The coronavirus pandemic is on everyone’s minds. We are bombarded daily with news alerts on new cases, border closures and out of stock supermarkets. Most of us are trying to figure out how best to prevent getting sick while sifting through all the information being thrown at us.
The advice of health authorities, the World Health Organization, and other government bodies is critical as we try to reduce the spread of the virus, treat it and hopefully make a vaccine for it. We learn more about the coronavirus daily, and recommendations are constantly being updated. So what are the key steps to decrease your chances of getting the virus?
Firstly, wash your hands, do not touch your face, and practice social distancing. These simple acts decrease your chance of getting ill. As Dr Bonnie Henry, the B.C. Provincial Health Officer said, “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapeños and you need to change your contacts.” Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands as you can transmit germs from surfaces to yourself. Practice social distancing which really means avoid large gatherings, and try to keep at distance from other people. Stay home if you are feeling sick. Those with mild symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days. Call 811 if your condition worsens so they can direct you to the appropriate facility. Current travel recommendations for British Columbians are to avoid all non-essential international travel. If you do travel, be prepared to self-isolate for 14 days upon your return to Canada.
Secondly, make sure your immune system is ready. Even without this pandemic, our bodies would have still had to deal with the flu and other cold viruses throughout the winter season. In this regard, ensure you’ve had your flu shot. This way you won’t end up fighting against the flu virus and the coronavirus! Sleep is critically important. The more run down you are, the more likely you are to catch a cold. Make sure you are giving yourself the opportunity to sleep 7-9 hours per night. Managing your stress levels, particularly in the face of a panicking world, is paramount. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can suppress your immune system, causing it to work less effectively. Meditation or mindfulness can help in this regard. Consider checking out anxietycanada.com and their app, MindShift CBT. Continue to eat a healthy diet and exercise. We know that the coronavirus is more severe in those with other health conditions, including obesity. If you are heading to the gym, ensure that you wipe down equipment and practice social distancing. Ensure that your body is getting the proper nutrients it needs.
Lastly, can supplements help? Maybe – we do not have a clear answer at this point. Generally speaking, the following three supplements may help, and have a minimal risk of harm. This particular coronavirus has not been around long enough for us to have studied it in depth, but we can look at studies on the cold and flu viruses.
Let’s focus on vitamin D first. Vitamin D definitely affects the immune system in a complex, and not fully understood way. People with vitamin D deficiency (possibly 1/3 of the Canadian population) may benefit from vitamin D supplementation (1000-2000 iu daily) for both prevention and decreased mortality in the case of the influenza virus, and thus potentially Covid-19. Even those with a normal vitamin D level may still benefit from a vitamin D supplement (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6121423/). A recent meta-analysis showed minimal adverse effects of vitamin D supplementation (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30529281).
Next up is curcumin. Curcumin does have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal effects. If we focus again on influenza as a comparison to Covid-19, multiple studies have shown increased immune response and decreased lung inflammation in animals given curcumin. In other virus types (i.e. HPV), curcumin has been shown to be effective in humans, with topical application on the cervix resulting in enhanced HPV clearance. There is minimal toxicity, even at very high doses (12g/day) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6509173/).
Vitamin C is a vital nutrient and known to support the immune system (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6195639/). The Shanghai Government is now recommending vitamin C as treatment (intravenously) and prevention (orally) for Covid-19 ( http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v16n16.shtml). A large meta-analysis showed that in the common cold, a daily preventative dose (1000mg) of vitamin C decreased cold duration, relieved symptoms and shortened the amount of time a person was confined indoors (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6057395/).
Overall, keep calm and focus on living the healthiest lifestyle you can during this pandemic, and remember to follow the advice of your local health authority.
By Dr. Bal Pawa, B Pharm, MD
Westcoast Women’s Clinic