COVID-19 Food for Recovery

Covid-19 Recovery: Food, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), & Lifestyle

Long break between blogs again. I have been super busy balancing the same global dilemma that has affected all of us since January 2020 surprised us with a pandemic.

After helping a severe diabetic client in Malibu to get back on her feet—literally (physically)—I pondered whether the way in which I was guiding people to recover is actually sane from a Buddhist perspective. My friends tease whether it’s truly helpful to restore a person back to health when that person shows little compassion about the life of other people. 

My wisdom is not derived from Internet research or pushing sponsored food trends. I diligently conduct research about science around the globe. My fine-tuned approach is an individually focused approach to help clients regaining their health, their sanity, and their will to live. My goal is to help them to stay on a healthier path forward and maybe convince their family members and friends to change their way of consuming foods. 

The biggest challenge in guiding another through recovery is their many well-intended tips from family members, friends, and even doctors who don’t actually understand (or believe in) the general suggestions provided by traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its take on nutrition. On a daily basis, I have to maneuver around insecurities when asking others to trust me fully as their chef. To carry a patient through a culinary journey, I must be informed, clear about product research, and capable of reading a medical blood chart. Often I go against a doctor’s suggestion and reject eager nutritionists trying to sell a product that actually has absolutely no benefits or a family member confronting me with opinions derived from google searches. I have bite marks on my tongue when the physiotherapist adds well-intended advice about “another client of mine added this to their diet” or even worse when an early-morning-article promotes a fancy-sounding treatment with absolutely no scientific research to justify it. Such articles typically are written well and may even highlight a celebrity, as if the successful consumption of a Chinese miracle pill that seemed to help them could be equally beneficial to my trusted client. 

Covid-19 not only challenges virologists and the medical community; it also brings curious TCM nutritionists together: We have been busy sharing our discoveries and together we have a great arsenal of long-proven ingredients to safely adapt to individualized help.

I think of myself as an ideal assistant to any  doctor. My work typically starts after a client has suffered through an emergency room visit or even worse, after surviving intubation by highly skilled medical professionals. 

I’m dedicating this blog to anyone affected or helping another in the recovery from Covid-19; it’s a complex journey, and what we know to be true today will most likely change in the near future.

One third of all Covid-19-positive people complain about long-term consequences, including memory loss, fatigue, lingering sensations of pain, or not being able to fully recover their sense for taste and smell. Fifty percent of people that experienced high fever and pneumonia like symptoms have been diagnosed with myocarditis; necrotic tissue in the left ventrical indicating stress on the heart muscle and oxygen deprivation or coronary occlusion. Autopsies reveals that Covid victims have an astonishing amount of thrombogenic material in their main organs; Even bodies below the age of 30 reveal multiple thrombus emboli (detached blood clots). 

Current estimate shows that three million people in the U.S. by the end of 2020 will need to change their diet, forced to take this epidemic seriously and start improving the microbiome of their gut! 

If you take your recovery seriously, food is now medicine, and your lifestyle must be aligned to benefit fully. As of August 1, 2020, these are my suggestions. Embrace that unlike most nutritionists and medical professionals in the Western world, practitioners of TCM do not promote a generalized approach: I’m merely designing a guideline within which you need to reach out to a professional and communicate specific health issues that could complicate your approach to food as medicine.

Let me provide you with a summary of how TCM analyses the pathogenic nature of Covid-19. From a TCM perspective, Covid-19 clinical symptoms display with its basic pathogenesis a destructive chain reaction on all five main organs: Lung, Liver, Heart, Spleen and Kidney. This virus might cause reactions similar to Influenza but the damage done beyond the classical flu profile like fever, cough, fatigue and headache surprises the science communities worldwide. We can summarize that Covid-19 is an invasive epidemic virus that attacks the upper respiratory system and progresses into the lungs quickly, causing vital qi deficiency. Covid-19 is not only a respiratory illness. It also invades the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels, causing damage and inflammation. At first, in the TCM community, we thought that this virus would require treatments similar to those used in treating the H1N1 virus outbreak from 2001, which gave us great understanding in how to help recovery during that particular outbreak. However, the original SARS virus, a sister coronavirus to the current infection, did not spread past the lungs.

            The human brain is shielded against many viruses, bacteria, and chemical agents by the blood-brain barrier. It looks as if this SARS-CoV-2 virus can bypass this barrier or even enter into embryotic placenta. No conclusive studies are available to suggest long-term developmental problems. In any case, 14% of people who survived intubation or severe Covid-19 sickness complain about consequential long-term memory deficiency and sleep disorders.

