We are taking tentative steps to go back to our normal lives after more than five months of serious restrictions on the seemingly most mundane habits and activities. As I’m writing this in early September, we are just finding out that the gyms in New York City are getting ready to open again, at much reduced capacity and with a host of precautions, of course. On the other hand, our mayor postponed the long awaited (or, should I say, long dreaded?) opening of the public schools, where 1.1 million children in our city receive their K12 education, and on which many of them also depend for nutritious food and other types of support that can be in short supply at home or in their communities.

What’s your exposure?

Depending on the type of work you do, you may have been considered “essential” throughout the pandemic and required to show up in person, you may have been working from home (with all the benefits and challenges that come with it), or you may no longer have work. But many, if not most, of you are now going through a transition to return to your workplaces. Inevitably, you’ve already been out and about to go shopping and to stretch your legs, or to socialize with your friends outdoors. You may have participated in the BLM protests. So, you’ve already had to deal with the question of how to avoid catching the coronavirus.

Staying up to date

It’s important for each one of us to try our best and keep up with reliable information on prevention and treatment of coronavirus infection, but even for the scientifically-minded it can be mind-boggling and confusing. Since we are dealing with a new pathogen and our bodies’s responses, the available scientific information is also emerging gradually. Sometimes, what seemed to be a compelling, even common-sense fact, soon becomes questionable based on new research data that medical researchers around the world are collecting and parsing so that they can give decision-makers and the public sensible and actionable information in a timely manner.

Everyday steps you should take

We all have our hands full, of course, with our day-to-day responsibilities, so most of us don’t have the time to follow the nitty-gritty of virology and epidemiology. I won’t even try to fill you in on the details—not that I have a comprehensive grasp of the situation! I will reiterate the salient steps we can all take, based on recommendations from trustworthy sources, such as our dear “Tony” (bless his heart!). So, wear your (tight-fitting) mask at all times when you leave the house. Keep a reasonable physical distance of six feet or more from people, even outdoors. Actually, do BOTH! Wearing a mask (other than an N95) will primarily serve to protect others, not yourself. So, wear your mask to show your love! We also know now that the length of time you spend in the presence of someone infectious is correlated to your risk of getting infected yourself. Since we’re now beginning to head back to work and school indoors, the concern of virus lingering in aerosols that can travel across an entire room is becoming more palpable. More and more data are emerging that indicate this can be an effective way to spread the infection. This can be mitigated, to some degree, through improving circulation of fresh air indoors by opening windows regularly and upgrading ventilation and air filtering. Frequent testing (including pool testing) and producing speedy results can be a useful tool to spot new outbreaks or clusters early and help contain them.

A holistic view of your resiliency

One strategy that only few recommendations and guidelines we receive from public health officials and conventional medical providers mention is reducing our risk of infection and illness through preventative strategies focused on our immunocompetence—just a fancy word for the ability of your immune system to protect you from infections and other illnesses (such as cancer) without overreacting and harming you in the process.

So, let’s talk about that in a bit more detail. Many people who have been exposed to the coronavirus or other pathogens don’t get sick. Why is that? One reason is that, maybe, they weren’t exposed to a sufficient quantity of the virus (called viral load) to overwhelm their defenses. More likely, it’s because of how healthy they are and how well their immune system is functioning. As a doctor of natural medicine steeped in Eastern and Western traditions, I am particularly interested in strategies that boost your immunity using lifestyle and botanical medicine.

A holistic approach

Lifestyle medicine includes healthful nutrition that is appropriate for you as an individual and meets your needs. Exercise, sleep quality, and stress management are the pillars of healthy functioning and resilience. Each deserves your attention and dedication. I discuss these topics extensively with my patients and provide information and resources to those who are interested in learning more about them. It is especially important to increase your understanding of eating well. Food is medicine! It’s what you yourself can do every day to keep yourself and your family healthy. Let’s talk if you’re unsure where to start. I’m a big believer in going for the low-hanging fruit to get you started.

As a naturopathic practitioner and herbalist, I also have access to a vast clinical knowledge base in the use of plant medicine to support your immune system. We use herbs to balance your health, which means we ameliorate conditions of excess and deficiency. Even someone seemingly healthy may benefit from regular use of certain botanicals, called tonics, that have been recognized in traditional medicine and affirmed by modern clinical research to have the potential of improving resiliency and longevity. I frequently recommend adaptogenic and similar botanicals to my patients to help them weather stress and develop a more robust immune system. I choose these medicinal herbs based on careful analysis of my patients’s specific health and environment.

Acupuncture is a great strategy to reduce stress and boost immune resilience. Many of my patients receive regular treatment to fend of pathogens and feel well. Its effectiveness is well documented in classical practice and through modern research.

More information for you

If you would like to learn more about adaptogens or immune resilience, feel free to read those articles on my blog. For more individualized options appropriate for your personal needs, contact us to schedule a consultation. An apple a day sometimes just isn’t enough.

© 2020 Christiane Siebert