More than ever, it seems we can go very long without the news, a conversation, our even our thoughts quickly circling back to the coronavirus. It is indeed an unprecedented and life-altering event whose impact is still unknown in its entirety. There is currently no cure for coronavirus nor are there any preventative vaccines—the only known preventative measure is to avoid exposure through social distancing, quarantining, and the like.
Of course, it can also if you maintain a generally healthy lifestyle and, by extension, maintain a generally good immune system.
On that note, kava—just like all other known supplements and medications—cannot directly prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. However, kava may be able to help when it comes to coping with self-isolation, quarantine, anxiety, and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and kava may even indirectly help optimize your immune system.
The prevalence of the coronavirus combined with people’s desperation have resulted in the emergence of “reports claiming that supplements can prevent of treat COVID-19.” These can range from lists of allegedly “immune-boosting” teas and recipes to complete and total scams.
Melissa Majumdar, RD, LDN, a nurse and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said that “any product saying it can prevent or cure coronavirus is violating federal standards” and that “there is no supplement or herb that can prevent or cure coronavirus.”
There are vitamins and minerals (Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, zinc, iron) that can impact overall immunity, but “no single one can solely influence immunity.” Relying too much on supplements and taking too much of them “may do more harm than good.” For example, overuse of nasal zinc sprays can result in a loss of smell that may be permanent. Healthline highlights elderberry which has shown promise in combatting the flu and shortening colds BUT is not recommended because it “can interact with immunosuppressants” and medications patients might be taking for transplants or cancer. Elderberry supplements have even possibly worsened lung damage in severe cases of COVID-19 because of a cytokine storm which occurs when the immune system overreacts.
The point is that while some substances have been proven to be beneficial in very specific scenarios, they can be harmful and even deadly in other scenarios. And so far there are no supplements that have been proven to directly prevent or treat COVID-19 although there are some that have been proven to possible worsen severe cases of COVID-19.
Rather than taking additional supplements, it is recommended to “focus on other aspects of supporting your immune system such as exercising, hydrating, getting enough sleep, and getting enough fruits and vegetables.”
It is important to point out that there is no such thing as boosting your immune system. Dr. Mike Varshavski, a board certified family medicine physician, states that “Your immune system works because you have vitamins, minerals inside your body that you naturally get from foods or they’re created within your own body…the answer is you’re not trying to boost your immune system, you’re trying to optimize it.”
He goes on to say that, states, “To optimize your immune system, you should focus on the four pillars of health. Sleep, getting at least seven to nine hours a night. Studies have shown that if you get less than six hours, it drops your natural killer cells by up to 50%, and they’re responsible for protecting you from COVID-19. Two, eat healthy, get fruits, get vegetables, make sure you’re loading up on the good stuff. Three, exercise. Now is no better time than ever to exercise…And four, don’t engage in bad habits. Smoking [cigarettes] can increase your chance of having a severe case of COVID-19, two to three times. Overdrinking [alcohol] impairs your monocytes. It’s a type of white blood cell that protects you from COVID-19.”
As mentioned above, kava cannot directly prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. However, kava may be able to help when it comes to coping with self-isolation, quarantine, anxiety, and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and kava may even indirectly help optimize your immune system.
Limiting alcohol consumption and ensuring you get enough sleep is an important part of maintaining your health and optimizing your immune system. And kava can help in both of these areas.
When it comes to limiting alcohol consumption, kava beverages can provide a healthier alternative. When it comes to sleep, kava can possibly help with anxiety and stress, reduce aches and pains, and may help with depression—all of which impact the body’s ability to obtain sound, quality sleep.
Anxiety and stress themselves are associated with immune function where studies have suggested “that there may be a relationship between anxiety and the immune system.” Dr. David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, elaborates that, “Stress and anxiety have a tremendous impact on our immune system. We know excess levels of stress produce hormonal changes that lower the body’s resistance to colds and other infections.” High levels of constant stress can decrease the body’s lymphocytes—the white blood cells that help fight off infection—making you more at risk for viruses. High levels of constant stress can also cause depression and anxiety leading to higher levels of inflammation to the point where “an overworked, over-tired immune system that can’t properly protect you.” Stress and anxiety management is thus an extremely important part of optimizing your immune system and an area in which kava can be helpful.
In addition to indirectly helping optimize your immune system, kava can also help cope with self-isolation, quarantine, and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic both through its relaxing effects and as a new hobby.
As COVID-19 continues to take the world through uncharted territory and unprecedented time, it is important to take the recommendations from reputable sources, like the CDC and WHO, seriously as well as to try our best to remain alert rather than anxious. People’s fears and desperation must not be capitalized on or taken advantage of, but it is okay to offer and take a helping hand where it may be.
Again, kava—and all other known supplements and medications—cannot directly prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist from California, emphasizes that “there is no magic bullet to preventing COVID-19 with diet or supplements. You can do the most to support your immune health with a diet filled with nutrients that are functional in immune defense, such as vitamins C, D, E, and zinc.”
Supporting and optimizing your immune health is the best thing you can do not only during these times but during anytime. And when safe and appropriate, kava can help you do just that.
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