One of my clients, a 53 yo African American woman with a history of asthma and O2 levels of 91-97%, living in Brooklyn New York, contracted COVID-19 in early April. She had a fever, body aches, sore throat, headaches, and lost her sense of taste and smell. She had a chest xray and fortunately it was clear. I would like to share her medical and lifestyle history, along with the work we did together on her nutrition and lifestyle modification which we believe helped her weather this virus without the need for hospitalization or life-saving measures.
This client has many of the risk factors for COVID-19: her race, her medical history of pulmonary disease, and living in a highly populated state (with the most documented COVID-19 cases) that has significant air pollution. Her asthma is not well-managed as she is on two medications plus an inhaler ‘as needed’, which she found over time the need to rely on taking twice daily. She had a pneumothorax in 2010. She finds herself struggling to breathe at times and even gasps for air overnight. She has multiple environmental allergies to mold, pollen, trees, grass, dogs and cats. She has taken Allegra for the past 2-3 years. There was water damage in her >20 year old home’s basement in 2018. In February of 2019 she completed the ERMI mold test with results confirming high relative moldiness with Level 4 values. She had a mold inspector come in for an evaluation and thankfully there was no mold growing on her walls. She pitched a lot of moldy items, scrubbed the walls, and improved the ventilation with a dehumidifier, air cleaner, and opened windows for a cross breeze. She also struggles with silent reflux and/or anxiety and recently completed two-week course of PPI’s. Her initial MSQ (medical symptoms questionnaire) score was over 100 with the highest rated categories being GI, energy/sleep, nose, skin, lungs, and emotions. Her BMI was 28.7. She had a long history of constipation and bloating as well. Her bowel habits included hard balls of stool every two days (#1 on the Bristol chart). She is a single Mom to a teenage daughter.
In regard to her lifestyle habits, she didn’t sleep well. Her typical routine was going to bed ~1011 pm and getting up at 5 am. Her sleep was broken due to night sweats and her mind racing. She underwent a sleep study, which disproved sleep apnea. She had gained 22 pounds the previous year, primarily in her stomach, hips, and buttocks area. This is the reason for initially seeking my services – helping her manage her menopause-related symptoms and weight loss, along with helping to optimize her GI function and asthma. She reports high stress and anxiety with an inability to manage or handle it well. For exercise, pre-COVID, she enjoyed Kickboxing 3x/wk plus Zumba 1x/wk. Her diet reflected a high intake of inflammatory foods such as cow dairy, sugar, gluten, peanuts, fried foods, and artificial sweeteners. There were minimal phytonutrient-rich vegetables in her diet. She drank only 6-8 cups of water from her tap, but no alcohol. She used to take a multi with Omega 3’s, which only contained nine nutrients, but had stopped by the time we started our work together.
Now, I would like to share what we implemented regarding her nutrition and lifestyle habits. Our work began early December 2019, which was four months before she contacted COVID-19.
We started with an anti-inflammatory Elimination Diet for four weeks with a focus on colorful, nutrient balanced meals coming from whole vs processed foods. We also boosted her water & tea intake to nine cups a day. Another focus was on her sleep hygiene and prioritization of getting 7-8 hours a night. We discussed adding a sleep-focused meditation before bed to help her quiet her mind and nervous system to best support a restorative sleep. She also purchased a high-quality air purifier for her bedroom and later another one for her basement. And we implemented a foundational nutrition supplement regime including a full-spectrum multivitamin/mineral, omega 3 fish oils, high potency probiotics, magnesium to support her bowel habits, and a menopause support formula due to her hourly hot flashes and night sweats. After her first week, she lost 7#, was sleeping sounder, hot flashes & night sweats much diminished, and she was now having two BM’s daily (#3 on the Bristol chart). At this point, we added 1 gm of vitamin C BID in addition to Quercetin 600 mg BID. Over the next four months, we continued our work on optimizing her diet through nutrient balanced meals, more colorful vegetables and fiber, as well as food sources of prebiotics and probiotics. We also worked on her sleep hygiene, regular mindfulness practice (which was one of her biggest challenges due to the daily stresses of her personal and professional life), and supplement support. We identified many of her symptoms were related to her elevated anxiety – chest tightness, breathing difficulties, and GI symptoms. It is a process and her health journey is evolving.
By early April when her COVID-19 symptoms started, we prioritized easy nutritious meals, sleep, rest and recovery, and added vit D3 to her supplement regime. Within two weeks, she was recovering well. She felt much better overall, other than her stamina and breathing with stairs. To help her with her cardiopulmonary function, she started an indoor 30 minute walking routine. Her Pulmonologist also suggested she start melatonin. We continue to work on a nutritionally adequate diet, sourcing online ordering options for foods she is having a hard time sourcing through her local grocery store delivery. We are also prioritizing her stress & anxiety management. Her sleep routine organically improved with her excess fatigue during COVID-19. She is getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Although my client is a work in progress, her nutrition & lifestyle habits have certainly improved and she continues to evolve along her health journey. In combination with a targeted nutraceutical plan, she has demonstrated the power and impact that nutrition and lifestyle have on improving one’s health and strengthening the immune system to help minimize the effect COVID-19 can have on a high risk individual.