In episode 139 of his video series, Dr. Larson discusses:
The flu season this year has been particularly challenging as opposed to other years. There have been a series of multiple viruses that seem to be more contagious than normal, and, more importantly, more severe than what we typically see. While most flus last about a week to get over, this year more people are finding that it takes weeks to recover. And then others are just getting better, only to find themselves sick again.
During the flu season, it is critical to take common-sense moves to reduce your risk of infection like washing your hands regularly, and, of course, it is also a good idea to limit your exposure to people who are sick. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites are both great resources to find out how to take precautions to stay well throughout the cold and flu season.
They also have general information about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet to enhance your immune system to fight against viruses. Things like limiting your sugar intake will help you combat the flu. Sugar can suppress the immune system for hours after ingesting it. When that happens, your body is more susceptible to infection. So avoid any foods that have ingredients like fructose, sucrose, and glucose, basically, any ingredient that has an “- ose” at the end of it.
Also, when you consume sugar, it can leave your body on a blood sugar roller coaster, which can lead to poor quality and quantity of sleep. Sleep is like your Swiss Army knife against viruses. So if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you are compromising your body’s ability to fight against opportunistic pathogens. Another thing to avoid is alcohol.
Alcohol affects your quality and quantity of sleep as well. That is probably why the holidays are when the cold and flu season begins; it is a recipe for disaster. People are eating more sweets and getting together with a variety of people, which increases the risk of infection. They are also drinking more alcohol, which messes with their ability to get the sleep they need, which also lowers their immune response.
Vegetables are high in micronutrients. So if you aren’t getting five to nine servings a day, then I recommend supplementing with NewGreens, which is a superfood supplement that gives you a significant portion of your required produce for the day. When you don’t get the proper nutrients you need and you consume excessive alcohol, and then your sleep is compromised – this is a recipe for a long flu season.
When there is a problem with sleep, cortisol is activated in the body. And when it is high, it can lead to an HPA axis issue. Cortisol is a hormone that has an excitatory effect, which can both wake you up in the middle of the night, and make it very difficult for you to go back to sleep. So cortisol significantly affects your quality and quantity of sleep. That is why eating right and limiting alcohol is so important during the cold and flu season to reduce your risk of getting sick.
If you can’t seem to get the sleep you need due to elevated cortisol, I sometimes recommend something called Phosphatidylserine or PS. It helps to modulate cortisol release in people who are having a difficult time falling or staying asleep.
Coronavirus is something that many of my patients have been asking about. I have been keeping a close eye on the information that is being released, but there is still a lot that is not yet known about it since it is a new virus. I recommend that you visit the WHO and CDC websites regularly. Also, you can keep the New England Journal website open, they typically don’t release information without a subscription, but due to the worry over the coronavirus, they have been releasing more information to the public for free.
-Dr Chad Larson
There is a numeric value that the research medical community uses to gauge the infection rate of a virus, it is called the R0. The R0 number for the Coronavirus is 2.2. That means everyone who becomes infected with COVID-19 will likely infect 2.2 people. Anything that has a value greater than 1 is considered highly contagious. Now that there are more new cases being diagnosed outside of China, we will likely get more information about the virus and what it will do, and it’s unlikely to be good news. So try to pay attention to the news and pertinent websites to see what precautions you should take. If it hits your community, you will want to be prepared and take action to limit your exposure.
COVID-19 may be more serious than the average flu or other common viruses. Although statistics are still coming in, it has a greater than one percent mortality rate, which is a higher percentage than the typical flu. Obviously a lot more people are living than dying, so it is important to temper your fear, but it is more dangerous than other types of illnesses, so it is critical to know what to expect and how to combat becoming infected.
People who already have a pre-existing health condition and the elderly will probably be hit harder and should take measures to ensure their safety. It is smart to take the same precautions that you would with the flu, and have a slightly more heightened vigilance on where it is spreading and what your risk is.
As a final reminder, sleep is super critical to combat cold and flu season. Science tells us that anything less than six hours a night can significantly reduce your immune system’s ability to fight infection – 7 to 9 hours seems to be the sweet spot.
Cold and flu season is not behind us just yet. If this is a typical season there is still over a month to go. So until mid-April, it is important to pay attention to what you eat, limit your alcohol consumption, and get good quality and quantity sleep to reduce your risk of being infected by the flu. And keep watching the news to see what the COVID-19 is doing so that you can protect yourself and the ones you love.