Chances are, your health, along with the wellness of your loved ones, has been on the forefront of your mind for the last three months—and that may be putting it mildly. How could it not? The pandemic that’s swept the globe has, as of writing this, infected 5.29 million people and taken 341,000 lives, placing the strength of our bodies to withstand such a rampant illness above everything else.
For a good reason, too: The “novel” coronavirus is truly novel. Scientific papers are published nearly daily, with each new piece of information showing how new COVID-19 is, operating like no other pathogen we have ever known. And yet what we do know is that the virus can wreak widespread havoc, impacting the lungs, kidneys, liver, GI tract, and our ability to cope peacefully and contentedly with life.
We also know that, in some people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, they have won the war—so to speak—but are left feeling tired, moody, and depressed, just as they may be experiencing alterations in their ability to concentrate or sleep.
If you are one of the millions who has been infected with COVID-19 and are feeling the same, you’re likely searching for ways to mend your brain and body as compassionately and expediently as possible. While it should be repeated here that there is no vaccine, cure or treatment for COVID-19—yet—there are a number of ways you can nourish yourself back to health. Here are four pillars that may help you along the way:
1. Establish Foundational Health
Whether I’m treating someone with COVID-19 or estrogen dominance, I treat my patients from their scalp to their toes. Meaning, I don’t want to just mitigate or help treat the dominating symptoms, but encourage full-body—and mind—health.
The key to this? Eating wisely, exercising often, sleeping restfully, hydrating always, dealing with life’s challenges smartly, detoxifying regularly, and thinking well.
A brush with an infection—or an all-out battle—is often an ideal time to honestly assess where you are in these terms. Do you need to add more vegetables to your plate? Move your body more frequently? Give up your nightly glass of wine for the sake of a better night’s sleep? Drink more water? Decompress on daily stresses, and pay special mind to your emotional and mental health?
As you work on restoring your body, prioritize diet, movement, elimination, and nurturing your mind and spirit. Healing starts with holistic health, and lifestyle changes, both big and small, can help you achieve this.
2. Rebuild Tissues from Inflammation and Oxygen Starvation
When a person infected with COVID-19 (or SARS-CoV-2, as it’s officially called) projects virus-filled droplets—say, through a cough or a sneeze—and someone else breathes them in, the virus enters the nose and throat where it can then gain entry into the cell through its receptor, called ACE2. These receptors are found throughout the body. The virus then takes over the cell, makes multiple copies of itself, and invades other cells. If the immune system is incapable of fighting off this initial wave of trespassers, COVID-19 makes its way down the windpipe and into the lungs, where it can turn fatal.
For some, COVID-19 may initiate an inflammatory or cytokine storm—an overzealous immune response that does more harm than good. For others, it may result in damage to the heart and kidneys. Some may experience the whole range of symptoms; others may have only a dry cough, for example, or body aches. For others still, the virus may eventually lead to mood changes such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. Some people have reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
No matter how COVID-19 affected your body—from aches to heart or kidney damage—one of the unifying complications of COVID-19 is that it can cause both oxygen deprivation and systemic and specific inflammation.
To nurture yourself towards wellness, the inflammation and oxygen deficit your body has gone through must be addressed. First, I would urge you to take anti-inflammatory healing herbs and supplements…
- Curcumin—the main active ingredient in turmeric—has tremendous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects; I recommend 1,000 mg three times daily for six to eight weeks.
- Cordyceps sinensis has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to soothe the lungs, and present-day research demonstrates that it may be “a useful approach for COPD therapy,” the National Institutes of Health reports. I would recommend 1,000 mg three times a day for six to eight weeks.
To bring your kidneys back on line, consider a low-protein diet (protein is a lot of work for the kidneys), hydrate with minerals (Jigsaw, for example, has a good electrolyte powder that you can toss into your water), or drink celery juice—it’s high in the nutrients your body needs for wellness, including potassium, folate, and Vitamins A, K, and C. Note that the juice is more concentrated than eating the vegetable and most people can’t eat enough celery to reap its full range of benefits.
Additionally, IV nutrient therapies can help rebuild your immune system and support damaged tissues. Also known as Myers Cocktails, these therapeutic concoctions, administered intravenously, are chock-full of essential vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamin C, magnesium (which your blood needs for energy), and B-complex. Another option is to get intravenous infusions of glutathione—the potent antioxidant that supports immune function and regenerates Vitamins C and E. It also aids in detoxification and inflammation.
After an infection of any kind, the liver needs to be given some TLC too. Operating as your body’s waste system—detoxification starts with your liver—its health is imperative to recovery and wellness. You can urge it towards restoration through diet (think: beet greens, lemon, dandelion greens, and dandelion root tea) and by using castor oil packs. (Place a castor oil pack on your abdomen near your liver, which is located underneath your diaphragm on the right-hand side of your body, apply a heating pad on top of it, and rest for 20 minutes.) This can encourage the liver to “get moving,” and may help accelerate the toxin-elimination process.
