Survive a Pandemic

Warning: This is a supplement method for self-care, please contact your primary doctor and get a test immediately once you find suspicious symptoms of coronavirus infection.


The unpredictable 2020 was fleeting, pandemic of coronavirus is approaching to almost every family in this continent. This is the second time I experienced living in the center of pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus in my life. The previous episodes was in 2003 China, I was working in the hospital with most cases in Guangzhou.

My friend asked me: Are you concerned about getting this nasty virus? I gave him the answer for comforting: not really. I have at least one more protection than others to fight against it- traditional Chinese medicine. He said I feel a little safer because of it. Actually, risk is various according to different age group and chronic conditions, there is no simple answer to all.

People fear of unknown brand new strain of coronavirus, which has been spreading panic all over the world since the end of 2019. Recently, at the first anniversary of pandemic, CDC reported the emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants[1], the hope of eliminating the virus by vaccine seems dimming.

No medicine has been proved to kill coronavirus so far, neither traditional Chinese herbs(TCM). Though all kinds of treatment are getting virus on internet for symptomatic treatment. TCM has been used to fight plague and pestilence for thousands of years in China. But I cannot tell you the details of technique or herbs in a few words, since it needs long-term training to do so. Here, I want to introduce a universal life style advice from the perspective of TCM to fight this brand new virus infection. The principle of TCM is five functional systems (Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lung, Kidney) working together to keep homoeostasis in order to optimize self-healing function. Life style adjustment is as beneficial as medicine for a self-healable disease, especially in the early stage (first 6-10 days) of infection. At first week, most of patient usually stay home or in a shelter place for isolation, doctor is usually accessible via distant connection, emergency or hospitalization can only be accessed when the criteria of severe case are met. At this early stage, you are your own healer, your goal is to restoring immune function, limiting or reducing complications, 80% of patients don’t need to be hospitalized and recovered by themselves within 2 weeks[2].

How to increase the possibility of self-healing ? In ancient classic of TCM <Huang Di Nei Jing>, this is a universal principle for health maintenance: when the righteous qi is exist, the evil qi cannot interfere with the body(正氣存內,邪不可干). In the situation of coronavirus infection, righteous qi is your immune system, while virus is the evil qi, if the immune system is strong enough, it can protect the body from damaged by virus. How to restore function of immune system?

1. zhi xian shao yu (志閒少欲): Less desire when you are sick, let go of daily tasks temporarily and focus on your health at this moment;

2.xin an bu ju(心安不懼): Peace in mind, no fear of the virus, believe it is curable.

3. xing lao er bu juan(形勞而不倦):keep your body moving but don’t overdo it to exhaust vital energy, walking, tai-chi, stretching and yoga are good examples.

Enough sleep and rest in mind make sure your nervous system work efficiently, while low intensity exercise assures circulatory system healthy. Usually, it is suggested to settle your mind and lay down by 11pm or earlier, especially when you are sick, the blood is restored in liver and detoxification procedure for one-day’s metabolic waste starts from there. Some people have a hard time to fall asleep or stay asleep, they need to do some ritual for relaxation before going to bed, praying, meditation, breathing exercise and hot shower, etc..

In addition, appropriate food is key to healthy digestive system. The homoeostatic status is essentially supported by the maintenance of the gut barrier integrity. The digestive tube is heavily laden with lymphocytes, macrophages and other cells that participate in immune responses. When the immune system is fighting, you feel tired, your digestion function slows down. If you over-eat, undigested food stay in gut over time may cause bad bacteria overgrow, increased permeability of the epithelial lining, then facilitate bacterial translocation, later end up with systemic inflammatory response (SIRS) [3]. SIRS is commonly seen in the severe cases of coronavirus infection[4].

Therefore, what to eat?

1. Reducing food taking is principle, less than regular amount you take daily. Appropriate amount of protein that are nutrient-rich and lower in saturated fat and calories, such as egg and lean meat and bean; hard to digest food is not suggested, such as fat food, red meat or dairy.

