AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the latest COVID-19 spike in Texas cases, a Houston doctor is hoping to shed light on the impact of the virus on the immunocompromised and how others can help.
Brooke Goldner, M.D. uses her specialty in disease reversal to help people with autoimmune disease and other chronic illnesses.
“Ever since the pandemic, people have been talking to me because the immune system is very important when it comes to preventing and dealing with infections,” Goldner said.
The doctor said people with autoimmune diseases are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Her own history is the base behind her knowledge. She had Lupus for 12 years.
Who is immunocomprised?
It comes down to your immune system, and how healthy it is.
Certain populations like the elderly who are deemed immunocompromised “have less bandwidth or ability to actually fight infections,” Dr. Goldner said.
The CDC also includes those who suffer from conditions or receive treatments that can weaken a person’s immune system, such as:
- Bone marrow transplant
- Genetic immune deficiencies
- Solid organ transplant
- Stem cells for cancer treatment
- Use of medicines called immunosuppressants, etc.
How others can affect the compromised
Goldner feels COVID-19 can be “very scary” when it comes to the immunocompromised because of their vulnerability, but the danger goes beyond their populations.
“We’re seeing that one of the major risk factors for bad outcomes is obesity and any kind of heart disease. Most people know somebody in their family with high blood pressure or who takes something for chest pain or who’s overweight,” Goldner said.
But she stresses anyone can contract it.
“If there are droplets in the air and you inhale them, you’re going to become infected. It’s your immune system that should identify the virus, your immune response to it and then eliminate it,” Goldner said. “If you don’t have the ability to do that, the infection can spread without you being able to stop it.”
So with record new cases in Texas in the aftermath of reopenings that “stunned” her, she still believes we should go back to the basics of prevention and stick to them.
“Even though restrictions have been relaxed, what we can do to protect people is to try to protect ourselves from infection. One is wearing that mask. Nobody likes to wear them, I hate smelling my own breath, but I’ve been saying that wearing the mask is the new ‘I love you.’ We wear a mask to protect others,” Goldner said.
She also recommends:
- Eyewear such as glasses, sunglasses, goggles
- Standing 10 feet apart instead of six, if possible
The message is mostly for “carriers” who are asymptomatic yet can still transmit the virus.
“They’re lucky enough to have strong immune systems,” Goldner said.
But for some, that’s not the case, and avoiding COVID-19 as much as possible is the best step forward.
“[COVID] actually remains in the air, you can walk through it even after the person has left the area,” Dr. Goldner said. “People are now starting to congregate more indoors and when you’ve got recirculated air, you are now creating really bad conditions for spreading. That’s why airplanes are so bad for spreading infections. That air is circulating around. So, if you do need to go out, make sure you’re standing apart from people, wearing protection. Avoid places where you’re going to be sitting or standing indoors close to other people. If you need to have something and you have immunocompromised people in your home, please get it delivered or if you can’t afford… have a friend who’s going out and about and can leave it on your doorstep. This is the time to rely on others and ask for help so we can protect the most vulnerable.”
Diet and nutrition
“How well your immune system works depends on multiple factors: one, you have some kind of genetic predisposition to how healthy or sick you’re going to be, but there are a lot of things that are actually in our control. One is, how we eat,” Dr. Goldner said.
- Delivery food
- Junk food
- Sedentary lifestyle and activities
All of these will actually “decrease your immune function,” Dr. Goldner said.
“If you normally did that once or twice a week, to go out to eat or to drink, keep to that schedule. Let’s not be on a vacation schedule where you’re getting large amounts of alcohol, large amounts of junk food. It’s actually gonna suppress immune functions. As much as people don’t like to hear it, this is the time to eat your vegetables.”
Vegetables are the most powerful foods for fighting infections and optimizing our immune systems, Dr. Goldner said.
She offered recommendations on some options to add to your diet.
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
“All of those are really packed with vitamins and minerals and antioxidants that your body uses to optimize your health and to fight infections,” Dr. Goldner said.
Water is also needed.
“When you’re dehydrated your immune system doesn’t function properly,” Dr. Goldner said.
Beyond your belly, sleep and reducing anxiety also affect your immune system.
“Do something to get outside, do something to bring stress down like meditation or coloring. Adult coloring books have been shown to improve people’s moods,” Dr. Goldner said.