March 2021 – COVID19, nutrition, and exercise. Pain, too…

This month’s post is the first of a two-part series focusing on a few things we’ve learned about the two-directional relationship between our baseline health maintenance efforts and COVID-19; the issues we’re going to talk about have a lot to do also with the prevention and alleviation of chronic pain, so you might want to tune in if you’re visiting this site for the first time and haven’t heard us talk about this stuff in clinic!

Okay, were going to focus today on something none of us really want to talk about (unless we happen to be total fitness nuts and have kept that twenty year-old ‘beach-body’ waistline) – weight.  Actually, that’s not entirely true; we’re not going to focus on weight – we’re going to focus on nutrition and exercise. But for starters, to make the topic more relevant, let’s take a look at the latest data from CDC just published this month, showing that increased weight results in across-the-board increases in hospitalization, admittance to the ICU, being placed on a ventilator, and death from COVID-19.  You can see from the graphic below that there is what we call a linear relationship as well, meaning that the heavier a person is, the greater the likelihood of these bad things happening is.

If you’re not into graphics, the bottom line is that while 40% of Americans are now classified as obese, 75% of severe COVID-19 cases and deaths occur in those of us who are overweight.

There are likely a number of reasons associated with this phenomenon, and the most highly publicized one (which we fully agree with here at NAPM) is that the increasingly well-known increase in systemic inflammation caused by excessive fat parallels immune system dysfunction, which may lie at the root of severe COVID-19 disease (by way of what we call inflammatory cascade and in severe cases “cytokine storm”.)  There is likely much more to the story of course, and other things to consider are that increased weight often leads to diabetes and also pulmonary function decline, both of which worsen the course of the infection.  Decreased vascular health is another key component of severe COVID-19 infection, and among other things, inadequate nitric oxide may play a very big role here.

The pandemic hasn’t helped our overall health maintenance efforts in many ways, with gymnasium/fitness club closures, decreased activity in general, increased stress and anxiety (which also contribute to overall inflammation) and as we’ll talk about more next month, increased alcohol consumption.  As with any crisis however, it also provides us opportunities to not only adapt but overcome, and in this case, increased time on our hands for many/lack of other distracting pursuits allows for us to really drill down and start making habits out of what we need to do to preserve our physical bodies.


If you’re not sure where to begin along those lines, here are a few simple basics to start working on right away:

1. Cut out soda pop altogether from your life, now and forever. If you absolutely cannot live without it, then make it a once-per-week reward. Same goes for sweets in general.

2. (It’s not that fizzy bubbles or sweet-tasting things are bad for you, and we know that getting rid of bad things works best when we replace them with good things, so start drinking seltzer water if you crave those bubbles, and get as much fresh fruit in as you can. Fruits and vegetables are chock-full of phytonutrients not found in vitamin pills or other food groups, many of which have profound antioxidant/anti-inflammatory benefits.

3. There are a host of other nutritional tips you can learn on your own or through with the help of a professional; suffice it to say your body is the most important ‘machine/device’ you own, and learning how to care for it properly is a responsibility you need to take seriously if you have not been. We are more than happy to help with that, or guide you to the right place/person(s).

4. Increasing physical movement is essential as well, on a daily basis. There are so many different things that need to be evaluated/taken into consideration here that we’re not going to make blanket statements, and if you have ever been a patient here you know that we prioritize adequate sleep first before engaging in any serious exercise routines. Having said that, turning off the TV or putting an exercise bicycle in front of it is never a bad idea.

Oh, almost forgot. Again, if you’ve ever been a patient here you’ve probably heard all this and in much more detail but if we have never met, these issues of poor nutrition and mobility and being overweight, and increased systemic inflammation are increasingly appreciated as being huge keys to many chronic pain states. If COVID-19 isn’t real to you, I know that chronic pain sure has a way of getting our attention…