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coronavirus

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You’ve probably heard that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If that’s true, race directors across the country are falling all over each other to get in line to flatter race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell and his Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k challenge. (For those keeping track, runners have from May 1 to August 31 to run the approximately 621ish miles across the state. A real human has already finished, and is “resting” before doing the miles to “run the other way” back to the start.)

Hmmm, that would make a good blog post…

Yesterday, I opened an email from my friends at Blue Ridge Racing. (They are the team that puts on the Blue Ridge Marathon.) Like many race organizations, all of their in-person races are canceled this season. The email was notification of the Virtual Interstate Challenge, to run the distance of I-81 in Virginia. When I shared this virtual race across Virginia with my accountability group, one of the members posted about The Great Run Across California, which is a 155, 347, or 705 mile challenge with team options.

Since I thought this was hilarious, I posted it in the facebook group for GVRAT1000 (one of the few spots on facebook guaranteed to be positive, uplifting, supportive, and 100% free of politics, bickering, woo-woo goop-esque advice, and fake-news). Within minutes the other members of the group were posting about virtual races across their states too! One runner even noted that a NY-based run was calling itself the largest virtual race, at least until a GVRAT100k runner pointed out there are around 19,000 runners signed up to run with the one and only Lazarus Lake.

It’s NOT too late to sign up to run across Tennessee with Laz, but this is America–you’ve got options! [EDIT: I stand corrected. You can still jump on this run, BUT you can’t enter any miles you ran before you registered.]

For your unbridled merriment, I present The Complete (as of now) List of Run Across A State races! NOTES: I have attempted to collect up the same information for each race so that you can make informed decisions about how much you want to run, how much you want to pay, which charities you want to support, etc. I have also attempted to find the actual event page for each event, if one exists. The most accurate information will ALWAYS be on the race’s homepage–so go there and verify! The entry fees listed below DO NOT include the processing fees charged by the registration platform, and DO NOT include any extras. Some races include a medal and a shirt in the basic swag, others do not. Read carefully!

(If You Just Want to Run For the Glory of Running…)

Runner’s World Run Streak. This year’s summer run streak kicks off on Memorial Day and runs through July 4th. No miles to log, no medal and no shirt, but plenty of social media bragging opportunities. Details: https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a27546583/rw-run-streak/

Run The Whole Country!

DetermiNation Runs the Country (June 1 to June 7)
Distance: Join Others in Running Across the Country
Race Director: American Cancer Society
Charities: American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation
Registration: $25 (no shirt) or $50 (shirt)
Special Note: Fundraising incentives include goodr sunglasses and more
https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/NewYork/DetermiNationRunstheCountry

Amerithon (no date restriction)
Distance: 3,521 miles (run, walk, bike, swim) solo or team
Race Director: Run the Edge
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $75, $50, or $25 (you choose the level of swag you want)
https://shop.runtheedge.com/pages/amerithon

Great American 5000 (June 14 to September 14)
Distance: 5000k or 3107 miles (teams of up to 24)
Race Director: Sports Backers
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $50
https://www.sportsbackers.org/events/great-american-5000/

America Strong Mileage Challenge (June 1 to June 21)
Distance: How many miles can you run?
Race Director: Planet Ultra
Charities: Not applicable (help Planet Ultra survive this time)
Registration: $35 (options to avoid race platform fees)
Special note: everyone who runs 15 miles per week will be added to a prize drawing
http://runplanetultra.com/americastrong-mileage-challenge

Multi-State Runs

Mountains to Sea Virtual Run (June 1 to September 20)
Distance: 350 miles
Race Director: Upstate Ultras
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $60
Special detail: choose from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Virginia (belt buckle design features the state you choose)
https://runsignup.com/Race/SC/Sunset/MountainstoSeaVirtualRun

Run the States Challenge (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 379k (Missouri), 630k (Kansas), 1000k (I-70 Challenge)
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: the Canine Challenge proceeds go to unnamed “local animal shelters”
Registration: $39 (MO or KS), $49 (I-70), $25 Canine Challenge
https://runsignup.com/Race/Info/MO/KansasCity/I70VirtualChallenge

