A Doctor’s View on Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Cable news, your email inbox, the county health department, social media, and even the loud-speaker at your grocery store are shouting “Wash your hands!” “Practice social distancing!” “Stay at home!” As a licensed medical doctor (OB-Gyn), I strongly recommend you follow those pieces of advice. But more broadly, how can you maintain your health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

This virus is dangerous, but the principles of how it impacts your body are not unique. Your immune system has powerful ways to fight invaders such as this virus. And the immune system’s response to this virus is a huge factor in the serious illnesses and deaths that are occurring. The healthier your immune system, the greater likelihood you can remain healthy.

Even the healthiest immune system can be overrun by such an unseen and virulent enemy. These measures will not guarantee you won’t get sick, or provide protection such that you should not practice the safety measures you hear so much about. But if ever there was a time to care for your health, it’s now!

If you’re pregnant, if you have other illnesses, if you’re less than healthy right now, these steps will be especially important. Relatively modest changes in your lifestyle now just may make the difference in you not getting seriously ill.

So here are some principles to maintaining your health during the COVID-19 pandemic beyond social distancing and washing your hands.

  1. Keep Moving

Your body was made to move. Many of you are likely under a “stay at home” order, so this becomes even more challenging. But sitting on your couch binging on cable news and Netflix will seriously impact your physical health, not to mention increase your anxiety.

So get up off your behind and move! Make an exercise video part of your morning routine. Walk briskly around your house while talking on the phone (I do this all the time). Although it may be more difficult to do so alone or with your family around, just do it! And your brain will function more clearly with more oxygen as well. (Noom’s physical activity suggestions and tracker can help you stay on track even when stuck at home.)

  1. Get Outdoors

Fresh air and sunshine are like super immune-boosters. If you can, take a walk around your neighborhood. I’ve seen more couples and families walking in my neighborhood than ever before, and that’s awesome. If you can’t go for a walk, go out on your balcony, your backyard, somewhere. Open the windows.

Well-ventilated homes are healthier. Sunshine kills viruses, including COVID-19. Your “stay-at-home” order should not mean cloistering without fresh air and sunshine.

  1. Stay Hydrated

Water washes everything out, including any toxins in your body. Coffee, tea, milk, sodas, fruit juice don’t count. Sure, they contain water, but the sugar or sweeteners, caffeine, and other substances in them seriously complicate the picture. Only water can do what water can do.

How much water? More! Don’t have bottled water? Get over your fear of tap water. The vast majority of bottled water has possible plastics in it anyway, and is NOT healthier than tap water. If you have a refrigerator filter, or a filter on your faucet, that’s wonderful. If not, still drink water! Flavor it with a touch of lemon or cucumber if needed. Just drink it!

  1. Healthy Nutrition

Being stuck at home and feeling stressed make many people want to eat – anything. Snacks, processed foods, take-out – the world is on fire, so why not? The “why not” is that when under stress your body needs more healthy nutrition, not less.

That means lessen the processed foods and use more vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and simple protein. Lessen the baked goods, processed meats, and anything with a long shelf life. You can’t do this perfectly anytime, and especially now. But look for ways to lessen processed food and get more food closer to the way God made it grow. (Noom has some great resources for healthier cooking.)

  1. Supplements, Anyone??

Volatile territory this is. Some people swear by vitamin C or other supplements in staying healthy. The truth is that using large doses of vitamin C (2000mg/day) actually has a bit of scientific backing in this pandemic. For any supplements beyond that, scientific evidence is dramatically underwhelming.

That said, our food supply today is not what it was a century ago. I take JuicePlus+; it’s like “fruits and vegetables in a capsule.” I don’t believe or claim it will prevent COVID-19, but it’s a healthy phytonutrient. And here’s the short list of other supplements I can support/recommend (not in relation to this pandemic).

  1. Adequate Rest

Stress can make you feel tired even if you’ve done almost nothing. And there’s good reason for that. The stress response to anxiety does negative things to your body, and during sleep and rest your body can repair itself. Some daily exercise will help you sleep better, as will keeping to a regular bedtime.

Don’t neglect weekly Sabbath rest as well. I take a 24-hour period each week when I do not turn on the TV – even once. I use that time to call friends, nourish my soul with uplifting books/podcasts, enjoy church online, spend extra personal time with God, and in general let my inner being be refreshed. The world will still be there after 24 hours!

  1. Positive Attitude

Your thinking greatly impacts your body. It’s not “mind over matter,” but your thoughts have a much larger effect than most people realize. The physical stress response to fear and anxiety tears your body down. Focusing on peace, joy, and helping others changes the actual biology in your system.

So choose a couple times each day when you check the news for important updates. And the rest of the time, intentionally focus your mind on creative endeavors, uplifting media, staying connected with uplifting people, and God’s word.

Need some positive suggestions to think about? Try our 40-day email devotional series Freedom from Fear and Anxiety. (If you’ve gone through this in the past, message me and I’ll restart it for you.)

Your Turn: How are you maintaining your health during the COVID-19 pandemic? Which of these measures do you need to pay attention to? Leave a comment below.

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