As of today, we should start to concentrate on treating Covid-19 patients with a focus on their pathological properties involving dampness and heat, as well as treating the body as I would for poisoning (understanding the interference of Western prescriptions with natural remedies). We should become better informed about the benefits of sound sleep, exercise, and yoga, as well as effects of breathing deficiencies and how to control mood-stasis. My foremost food combinations help balancing circulatory function and providing lung-boosting properties. I’m laser-focused on the discovery of the pathogenicity of this epidemic. Being informed about (medically sane) current research, I have added snack suggestions by simply understanding facial expressions and being aware of weather changes or mood patterns. I encourage my clients to sleep regularly and exercise diligently! This is a serious virus, and no one is ensured of a full recovery. Sugar addiction aside, encouraging well-to-do people to change their lifestyle is a challenge. In the end, I’m rarely recognized for having prevented a much worse outcome. 

One client last June made me aware of TCM-promoted Chinese capsules sold under the name of LinHua QingWeng. These capsules were developed in China during the H1N1 outbreak. In January 2020, most foreign Chinese students studying the USA received a “free preventative dose” through their consulate in the USA. This is not a preventative medicine that I would recommend.* It actually is unhealthy when taken without an underlying ailment! However, three out of its fourteen ingredients make a perfectly safe tea to consume during flu season (listed below). You can find these ingredients in your herbal store. Don’t purchase teabag versions; order through a reliable TCM pharmacy, such as www.EuYanSang.com. The three ingredients that I do recommend are:

  • Semen Armeniacae Amarum, bitter apricot kernel. It soothes coughs and calms the lungs.
  • Fructus Forsythiae, Forsythia. This disperses the pathogen exogenously, reduces the swelling of small air passages in the lung (bronchiolitis), reduces fevers, balances pain, and reduces skin rashes. In Asia, forsythia is given intravenously (by IV) in combination with other herbs for treating bronchiolitis.
  • Flos Lonicerae, Flos Lonicerae, Jin Yin Hua, or honeysuckle. This contains anti-inflammatory properties, and it fights viruses and tumors. It also contains an anti-oxidation and scavenging DPPH radical, which calms the nervous system and having an antipyretic effect. Honeysuckle tea inhibits the activity of alpha-glucosidase and lowers blood sugar and blood lipids.

*Just for the curious: why I cannot support LinHua QingWeng. This TCM product contains herbal ephedra, which is sold in the USA as Mormon Tea, a supposed weight-loss remedy. Systematic review found that ephedra led to a twofold to threefold increased risk of nausea, vomiting, psychiatric symptoms, and palpitations compared with a placebo. Because of this and other evidence, the FDA banned ephedra on April 12, 2004.

In my first meeting with new clients, I make sure that I have a secure understanding of how to eliminate foods that will interfere with a successful treatment; this sounds more shocking than it is. It also gives me a measurement of how sincere a client is likely to be in following my suggestions. No sugars or artificial sweeteners: the latter is worse than white sugar, guaranteed. Yes, that includes stevia or date sugar or basically any substitutes. The idea that maple syrup is healthy just shows how marketing has twisted our minds!

Fruit sugar is healthy! I have to repeat this. Even if you’re diabetic, watermelon and most fruit sugars are less ahrmful if consumed with their natural fiber-packed consistency. As soon as you isolate it (fresh-squeezed fruit juice), they become unbearably dangerous to diabetics and cancer patients. Same with the celery, carrot, and ginger “juicers” out there. I shake my head when I watch this insanity! 

Celery is a very common allergen; reactions to it can be life-threatening. If you’re allergic to birch pollen or mugwort, you’re also likely to react adversely to celery. Symptoms include swelling of the face, mouth, tongue, and throat; itching; rashes; dizziness; and stomach upset. Celery contains several compounds known as furanocoumarins. These chemicals cause skin to be photosensitive—that is, sensitive to bright light, especially sunlight. Celery is stressful on your kidneys! Pregnant women should avoid large doses of celery and celery seed, as they can induce bleeding and uterine contractions. My favorite part about celery is the fact it grows fast and cheaply, and it absorbs more chemicals from the ground compared with any other field-grown vegetable in California. But stop consuming it in large amounts.

With a few exceptions you DO NOT need vitamin or herbal supplements. I’m baffled how much money is spent in the mistaken belief that when you consume isolated forms of vitamin C, your body knows how to absorb it. Yes, if you’re malnourished or have no access to fresh products (I mean starved), you can supplement with multivitamins, which are not ideal but OK at best! Does anything stored in a glass or plastic container seems natural or healthy to you? 