Also, given that COVID-19 does a number on the lungs, increasing oxygen utilization is paramount to healing your body and regaining your energy. To this end, hyperbaric oxygen therapy could work wonders, in that it helps increase oxygen concentration in the tissues and fortifies the body’s immune system. Another option for post-COVID patients who have the resources is an Exercise With Oxygen Training device. Also known as an EWOT, it helps your cells absorb more oxygen when you exercise, thereby putting you on the path towards recovery.
COVID-19 can also infect a person through the GI tract because it is rich in ACE 2 receptors. Roughly 20% or more of patients have diarrhea, while others have reported vomiting, abdominal pain, and a loss of appetite. To get your intestines back on track, turn to probiotic foods (such as yogurt and miso), eat pomegranate, drink green tea, take a probiotic supplement, and fuel up on foods high in quercetin—an antioxidant, found in many grains, fruits, and vegetables (including apples, onions, kale, and spinach), that increases gut microbial diversity. Remember: the more varied your intestinal garden, the healthier you will be.
Lastly, I would urge you to consider acupuncture and/or acupressure. The ancient technique works with the body’s own healing mechanisms to promote overall wellness. We don’t know exactly how acupuncture works, but we do know that people have had great benefit from acupuncture treatments for a wide range of conditions. It has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese medicine. If someone is weak, tired, and exhausted after a massive flu or illness, such as COVID-19, acupuncture could help to restore the body. Acupuncture is done by a licensed practitioner who puts small needles into acupuncture points which are on meridians, or highways of energy, in the body. There are acupuncture treatments designed specifically to help with boosting Qi—the vital force—or for emotional issues like anxiety.
3. Support Your Adrenals
Your adrenal glands—which sit like little party hats on top of your kidneys—are responsible for a number of critical bodily functions, from releasing sex hormones to impacting our energy. After an episode as challenging as a viral infection, especially one of COVID-19’s magnitude, your adrenals may be fatigued. Why? Because your adrenals respond to stress, such as stress of an illness, by pumping out hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, effectively burning out the glands and leaving you worn out.
To repair your adrenals and rediscover your energy, you should aim to eat three meals and two snacks, made up of whole foods, daily. Now is not the time to fast, or eat lightly—your body needs nutrients to repair itself, and your blood sugar and cortisol (stress hormone which is released when you fast) needs to be kept at an even keel. At the same time, avoid all sugar, including high-glycemic fruit, such as watermelon, raisins, dates, and bananas, and foods with hidden sugars, including white rice, white bread, and fried foods—all can ravage your immune system.
In addition, take 500mg of pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) twice a day for six weeks, then taper off to 500mg once a day for one month—the vitamin has been shown to improve stress resilience in animal studies. Ginsengs are also the gold stars when it comes to repairing the adrenals, and should be taken according to your constitution or body type. A good measure of this? Your tongue. If your tongue is red, dry, and thin—and you have relapsing fevers—take American Ginseng. If your tongue is pale and coated in white, take Panax Ginseng. For each, take 500 mg twice a day for six to eight weeks.
4. Nourish Your Emotional Health
As mentioned, increasing evidence reveals that those who have been infected with COVID-19 are at risk for a slew of emotional complications—not just because of the trauma it can cause (it’s nerve-wracking to be one of the virus’s victims) but also because the virus literally impacts the brain: As Psychology Today reports, “There is some evidence that coronavirus does attack the brain.According to a paper by Adbul Mannan Baig, ‘the brain has been reported to express ACE2 receptors that have been detected over glial cells and neurons, which makes them a potential target of COVID-19’ and patients have had it reported in the cerebral spinal fluid.” In addition to neurological manifestations, people who have been infected with COVID-19 have experienced panic attacks (especially at night), crippling anxiety (isolation from others, in this case, can be harmful), and the post-viral blues.
To diminish these symptoms, introduce movement to your life again. You may be feeling too weak for a long run, but even a leisurely walk can increase positive brain chemicals. In addition, moving your body is associated with a healthy immune response.
The mood boosting and adrenal supportive herb called rhodiola, meanwhile, helps fight fatigue and may reduce the symptoms of depression. (The recommended dose is 100 to 170 mg of the herb in a standardized form containing 2.6% rosavin). The supplement SAMe—or S-adenosyl-methionine—is another safe bet for managing the symptoms of depression. It boosts neurotransmitter synthesis along with Vitamins B12 and folate. I recommend 800mg, taken in the morning with food, for six to eight weeks.
Above all, rest. Jumping immediately back into life may be tempting, but you need to give yourself the time, space, and permission to convalesce. You have survived something huge. Honor that.
Click here to buy Dr. Laurie Steelsmith’s books, Natural Choices for Women’s Health, Great Sex, Naturally and Growing Younger Every Day: The Three Essential Steps for Creating Youthful Hormone Balance at Any Age.