August 18, 2020
This week as our household fell back into a familiar pattern of busyness, it struck me that it’s been 6 months since our kids were sent home to “shelter in place” and try this thing called e-learning in an attempt to slow the spread of the Corona virus. These last 6 months has been such a unique time period with both blessings and challenges.
Now we are gearing up for the start of school once more. It makes me smile as I can feel the palpable excitement that is emanating from my kids. They are definitely ready to reconnect with friends, reengage their brains, follow a more structured schedule, and run down the sidelines of a soccer field again. But I’m sure there will also be plenty of nerves as they navigate all of that in addition to simply the stress of leaving the comfort and safety of their house – where our kids have mostly been for the last 180 days.
AND, there is obviously still the virus and all that it represents that nags at our sense of safety and well-being. Anxiety is high across our country right now and so much of it is coming from our sense of unknown about the future, resentment towards the virus and how it has threatened our way of life, and fear about SO many things right now. But as a parent sending my kid back to school and the soccer fields, I am choosing to just focus on what I can do TODAY to keep my kids healthy….physically and mentally.
Let’s talk about the virus first.
At this point, there are NO known natural treatments to prevent or cure COVID-19. But, at this point there are also NO known pharmaceutical options either. We have collected enough information at this point to make some educated guesses, but we don’t have the scientific evidence yet to be definitive. So let’s take a step back and think about how we can stay healthy around a virus that has caused a global pandemic from what we know so far.
When kids were first sent home from school back in March, it was all about immune support. What can we do to keep our immune systems healthy so that we don’t get the virus. That is still an important concept to keep in mind….however, this virus has stymied many as we have watched healthy individuals living together in the same household get the virus, while the spouse has not. Or why there have been those scary cases where an apparently healthy and younger individual contracts the virus and ends up with severe symptoms in the hospital for weeks. The inconsistency of it all has people on edge and it is making it difficult to make decisions around how we proceed forward in this era of the corona virus.
I believe that it is no longer just about immune support. Instead, I am focusing on “cellular resiliency” and how this phrase can change the conversation on a larger level. Cellular resiliency is the ability of our cells to take any hit and repair quickly, fully AND be stronger for the next time a threat comes around. Toxic hits aren’t just infections from a virus or bacteria, they are also physical traumas, environmental toxins (molds, pesticides, heavy metals) and one of the biggest hits – psychological stress. Did you know that the inflammatory cascade that occurs in your body from a psychological stress is the same as an injury or physical hit to your system? So when we are running around all day in a constant state of stress, judging people on FB, arguing with our kids and letting ourselves be pulled into the negativity that is out right there now…..you are setting yourself up for a state of chronic inflammation and therefore more vulnerability to the virus.
Building up cellular resiliency doesn’t mean you will never get COVID-19. Despite our best efforts, some of us will get the virus. And unfortunately, we seem to have developed a lot of shame around this diagnosis. People are embarrassed to admit that they got sick, and it makes one feel as if they are weak, unhealthy and making poor lifestyle choices. Even though that may be the case in some of our more vulnerable population, it isn’t always case. “Healthy” people are testing positive too and there is no need for anyone to feel shame around this. Instead, this is an opportunity for all of us to start the conversation around how we can make sure our body is prepared to have a balanced and normal response to a threat like COVID-19.
The conventional way of thinking about germs is a “fear of germs” and we need to “kill the infection”. Some of these attempts can actually stop our own body from trying to do what it’s supposed to do to become more resilient in the future. Complications arise when our immune system is not resilient. So when we look at a lot of the scary complications that have arisen in severe cases of the virus, (think blood clots, problems breathing, multiple inflammatory syndrome, and the cytokine storm of inflammation that can eventually kill people) we want to be able to mitigate and modulate the virus so that our immune system deals with the virus appropriately and we do not end up with serious or long term complications.
Because it is an RNA virus, it will code into our own RNA/DNA. We don’t know if this virus will mutate and continue to cause problems with reinfection in the future or if those infected will develop immunity. Either way, we need to change the greater conversation and shift it to cellular resiliency. Let’s choose to create a future where we can thrive as a population rather than continue to get sicker and live in a constant state of fear.
Game Plan: Getting Back to the Basics
Creating a healthier future starts with getting back to the basics….food and lifestyle choices. Did you know that there are A LOT of specific foods that can create cellular resiliency? But first, let’s review what we know about the virus and why some of these foods can actually help you. Knowledge is power.
You may have heard about the ACE2 receptors that are on our cell membranes. The corona virus uses these receptors to enter the cell and can play havoc. In other words, if the cell membrane has a bunch of guards at the gate, the corona virus is using a specific entry point (ACE2 receptors) to get into the main building (your cells). These receptors live on the cell membranes of your lungs, small intestine, brain, blood vessels, heart and kidneys. This is why there are so many varied effects on the body when someone contracts this virus and why there are so many different presenting symptoms. So it’s easy to blame ACE2 here as the bad guys. However, ACE2 receptors are also present circulating all on their own in our bloodstream and are called “serum ACE2 receptors.” These serum receptors are actually the good guys! They are extremely protective because the corona virus will bind to these free floating receptors BEFORE they attach to the guards at the gate and therefore cannot get into the main building where all the excitement happens. Because younger people have higher levels of circulating serum ACE2 compared to adults or the elderly, they tend to not get as sick or have any presenting symptoms at all.
The exciting thing is that we can have power over our situation and increase our own circulating serum ACE2 receptors!
Top 5 Ways to Increase Circulating ACE 2- Receptors in the Body:
The above 5 are shown to specifically increase circulating ACE2 receptors and help protect against severe cases of COVID-19. But there are a few other key nutrients that help with improving overall immune function:
And lastly I would be remiss if I didn’t get on my sugar and stress soapbox here quick. (If you know me, you knew it was coming!) Sugar is one of the greatest enemies of our immune system. Within 20 minutes of consuming white sugar, your macrophages (white blood cells that fight infection) decrease by 50% for up to 5 hours. So parents, get the junk out of the house. Teachers – fruit snacks (glorified sugar, food dye and high fructose corn syrup gummies) are super fun, but not a great option at snack time if we want to keep our classrooms healthy. If we spent as much time looking for fresh fruit and veggie options as we do searching for large containers of hand sanitizer, we would have much healthier kids. Okay there – I said my piece 😊
And we all know that we are supposed to reduce stress in our lives. As a working mother of 3, I completely understand that this is easier said than done. However, we can make choices everyday that will develop more stress resiliency. We usually have the ability to minimize the size of the mountain of stress that can fall on our shoulders at times. Pick your battles, remember to breathe, let go of what you can’t control, find gratitude in the small things, enjoy more sunsets, go for more walks, connect with people you enjoy, and my personal favorite….carve out a minimum of 15 minutes of time just for you. My 30 minutes of just Melanie time in the morning is a game changer for me and allows me to set the tone for my day.
As schools reopen, kids are going to get sick. We have to develop more risk tolerance as a country if we hope to eventually move forward, and the best way to do that in my opinion is to generate cellular resiliency. This virus can become less scary if we can start to have fewer severe cases. And by taking charge of your family’s health, it can empower all of us to live a healthier lifestyle moving forward. And when we fell healthier and more empowered, we start to feel better in all areas of our lives…..physically, mentally and emotionally.