During Covid-19 isolation, many may think “delivery service” is a safer way to get fresh products into their homes. AS a private chef I am baffled about the ungroomed and sketchy characters hired to select and  deliver your goods. If you think this is a Covid19-sane solution, you’re taking big risks. And while we’re at it, please don’t shop at your neighborhood health-food store for products that you intend to reheat and eat out of microwavable plastic food containers.

Keep it simple; being healthy is not difficult. Go back to basics. Simplify!

My blogs are somewhat lost in the endorsed consumer world, far behind brand sponsored prolific writers with little experience on the forefront of personalized care. My mission is not self-enrichment but to actually provide help and a sense of  “I can cope with this…”

The Internet is the biggest culprit in the Covid-19 epidemic throughout the USA. Misinformation is rampant; you can find more false claims, fake cures, idiotic health suggestions, and an endless list of products that bank on fear and gullibility. Amongst some of my favorite claims are that milk protects people from the virus because it contains “lactoferrin, which is a protein that helps to fight off viruses,” as well as “vitamin C and zinc, which both play very important roles in strengthening your immunity.”  May you have come across promotions for smoking oreating CBD gummies to protect against Covid-19. This is beyond stupid; making such claims should be criminal.

In TCM, single applications are rarely used. Although I invite clients to study singular health benefits; to effectively balance anyone’s healthy diet, I must be able to understand the effects of multiple food combination – while respecting  prescription medicine – and have a pretty broad understanding of modern medicine.

For example, research shows that Cassia cinnamon may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. But other studies haven’t found that benefit. I wrote blogs in 2002 disproving that cinnamon could lower cholesterol or treat yeast infections in people with HIV. Medicinal cinnamon shows promise as an antioxidant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory, but for now, there aren’t enough studies to prove that it can help. Most of you think of that spice rack when reading cinnamon: a spice laced with anti-clumping chemicals, color enhancers, and dubious byproducts that don’t need to be listed. But when you start consuming it by the spoonful daily, my alarm bell goes off. Because cinnamon is an unproven treatment, there isn’t a set recommended or safe dose. Some experts suggest 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2–4 grams) of powder a day. Some studies have used between 1 gram and 6 grams of cinnamon. Very high doses are toxic. Know your sources.

The cinnamon you buy at the store could be one of the two main types, Ceylon or Cassia, or it could be a mixture of both. Ceylon is easier to grind, but it may not work as well for diabetes; cinnamon may affect your blood sugar, so if you have diabetes and take cinnamon supplements, you might need to adjust your treatment because it can affect the way antibiotics, diabetes drugs, blood thinners, heart medicines, and others work. Use fermented garlic (black garlic) instead; same end-result, no toxicity  and way more health benefits!

I’m not done with my rant. Before going back to Covid-19 foods, it is important to embrace the dilemma of how in the Western world food is promoted, packaged, and consumed. Your digestive track must be your foremost focus when changing your diet to snap back to health. A study conducted in China found that gastrointestinal symptoms might be more common than previously thought. Instead of the 4% initially suggested, the study found that 11.4% of 651 coronavirus patients presented with GI tract symptoms.In over half of the patients, fecal samples remained positive for SARS-CoV2 RNA for a mean of eleven days after clearance of respiratory tract samples. A recent study further confirmed that eight of ten infected children had persistently positive viral rectal swabs after nasopharyngeal testing was negative.Even for those with mild cases of Covid-19 and respiratory symptoms, 23% experienced GI issues, and more than half (57%) experienced gut and respiratory symptoms. According to Medical Xpress, “It also took longer for those with digestive symptoms to clear the virus.”

Healthy living is very difficult for Americans facing relentless advertising for processed and unhealthy foods, addictive ultra-processed food high in salt and sugar, entrenched and culturally-reinforced taste preferences, limited access to healthy foods for many Americans, public policy that subsidizes disease-promoting foods, sedentary behavior, and a healthcare and medical education system that still largely emphasizes sick care over prevention.

America could start by cutting the subsidies in our agricultural programs, specifically massive commodity support for dairy, sugar, wheat, corn, and soybeans—much of which is converted into livestock feed, refined oils, white flour, and high-fructose corn syrup. Americans are paying billions of dollars to subsidize the foods that open the door to diseases, paying trillions of dollars to support the chronic healthcare costs to cover diseases, and then losing trillions more in the economy when pandemics arrive. Within medical training, there needs to be a greater focus on nutritional and lifestyle medicine that prevents and reverses chronic disease rather than the increasingly robotic “name it, prescribe it, and bill it” style of pharmacological medicine. 

The lessons for the military have been sudden and harsh. Weakened troops and ships shut down by the virus. It is urgent that America’s military leaders build the immunity levels of our troops through a radical change in diet. We’re already struggling to recruit a healthy military because of the obesity epidemic. Now is the time for military leadership to simply mandate reduction of disease-causing food in favor of fresher and healthier food. 

