Staying Healthy

“There’s no magic bullet, is no magic vaccine or therapy. Behaviors, each of our behavior is translating into something that changes the course of this spiral pandemic”. 

Dr. Deborah Birx 
White House briefings Coronavirus Response Coordinator

 

 

Cameron Bishop DAOM, L.Ac

Copyright April 2020

 

 

Having been in health care for thirty years, a frequent world traveler, and living overseas for many years including four years in Japan, I would like to add some helpful information to keep yourself healthy. This will include tips about nutrition, movement, clean area technique, and mind body modalities. Most or all of which is evidence based and tested with a dash of common sense. There are a few things that might surprise you, or may just be reminders. The main idea is the unencumbering of our immune system so we may fight this virus war more freely through good tips and practices that you can do now.

 

Nutrition is always a mix of opinion, debate, and habit. I always try to keep in mind the quote “One man’s medicine is another man’s poison.”  The best thing you can do to keep the load off your immune system, which you want working at its peak efficiency, is to double the amount of vegetables you eat, and reduce as much processed food as possible. If we somehow knew the perfect diet, and you started it tomorrow, you likely would be miserable. Move in a direction of more veggies and fruits.  99.9% of human history we ate what we could dig up or kill with a stick. Try to avoid processed as much as possible. Try to get some vitamins in you daily with food. If you are taking more than three supplements consult with a health care provider. Even supplements can mix among themselves and with your medications. We can argue all day about vitamins, and certainly nutritional studies are dubious, but spending a little on vitamin C and a B complex supplement will not kill you. Also, avoiding phlegm makers like white sugar, dairy, and glutens would be tactical. You don’t have to be perfect.

 

Tap water will not kill you. Help your immune system by drinking filtered or bottled water. I love every cup of coffee I drink, and it tastes better with filtered water. My maternal grandmother lived to a healthy 96 saying the secret was a pot of coffee every day. Caffeine does increase stress on the system, also how stress is perceived (makes it seem worse) and narrows the blood vessels (germ fighters can’t get in tighter spots). During stressful times less is better.

 

My paternal grandfather disagreed with my maternal grandmother’s coffee assessment. He lived to 96 saying the secret was whiskey and water every night (but just one). I love every martini and glass of wine I drink, but again alcohol taxes our bodies. So less is better, particularly red wines (I love my Malbec), which are rough on the sinuses. If your nose gets stuffy or runs with wine, than give it a rest or change to a watered down hard alcohol. It is easy to overdrink and overeat during this time - change the habit for this immune war. Not drinking alcohol is best, but I am not going to demand it at this stage in the game.

 

Smoking- well, stop. It is the single most important thing you can do to change your health and those around you. I know, I know it is easier said than done, but at least try to cut down. That being said, you have plenty of time to research quitting tips on the internet. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor which narrows down the blood vessels, so it Is harder for your body to fight pathogens and heal. If you combine nicotine with caffeine, it is even harder. I don’t make the rules, but now is a good time to try to follow them the best you can.

 

Movement- do it. Studies show you will stick with it, if it is something that you enjoy. Open or close the drapes and dance. There are plenty of movement based therapies you can watch online or on your cable. It is also a good time to work on your posture with online Egoscue, Tai Chi (Eight Brocade), yoga, or other postural therapies. Study after study tells us to keep moving. It does not have to be rigorous exercise. Simple walking keeps our blood, lymph, and bowels working better and lasting longer. Moving also releases neuro-tension.

 

The pool is great place to exercise. The chlorine kills viruses. The safest is walking and not putting your head under the water which is particularly important in a public pool (if still open). If you do need to swim with your head under the water, consider ear plugs and following up with a swimmer’s ear solution.  Another important behavior is to shower before swimming to reduce your bacterial load, and afterward, to get the chemicals off. If you have 25 unwashed people in the pool versus 10 showered bathers, you have different demands on the chlorine and filters. It is a pool rule too. In Japan, I remember the entrance to the pool from the locker room was designed to force me to wash my feet in bleach solution and walk in to a shower before getting to the pool deck. Back to movement- do it. Do something that you enjoy, or you will not keep it up.

 

Shoes- take them off at the front door but keep your feet warm (and your neck). Most of the world takes their shoes off at the door, and 99.9 percent of human history we have not worn them.  Place a chair beside the door to sit on while you remove your shoes, if you need the extra support. The soles of your shoes collect lots of pollutants, pathogens, and just plain dirt. Your bare skin actually is resistant to germs. Inside your shoes, where it is warm and moist, is the perfect place to incubate microbes.

 

The temperature of your feet is connected to your sinuses. That is why you may not want to have your feet get cold. To keep them warm or not chilled from tile inside the house you can have a pair of “inside” shoes or clean flip flops which have never been worn outside. You can easily buy cozy socks or hospital socks. They are baggy, warm and do not cut off the lymph flow. Also, some come with beads on the soles for traction safety. If you want to take cleanliness to another level, you have separate slippers for the bathroom and back porch. Don’t share slippers or flips as that may give an opportunity for cross infection. That all being said, I prefer to be barefoot. If you are young, naturally warm, or habitually go unshod, and never perceive your feet as cold, you are fine to go barefoot.

