I like to refer to pathogens as a puzzle. While it has been historically accurate that if you don’t have all the pieces you can’t get infected; the coronavirus is an exception. More on this latter in this blog. Regardless, if you understand how the puzzle works you can protect yourself to other pathogens better. Not to mention, a lot of these suggestions are good for prevention to slow the spread of coronavirus and other pathogens.

The “puzzle” in this case has 4 pieces:

  1. Presence
  2. Quantity
  3. Route
  4. Weakened Immunity

  1. Presence is one of the elements we have little control over. Pathogens are either present or not. Generally, they are present. For instance, the flu virus is present in the summer. Our immunity is simply less compromised at that time of the year and has a better chance of beating it. Presence of smaller amounts is actually helpful as it exposes us to the pathogen without making us sick. Although, if the amount is great enough…
  1. Quantity is the other element we have little control over. When pathogens exist in enough quantity they are capable of overwhelming our defenses. For instance, when we eat food and it arrives in our stomach, the acids there neutralize pathogens rendering them harmless. Although, if you have ever had food poisoning, the quantity of the pathogen is great enough in the food you ate to overwhelm your defenses. Yup, you read that right. The food you ate had live cultures of replicating pathogens in it. Your immune system responds with vomiting and diarrhea. If it did’t, you would likely be killed by the presence and quantity of the pathogen that would get delivered to your blood stream. When someone shows signs and symptoms of a contracted pathogen, like we see with the flu, we know it is present and has a great enough quantity to afflict. And if it is contagious, like the flu, you best understand the routes of transmission to best protect yourself.
  1. Route is where we begin to gain some control. Routes includes: Ears, eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, anus (mucus membranes) and broken skin. With a pathogen like the Coronavirus, transmission is likely through the air or direct contact. Thus, wearing a mask reduces airborne transmission as it creates a barrier between our respiratory system and the airborne droplets. Glove use and hand washing reduces the transmission through direct contact. We touch our faces on average of 20 times per hour. Therefore the difficulty is not touching our nose, eyes or mouth as these are the best routes for transmission.  In regards to blood borne pathogens, unprotected sex and shared needles are the most likely forms of transmission. Thus, the use of condoms and not sharing needles is a good line of defense. Abstinence in both cases is arguable the best defense. 
  1. Weakened or Compromised Immunity is generally necessary for a pathogen to take affect. Our immune system is the last line of defense when a pathogen enters our bodies. The coronavirus is a bit different as everyone is subject to it. Younger healthy immune systems seem to be asymptomatic and capable of transmitting the virus. On the other hand, it is potentially fatal to older, weaker and compromised immune systems. The choices of health people now directly affect those with congenital issues that were not of their choice. This illustrates the web of life and our interconnectedness on a new level. This is the main reason for the “stay at home orders”. This protects those who have been dealt a poor genetic hand.  In most other cases, a Healthy Immune System has a better capacity to fight off pathogens. We develop our immune system in a number of ways. For starters through exposure. As young children we are commonly immunized against things like measles, mumps, rubella and dypyheria. While there are plenty of opinions on the topic of immunizations it is difficult to disagree with this being the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.  We support and maintain a healthy immune system through our approach to life. This approach includes the following lifestyle choices:

A. Sleep: 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly is the range for adults. We all fall into different places in the range on different days and at different times of our life. This changes due to stress, physical exertion, diet and lifestyle habits. Research has also shown that prepubescent children and teenagers often need as much as 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night. That’s right your kid isn’t lazy; they are developing. You are never surprised at how much a puppy sleeps the first few years of their life. Do the math and equate that to your kids and you will realize our societal norms are not intended for the benefits of any of us…let alone children. A good nights sleep constitutes two (2) Circadian Rhythms with REM Cycles. Your brain needs to dream! This contributes to a health brain. 

B. Diet: 1. Fresh  2. local  3. organic.  Clean protein sources. Reduce no-naturally occurring sugars as much as possible. Try to eliminate alcohol; it is a sugar after all.  

I often tell my students, “if it doesn’t rot, it isn’t food, that’s a product. Therefore, you shouldn’t eat it”. Additionally, I mention a specific order: “fresh” food is real food, this is most important. Fresh greens, vegetables and fruit provide us with vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber. The baseline of a healthy diet.  “Local” has far less of an environmental impact as it travels less to get to you. Additionally, when it is local it often surpasses the USDA organic regulations of no pesticides. When it is truly “local”, the grower often carries a higher responsibility for their practices as they know they are “feeding” their community. Choosing “organic” does become important when you cannot locally source your food as it eliminates pesticides which has an impact on you and our environment directly.

Whether you eat meat or plant based proteins how it is raised and grown affects the quality and nutrition the food provides. When we source ethically raised meats and organic produce it serves us with a safer more nutritious food source and the environment with a more sustainable crop.

Sugar is a pleasurable, slow killer that takes decades for its impact to be felt. Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity are the effect of too much sugar in our diets. When we ingest more sugar than we need, which is basically any amount, we store it as fat. Yes, you read that right. Too much sugar in the bloodstream gets stored as fat. This is not a statement of opinion it is a simple fact. Research has shown this for decades despite the recommendations by the USDA.

C. Hydration: 2.5 quarts of water per day as a minimum mandatory for a sedentary lifestyle. More if you are active, live at elevation or in a dry climate. Coffee, tea, sports drinks or any other products do not count! 2.5 quarts of water…Period. If you are not counting how much water you are drinking you will not drink enough. You have to pay close attention to this. Try to start your day with 16 to 32 ounces of water before you eat or drink anything else. When we are slightly dehydrated we often get triggered for hunger. Meaning you are not really hungry, your mind is playing a trick on you. What you really need is water. Keep in mind that people survive for 28 days only drinking water…just sayin…

D. Lifestyle: This includes a wide array of activities that promote health. These include but are not limited to things such as exercise, yoga, meditation and meaningful relationships. My generic statement is, “sometime, everyday, outside preferably with somebody”. The most important factor in this equation is arguably relationships. Deep and meaningful relationships provide us a higher standard of health. Nearly all cases of heart disease and diabetes are coupled with some form of depression. Research has shown for decades that maintaining deeper and more meaningful relationships, has a direct impact on longevity, happiness and reduces the likelihood of depression. During these times of Coronavirus I remind you all, we need “physical distancing”, not “social distancing”. Keep reaching out…it nourishes us! 

Spending time outside is also extremely important. Keep in mind that one of the treatments for depression is light therapy. I generally recommend at least an hour a day of exposer to the out-of-doors. A walk in your neighborhood will suffice quite well.

Daily exercise and low impact activities are also a necessity. The key is moderation. I like to simplify this to “sustainable activity”. Meaning pick activities you can do your entire life and perform them at a rate that you can hold for a long period of time. These are basically endurance based activities at an aerobic pace. These are referred to as” lifetime leisure activities”. If you can only do them at certain point of your life then I have a hard time encouraging people to engage in the activity daily. The intensity of activity and the level of aerobic output varies for everyone. Not everyone is an “olympic athlete” nor should one expect to get to the level of one. All of our capabilities and capacities are different. Own your capabilities and capacities. This is part of the happiness equation. Training harder often results in injury.

I have a lot of specifics and plans for folks who are looking to change their approach to health. If you are looking for more details regarding sleep, diet, hydration and lifestyle choices please reach out to me at jhoutdoorleadership@me.com to set up a one-on-one consultation. If you have questions please feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Be well and do good!

Thanks for reading,

Jacob Urban