Road to Gettysburg Challenge (May 23 to October 17)
Distance: four options from 132 miles to 991 miles (representing the distance from one Civil War battlefield to Gettysburg)
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: None identified
Registration: $60
https://runsignup.com/Race/PA/Gettysburg/RoadtoGettysburgBattlefieldChallenge

California

The Great Run Across California (May 1 to August 30—teams have 30 days)
Distance: 155 (San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe), 347 (SF to LA), 705 (whole state)—team or solo
Race Director: All Community Events
Charities: The Children’s Heart Foundation
Registration: $29.99 (through May 20); $40
https://runsusa.com/greatrunacrosscalifornia

Run Across California
Distance: San Diego to Oregon; San Diego to Arizona
Race Director: Kinane Events
Charities: Feeding American California Food Banks; Miles of Smiles
Registration: $50 or $40
https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/SanDiego/RunAcrossCalifornia

California Coast 500 (June 8 to September 7)
Distance: 500 miles (Santa Monica Pier to San Francisco); option for 100, 250, or 400
Race Director: Run Local
Charities: programs to feed children
Registration: $60
https://runlocalevents.com/california/

Chase the Jester Across California (May 25 to December 31)
Distance: seven options from 220 miles to 1,364 miles
Race Director: “The Jester” (Edwin William Ettinghausen, presumably with help from Andrea Ettinghausen
Charities: Project 99 (fighting teen suicide); Living Free (animal sanctuary)
Awareness & Action: Push the government to get 988 (the newly designated National Suicide Awareness & Prevention Hotline) operational NOW—the Congressional oversight committee approved it in December 2019 but they “need” 18 months to put it into place? NOPE. Let’s get that 988 operational NOW. It’s much easier to remember than 800-273-8255 (the current number)
Registration: $59.88 and up (longer events = more bling)
https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/SanFranciscoLakeTahoeLosAngeles/ChaseTheJesterAcrossCalifornia

Colorado

Virtual Colorado Trail Challenge (June 1 to September 3)
Distance: 500 miles (solo or team)
Race Director: Bear Chase Race Series/Runners Edge of the Rockies
Charities: Colorado Trail Foundation; Tunnel to Towers COVID-19 Heroes Fund
Registration: $65 solo; $130 2-person team
Special Note: there are competitive category challenges (e.g. most vertical feet in one day)
https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=77426

Colorado Trail Challenge (June 1 to August 31)
Distance: 486 miles
Race Director: 3W Races
Charities: The Colorado Trail Foundation; Athletes Serving Athletes
Registration: $70
Special notes: option to bike all your miles, or to enter a combined run/bike/etc.; relay team option (up to 6 run/walk or 3 bike); 28 digital badges; facebook group
https://www.coloradotrailchallenge.com/

Connecticut

The NUTmeg Challenge (May 25 to July 14)
Distance: 155, 253, or 328 miles
Race Director: Unclear (not stated on event website)
Charities: Connecticut Food Bank; Bridgeport Rescue Mission; Mercy Learning Center
Registration: $35 (register by June 1 to be guaranteed a medal)
https://runsignup.com/Race/Events/CT/Anywhere/TheNUTmegChallenge

Florida

The Sunshine State Challenge (May 18, 2020 to June 30, 2021)
Distance: 1,121 miles or 330 miles
Race Director: Advanced Running Project
Charities: ReTree PC (tree planning to replace Panama City trees destroyed in Hurricane Michael)
Registration: $60
https://www.sunshinestatechallenge.com/

Florida Virtual Challenge (June 1 to October 31)
Distances: 1000K / 500K / 100 Mile
Race Director: Chris Lauber, Florida Road Races
Charities: Running Starfish Foundation, Inc. for distribution to other small non-profits.
Registration: $60 for the 1000K; $55 for the 500K; $50 for the 100 Miler
https://runsignup.com/Race/Donate/FL/SaintPetersburg/FloridaUltimateVirtualRuns

