As Ontario moves towards stage 3 of reopening, and as many states and cities worldwide are being forced to reopen due to economic reasons, we’ve heard the term “we must learn to live with the virus” all too often. What does learning to live with the virus mean?
Learning to live with the coronavirus doesn’t mean we live in constant fear of the virus, nor does it mean we throw caution to the wind and go about our daily lives as if nothing happened. LIfe as we know it has changed for all of us and we must adapt and change certain things for our own safety and for the safety of others. Even if it inconveniences us, because trust me, everyone is inconvenienced in some way or the other. This includes social distancing, avoiding large gatherings (especially indoors), wearing a mask in indoor public places where social distancing might not be an option, and frequent handwashing. We just have to continue to do these things for the foreseeable future. I know it isn’t fun. But this is what learning to live with the virus really means. We accept that the risk is still very much there, and we try to minimize the risks for ourselves and for the most vulnerable people in our lives. And you’re probably much better off than a lot o people who have more at stake, such as pregnant women, families with very young children (research is still ongoing about some major inflammatory conditions in young children exposed to the virus), people over the age of 65, people with comorbidities etc. I especially feel for families with very young children who have been unable to send their kids to daycare even after it reopens because of the fear of exposure (I am one of them). KIds are bored at home. I just wish the new infections would go down enough for me to be comfortable sending my daughter to daycare but sadly, new infections are still happening every day mostly because of selfish people unwilling to follow guidelines. I mean, summer was supposed to have killed the virus (eye roll) but how can it when many people are too inconvenienced to wear masks and some people are selfish enough to go out to parties with several people? Many people have made this a political issue and refuse to “put their lives on hold” because of the virus. Firstly, no one’s asking anyone to put their lives on hold. Just be aware that the risk is still very much there and it’s up to each one of us to do our bit in preventing the spread.
I fail to understand how some people choose to ignore scientific facts and believe misinformation spread through social media and do not stop to verify any of that. I’m talking about people who believe that masks are somehow bad for health and shouldn’t be worn. They are protesting mandatory mask policy and linking a highly effective and safe intervention (wearing a mask) a threat to their personal freedom. I fail to understand why such people take so much effort in fighting something that has been mandated for the safety of everyone, without verifying the misinformation they are gathering from unreliable social media accounts.
Why should the ‘young population’ be concerned? Or is this something only the immune-compromised and the elderly need to be worried about?
Contrary to what was believed earlier that the young (under 40) aren’t as high risk and might be asymptomatic or display mild symptoms at best, it is now being seen that those under 40 who get Covid-19 might have lasting problems with the brain, heart, lungs and kidneys as these organs are ravaged by the virus. My reason for mentioning this isn’t to monger fear, but to stress that no one, irrespective of age and health, should be taking this virus lightly. We are all vulnerable, and we all need to take it with the seriousness it deserves.
What does prior experience from other viral pandemics show?
The one thing that was demonstrated to work well in prior pandemics such as SARS, MERS, and even the seasonal flu, is a strong immune system that is capable of fighting off infections. That means avoiding things that weaken the immune system and adding more of the things that strengthen it.
Things that weaken the immune system fall under the following broad categories:
1. Lifestyle factors. This includes alcohol abuse, smoking, poor dietary choice with too much refined, processed foods that contain bad trans fats and too little nutritious whole foods including fruits and vegetables, nutrient deficiencies, chronic stress and lack of (or insufficient) sleep.
2. Iatrogenic factors which includes drugs such as corticosteroids and other immune-suppressive drugs, frequent antibiotic use, radiation treatments, NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) etc.
3. Environmental toxins such as heavy metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, plastics, insecticides and pesticides, air pollution, UV radiation, and sadly also something that has become deeply ingrained in our lives which most of us cannot live without: wifi and radiation from cell phone towers.
4. Biotoxins such as aflatoxins found in peanuts, and other mycotoxins (from molds), cynobacteria etc.
If you have been exposed to any of the above, your immune system is not functioning as well as it should. If you want to build a stronger immune system, the first step is to reduce these immune-suppressing factors. The next step is for you to add as many immune-strengthening factors as possible from the list below:
1. Healthy diet with optimal nutrition, with adequate amounts of protein, higher amounts of omega-3 and less saturated fats, omega-6 fats and trans fats, low refined sugar, high fibre from fruits, vegetables and whole grains and micro nutrients such as vitamins A, Bs, C, E, selenium, zinc and iron. I have delicious and nutritious recipe ideas for supporting the immune system here. Oh, and these are super simple and time saving too, for those in a rush (who isn’t 😉 ?)
2. Physical activity. Moderate levels of physical activity helps strengthen the immune system even in the elderly.
3. Reduced stress. Chronic stress and stressful life events weaken the immune system and stress management methods such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing etc. helps manage stress and its adverse effects on the immune system.
4. Adequate sleep. Lack of sleep weakens the immune system and a minimum of 7-8 hours of quality sleep is essential for immune function.
If you’re interested in learning more about the immune system, this science journalist from The Atlantic has a wonderful article explaining the complexities of the immune system.