I now believe that pandemics and lockdowns, along with breakups and near-death experiences, affirm who we really are. And if you aren’t sure who that is, it’s revealed to you during these times, whether you like it or not. Families who were into family-time found the quarantine joyous; couples on edge now can’t stand each other; lonely people became lonelier and introverts rejoiced.
I fully embraced my inner health activist and routine lover. (It helps that I’m an introvert, too.) In doing so, I discovered a psychological stamina and physical strength I didn’t quite know I had. By following the advice of the wellness and medical experts I interviewed for a recent ELLE story on immunity, I became more resilient, stronger and leaner so I could withstand whatever would eventually come my way — from canker sores to the coronavirus to yes, a breakup. Oh, and I lost 20 pounds while doing it.
There is nothing more boring than listening to someone talk about their diet or workout. But as an “Old Guard Beauty Editor” — as I was once called in an email I wasn’t supposed to see — I’ve made a career out of being a human wellness test subject.
So, here is what works for me and what I learned from my self-isolation survival strategies. I’m offering these tips and tricks as a pandemic pu-pu platter of ideas you might want to try yourself, no guarantees of course.
My Morning Ritual Now Lasts Until Early Afternoon
I had always scoffed at the morning ritualists with their gratitude lists and self-affirmations, herbal tea and ACV (that’s apple cider vinegar, among those who shoot it). But about 18 months ago in an attempt to improve my gut, I started drinking 16 ounces of fresh organic celery juice every morning, which I still do. The “Medical Medium,” a.k.a author Anthony William, says there are sodium cluster salts (his term) in it that resolve IBS, dissolve gallstones, cleanse bile in the liver and help protect you from pathogens like Epstein Barr. My digestion improved.
But then I learned from nutritionist, chef and Reiki master (with clients like Kerry Washington) Serena Poon that I should start with something warm not cold, so I inserted a hot water and lemon step prior to the juice. I also missed my oil pulling, an ancient Ayurvedic technique of swishing coconut oil in your mouth for 10–20 minutes to “pull” out the spirochete bacteria (which is believed by some MDs to lead to Alzheimer’s by traveling through the olfactory canal to the brain) which I had done for years. So I added that back before the lemon water. I put the warm coconut oil into my mouth and get back in bed and try to be grateful for all that I have — and don’t have when it comes to Covid-19 — but usually I end up on Instagram or Words with Friends. (Note to anyone trying this at home, to keep teeth white, stick with coconut oil. After swishing, spit the oil into a little disposable cup so you don’t clog your drain, then rinse your mouth with water and brush teeth.)
First and foremost, the experts say you should have a probiotic in your system, so before the oil pulling (and after removing my two night guards) I drink 70 ml of Symprove. This is a liquid pre- and probiotic that isn’t freeze-dried like most capsules of probiotics that never make it past our stomach acids to the intestines where it needs to be in order to help feed our good bacteria. From every doctor I interviewed, I learned the importance of gut health for immunity.
Will Bulsiewicz, MD, author of Fiber Fueled, explained that there is literally just a single layer of cells separating our gut microbiome from 70–80% of our immune system, so what you put in there affects your immunity. I wanted both of mine to be in tip top shape. I also eat a lot of the foods he recommends including broccoli sprouts, which he says have 100X more of the active phytochemical than broccoli itself. Plus, the gut is where we produce a lot of our serotonin (like 95% of it) and dopamine (50%), so a healthy gut means a happy brain and life, something that I had severely underestimated in my past.
Prior to shelter-at-home, I had also visited an acupuncturist, Ellie Byun of Qi Acupuncture and Herbs, who used cupping and needles on my fat pockets, aka my stomach. Carrying fat around does not help your immune system, I heard from every doctor I spoke to. I also drink her herb concoction which is a yin/yang plant combo based on eastern medicine that’s supposed to improve metabolism and immunity. While drinking the herbs, I down a set of detox supplements. My digestion, and even my skin, appear better.
Spacing out probiotics, oil pulling, lemon water, celery juice and herbs is why I end up finishing my morning routine in the early afternoon. Plus, by this point I’m so full of liquids and supplements, I’m not at all hungry.
Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Since Gjelina and Gjusta were closed — my two favorite restaurants in Venice, California, where a lot of my eating and drinking usually take place — I decided to try intermittent fasting. I learned I’m really a social eater and drinker. When left on my own, I’m happy to just focus on healthy eating, like organic arugula, wild salmon, broccoli soup and dates. Plus, after that extended morning routine and the suggestion from the acupuncturist/herbalist that I stop eating around 6 or 7 p.m., simple math tells you there are easily 16 hours of not eating in my routine.
