By Gabriele Amersbach, Prebiotin Science Writer
Updated June 5, 2020
We are now several months into the most devastating pandemic that much of our generation has seen, the disease known as Covid-19. Quarantining, lock-downs, social distancing, all the mitigating efforts we have undertaken to keep this virus at bay, have brought us to where we are today. The numbers are frightening.
As of June 4, deaths in New York City alone have reached 16,992, with an additional 4,760 potentially virus-related deaths. New York state has the most deaths from COVID-19. Of the 383,899 infected residents, 30,281 have died.
Nationwide, as of June 4, more than 1,924,051 people are now infected, while 110,173 people have died from the virus, according to Worldometers. This number is probably far from accurate since many people have symptoms but aren’t tested. Around the world, there are 6,692,694 cases, with 392,298 deaths.
As bad as this looks, it could have been worse. These efforts have positively benefited our defenses against the virus, and successfully minimized the pain and suffering to some extent. Now a flattening curve directly in front of us, gives us hope that the worst is behind us.
Or is it ? While we are learning something new every day about the disease and its impact on our health, we are also learning something new about the societal effects of dealing with a mitigated disaster in a way that is unprecedented. As heartbreaking and painful from a health perspective this has been, it pales in comparison to the economic and financial disaster that is now in front of us. Political decision making, authoritarian control, irrational thinking and behavior, worry, fear, panic, stress, we could go on and on. These are all the direct and indirect impacts of this virus, and the devastating economic consequences of the decision making happening now, may do exponentially more harm than any virus ever could do on its own. An abundance of caution is leading to an overabundance of suffering, and yes even more death.
As dire as that may sound, it is the current state of the world. Whether it be the attack on our health, or the attack on our livelihoods, and the stress that comes from both, there is one thing that we can do and we must do, to face these issues head on. We can take the critical but simple step to better our own health defenses, by realizing that the answer lies in the immune system.
Strengthen your immune system
The immune system is designed to protect us from viruses and bacteria that can make us sick.
No one can make a claim to help you prevent viral infections. However, to reduce the risk of contracting illness, a good start is regular sleep and moderate exercise (30 minutes a day or about 2.5 hours per week)—even 10-minute increments of exercise can help. And we need to get serious about changing our Western diet.
While there are “no magical foods or pills” that offer guaranteed protection against COVID-19, says Penn State Abington nutrition instructor Wendy Richman, M.A., R.D, she does share the science behind foods that can decrease inflammation and strengthen your immune system. Richman lists Vitamins A, C, and D, as well as zinc and protein. For details, read, “Abington nutritionist shares science behind nutrition.”
The junk foods we love, from cheese doodles to frozen dinners, are especially damaging because of added dyes, artificial flavoring, preservatives, and other chemicals, as well as sodium, sugar, and saturated fats added during the manufacturing process. Researchers link these foods to the increase in chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, as well as spiraling obesity rates.
Instead, a diet that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, and limits sugar, meat, alcohol, and processed foods can help strengthen our immunity.
Be kind to your gut!
Since our gut microbiome plays such a key role in keeping us healthy, we need to be especially vigilant when we face an ongoing health threat like COVID-19. Up to 80% of the entire immune system makes its home in the gut microbiome. This “organ” includes the trillions of microbes and more than 2,000 different species of bacteria that live in our intestines.
A healthy microbiome allows us to fight all the viruses and pathogens we encounter in our daily lives more successfully. If we have an unhealthy gut, we are more at risk for infections, including the coronavirus. Since the elderly and those with serious medical conditions often have poor gut health, it is not surprising that they are at highest risk for contracting COVID-19.
Fiber: the essential ingredient
An essential ingredient in a healthy diet that nurtures these good gut bacteria is fiber. Foods high in prebiotic fiber, like dandelion greens, asparagus, unripe bananas, apples, Jerusalem artichokes, onions and garlic, and chicory root, are especially beneficial.
We need at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day. The average American only gets about 15 grams. If we can’t get enough fiber in our daily diet to keep our immune systems strong, a daily dose of Prebiotin® Prebiotic Fiber can help.
Prebiotin is an affordable, long-term solution to an improved microbiome that supports our immune system and brain function. It can be easily ordered and stored for months so that prebiotic fiber can be a regular part of daily meals despite shopping restrictions. Our gut must be in continuous healthy balance in order to absorb vitamins and minerals and optimize metabolic processes and brain function.
Good bacteria and gut health
Prebiotin can also support the gut after a course of antibiotics and other drugs that kill beneficial as well as undesirable bacteria. A daily dose can also help your children to maintain a healthy gut as well as manage weight gain. Obesity can lead to inflammation, which can also weaken our immune systems.
COVID-19 and depression
Another benefit of taking Prebiotin is that by keeping the microbiome healthy, we can improve brain function, including reducing depression risk. Even before COVID-19, depression has become a mental health crisis throughout the world; in the U.S. alone, nearly 50 million adults had experienced some form of mental illness in the past year; worldwide, depression affects over 264 million people.
According to an April 1, 2020, article in Lancet, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic may hit those who struggle with mental health issues more intensely. The article notes mental disorders increase the risk of infection, including pneumonia. Another concern is that in a time of crisis, people with mental health disorders may face even more barriers in accessing timely health services. Since the pandemic has caused a “parallel epidemic in fear, anxiety, and depression,” people already depressed may experience more intense symptoms.
In her blog, “The Pandemic is Accelerating our Mental Health Crisis,” Arianna Huffington explains that isolation, job loss, financial insecurities, and the daily stressors of living in a world that requires constant vigilance to avoid getting the virus is “accelerating that mental health crisis. Just as we’ve had to make drastic changes to our lives to stop the spread of the virus, we need to take urgent steps to safeguard our mental health, too.”
For more information about how our microbiomes affects brain function, check out the Prebiotin blog, “Two Brains? The Answer to Treating My Depression May Be in my Gut.”
A hundred years of pandemics
WHO declared COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, a pandemic because of its geographic spread. The Guardian explains that this declaration has nothing to do with the severity of the disease. A pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.
In the last 100 years, we have had numerous pandemics, starting with the horrific flu of 1918 that took the lives of 20 to 50 million people worldwide, with a death rate of 10 to 20%. The Asian flu in 1956-58 had 2 million deaths; the “Hong Kong” flu of 1968 had a death toll of 1 million; the HIV/AIDS pandemic (at its peak, 2005-2012) caused the death of at least 36 million people. Currently, about 35 million are still living with HIV, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With COVID-19, mortality rates are unclear. During a recent hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), explains: “The flu has a mortality rate of 0.1 percent. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”
As we face another pandemic, we must come to terms with the reality that any real control is impossible when disease hits without warning and strikes at a global level. We can only take personal precautions, hope that a vaccine will soon be developed, and build up our immunity where possible.
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