Illinois

The Great Run Across Illinois (May 1 to July 31)
Distance:390 miles (north-south) or 210 miles (east-west), solo or team
Race Director: All Community Events
Charities: Illinois Nurses Foundation
Registration: $34.99 until May 20; $40 after
https://allcommunityevents.com/greatrunacrossillinois

Minnesota

The Great Run Across Minnesota (May 1 to August 30)
Distance: 407 miles or 181 miles; solo or team
Race Director: MNruns.com part of All Community Events
Charities: Special Olympics Minnesota
Registration: $29.99 until May 20; $40 after
https://mnruns.com/greatrunacrossminnesota

New Jersey

The New Jersey Virtual Challenge. (May 15 to July 15)
Distance: 28 miles (Boardwalk Challenge), 117.2 miles (Run the NJ Turnpike), 172.4 (Run the Garden State Parkway), 289.6 (Toll Booth Challenge ), 579.2 miles (Jersey Devil Road Tour Challenge)—the website has these broken out by average miles per day
Race Director: CompuScore
Charities: CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for kids in foster care), The Community FoodBank of New Jersey
Registration: $40-$85
https://www.compuscore.com/

New York

New York State Virtual 434 (May 15 to September 15)
Distance: 434 miles (Niagara Square, Buffalo to Times Square, NYC) with options for 70, 150, 290, and 868 miles
Race Director: Score This
Charities: FeedMore WNY (fka The Food Bank & Meals on Wheels)
Registration: $60
Special detail: run/walk, bike, and swim offered as separate events
https://www.nysvr434.com/

One NY Virtual Challenge (“now” to August 31; last day to register is July 5)
Distance: 1000k or 500k (team or solo option)
Race Director: Upstate Event Management LLC
Charities: Direct Relief (COVID-19 PPE and medication)
Registration: $60
https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/EntireState/OneNY

NYCRuns Subway System Challenge (Memorial Day to Labor Day)
Distance: 245 miles (New York City Subway system tracks!)
Race Director: NYC Runs
Charites: Robin Hood Relief Fund
Registration:$0 Turnstile Jumper (no swag); $60 Token Collector (sweet swag!!); $100 Transit Enthusiast (sweet swag and surprises)
https://nycruns.com/race/nycruns-subway-system-challenge

North Carolina

Run OBX (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 300 mile Run OBX; ? Run and Ride; 800 mile Run the Ridge and Run OBX (see entry below)
Race Director: Unknown; this information is not on the race website
Sponsors: Coastal Hillbilly Leather goods, RC Outdoor Supply, Ridge Supply, Grafig, Seaside Silk Screening, EDA Surf
Charities: unnamed food banks that serve the Outer Banks region
Registration: $45 or $80
Special note: race swag is all made by North Carolina businesses, including shirts (designed by Grafig in Carolina Beach and printed by Seaside SilkScreen in Wilmington), medals (Elevation Culture), and awards with goodies
https://www.run-obx.com/

Run the Ridge (May 25 to September 7)
Distance: 500 miles
Race Director: Unknown (this information is not on the website)
Sponsor: same list for the Run OBX above
Charities: unnamed local community food banks in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Registration: $45 or $80
Special Note: The Blue Ridge Mountains go through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia. This event is NOT the Blue Ridge Racing virtual event.
https://www.runblueridge.com/Race/NC/Cherokee/Runtheblueridge

Ohio

The Great Run Across Ohio (May 1 to August 30)
Distance: 227 miles or 454 miles (solo or team)
Race Director: OhioRuns.com, part of All Community Events
Charities: Whole Again (at-risk children)
Registration: $29.99 through May 20; $40 after
https://ohioruns.com/greatrunacrossohio#prereg

Buckeye State Challenge (May 16, 2020 to June 15, 2021)
Distance: 1,118.87 miles or 250 miles
Race Director: The Advanced Running Project
Charities: Shoes 4 the Shoeless, Inc. (provides properly fitting gym shoes and socks to kids)
Registration: $60
Special Note: There’s a cycling challenge too
https://www.buckeyechallenge.com/

