COVID 19 - Beyond social distancing

By Jessica Campbell, MS, FNTP

We need to be thinking ahead… to the light beyond the COVID-19 tunnel.

This can’t last forever!

We need community, we need connection, to share our lives, and celebrate the short time we have on this planet. The coronavirus is not going anywhere and that’s not why it’s important to shelter in place and practice social distancing. 

We respect the quarantine to flatten the spike in cases of the new virus so that our hospital system is not overwhelmed. Unfortunately, we have so many people with compromised immune systems and a broken medical system that is too easily overwhelmed. Social distancing is the only humane solution, but isolation is not what personally benefits your own immune system. As soon as our hospitals can manage the influx of sick people, we must go on.

Where do we go from here?

Remember when we used to believe that preschool and daycare were important to build a child’s immune system? That still applies; we need exposure to all of our environment in order to make antibodies and develop immunity to all of it.

Viruses are a part of our ecosystem and trying to kill them is naive. I’m not saying to bypass washing your hands, but antibacterial sanitizers that cause a lot of damage to your skin, and isolating yourself away from the germs of society are not going to prepare your immune system for the onslaught of future viruses.

Sooner or later you will be exposed to the new coronavirus and you better be ready for it!

What you need is a resilient immune system, a healthy body, and enough support to recover. The US is suffering because our high rates of unhealthy bodies can’t cope with COVID-19.

We all make antibodies to every single thing we are exposed to and those antibodies are specific like a fingerprint. Boiled eggs and scrambled eggs have 2 different fingerprints just like the many different coronaviruses have different fingerprints. We could wait for a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, but by 2021 when we finally develop a vaccine, the 2021 virus will have mutated, which is what viruses do, and your antibodies from the 2019 vaccine will not recognize the new virus.

Exposure is what builds resilient immune systems.

Your immune system will meet this new virus, decide it’s an enemy, try to sneeze, cough, and inflame the lungs with white blood cell fluid so it doesn’t spread. Then it will raise a fever to try to break it down, start making antibodies to flag it as an enemy, and send killer cells to kill it. This will feel like a terrible cold, unless you’re doing something to seriously compromise your immune system, in which case you may need breathing support.

What compromises immune systems?

  1. Immune compromising drugs
  2. Stress and lack of sleep
  3. Sugar and processed foods

Immune Compromising Drugs

Many over the counter medications and pharmaceutical drugs compromise your immune system by turning off the natural functions as if they were “bad symptoms.” We take antihistamines to stop the sneezing, allergy shots, fever reducers, anti-inflammatories, steroids, and antibiotics that prevent our immune system from doing what it does naturally to kill off viruses. Antibiotic resistance is globally one of the main drivers of disease and it comes from the gross overuse of antibiotics for cases in which they have no effect, such as on viruses.

If you fall into this category of immune-compromised, you should continue to isolate longer than those around you and open a discussion with your doctor about alternative measures. Pharmaceuticals try to stop the immune system from overreacting, but that’s like trying to cover a 2 year olds’ screaming mouth to shut them up. If that 2 year old wants to be heard, they will scream even louder. An immune system on drug inhibitors will overreact whenever given the chance because your immune system is always trying to adapt to help you heal.

Viruses need to find a weak spot for a point of entry and the novel coronavirus found the ACE receptor that we all have on heart and lung tissue. That’s why we are seeing such a strong overactive response from our population with weak lungs and on heart medication (especially ACE inhibitors).

This is not medical advice and prescription medications are very difficult to wean off. You must work under the supervision of your doctor. Though you may not have control over your prescription medication, this is simply educational to inform you that the holistic path is the only path to convincing your doctor you are ready to titrate off. Start by working on the factors you can control because they have the biggest impact on your immune system.

Don’t be afraid, be proactive and improve your immune system holistically with these measures! 

Stress and Lack of Sleep

Stress is a huge factor that compromises your immune system. This is obvious when you’re burning the candle at both ends, not sleeping, super stressed out and then you finally finish the work, head off to vacation, and…

whaaaaaa, you get sick! 

Of course you get sick, the stress compromised your immune system, and the second you sat on the airplane, your poor immune system had nothing left to protect you. Stress drastically burns through your storage of vitamin C, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients to stay well. Studies show mixed reviews on taking supplements, but what is effective is slowing down, getting enough sleep, enough sunshine for natural vitamin D, and fresh fruits and vegetables that have natural vitamin C in them. 

Sleep can explain the reason our elders are more at risk than our babies for more deadly forms of COVID-19. 

Kids produce way more melatonin than the elderly and melatonin has a protective effect against viruses. This is why we say “sleep when you’re sick.” With 30% of the population working from home, the commute times are way shorter and many people can sleep in, catch a nap, or try an earlier bedtime. You don’t have to take melatonin, all you need is sunshine during the day and darkness at night to produce melatonin, and feel sleepy. You can do this! Spend good quality time outdoors in the sunlight during the day and at night get off the devices with blue light and into a dark room.

If you really want to bonus up and reduce stress, remember to practice self-care. Check out my free  yoga series for some easy short workouts you can do at home.

Sugar and Processed Foods 

You don’t need to take a bunch of vitamins to improve your immune system, but you do need to eat real food that is full of vitamins so you can build a healthy immune system. 

Research demonstrates that processed foods, additives, preservatives, and sugar trigger negative immune reactions that degrade your immune system. Citric acid for example is now made from aspergillus, a well known inflammatory agent in asthma. Carefully read the labels on boxed, canned, and plastic covered foods in the middle of the store. I know you want to stock up, but packaged foods have more and more combinations of additives and preservatives that have not been tested together.

Be safe and buy the foods that have the fewest ingredients you recognize in their most natural form. Try plain rice and add your own spices, whole grains not cereal boxes, real oats, fresh meats, organic plain dairy products and sweeten them yourself with fruit or honey. Make sure to get plenty of fresh produce for the vitamin C, the minerals, and nutrients your body needs to stay strong.

Thank goodness the farmers markets in the Bay Area are open. The food is cleaner coming directly from the farmer, less full of germs in the open air and sunshine, not stored for months in the cooler, and thus more nutritious. If your farmers market is not open, look for a CSA box. I have a new video series coming soon all about farm boxes and what to do with the ingredients. Look for a farm that will send food directly to you and start building up your resilient immune system with fresh, local, and seasonal produce.


OK, ok so you want that bonus supplement that I do take. Yes, there is one item. If I had to bet money on one compound for helping you resist COVID-19 based on its antiviral research, it would be Elderberry

What I love about elderberry is… it’s a food!  

Most supply chains are on backorder because practitioners bought it all at the onset of this virus, but you may be lucky to have friends that grow it. Maybe you know acupuncturists or herbalists that make elderberry syrup, or maybe you have some on hand from that last cold. Elderberry is an anti-viral that improves your immune system and is a delicious food full of vitamin C. The whole family can eat elderberry without side effects on a daily basis, but I recommend saving supplemental doses for when you need them most. As with every good thing, moderation is key, and more is not always better.

Remember, don’t be scared, be proactive, and stay healthy. 

If you know someone who is scared to death at home, please share this blog with them. It’s so empowering to be knowledgeable rather than afraid of the media. Fight fear with facts and start building your healthy immune system with food as the foundation of your real health.

Your wellness muse,