Over the last few weeks I have watched as the world around us has been pushed to the extreme. I have watched whistleblowers die of the very disease they were trying to warn against. Heard multiple accounts of countries suppressing information in order to support their gross domestic product, while others over-stated the statistics leading to mass hysteria and loss of common sense. Colleagues are arguing over what can and cannot be said online, threatening our very licenses, and censoring any information that deviates from the status quo. FDA has threatened multiple companies for taking advantage of uncertain times, valid for the most part but also hindering any possible innovative solutions or support amidst the grim prognosis.
What is real? What is perceived? What is cloaked in controversy and conspiracy theory? Honestly, who the heck knows. I am witnessing some of the best and worst of humanity showing up right now. As always seems to be the case in crisis, one can choose to react or respond. And in this situation, the opportunity to do so arises as often as several times per day as news trickles in from every point of the globe. In fact, I am writing this from a warm and sunny beach in Mexico where we have yet to experience the chaos shared by others north of the border. Plenty of toilet paper still lines the shelves.
As a medical consultant for Keto-Mojo, guest writer, and the so-named “keto police”, I have been asked to contribute some commentary to offer some supportive solutions during this viral turmoil (pun intended). At first, I said no. I didn’t want to draw the ire of colleagues trying to silence voice of reason, education, empowerment and varying perspectives. I frankly don’t have it in me to deal with the untold number of trolls that will surface from this post, so don’t even bother as you won’t receive a response. If you don’t agree, scroll on, that’s your choice and I don’t choose that battle right now.
But, if you are someone like me, who wants to understand WHY something is happening, and therefore, consider some possible solutions to change the outcome, then continue to read on.
Let me start by saying that I am nearly 29 years out from a terminal cancer diagnosis and have helped thousands of others navigate these uncharted waters. Watching the COVID-Crisis waft over our planet is eerily similar to someone facing a diagnosis of cancer and as I have shared thousands of times over, the way we respond to that diagnosis may make or break our outcome. It is no secret, and well-validated, that stress induces the worst assault on our psyche and our physiology leaving us vulnerable on so many levels. It is in that vulnerability, that we thrive or dive. The real emergency is what is perceived versus reality for most and those that do succumb or are most vulnerable on the physical level, have often been a breeding ground for such an outcome for years if not decades.
Let’s orient you with some statistics. At time of print, there were over 465,000 cases world-wide, with over 100,000 recovered and over 21,000 deaths (World Health Organization). And the biggest concern is not those that are elderly and symptomatic (though insufficient numbers of medical personnel and supplies leave us in a precarious situation), but that are young, asymptomatic carriers sharing this among our most vulnerable population, which is the reason for lock down procedures seen all over the globe to flatten the curve. We don’t yet know how this story unfolds, but doing our part to stay calm, educated, prepared and supportive for the community is our greatest call to action.
I saw first-hand, the impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic while working for three years in the latter part of the 90’s in an HIV/AIDS clinic in Arizona, supporting hundreds of people with a diagnosis that was initially thought to be a death sentence. My tenure came on the heels of the darkest and deadliest moments following in the footsteps of those brilliant researchers, compassionate doctors and patient advocates, seeking to understand this illness and to change its course. As a highly transmissible, lethal virus, COVID-19 smacks of a similar flavor of chaos, confusion, fear and misinformation perpetuated by the powers that be and made worse with social media as every person appoints themselves an expert.
What lessons did we learn from the AIDS pandemic and how can we apply that now? We asked questions and learned about the why and made global sweeping changes to healthcare such as fast-tracking lifesaving medications, educating on safe sex practices, and screening blood banks. The clinic where I worked also educated on how to take care of the body beyond the basics—we taught stress reduction, performed acupuncture, prescribed herbs and supplements to correct imbalances and taught proper nutrition which offered huge benefit in changing outcomes by lowering hospitalizations, drug side effects, and co-morbidities while increasing quality and quantity of life. To see something that was wrought with such despair turn into something so manageable and transformative, inspires me to look for the silver linings in what the COVID-19 virus has to share.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT COVID IS LIKE THE FLU. IT IS NOT. THEY ARE DIFFERENT ANIMALS ENTIRELY. WHAT I AM TRYING TO CONVEY HERE ARE THE CONDITIONS THAT ALLOW VIRUSES OF ANY KIND TO TAKE ROOT AND EXPRESS. AS IS THE CASE IN THE WAY I SEE AND CONSULT PEOPLE WITH ILLNESSES, IT IS NOT THE “CATCHING OF A DISEASE,” BUT A CULTIVATING OF ONE WITHIN BASED ON ACCUMULATIONS OF DIET AND LIFESTYLE CHOICES OVER MANY YEARS COUPLED WITH THE ACCUMULATED TOXICITIES ON OUR PLANET AND OUR OWN EPIGENETIC BLUEPRINT. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE TERRAIN.
