by Michelle Jeanne Caracut, OC/OPI

HAND washing, wearing face masks, and social distancing are some of the more known measures in use today to combat coronavirus. However, there is one more way of preventing infection, and that is through nutrition, anti-COVID-19 nutrition to be exact.

The anti-COVID-19 nutrition is a safe and inexpensive way to prevent infection through the consumption of iron-removing foods and supplements.

According to Dr. Ernest Francis G. Nora, an expert on integrative medicine and general psychiatry, when iron is very high in the body, this increases the risk of severe COVID. 

He suggested that people should eat alugbati, beans, legumes, purslane, fiber, and cocoa to reduce iron or remove excess iron from the body.

Dr. Nora gave this suggestion during his talk at a June 2 webinar that was hosted by the Institute’s Mindanao Center for Resiliency (MCR).

Dr. Nora is a member of the Functional Medicine Group in the country — a group of doctors concerned with treating a person, not the illness. He recommended the anti-COVID nutrition proposed by the Functional Medicine Groups in the US, ASEAN, and the Philippines.

During MCR’s webinar that was entitled Health, Nutrition, and Wellness in Times of COVID-19, Dr. Nora suggested one can also take iron-removing supplements such as those with zinc, selenium, turmeric, lipoic acid, and glutathione.

He said foods rich in zinc were oysters, sugarcane, coconut meat, squash seeds, and  pumpkin seeds; and zinc ionophores / enhancers are garlic, onion, green tea, quercetin, and tugabang.

Dr. Nora added that the following would also help fight against coronavirus infection: natural antivirals [andrographis (mirabilos or serpentina or sinta), berberine, VCO, licorice]; alkalinizers (avocado, banana, lemon,carrots, kulitis, papaya, broccoli, onion, melon, radish, pineapple, raisin, sprouts, cabbage, celery, squash, alugbati, nuts, garlic, spirulina, wheatgrass, malunggay); hot water; ACE2 regulator (melatonin, vit. D3, astragalus); and anti-inflammatory [curcumin (IL-1), quercetin (NO, TNFα,IL-6), andrographis (IL-1β,caspase1,NLRP3)].

During the webinar that was open to all MSU-IIT constituents, Dr. Nora advised his listeners and viewers to exercise, get enough sleep, have proper nutrition, and limit the intake of alcohol and smoking of cigarettes.

Nutrition Guide

In addition to the anti-COVID-19 nutrition, Dr. Nora also shared the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Council (WFC) Nutrition Guide during the pandemic.

He said that the ideal is to have a balanced intake of the three food groups: grow, go and glow foods.

“Eat as natural as you can to avoid toxins in the food,” said Dr. Nora.  He enumerated the following common food toxins to be avoided:

  1. MSG (found in frozen dinners, salty snacks, canned soup, and fast food)
  2. Artificial food coloring 
  3. Food dyes (blue 1, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6) 
  4. Sodium nitrite
  5. High fructose corn syrup in soda, juice, candy, cereals
  6. Artificial sweetener (aspartame, sucralose, sacharin)
  7. Artificial flavors
  8. Transfat (hydrogenated fat to increase shelf life, naturally occurring in meat and dairy, and which are commonly found in crackers, cookies, fast food, margarine, creamer, and microwave popcorn)
  9. Hormones in food such as gluten (protein found in wheat and rye) and synthetic hormones found in dairy and other by-products
  10. Oils (the bad ones) such as canola, vegetable oil, omega 6 

Dr. Nora, who is also a medical director of the Bio-Safe Center for Complementary Medicine, Inc. in Quezon City, reminded the participants that fat is also needed by the body but they should eat only a moderate amount of fats and oils. He further advised to limit salt intake (1 tsp a day or 5 grams) and sugar (3 to 5 tsp a day), to stay hydrated, and to avoid alcoholic drinks.

At the webinar, he stressed the importance of detoxification and nourishment of the body so that it will be able to restore and regenerate.

“For detoxification, you do not necessarily need to take something or some procedures to detoxify,” said Dr. Nora.

He explained that the human body has organs for detoxification or elimination: the skin, bowels, kidneys, bladder, and lungs. “You just have to make sure they are functioning properly. Exercise and give them the right food. That’s why you have to nourish them.” 

Emotional and Mental Health 

Further in his discussion, he underscored the idea that health is not just the absence of disease, that it is the balance between the  physical body, mental and emotional bodies.  

“Covid-19 pandemic has made us realize the importance of health. Right now, medicine is focused more on the physical body.  We have neglected the mental and emotional well being,” said the doctor. 

“Before the pandemic, there had been a rise in depression anxiety and suicide, and Covid-19 made it worse,” he confirmed. 

Dr. Nora shared that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing psycho-emotional concerns among people. “Currently, WHO is saying there’s about 500 million of the population with anxiety, and it can go to as high as half of the total population of the world so about 4 to 5 billion.”

“All of us are involved right now with this pandemic. Not just the medical frontliners, not just the government, even the businessman, even the ordinary employees. All of us have been victimized by this pandemic,” he said. 

He added that the pandemic has also increased the anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicide rates. People feel in danger and that they experience paranoia and irrational fear.

“Difficulty swallowing, excessive sweating or cold sweats, tightening of the muscles, butterflies in the stomach, headache, weakness. These are all symptoms of anxiety,” Dr. Nora described. 

The psychiatry expert advised the participants on how they can manage anxiety and mental stress. He pointed out that one should connect with people. When connecting with people online, one must look at the eyes of the other person or even just the camera for this triggers the release of oxytocin, a precursor of serotonin. 

“These are ‘feel good’ hormones. So you somewhat ease your anxiety or depression just by looking at other people’s eyes. We have to connect with people,” he said.

He further discussed other ways to manage stress, such as limiting time spent on TV and social media, exercising, sticking to a routine, acknowledging one’s feelings,  and getting support from others. 

He concluded his presentation with a reiteration of the best ways to protect against coronavirus infection: observing social distancing (at least 6 feet), wearing face masks, hand washing, and keeping oneself healthy. 

After his presentation, an open forum followed.

The webinar is one of a series of online seminars organized by MCR. It will have a second webinar on Adaptability and Irritability: Key Processes for Effective Learning and Teaching in a Challenging Context on July 7, 2020.

Topics : nutrition  COVID-19  health  wellness