As the world slowly reopens and COVID cases are leveling in many areas, the virus is still very much a threat. The pandemic isn’t over and there are still precautions people should be taking in order to help prevent the spread of COVID. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to Robert G. Lahita MD, Ph.D. (“Dr. Bob”), Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health and author of the upcoming book Immunity Strong about five things to know about COVID. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
COVID Targets the Lungs
“COVID is an extremely effective respiratory virus,” says Dr. Bob. “It is like glitter — it spreads very easily, and seems to be everywhere. It also infects people in different ways — some people seem to be more susceptible than others. A lot of people get very, very sick but never go to the hospital, while others wind up on a ventilator and sometimes die. It seems to be particularly deadly for people with pre-existing comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, obesity, etc.”
Long Haul Symptoms are Real
We’ve been hearing more about long haulers—people who have had COVID and their symptoms linger for weeks or months. Signs of long haul COVID include forgetfulness, coughing, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches and difficulty sleeping. According to Dr. Bob, “COVID has long term effects. You can recover but have long term “sequelae” – disturbed brain function, muscle aches and joint pains, abnormal blood tests, feelings of exhaustion and tiredness, etc. Lack of taste and smell can also continue sometimes for 6-8 months.”
Dr. William Li, physician, scientist, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, and author of Eat To Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself, adds, “Brand new research shows that as many as 54% of people who recover from COVID suffer from some symptom of long haulers. That should be everyone’s reason to get fully vaccinated and boosted and keep taking the right precautions to protect yourself from getting COVID. Although the cause of long COVID is not fully understood, we see long term damage to blood vessels and nerves, and inflammation in the body. So, while there are no pharmaceutical treatments yet for long COVID, you can eat foods that help repair your blood vessels, lower inflammation, and promote regenerative healing. These include dark chocolate, white beans and tomatoes.”
Keep Wearing Masks
Many city counties have relaxed the mask wearing guidelines, but Dr. Bob says it’s important to keep wearing them. “Continuing to wear masks in crowds is important – restaurants, gyms, on trains and buses, in airplanes, etc. Masks should be worn unless eating or drinking. People should also social distance when possible, even if they are vaccinated.”
Be Weary of False Information
Fake news has been an issue for quite some time regarding COVID and Dr. Bob explains, “wild conspiracy theories passing as “news” on social media surrounding the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general fueled vaccine resistance. This “news” has been misleading, highly exaggerated, or patently false, making the subject of vaccines polarizing for reasons that are anything but scientific. In addition, many stories from well-respected sources focus on the negative instead of the good vaccines do. A 2021 NPR analysis found that “articles connecting vaccines and death have been among the most highly engaged with content online this year, going viral in a way that could hinder people’s ability to judge the true risk in getting a shot.” These stories fuel our emotions, and emotions more than science or facts rule our behavior. They are also fueling the supposed facts behind the growing anti-vaccine or anti-vaxxer movement, which cites an autism-vaccine link that is worthless, medically and otherwise. The vaccine is extremely important to get. It’s effective and safe. These new pills that are coming out now are acute treatments and do not replace the vaccine. Any of the three vaccines are acceptable.”
Maintaining a strong immune system is always important for good health, but especially right now. Dr. Bob explains, “Particularly during COVID, it’s important to boost your immune system. If you get sick with COVID, in addition to quarantining, you should have Vitamin C and zinc. In general, remember everything you ingest affects your biology for better or worse, but it particularly affects your immune system. For better, prebiotics and probiotics should be included in your diet several times per week. For worse is not just about diets high in trans fats and processed foods, but also includes the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that can make you very sick and even kill you if left untreated.”
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.