The Western diet, which is high in saturated fatty acids (SFAs), can lead to chronic activation of the innate immune system and an inhibition of the adaptive immune system. Briefly, excessive SFA consumption can induce a lipotoxic state and activate the innate immune system via activation of toll-like receptor 4 expressed on macrophages, dendritic cells, and neutrophils. This triggers activation of canonical inflammatory signaling pathways that produce pro-inflammatory mediators and other effectors of the innate immune system. In studies of mice, this led to increased macrophage infiltration to lung tissue, specifically in the alveoli. This is especially relevant to Covid-19 patients, given the high rate of infection among lung alveolar epithelial cells and the involvement of lung tissue inflammation and alveolar damage in Covid-19 pathology. Consumption of a Western diet significantly impairs adaptive immunity while ramping up innate immunity, leading to chronic inflammation and severely impairing host defense against viral pathogens.

It is critical to consider the impact of lifestyle habits, such as consumption of unhealthy diets, on the susceptibility to Covid-19 and recovery. Furthermore, the large number of people who will recover from Covid-19 (but with lingering adverse aftereffects) may lead to a spike in chronic medical conditions that could be further exacerbated by unhealthy diets or in vulnerable populations. Therefore, it is our recommendation that individuals refrain from eating foods high in saturated fats and sugar and instead consume high amounts of fiber, whole grains, unsaturated fats, and antioxidants to boost immune function.

General Suggestions:

•  Change your pantry: Throw away anything sugar-laced, out-of-date, or that contains preservatives. (If you’re not sure, throw it away.)

• Cut out as much sugar as you can.

• Void pasta, bread, and crackers.

• Avoid anything stored in your fridge: salad dressings, sauces, liquid food flavors, jams, margarine, and anything that uses wordings like substitute.

• Eliminate snacks that contain sugar. Eliminate ALL artificial sugar, flavors, or chemical byproducts. Let me make this easy for you: There’s no need to read the ingredients lists; eliminate all of them. Yes, the keto ones especially!! The word ketoon synthetic foods is just wrong!

• No dairy, except well-aged cheese and butter. (Yes, butter is healthy and important for recovery.) No, low-fat food is not OK. Yogurt is not easily digestible either, nor is it an ideal probiotic, despite what advertisements state or imply. No to cottage cheese and lactose-free suggestions. Keep in mind: this is to get you back up on track and maybe a change of your idea to eating healthy! Take your physical and mental health seriously!

• No meat replacements. Sorry, Beyond Burger; for Covid-19 recovery; these patties are an artificial produced time bomb churning in your belly. There goes another endorsement…

• Nothing that contains food color or “natural flavors.” Whoever gave the green light to this misleading wording? I don’t care whether it’s organic or not; in the U.S., this too is just a marketing ploy. If you know your source, great. I don’t care where the apple is from, as long as you consume it with the core and skin!

• No alcohol. (Yes an occasional glass of red wine is fun…)

• If you smoke or vape, why are you reading this blog?

• I’m OK with topical or edible CBD/THC, but keep it within controllable doses! (Gummies are not ideal.)

• Stop Juicing everything, nature intended you to eat whole fruit and vegetable bodies.

• Look at all the Western medicines you currently take, and get a better understanding of why you need them. Study!

Now you’re ready. Finally, the medicine you must concentrate on:

• You can eat rice, yams and polenta, any varieties, but in small amounts—never more than a cup a day.

• You can slow simmer and gently roast in butter or oils within their smoking points. (Learn about them.)

• Consume daily an equal amount of protein and cooked vegetables.

• Eat soups and salads daily, and snack regularly on unsalted nuts and fruit. Watch dry fruits sold; 90% of them contain sugar and coloration (no regulatory label required). 

• Keep your metabolism going by never making food-breaks longer than two hours.

•  DO NOT drink iced anything, and only drink thirty minutes before or after eating.

• Always cook, bruise, blanche, or quick roast your greens, such as spinach, cabbage, kale, or broccoli. They are very difficult to digest when raw while you’re in Covid-19 recovery. Use very little spice, salt or sauces.

• Don’t eat heavy after sunset. We all adhere to an internal clock; even when seemingly forgotten. Eat in company!

Finally, take every day twenty minute and make them YOURS: find a space of solitude, stand, breath, allow yourself to say “life is beautiful” or find your own inspirational words. It does not have to be meditation or an activity. Its twenty minutes that you claim for yourself. just being. Peace!

Reach out and contact me: I’m here to help.

chef Raphael

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