2. Cooked veggies should be highly recommended, which keep a smooth bowel movement every day.

3. Hydration is a common ground to all kinds of culture, enough fluid is helpful to disperse fever, dilute phlegm, as well as smooth bowel movement, in traditional Chinese culture, it sounds like a joke that hot water heals all kinds of ailment.

4. The temperature of food and water is always overlooked. Low temperature make everything slow down, including your digestion, your detoxification and self-healing. Your body need a timely reaction, but not numbness or delay. No ice definitely, the better warm food, or at least body temperature food (97 F -99 F ).

Regard to the body temperature, something need to be paid attention. Your immune system needs a little higher than normal body temperature to achieve optimal performance, that is why you have fever when immune system is fighting. Don’t bring all fever down immediately, mild to moderate fever are okay to let it be if without severe secondary symptom, just keep hydration. Though high fever (above 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit) should be controlled. If fever is getting higher and lasts more than 10 days, please contact your primary doctor.

Be alert: The most crucial red flag is shortness of breath, this is a sign of severe cases with lung dysfunction, who need oxygen therapy. How to monitor this symptom? First, count your breath for one minute, normal range of breath rate per minute is 12-20, more than 25 per minute should be concerned. The other self-test for lung function is breath holding test, you can check it out from this youtube [5]. But when patient is nervous , anxious, or during panic attack, self-test is usually not reliable. The best way is to get a fingertip pulse oximeter, it tests you pulse rate and oxygen saturation ( how much oxygen in your blood) in 10 seconds. The normal range of oxygen saturation is 95-100%, lower than 92% is concerned, call your primary doctor, if lower than 90% you should contact emergency room immediately. I suggest practicing Diaphragmatic Breathing, there are countless reasons to practice it, such as increasing your lung function, self-massage your GI tract in abdomen, reduce anxiety, calm spirit[6]… Don’t wait until you are getting really sick, just practice it at the beginning if you don’t have severe symptoms of cough, phlegm or shortness of breath, and you can always practice it anytime for the reason of health and wellness.

If you can follow all of the above, energy flow(qi) in all meridians are smooth, no blockage in nervous system, circulatory system and digestive system, altogether to support your immune system to react efficiently and precisely in a timely manner, most likely all symptoms will disappear or get better within two weeks. What are good signs for self -healing? Sound sleep at night and warm feet, smooth bowel movement at least once every day, yellowish to amber

urine at least 4 times daily, 24-hour urine volume is 800-2000 milliliter, with these healthy signs ,even you have some fever, cough and sore throat, no need to worry, since these healthy signs show your body has enough capacity to fight. I hope these tips from traditional Chinese medicine can give you more confidence and hope to survive a pandemic.

Reference

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants

Retrieve from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/science-and-research/scientific-brief-emerging-variants.html

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVIDVIEW Weekly Summary strike from Retrieve fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html).

[3] Stelios F Assimakopoulos Christos Triantos , Konstantinos Thomopoulos , Fotini Fligou , Ioannis Maroulis , Markos Marangos , Charalambos A GogosGut-origin sepsis in the critically ill patient: pathophysiology and treatment. Infection. 2018 Dec;46(6):751-760. doi: 10.1007/s15010-018-1178-5. Epub 2018 Jul 12.

[4] Sabrina Donati Zeppa , Deborah Agostini , Giovanni Piccoli , Vilberto Stocchi , Piero Sestili

Gut Microbiota Status in COVID-19: An Unrecognized Player? Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020 Nov 26;10:576551. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.576551. eCollection 2020.

[5] Jacqueline Shakar. Demonstration of the Breath Holding Test - Jacqueline Shakar | MedBridge Retrieve from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtCpqUd9nRs

[6] Peiting Lien, DPT, PT Coronavirus Recovery: Breathing Exercises

Retrieve from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-recovery-breathing-exercises



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