Our brains are primed to notice everything going wrong. The diagnosis of athletes and celebrities, and being out of toilet paper.
In times of fear, our brains like certainty and can send us on the search for more information. Yet research shows that being obsessed with the news can create anxiety and stress that can be damaging to the immune system.
In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, it is times like these that we are challenged to practice enhancing our self-management skills to manage any symptoms and also to gain some degree of control.
In light of that, I wanted to provide a bit of information about what we know about the virus, and some steps that we can take to soothe our brains and boost our immunity.
This COVID-19 virus binds to receptors in our bodies known as ACE-2 receptors, found in the kidneys, blood vessels, heart, lungs, epithelial cells, and gastrointestinal tract. Outside of the body, it can live on multiple surfaces for 8-72 hours—about 24 hours on plastic, copper, or iron.
Data in Holland shows most people getting it are under the age of 50, but those most at risk are people over 70, and people with co-morbid conditions such as metabolic diseases, diabetes, hypertension, heart conditions, and those on immuno-suppressive therapy. Likewise, health care professionals and first responders who care for the sick are more likely to be infected.
The mortality rate is 4-20% higher than influenza for most people and 10-20% higher in the elderly population. According to research out of Johns Hopkins University, 97.5% of people will develop symptoms within 11.5 days of contracting the virus, so that is the idea behind the 14 day isolation period.
While none of this is great news, in order to step back from the fear and into responsible vigilance, it is important to give our brains simple, actionable steps that give us somewhere to turn our focus.
We have all heard about hand washing and covering your cough, but we can also be more aware of ourselves in our immediate environment. Being more conscious of what we are touching if we are outside of our homes and the cleanliness of items that we are bringing in is helpful. Things like cleaning your cellphone and not putting your bags on your table or countertop can also help prevent the spread of germs.
And there are also some very basic things that we can do to boost our immunity.
Nasal breathing helps to filter the air and also helps with calmness. Getting enough sleep is important to give our bodies and brains enough rest to recover and regenerate, particularly in times of extra stress. Protecting your gut keeps a healthy balance of the good bacteria to ward off these other things.
Research by Ronald Pero from the Preventive Medicine Institute in New York also suggests that, generally speaking, getting treatment and especially spinal care can also contribute to greater immune system competence.
Movement is very important. Pathogens, inflammatory substances, and metabolic waste are removed via the closed system circuits of the lymphatic system and the circulatory system. As 90% is removed by the venous system, being able to do some form of exercise to get your heart rate up is physiologically beneficial.
But when we keep moving we are also able to have better thoughts and manage our anxiety. When we engage in movement in which we hold our muscles, myokines (otherwise known as ‘hope molecules’) are released into the bloodstream, which is one of the reasons exercise is helpful in the recovery from trauma, as well as for stress and mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
This is a time to move in a way that is going to positively influence our inner ocean, both from an emotional and a circulatory perspective, to enhance the performance of our immune system. Rhythmic movement, such as dancing, has a calming effect and can be done with others virtually to create a social bonding effect.
Because although social distancing is recommended, that is not the same as social isolation, and there are still many ways to stay connected with friends, family, and reliable sources of information as needed. In times like this we must be creative in our social interactions, as it is our civic duty to think of the more at risk populations, and be more community-conscious in our behaviors to try to prevent the spread—more in the South Korea and Singapore model of containment.
Like viruses, hope, calmness, and love can also spread. We are not helpless or alone. And we are in this situation together even though we are apart.
Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.