UCSF Sustainability Stories
Dr. Rupa Marya, Guest Writer - April 2020
Personal Practices to Stay Well During the Pandemic
Photo Credit: UCSF Health
When we think of sustainability, we consider three things: people, planet, and profit. As we deal with COVID19, one of these three—people—currently stands out as the predominant concern, as people’s lives and livelihoods are at risk. At this time many people’s thoughts are focused on what we can do to take care of ourselves, to protect our loved ones, and to support our community.
UCSF’s Dr. Rupa Marya, featured in our story on soil health this month, is working right now in San Francisco on the front lines of the COVID19 response. Dr. Marya has gained valuable insight into what we can all do personally and offers useful recommendations based on a combination of common sense, evidence-based practice, and traditional indigenous knowledge. Originally published on Medium, here is Dr. Marya’s list of things that she does personally to stay well and help others stay well during this time.
- Get solid sleep each night (7–8 hours).
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
- Eliminate all booze (it depresses the immune system).
- Don’t smoke (it compromises your respiratory system’s defenses).
- No gatherings. No sleepovers. No playdates.
- Namaste. No hugs or Hi5.
- Wash Your Hands, Don’t Touch Your Face.
- Check in on elders. Do their shopping for them so they don’t have to be in public. Drop off groceries for them. No visiting in person. Help them up for video chat to help them with isolation.
- If you have a humidifier use it properly (clean every day). Viruses have a harder time when ambient air has 40% humidity.
- Easy on the dehydrating things like too much coffee.
- Gargle warm salt water twice a day. It makes the mucosa at the back of your mouth less hospitable to viral visitors.
- Make foods with immune boosters — garlic, ginger, turmeric, parsley, thyme, sage, bone broth if omnivore.
- Elderberry syrup (I read the study on the blood of 12 people and how elderberry syrup applied directly to monocytes induced pro-inflammatory cytokine production. I don’t see this as evidence to not take this powerfully protective medicine.)
- Unclear impact of ibuprofen. It may be wise to avoid NSAIDS (ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, naprosyn) and use acetaminophen/paracetamol (Tylenol) instead during the pandemic.
- Increase the ZINC in your diet: chickpeas, almonds, cashews, lentils, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal.
- If you have underlying lung disease consider taking Ashwagandha for the next two months (not if pregnant, with thyroid issues or autoimmune disease).
- Get some good time outdoors each day, get the sun on your bare skin to activate Vitamin D.
- Take high dose Vitamin C during the course of the pandemic. If you are prone to kidney stones, consider adding fresh lemon juice from two lemons with copious water to your daily routine.
- There is some early data that melatonin may mitigate widespread inflammation like we see in this illness. Consider adding daily 5mg melatonin at night, which can help you get that 8 hours of sleep.
- Dig up your yard. Plant your own garden. Start some seeds. Check out Johnny’s for great veggie seeds. Local nurseries are selling starts as essential services. Get them in the ground. Our food system future is not certain.
- Express appreciation out loud to the earth who supports you and your loved ones who love you.
- Sing out loud, expands lung capacity and the stimulation of the vagal nerve can calm your body’s overdrive from stress.
- Hold your kids close. They are awesome and won’t be small forever. Even as we are financially challenged, try to see this moment of them being close as a gift.
- Call your mom if you can and tell her you’re grateful for her.
- Advocate for EMERGENCY MEDICARE FOR ALL now so that no one is left out and everyone is going to get what they need to be safe.
- Advocate for taking over vacant housing and units for the purpose of sheltering and separating the unhoused. COVID19 running through an encampment would be a nightmare for all of us.
- Your healthcare workers are here for you. We are going to be OK. Please make sure the most vulnerable (folks over 60, unhoused folks, poor folks who cannot hoard and those with chronic illness) are covered with food, shelter and access to soap and water.
Here are some studies that inform my thinking, if you’d like to read more:
Besedovsky, Luciana, Tanja Lange, and Jan Born. “Sleep and immune function.” Pflügers Archiv-European Journal of Physiology 463.1 (2012): 121–137.
Bryant, Penelope A., John Trinder, and Nigel Curtis. “Sick and tired: does sleep have a vital role in the immune system?” Nature Reviews Immunology 4.6 (2004): 457–467.
Ouyang, Yanli, et al. “Suppression of human IL-1β, IL-2, IFN-γ, and TNF-α production by cigarette smoke extracts.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 106.2 (2000): 280–287.
MacGregor, Rob Roy. “Alcohol and immune defense.” Jama256.11 (1986): 1474–1479.
Ramalingam, Sandeep, et al. “A pilot, open labelled, randomised controlled trial of hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for the common cold.” Scientific reports 9.1 (2019): 1–11.
Emamian, Mohammad Hassan, Ali Mohammad Hassani, and Mansooreh Fateh. “Respiratory tract infections and its preventive measures among Hajj pilgrims, 2010: a nested case control study.” International journal of preventive medicine 4.9 (2013): 1030.
Alspach, Grif. “Extending the tradition of giving thanks recognizing the health benefits of gratitude.” (2009): 12–18.
Zakay-Rones, Z., et al. “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” Journal of International Medical Research 32.2 (2004): 132–140.
Fancourt, Daisy, et al. “Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers.” ecancermedicalscience 10 (2016).
Tiwari, Ruchi, et al. “Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Role in safeguarding health, immunomodulatory effects, combating infections and therapeutic applications: A review.” J Biol Sci14.2 (2014): 77–94.
Kudo, Eriko, et al. “Low ambient humidity impairs barrier function and innate resistance against influenza infection.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116.22 (2019): 10905–10910
Noti, John D., et al. “High humidity leads to loss of infectious influenza virus from simulated coughs.” PloS one 8.2 (2013).