Buckeye State Challenge (July 1 to August 31)
Distance: 220 miles
Race Director: Unknown
Charities: Unknown
Registration: $29.99
https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/Ohio/BuckeyeStateChallenge

Virginia

Virginia Virtual Interstate 81 Challenge (June 1 to August 20)
Distance: 325 miles
Race Director: Blue Ridge Racing
Sponsor: Fleet Feet
Charities: Feeding Southwest Virginia; Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
Registration: $45 individual; team fees vary by team size
https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Roanoke/VirtualInterstateChallengeI81Virginia

Washington

Run Washington Challenge (June 20 to September 22)
Distance: five options from 35 miles to 277 miles
Race Director: Unknown (the race website does not include this information)
Charities: Seattle Children’s Hospital; Food Lifeline
Registration: $35 (lower mileage) $80 (277 miles)
https://runsignup.com/Race/WA/Seattle/RunWashingtonVirtualStateRace

WAVE Run 500 (June 1 to September 7)
Distance: 2325 miles (Long Beach to Cape Flattery), 265 (Cape Flattery to Port Orchard), or 500 miles (Long Beach to Port Orchard)
Race Director: Run Amok Racing, Inc.
Charites: Kitsap Humane Society; South Kitsap Help Line
Registration: $50 or $60 ($20 for doggos, but no swag for Fido)
https://runsignup.com/Race/WA/PortOrchard/VirtualRaceAroundWesternWashington

Wisconsin

The Great Run Across Wisconsin. (May 1 to August 30).
Distance: 176 or 314 miles (team or solo)
Race Director: WisconsinRuns.com, part of All Community Events
Charities: Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Hope Council (substance abuse), and Hunger Task Force
Registration: $29.99 through 5/20, $40 after
https://wisconsinruns.com/greatrunacrosswisconsin

Elsewhere in the World…

The Virtual Swiss Alps 800 Race (May 16 to August 16)
Distance: 800k
Race Director: Jakob Herrmann, Founder and Race Director of the Swiss Alps 100
Charities: Not applicable
Registration: $50
https://www.swissalps100.com/vSwissAlps800.asp

The Great Canadian Crossing (July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021)
Distance: 4800 km (2982.5 miles! WHOA!) or choose a single province
Race Director: 5 Peaks
Charities: NA
Registration: $85 CDN (full country) $65 CDN (one province) +mailing if outside North America
Special Note: separate options for run/walk, bike, and “multi-sport” (anything self-propelled)
http://www.5peaks.com/thegreatcanadiancrossing

Okay, what did I miss?

I’m in a bit of a hurry to get this posted, since several of the events have a discounted price that expires today (May 20, 2020). While I did run some quick searches and ask around a bit, I’m sure I’ve missed some “run across [your state here]” events. Feel free to drop a link in a comment.

At the outset, if you know me, you know I love nuun. As I am typing this, there are a dozen tubes of nuun products in my cabinet, with as many promotional squeeze bottles sporting nuun art. I even like the “Immunity” products (which are basically a hydration product with vitamins and an unfortunate name selected for marketing purposes). For the purpose of this article, I probably could have picked any of the countless products that landed in my inbox to “boost” my immunity–this is just one example. I was slightly annoyed when I got a bunch of email ads for nuun’s “Immunity” products, wrapped in the guise of “how to stay healthy while flying.” That might have been fine, had it not been at the exact same time we started to get the earliest news about the novel coronavirus COVID-19. (I tweeted to nuun and told them it was in poor taste–my friends who are current and former nuun ambassadors agreed.)

As the virus itself began to spread in the United States, nuun joined the throng of companies regularly invading my inbox and my social media feeds to sell me something to “boost” my immunity, or worse as “protection” against the virus. (Word to the wise: there is currently NO product approved by the FDA, or any health or medical authority, to prevent COVID-19, as there is currently no evidence that any product can do so.) Aside from my general disgust with the entire lie that is “boosting” immunity, as if your immune system is an engine you can hit turbo-charge on without setting it on fire (a “boosted” immune system doesn’t just attack invaders, it attacks your own body, and we call that an auto-immune disease—it’s why those who have an auto-immune disease take medication to suppress the immune system, or “un-boost” it), I am specifically disgusted by every company trying to capitalize on the general population’s fears during a global pandemic.

