It’s that time….time to get prepared for the inevitable cold, Flu, and COVID season that comes upon us as the temperatures drop and the hours of sunlight diminish.
My team and I take great pride in offering our patients sufficient discussions regarding the prevention and early treatment of dental disease. We also take great interest in keeping our bodies healthy to be able to best serve you. Over the past two years, I have spent hundreds of hours researching topics involving our immune system and overall health. It has been a very enlightening experience and as I travel into my next 20 years of patient care, I want to broaden our conversations of prevention and health to help each of you with optimal wellness.
In my opinion, COVID presented a missed generational opportunity to educate our population about healthy lifestyle choices that not only boost our immune system but help to improve our overall health. We finally had a captive audience that would have been motivated more than ever to learn how reducing dietary sugar, increasing exercise, prioritizing sleep, and keeping a positive attitude all help to ameliorate the body’s ability to resist viral infection. In this newsletter, I am going to cover some of the best ways I have learned to stay healthy this winter. This is by no means an exhaustive list; it is a place to start.
I am sharing my research with you because it has helped to keep me healthy and able to serve my patients through one of the most challenging times in my twenty-two years of dental practice. As with any exercise or supplement program, you should always consult your medical provider.
Let’s begin with some basic lifestyle routines and why they benefit your health. Then we’ll cover specific supplements and therapeutics to consider utilizing daily to prevent respiratory viral illness this winter. No one cares more about your health than you. There are no magic potions or pills for optimal health. It is a series of beneficial lifestyle choices that establish a firm foundation for a properly functioning immune system.
It doesn’t get much more basic than prioritizing sleep. Sadly, most Americans fall short of the adequate number of hours needed for reparative and restorative sleep. Our immune system, both adaptive and innate, benefit from adequate amounts of sleep. Research suggests that sleep strengthens immune memory. The interaction of immune system components during sleep reinforces the immune system’s ability to remember how to recognize and react to dangerous antigens. Source.
- try to prioritize 7-8 hours of sleep nightly
We all know that daily activity is good for calorie burning and maintenance of optimal weight. Exercise also helps to improve our mood and helps to prevent depression. Additionally, exercise aids our immune system and the body’s ability to ward off infections. During and after physical exercise, pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers) are released, lymphocyte circulation increases, as well as cell recruitment. Such practice has an effect on the lower incidence, intensity of symptoms, and mortality of viral infections observed in people who practice physical activity regularly. Source.
- try to prioritize at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily (walking, running, cycling, lifting, etc.)
There is monumental evidence that the American diet, full of sugar and highly processed foods, is not only damaging to our waistlines but also a properly functioning immune system. Research suggests that Western-type diets induce inflammation and alter immune system function, promoting disease development. In contrast, diets rich in whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and seafood, and low in ultra-processed foods can reduce disease risk and promote healthy immune function. Source.
- try to prioritize a diet low in processed foods by eating more nuts, vegetables, fruits, and seafood. A good thing to remember is to shop the peripheral aisles of the grocery store.
Over the past couple of decades, there seems to have been a very coordinated effort to demonize the sun despite there being historical evidence to the contrary. In addition to making the sun out to be an enemy, our lifestyles have naturally forced us into a more indoor way of living. There is more benefit than just Vitamin D production from the sun’s rays. Another benefit of natural sun exposure is the production of melatonin by our mitochondria.
Wait…I thought melatonin was for sleep?? We all know the healing benefits of sleep but what you likely did not know is that 95% of melatonin production occurs during the day with proper exposure to infrared and near-infrared light…think sunshine☀️. Melatonin is another potent hormone that is both an antioxidant and an antioxidant recycler. It is also a regulator of inflammation and cell death.
- try to get outside for at least 30 minutes every day
Other Steps For Prevention
There is so much more that I could write on the topic of general health and hope to do so in future newsletters. Let’s move on to supplements that support a healthy immune system and are beneficial to fighting off viral infections this winter. I will throw in some additional practices I have implemented that I feel have helped me to stay healthy despite my face being 18 inches from 20-30 patients breathing on me daily.
- Vitamin D This is likely the most crucial vitamin to be taking this winter. Many, many studies show that low Vitamin D levels lead to more serious COVID-19 outcomes. Aside from insulin resistance, Vitamin D deficiency has emerged as a primary risk factor for severe COVID-19 infections and death. Many Americans are Vitamin D deficient due to the overuse of sunscreens, our indoor lifestyles, and our diets of heavily processed foods. Vitamin D regulates many cellular functions in your body. Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuro-protective properties support immune health, muscle function, and brain cell activity. For optimal health outcomes this winter, I would encourage you to have your Vitamin D levels checked by your doctor and target a goal serum blood level of 50ng/ml. Source.
- Vitamin C We all know Vitamin C is crucial for a healthy immune system. Its basic properties include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, antithrombotic, and antiviral activities. Vitamin C can act as an antiviral drug, actively inactivating viruses when taken in high doses. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which means you essentially eliminate the excess in your urine. For best immune stimulating results, it is recommended that you take this vitamin twice daily. Source.
- Zinc This is a key mineral that plays a vital role in our immune system’s ability to ward off viral infections. It functions by aiding immune cell production, like T cells and white blood cells that help our bodies fight off disease. Zinc has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of viral infections such as the common cold. In 2010 Zinc used in combination with an ionophore (Quercetin, see below) was shown to inhibit SARS coronavirus in vitro. Zinc deficiency has been shown to impair immune function. Source.
- Quercetin is known as an ionophore and it is responsible for making Zinc more bioavailable to our cells. This in turn helps reduce a virus’s ability to infect cells, it reduces the replication of already infected cells and helps to inhibit platelet aggregation. Abnormal clotting is something COVID patients experience.
- Melatonin serves as an anti-inflammatory, it has anti-oxidative properties and antiviral effects. Melatonin has the benefits of reducing inflammation and possibly curbing the cytokine storm caused by SARS-CoV-2. In a preventative protocol, it can act as an agent that equips the body to better fight viral infection by decreasing ACE 2 receptor surface expression and decreasing viral replication. Source.
- Nasal Irrigation it has been long understood that respiratory viruses enter through the mouth and nose. An excellent prevention (and early treatment measure) is to do daily irrigation of the nasal passages using a saline solution. This takes just a couple of minutes to do daily and can help to reduce viral load and prevent infections. You can read more about the benefits HERE. I would recommend THIS product to purchase.
- Molecular Iodine Nasal Spray/Oral Rinse Iodine has been used in medicine for centuries as a surface disinfectant. The virucidal properties of iodine make it a powerful tool for prevention and early treatment. I personally use these items daily and we have patients perform a pre-procedural oral rinse to minimize the aerosolization of contaminants. These products do NOT need to be diluted or reconstituted as is recommended when using Betadine for this purpose. You can purchase these items HERE.
Thank you for taking the time to read through these important prevention tools. I would be more than happy to discuss this in more detail when I see you at your next appointment. Many doctors have dosing instructions for the specific items listed and I can share these links if requested. Like last fall, I will have supplement packages put together for easy procurement of these essential materials. As always, it is both a pleasure and an honor to be your dental provider!
Jessica Bishop, DDS, PA