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Wellness Club

Immune System Function and the Coronavirus

By: Emily Oberg


For the past month, I’ve kept up with most of the White House’s press conferences regarding the Coronavirus where US government officials have been urging with the public to stay home, wash their hands, practice social distancing and more recently, wear facemasks. But in their conferences, not once have they urged anyone to take better care of their health. We haven’t been directed to eat fresh, nutrient-dense foods, stay active or take supplements that improve our immune system function— all things that can protect each of us should we come in contact with the virus. 

Heads of the United States’ Coronavirus response team— Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, have been very adamant about staying home and keeping 6 ft away from others. This is all well and good, and should most certainly be practiced until this thing is over, seriously, stay home. But why, at any point, have they not promoted a healthy lifestyle among the american population, which is already ridden with obesity, diabetes, heart and liver disease— all things that increase your risk of dying from the virus, as outlined by the CDC.

The answer to the question is simply because America’s healthcare system is set up to treat symptoms rather than find the root cause of the problem. When you’re depressed, your doctor writes a prescription for Lexapro. When you’re anxious, you get Xanax. Can’t sleep? Here’s some Ambien. This is why our “health” care system is set up to fail, and why it’s important to take your health into your own hands and be skeptical of doctors who aren’t telling you that it’s your diet, or lifestyle, or vitamin deficiency that’s the reason for your poor health condition. I’m not saying that your doctor can’t be trusted, but if they only look to treat your symptoms rather than getting down to the underlying cause of your concern, you may want to push them to do so or, get a second opinion from an integrative or functional doctor instead. A lot of people need prescription drugs and depend on them to live, I’m not saying this is wrong, in fact, some people SHOULD take them and it could be life threatening if they stopped. But when medicinal professionals are giving out these drugs (many of which come with serious long-term side effects) like candy, it’s worth questioning whether or not this is a decision that will benefit our health or, if there’s something more fundamental we could be doing to treat our condition.

Now that we’re all on lockdown, it’s easy to fall into a habit of snacking all day, loading up on frozen, boxed and processed foods, having happy hour every night, and sitting down all day long with minimal to no physical activity. It’s ok to do this for a few days, but overtime these habits will severely compromise your immune system function, not to mention your overall health, and if and when you come into contact with the virus, you’ll be far more susceptible to becoming severely ill. 

There are many factors as to why some people die from the virus and why others don't. It doesn’t come down to the strength of your immune system alone. If you have a strong immune system will you be immune to the virus? No. But, if you do have a strong immune system, your body will be able to fight off disease, infections and viruses a lot better than if it was compromised or weak.

In New York and China, doctors are using high doses of vitamin C (1500 mg/day) to treat those infected with the virus. And though it’s not a cure,  Dr. Andrew G. Weber, a pulmonologist and critical-care specialist affiliated with two Northwell Health facilities on Long Island said, “The patients who received vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get vitamin C”, adding, “It helps a tremendous amount, but it is not highlighted because it’s not a sexy drug.”

Indeed, it’s not. Afterall, we can get vitamin C from sources as simple as fruits and vegetables or a single supplement. Not nearly as “sexy” as prescription drugs which can cost some people hundreds of dollars a month, even with a solid health care plan. Yet the number of articles on the supposed Coronavirus treatment drug hydroxychloroquine far outweighs the number of articles on vitamin C and D and other preventive health measures that we all can and should be taking, not just right now but all the time. 

We’re all stuck at home and it sucks. But instead of succumbing to an unhealthy lifestyle and habits, why not use this time to boost your immune system, get your health back on track, and take time to nourish and care for your body as best you can? This is the philosophy we should be having when it comes to our health, not just right now, but all the time. Whether it’s a deadly virus, or a sedentary lifestyle or poor diet, we’re all at risk for facing serious health conditions which could dramatically change, or shorten our lives.