 

It is a good time to improve your foot health too. One of the largest collections of nerve endings on the body is on the soles of your feet. They are like another form of eyes - might as well open them up. And by the way, let your kids go barefoot too. Keeping outside shoes outside is even more important with kids or pets in the house. Again, we are trying to reduce the load on our immune systems, but pets and kids tend to be on the ground. We walk through the room with fresh shoe gunk and our dog walks through it and jumps on our lap. Our kid is playing on the floor happy and hugs us, jumps on the couch or touches anything or everyone. Soooo shoes off at the door. Barefoot if you can, warm socks if you can’t, and change your socks frequently if you use them. Your feet sweat, and an old monk trick is to change your socks frequently. Try it. If you are worried about dirty bare feet, there are simple foot washing pads you can buy for your shower. You rinse, rub and repeat and never have to lean over or look. If you can lay your shoes soles up in the sun, the heat helps eradicate microbes on the surface. Speaking of sun, a little morning sun goes a long way for your skin health too.

 

Your bed, like the inside of your shoes and underwear, can be a breeding ground for microbes. Wake up and pull back your sheets to allow your bed to air out for an hour.  If you are walking around in your socks before bed, change to clean ones for bed or go bare. Rinse off your feet if you were barefooting or wearing flip flops outside. Whatever is on your socks or feet will be growing in your bed. If you tend to have allergies or want to reduce respiratory irritants, blow dry your hair before bed. Our hair collects dust, pollen and animal dander. We lay down on our pillow and now we are sleeping in the irritants. Blow dry or shake it out. Change your pillowcase every day or more often. Overhead ceiling fans can irritate some sinuses and eyes. A simple air filtering machine in your room can cut down on pollen and dust while giving a little white noise. If you do not like the sound, run it part of the day. I avoid the ones with ions as they seem to irritate my throat.

 

Pets- we love them, and my mother, for your information, does have the best dog in the world. They too collect pollens, dust, dirt, microbes in their fur. Wash them more frequently or give a quick blow dry of their fur. In Japan, they wash their dog’s paws after coming in from a walk or have them wear dog paw shoes. Really, look it up. Dog and cat dander puts a little more challenge on some people’s immune and respiratory systems. Don’t give up your pets; just wash them up.  

 

There are some good videos out there on how to create a clean space in your kitchen for bringing in groceries, mail, packages, and delivery food. Watch them. You don’t have to get carried away (or do we?), but reducing any percentage of exposure to pathogens is a good plan.

 

Face masks in Japan were commonly seen. It was a sign you were sick yourself as a courtesy and respect to others (very Japanese). They remind yourself and prevent you from touching your face. Everyone knows to avoid touching their eyes. Use a clean cloth or tissue. I use single use eye drops to clean my eyes if I have an eye rubbing session. Seems to work. If you suffer from dry eyes, fish or flax oil before bed helps me. It is also good for the immune system. Face masks may also create a more humidity for the air you breathe. This is thought to discourage virus growth. Viruses like cold and dry.

 

Take a moment to think about common places and things you touch.  Within your home are common area surfaces, but things you think are part of you may too be undercleaned- keys, fobs, phones, dog leashes, and your vehicle. Handles on the toilet, kitchen doors, refrigerator, hairbrush, toothbrushes, mailbox and anything you touch or use daily. There are studies on the dirtiest things and places. Store checkout counters, kid’s toys, shoes, coffee cups at work, and water machines top the list. Teenage boys’ shoes worn without socks are high on the list. They actually have a most stinky shoe contest. Google it if you are brave.

 

Can we be too clean? Yes, and there are some good arguments to let your kids roam barefoot and shirtless in the dirt, but this is probably not the time. You can wash your hands too much and you can overuse the hand sanitizer. Yes, there are studies on this. We do know Americans around half the time don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom (men are worse). In Japan all kids are taught to wash their hands, take off their shoes and to brush their teeth (Japanese hand washing after the toilet is near 100 percent). Certainly, wash your hands after coming in from outside (right after taking off your shoes) and after using the toilet, handling garbage, before cooking or touching your shoes. Don’t wash your hands or use products to the point your skin cracks, as you are creating another problem. Google how to wash your hands to make sure you are doing it with maximum effect (most people miss the fingertips and thumbs).

 

Brush your teeth. Change your toothbrush if you get sick and when you get well. Gargle with salty warm water daily to keep your throat clean. Drink warm fluids. If you jump into a cold lake your skin contracts as does your insides when you eat/drink cold things. Warm fluids will keep your lymph flowing better and this virus seems to start in the throat. While showering, you can put the shower wand or point your shower head under your ear (don’t get water in your ear) and let warm water loosen up your lymph, which is circulated by gravity and your body’s movement. Dancing or doing slow jumping jacks without jumping can help with lymph circulation.

 

Mind body research- there is a lot of it. I often have heard from people “I tried meditation and it didn’t work.” Well, it doesn’t work so well if you start in the middle of a fire fight. It is something that is cultivated. In the meantime, find a way to settle your mind and improve your breathing. It may be crosswords, walking, sewing, throwing rocks, or floating on a lotus cloud barefoot in robes. Do what works for you. Your brain is an organ as is your liver or heart or lungs. Take care of it too.

 

The research studies on gratitude, mindfulness (un-mindfulness if you will), meditation, prayer, and laughter are out there. To pray or meditate for others in need is good karma and will help your brain. It all changes your mind. You become what you cultivate and take the lesson from nature of practicing patience.

 

It is my sincere hope this helps. Does not add to any suffering but reduces it. Do the best you can along with me. See you on the other side. Cameron Bishop DAOM. L.Ac

 

“Adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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