians are deficient in vitamin D[iv], and considering that vitamin D plays an important role in immunity it’s no surprise that we see an increase in colds and flus during the winter months when Canadians get minimal sun exposure. Vitamin D receptors are found on immune cells, and when they bind it modulates our innate and adaptive immune responses.[v] Unknowingly Vitamin D has been used to treat infections like tuberculosis (TB) when antibiotic treatment didn't exist – TB patients were placed in sanatoriums to receive direct exposure to sunlight as it was believed that the sun killed TB, we now know it’s much more complex than that.
5. Vitamin C, Zinc, and Botanical medicine. As Naturopathic Doctors we have a toolbox filled to the brim with immune boosting vitamins, minerals and botanicals like the well-known echinacea. Even though these can be very potent and effective at treating infections, it’s important for me to point out that there are no current treatments for COVID-19 and this includes all supplements. So please be wary of any advertising you may see in the coming weeks promising to be a cure to this virus.
Due to the current outbreak I’m reminding all my patients that I offer phone and video consults. This could be a great option for people in quarantine or those deciding to limit exposure by staying at home. Any changes to your current regime of supplements and medications warrants a discussion and approval by your health care provider as some of these can interact with commonly used medications.
Book a consultation so we can create a custom immune boosting plan for you and your family to stay safe during this stressful time.
As a professional primary health care practitioner with a holistic approach, Dr. Caroline Méthé consults with patients of all ages at her Toronto clinic. Her approach as a Naturopathic Doctor in Newmarket treating children, digestive concerns, and running a general family practice is to focus on root-caused diagnosis followed by effective, evidence-based treatment plans.
[i] Marc Lipsitch, Harvard Epidemiologist.