Covid-19 has been on our radar for about a year and a half now, and some new terms have entered the conversation. “Variants”, “long-haul”, “long-covid”, and “jabs” have all been added to our vocabularies. With a new surge of infections spreading across the country, we thought it was time to have another conversation about how to prevent and manage Covid-19 infections.

First and foremost, if you can, get vaccinated! Current vaccines are safe and protect those who are vaccinated from serious illness. We have all heard about “breakthrough infections” and people who are fully vaccinated testing positive for Covid-19 but the risk of serious infection for fully vaccinated people is very low. More than 99% of people now hospitalized with Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

Remember, too, that whether you are vaccinated or not, these five practices are THE MOST EFFECTIVE safeguards against not only COVID-19 and its variants, but also flu, common cold and respiratory viruses of all types.

  • Hand washing
  • Masking
  • Social distancing
  • Avoiding large indoor gatherings
  • Staying home if sick

Consider these your foundation for staying healthy. Then, build on this foundation by improving the function of your immune system.

Here’s how:

  • Sleep – Getting enough sleep tops our list for immune system support. Try to consistently get at least 7 hours each night, and you will be doing yourself a great favor. Getting enough sleep strengthens your immune system, helps with weight management, improves mood, memory and mental function, to name just a few benefits. Lack of sleep is linked to an incredibly wide range of ailments, from heart disease and Type 2 diabetes to obesity, depression, poor cognitive function, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Reduce Stress – Chronic stress increases inflammation and disrupts your adrenal / cortical regulation making you less able to resist infection. Utilize your stress management strategies frequently – build your skill at shifting your nervous system into a restorative, relaxed state. It’s important to find what works for you, that you can do EVERY DAY (or multiple times a day) whether taking a walk, meditating, yoga, breathing exercises, sharing a laugh and some connection with a friend, gazing at the night sky, or anything else that brings a sense of ease and peace.
  • Diet – Poor nutrition is the leading cause of illnesses in the US. Nearly 85% of health care spending now goes toward management of diet-related chronic disease. What we eat matters and simple changes can have a profound impact: more fruits, vegetables, and plant-based meals, less processed food and simple carbs, increase foods with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. More thoughts about why diet is so important are found here.
  • Supplements – Some supplements to help support your immune system:
  1. Vitamin D – reduces risk of developing the flu, heart disease, reduces depression, and is beneficial for number of other health conditions. Many of us are vitamin D deficient due to spending most of our time indoors, living in polluted areas or big cities, and not eating a diet rich in vitamin D.
  2. ECGC – reduces inflammation, aids in weight loss, and prevents certain chronic diseases. It has been shown to have anticancer properties. It’s most abundant in green tea but also found in other plant foods.
  3. Zinc – supports immune system and metabolism function. Evidence suggests that if zinc lozenges or syrup is taken within 24 hours after cold symptoms start, the supplement can help shorten the length of colds.
  4. Vitamin C – provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and boosts immunity by helping white blood cells function more effectively.
  5. Elderberry – contains compounds which decrease the ability of viruses to infect cells. Elderberry is considered generally safe and in influenza B (cause of common cold), use of elderberry shortens the duration of symptoms.

If you do get Covid-19:

  • Stop taking Elderberry – stop elderberry at the first signs of infection (fever, cough, sore throat) and/or if you test positive for the virus. Here’s why: it increases immune cell release of tiny chemicals called cytokines. Specifically, elderberry increases the release of a cytokine called IL-1B which is a part of the inflammatory reaction to COVID-19 that can result in acute respiratory distress. · Deep breathing – there is evidence that deep breathing and qigong can be of help in recovery from COVID-19.
  • Stay home and rest! Make sure, however, that you get up to move around every couple of hours and take in lots of fluid. Both of these measures help prevent one of the most serious complications of Covid-19 – blood clots. It takes time to recover. Let yourself heal before starting back into your normal routine. There does seem to be a correlation between pushing hard to get back into a vigorous daily routine and developing long-term symptoms.
  • Contact your primary care provider for additional advice, especially if you have other health-related issues. There may be other treatments like oxygen therapy, antibody treatments, or other things that would be helpful.
  • Avoid “treatments” web sellers. There are a lot of people out there making money with bogus “cures” that can be dangerous.
  • Please, Please, Please don’t expose others!

You may have been hearing a lot about “long-Covid” or “long-haul syndrome”. Long-term issues can result even from mild cases of Covid-19 infection. In addition to serious lung injury and blood clots, some people develop problems with their autonomic nervous system – the part that controls all the automatic things like blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion. The most common symptoms of autonomic dysregulation are fatigue, heart palpitations, dizziness, low blood pressure, digestive issues, and erectile dysfunction. Depression and “brain fog” are also really common. The science for how to diagnose and treat long-Covid is still evolving and there are parts of the syndrome that overlap with other problems like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and POTS disease.

For those who have had Covid-19 and have residual symptoms:

  • Take an integrative medicine approach. While there are some common themes, each person’s symptoms are unique. There is no “magic bullet” – it will likely take a combination of treatment modalities to make things better.
  • Rest and be patient. Recovery takes time and trying to “push through” often makes it worse.
  • Seek help from a physician or program familiar with treating long-Covid. Most major university medical centers have started programs. They usually involve a multidisciplinary / integrative approach.
  • There are certain medications that can be very helpful in managing heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Integrative approaches like acupuncture, meditation, gentle exercise (yoga, taichi), nutritional changes, and some supplements are mainstays of most programs.
  • There is some evidence that problems at the cellular level (mitochondrial dysfunction) are related to long-term symptoms and that addressing the issue at this level with intravenous infusions of NAD and other supplements may help.

For more about integrative medicine approaches and COVID-19, visit the University of Arizona COVID-19 FAQ page.

We take a broad view of health and wellness at our clinic – this is one of the foundational principles of our integrative medicine approach. We support our patients with an entire spectrum of treatments, supplements and healing practices. At Satori Integrative Medicine Clinic, we specialize in treatment of: major depression, the depressed phase of bipolar disorder (bipolar depression), postpartum depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), and addiction. We also treat people who have lingering symptoms of Covid-19 (long-haul Covid). If you or someone you know suffers from any of these conditions and this approach to health and wellness resonates with you, please contact us for more information.