Once again just as the world seems to be getting the upper hand the Covid-19 pandemic, the greek alphabet gifts us with Omicron, the latest mutation in the Coronavirus that initially began this whole fiasco. For the last few months Delta was the lead headliner of the Covid brigade until Omicron hit – forcing most of us to brush up on our greek alphabet. Of note, the World Health Organization, skipped Nu and Xi which should have been the next in the list of variants because Nu sounds like “new” and “Xi” is a common surname in China. So Omicron it is.
On November 24, 2021, South Africa reported the identification of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, Omicron, and by December 1, 2021 the first case had been identified in the United States in a recent traveler to South Africa. By the time you read this likely most US states will have been affected. So why all the hype about Omicron? Because it has mutated quite a bit. And why do viruses mutate? To propagate their species, just like us!
The ultimate goal of every virus is to become the common cold
- Spreads easily
- Does not kill host, generally speaking
- Allows the host to move around, be active, and spread
- Mutates easily to avoid vaccines
- Collects in the mouth and nose for easy cough/sneeze transmission as opposed to blood-borne viruses like HIV
- Some examples: Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Viruses are an interesting study in evolution – except what takes millenia to occur in humans can take only weeks for a virus. Take the seasonal influenza (flu) virus for example – each year a new flu strain starts somewhere in the world (often southeast asia) and then reliably spreads throughout the world. As it spreads from person to person and country to country it has the capacity to mutate and change. Each year we attempt to create a vaccine based on the strains seen in other parts of the world, but really we are just guessing which strain will be the dominant one once it reaches us. That’s why the efficacy of the flu vaccine can be hit or miss depending on the year.
In a similar fashion, the Covid-19 virus has been mutating all along. One interesting aspect of the new variant is how different it is from the other variants we have seen thus far. In fact, 50 new mutations have been found in the Omicron variant, and more than 15 of those are associated with the spike protein.
The spike protein is important because most of our current vaccines have been created to build up antibodies against the spike protein. And these antibodies fit like a puzzle piece into a particular portion of the spike protein – so if the spike mutates enough, the antibodies are no longer able to fight the virus. And we are left with the same situation influenza causes every year. And so all the studies about the effectiveness of vaccines, boosters, or natural immunity are tough to interpret because they are being studied against a previous variant (Delta).
The mutations in Omicron appear to have made it more infectious than previous variants like Delta, but thus far it has not appeared to be more severe or fatal. Time will tell.
“Exposing the blood of vaccinated individuals to different virus variants, she found that the ability to mount an antibody response to Omicron in people who had three shots of BioNTech/Pfizer was up to 37 times lower than the response to Delta.” Quote from research study leader.
So the big question now is “Will the vaccine, the booster, or my previous infection be effective against Omicron?”
And the resounding answer is WE DON’T KNOW! So once again round and round we go with new mask mandates, quarantines, testing, boosters, and hysteria. And this may go on for years! Are we really going to keep doing this until we get to Omega?
The only thing that has been truly consistent about the Covid-19 virus is that healthy people are less severely affected. What does “healthy” even mean?
- Traditional medicine likes to go “by the numbers” to determine healthily
- BMI between 28-25
- Blood pressure below 120/80
- Total Cholesterol under 200mg/dl
- Fasting blood sugar less than 100mg/dl
These have been termed “The Essential 4 Numbers” by the medical community. Have we really simmered down the overall “primary care” of a patient to 4 numbers? First of all, could this be more impersonal? What about lifestyle, social issues, dietary choices, mental health, environmental toxins. I know a lot of people with “good numbers” who terribly unhealthy. People often roll their eyes when I mention holistic care because they think it’s hocus pocus. But holistic simply means looking at the whole person, not just the numbers. I refuse to believe you can really get to know a patient with 10 minute visits a few times a year.
Additionally, several of these numbers are unreliable in regards to long-term health. For example, it’s debatable whether many cholesterol medications offer any increased life longevity, yet we continue to shell out these drugs chasing a number. What if we spent that money on managing a patient’s stress and anxiety, and helping them make lifestyle changes to thrive? But we pour more and more money into new medications or new vaccines.
And as we continue to spend billions on vaccines, I have seen very little from our government on comprehensive ways to improve our health and immune systems. In fact, our collective health has worsened through the pandemic. We actually offer donuts for people to get vaccinated!
Our stress has increased to epic proportions affecting many parts of our lives.
Depression and anxiety are at all-time highs, particularly in children – who ironically are the least at risk for the virus, but have suffered some of the worst consequences of our policies to fight it. Adults have suffered from stress as well with less movement and exercise. Add this to sleep disturbances and increased alcohol use, and you can start to understand why our country is so divided currently – we are all stressed out by disasters over this thing.
One study showed more than half of adults (52%) who are parents with early elementary school-age children (5-7 years old), increased their alcohol use to manage their stress. There is a reason kids need to go to school – for our sanity and theirs! My teenager became a vegetable at one low point of the pandemic, never roaming outside, and spending over 50 hours per week on YouTube (we found out after checking his phone screen time report).
A study on smartphone addiction in 2017 found that notifications can alter your brain chemistry, creating an imbalance in your brain The study also showed a link between smartphone use and anxiety, depression and impulsivity. In addition, your notifications constantly being on can cause a pattern called ‘switch cost’. This is when an interruption such as a notification distracts our attention from a task.
Much of the world (the US in particular) has gained a significant amount of weight during the pandemic. The popular term Quarantine 15, alluding to the 15lbs of extra weight gained during the pandemic, was the butt of many online jokes, but the reality is no joking matter. One survey found 42% of adults reported an average of 29lb weight gain during the first year of the pandemic.
But don’t forget, we already had a 42% obesity rate before the pandemic started! And obesity has been found to be a major risk factor for severe Covid-19 disease in addition to it’s increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and arthritis.
We have created pandemics within our pandemic – a mental health pandemic, an obesity pandemic, a screen addiction pandemic, and a mistrust pandemic.
So in my mind there is only one fundamental way to combat this virus – improve our health and optimize our immune systems.
- Start with little changes that pay big dividends – like give up sugary drinks. Trade in the Gatorade, Sodas, Juice Boxes, and Frappuccinos for water. Yes, even if it says organic on the package it still may be packed with sugar.
- Give the fast food a rest – just follow my youtube channel for fast, inexpensive, easy meal options to power up your immune system
- Turn off the news and the notifications – these rarely provide us with actionable solutions and are major stress inducers.
- Eat more plants – Everyone should aim for at least 10 plant points per day
- Spend at least 1 hour outside everyday – especially kids.
- Sleep more – My goal is 8 hours per night – and get the electronics out of your room at night.
- Clean up your environment – the chemical air fresheners, the bleaches, and toxic cleaners need to go.
- Buy my book, The Rule of 5 – practical parenting tips for boosting the immune system.
Yours in Good Health,
Drs. Ana-Maria and John Temple