And let’s dig a bit deeper into what we may or may not be doing differently with regards to cold and flu season. A time when we are typically experiencing lower temperatures and lower humidity along with closed in environments and the season of high stress and high sugar intake (think Halloween to Easter) as we celebrate one holiday after another, environments that see less and less sunshine, therefore, lower levels of vitamin D3. A few cool articles I have run across over the years to elucidate this further:
My good ol’ mantra that has saved my ass and tens of thousands of others over nearly three decades: “test, assess, address, don’t guess,” holds true here now more than ever. Even the director of the World Health Organization shares this sentiment, though for different reasons:
“We cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected (and I would add WHY some become infected while others do not and why some will succumb and others barely suffer a sniffle). We have a simple message for all countries: Test, test, test.”
-WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Press briefing on March 16, 2020
We are beginning to learn that certain co-morbidities like diabetes (blood glucose and ketone levels, insulin, HbA1C) and obesity (body fat index, D3 levels, CRP) significantly alter the outcomes of this virus. We are learning that those with weakened immune systems (low WBCs, poor neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio, elevated platelets) for whatever reason (poor diet, pollution, smoking, medications) are at higher risk of death. Here are some good articles expanding on this:
Don’t believe me? Think I’m pushing a product? I am pushing a paradigm shift—one that is long overdue and one, just like a cancer diagnosis, may be the ultimate wake up call to take back personal responsibility to self and our communities, to change the conversation. This is not a time to blame others, this is a time to see what you can do to change your own health for the better and inspire those you love to do the same. We are facing far worse outcomes than the death toll COVID-19 is threatening. 1600 deaths per day of cancer as one example! This article a few years ago from Forbes shows the devastating impact on diabetes and obesity.
How about we get rid of food deserts, replace all the grass with gardens, add a greenhouse to every school and hospital, stop spraying chemicals on our soil which leaches into our food and water supply and the air we breathe? Just take a look at what a few weeks of forced down time has done to our environment with regards to notable changes in pollution with COVID shutdown:
Perhaps this is mother nature’s call to action to impact climate change? A unique way for sure but it is getting the job done. Why stop now? It is clear we can turn things around in a very short window of time, perhaps regenerating our soil and microbiome to strengthen us now and in the future is our only hope.
What would happen if we ALL took a 2-week quarantine (or as the Buddhists call it, retreat) each year to take care of ourselves? How’s THAT for social distancing while recovering from nature deficit disorder and resetting our internal clocks?
And what if we used that time to take personal inventory, perhaps a mental Marie Kondo, do a family or community fast or teach people how to shop for and prepare food again?
Do you realize the only thing remaining in the stores right now is fresh produce? Therein lies the problem, folks!! Friends and family from all over the world are sending me images of empty shelves of cleaning products and toilet paper, canned goods, and frozen pre-made meals but the produce sections are barely touched. How do you heal the body on dead factory-made food?
Try turning off the news and encouraging the whole family to put down their cell phones and come together to prepare a meal from your local farmer’s market, or, better yet, raised in your own back yard. If we all started doing this more regularly, how might that impact the big factory farms which are a big source of pollution and poor health on the planet today? Need some recipe inspiration that fits within the framework of a paradigm shift that nourishes and entices you?
How about see, in real time, the impact of that stress on your blood glucose and ketone levels, your blood pressure, your heart rate variability, your sleep, your inflammation? Don’t believe me? Read these articles:
How about starting your day with a walking meditation in the sunrise after 13+ hours of fasting, noting your blood sugars and ketone levels before you ingest that first cup of bean juice to get you going. How would that experiment feel for a month of Sundays? Bet pharma would take notice when you and the others you inspire to do the same, need less and less of the drugs that your previous diet and lifestyle required.
Perhaps THIS is the opportunity for all of us to reset, restore, regenerate, in an entirely new way, that is really, the way of bygone times. Perhaps it is time to test, assess, and address our own terrain to be better equipped for the inevitable impact this virus and its wake has left on the human race. Perhaps it is time to become an advocate for self and other, a steward of the land, a voice of change and reason and to put down the fear and victimhood and lead yourself and others out of the darkness and into the light.
To quote my friend and amazing writer, Rachel B. Turiel, “Truthfully, my biggest fear is that after this virus passes, everything will go back to normal”. I implore you not to allow that happen. This is a pivotal moment in society and one we should fully embrace to champion transformation. We cannot heal, nor stay well, in the same soil that allowed us to be sick. The only cure is prevention and it takes all of us to support that process.
P.S. Here are Integrative Considerations during the Covid-19 Pandemic