(BTW if you don’t want to read the explanation about what’s inside? Feel free to skip to the summary and conclusion.)

Screen capture photo of an email add for nuun's "Immunity" product
More like “our profits come first.” Actual screen capture of the email from my inbox. Notice the emphasis on the “botanical blend”? More on that later…

Like most supplements, the website for nuun’s two flavors of “Immunity” doesn’t have any citations to peer-reviewed research, other published studies, or even clinical trials, of the products. (Since I wasn’t able to find any, I’m assuming the lack of links and citations on the website confirms their non-existence.) Absent those, we’ll just have to take a look at the product itself.

Let’s Look At The Main Ingredients

The “Ingredients” list on the nuun website is pretty innocuous: Dextrose, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Stevia Leaf Extract, Avocado Oil, Rice Concentrate. Translated, those are: sugar, a weak organic acid that occurs naturally in citrus fruits but is also manufactured industrially, “Natural Flavors,” a sweetener that is not sugar, avocado oil, and rice hulls.

Dextrose is a simple sugar made from corn. It is chemically the same as glucose, which is the form that sugar takes when it circulates in the blood. It may also be called “corn sugar” (NOT “corn syrup”) or “grape sugar.”

Citric Acid is what gives citrus fruits a tart taste. It is used in food products for flavor, and to acidify things, but also as a chemical agent that bonds things together (a chelating agent).

“Natural Flavors” is a term that is defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (a part of the Department of Health and Human Services) in the federal rules that regulate food labeling, specifically 21 CFR sec. 101.222

“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

21 CFR sec. 101.222

If that seems really broad to you, it is. When you see “natural flavors” on a label is it made of wheat? Or shellfish? Or eggs, or milk, or tree nuts, peanuts, or soybeans? You can’t tell—and that’s why people with Celiac Disease, and people with food allergies, avoid packaged foods that use the term. The benefits to manufacturers is that if they have to change the exact formula–say, red grapefruit extract becomes unavailable, but they discover they can use a pomelo extract and get the same taste–they don’t have to change the product labels. (Changing a product label is a very expensive and time-consuming process.)

Stevia leaf extract. Stevia rebaudiana is a plant that is native to South America (specifically Brazil and Paraguay). I was quite interested to learn it has only been legal for use as a food additive in the US since 2017, and it was Monsanto that began to lobby the US for testing and approval of stevia in the 1980s. What makes stevia particularly useful as a sweetener is that the human body does not metabolize the glycosides in it—which is why it has no calories—AND it does not ferment stevia (so you don’t get the tummy trouble caused by some sugar alcohols). You can read more than you ever wanted to know about stevia leaf extract, including the FDA paperwork approved it for “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status for use in food.

Side note: wait, if there’s sugar, why is there also stevia? Simple: stevia can have a bitter aftertaste (and some people taste it more strongly than others). A blend of stevia leaf extract and sugar allows a product to reduce the amount of sugar it contains, while still remaining palatably sweet.

Avocado oil is an edible oil pressed from avocado fruit. It is used as an ingredient in food products. Primal Kitchen, for example, makes a mayo using avocado oil, and sells it separately as a cooking oil. It has a really high smoke point (meaning you can turn the temperature way up before the oil in the pan will start to smoke). Since it doesn’t have a strong flavor, avocado oil can be used to help spread/carry other flavors. It is high in the “good fats” (monounsaturated fat) and Vitamin E, which is one of the reasons it is also a popular ingredient in skin care and cosmetic products.

Rice hulls are not what you’d think of as actual rice. Instead, this is the outer fiber and silica layers of rice; this is used as an anti-caking agent (keeps powdered ingredients from sticking together/clumping) in place of something like silicon dioxide.

But Wait! There’s More!!

But this isn’t actually a complete ingredients list. If you look at the “Nutrition Info” section, you can see the rest of them. Below is the “amount per serving” listed on the website as of today. (“DV” is similar to”RDA,” but it does not account for age, gender, or pregnancy.)