Many studies have shown that intermittent fasting can really help with weight loss, but it also gives your body a chance to use all your glycogen stores, stabilize blood sugar and reduce insulin, which is said to bump up fat burning. I always feel leaner at the end of the 16 hours, like all the puffiness has drained from my subcutaneous fat (skin brushing before a shower helps too).
Oat Milk Lattes Are My Saviors
I finally break the daily fast with organic berries. Now starts the healthy treats: First, my beloved turmeric oat milk latte. I create this in my Miroco frother where I add Zen’s Teas Golden Milk powder into Oatly! (Barista Edition) and lace it with Four Sigmatic Mushroom Blend Mix “Defend” for mental clarity and immunity balancing. Mushrooms have all sorts of superpowers, so why not? Hit the On button.
I don’t drink coffee anymore, even though I love it; I read once that if you switched from coffee to green tea you lose 10 pounds in a month, so I went cold turkey years ago. I never picked up the green tea, so I can’t tell you if that 10 pounds is an urban myth or not.
What’s in Shakes and Supplements Anyway?
In my second oat milk latte, I add Kaü Immunity Build, an amino acid powder made by a shaman-turned-Harvard PhD, Dr. Linda Ellison, who is the founder and CEO of Kaü. She educated me on the horrors of what’s in most shakes and supplements, like chopped up cow parts made into powdered collagen, artificial coloring, sawdust and the same plastic ingredient used to make yoga mats squishy. That freaked me out. Immunity Build contains all the amino acids your body needs to boost the production of immune cells, says Ellison, and was originally designed to be used in hospitals so it’s medical-grade — no plastic at all!
After speaking with her, I started worrying about all supplements as I had read that fish oil capsules were made from the dregs too. Then I learned about Lyma, a new-ish supplement manufacturer from England that uses only ingredients that are peer-reviewed in medical journals for their effectiveness. The founder, Lucy Goff, explained to me that the FDA has turned down only a handful of supplements in the past decade in the U.S. after being submitted for approval, whereas in the EU they’ve turned down over 20,000. In fact, on the FDA’s website it says that dietary supplement manufacturers do not have to get the FDA’s approval before producing or selling supplements and federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe to the FDA’s standards before they are marketed.
As with shakes, supplements are not just about being “clean” but about how effective they really are. Ever wonder why you bother taking supplements if you can’t tell any difference? I’m actually a believer in getting all your nutrients from your food, but inflammation is real, so I was interested to hear about the anti-inflammatory benefits of Lyma, which includes lycopene, beta glucan, curcumin, ashwagandha root, keratin, vitamin K2 and D3. Plus, they are a beautiful copper color and come in a very pretty copper vessel that reminds you to take them. I feel like I actually sleep better at night if I take them after dinner.
CBD, Anxiety and Sleep
Late afternoon, when I normally would scrounge around for chocolate or sugar, a CBD gummy is my treat. This spring, there was anxiety all around — early on in the lockdown, my boyfriend and pandemic partner on the other coast who commuted through the original hot spot of New Rochelle, N.Y., coughed a few times while we were on FaceTime. We were both silent. The next day the cough was worse. He ended up in bed and eventually tested positive for Covid-19.
Even though I felt relatively safe in L.A., I would watch Governor Cuomo, at least four hours of MSNBC and the White House Daily Briefing and then have nightmares all night (mostly from that last horror show). Besides, my boyfriend really had it and I was living through it with him. (He survived; we did not.)
So, my afternoon gummy became my breakfast dessert, calming my nerves that I didn’t let surface. I ordered from TruPotency because they vet all their CBD products and can ship anywhere in the country. I wasn’t going into any stores or dispensaries even though they were deemed essential and MedMen is literally around the corner from where I live. Keeping stress at a minimum is key for optimizing immunity, and even for balancing your microbiome, the folks at Symprove told me. A zinc lozenge is my second dessert.
Quality sleep is also super important for immunity, I swear this isn’t an excuse for taking more CBD. My evening CBD drops are called Dream by Kamu, and are laced with melatonin. Kamu formulates with sustainably farmed, totally organic ingredients and they’re tested for heavy metals, microbes and pesticides, something the FDA currently doesn’t require fully. A couple of drops under the tongue and the nightmares were replaced by a deep sleep I hadn’t experienced since high school, sleeping under the canopy of my childhood bed.
You can find the article on Medium.