  • Sugars 2g (this is the dextrose)
  • Vitamin A (as beta carotene) 450 mcg (50% DV)
  • Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) 200 mg (222% DV)
  • Vitamin D (as ergocalciferol) 10 mcg (50% DV)
  • Vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopherol) 3 mg (20% DV)
  • Calcium (as calcium carbonate) 15 mg (<2% DV)
  • Magnesium (as magnesium oxide) 15 mg (4% DV)
  • Zinc (as zinc sulfate) 5 mg (45% DV)
  • Selenium (as selenium rice chelate) 20 mcg (36% DV)
  • Chloride (as Himalayan sea salt) 40 mg (2% DV)
  • Sodium (as sodium bicarbonate, Himalayan sea salt) 100 mg (4% DV)
  • Potassium (as potassium bicarbonate) 150 mg (3% DV)
  • Proprietary Herbal Blend (125 mg): (1) Elderberry extract [Sambucus nigra L. (fruit)], (2) Organic Ginger Powder [Zingiber officinale L.(root)], (3) Organic Turmeric [Curcuma longa (root)], (4) Echinacea purpurea (aerial)

Since a serving size is one tablet, and that is 5.4g, one serving of nuun Immunity is 2g sugar (dextrose) and 3.4g other stuff. At 15 calories, sugar accounts for more than half of the calories.  1g of dextrose is 3.4 calories, so there are 7.8 calories attributable to dextrose. (If you’re running or otherwise exercising–and even if you’re not–the small amount of calories aren’t going to hurt you. To be clear: I’m not trying to imply there is anything wrong with dextrose or calories in your electrolyte beverages.)

What Is All That Stuff?

Vitamins. You probably recognize the vitamins. Selenium powers the internet, according to Google, and allows you to work in parallel across browsers with no coding skills. (Nerd joke! Really though.) Selenium is a basic chemical element (Se, atomic number 34). It is toxic in large doses—notice it is measured in micrograms—but necessary for the human body in small amounts. (The acceptable daily limit is around 400mcg, though one study found humans can ingest 800mcg before showing symptoms.) It serves as a catalyst in a variety of necessary chemical reactions in the body.

Electrolytes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes. Nuun contains all of these except for phosphate. Dissolved electrolytes create a positive or negative charge. This is really important in the human body, as electrolytes help to maintain the balance of fluid inside cells and in the space between cells. If your electrolyte balance is out of whack, you can drink tons of water but still be dehydrated! (This is because your body has to maintain the right amount of electrolytes in each location–inside and outside the cell–to protect you.) Both dehydration and overhydration can cause major problems with the heart and brain.

That leaves zinc and the “proprietary blend.”

Need Vitamin C? Get an entire day’s worth in single orange–plus fiber and more! (c) Styled Stock society

Zinc

Zinc is another element that human bodies need in trace doses; it is the second-most abundant trace mineral in the human body (iron is the most abundant). It plays an important role in a large number of biological reactions in the body. The human body stores about 2-4g of zinc in the brain,  muscle, bones, kidney, liver, prostate, and eye. Zinc supplementation may help with acne and depression (when taken with an antidepressant medication).

Zinc appears in nuun Immunity because people associate zinc and vitamin C with preventing the common cold. I turned to Examine for more information because Examine does not advertise supplements or accept ads, and bases their articles on peer-reviewed science.  I also really like that each article includes a chart showing the claims and the evidence to support it. HIGHLY recommend you bookmark it.

High dose zinc lozenges appear to reduce the duration of the common cold; it isn’t clear whether zinc provides protection against getting a cold in the first place. (In other words, there isn’t solid proof zinc will prevent you from getting a cold.) Examine notes that “Zinc lozenges, for the purpose of reducing the common cold, seem to be most effective when the total daily dose is over 75 mg and is divided into 6-8 doses, each separated by 2-3 hours when awake. It is likely dangerous to take zinc lozenges for extended periods of time.” (This is because taking zinc at high levels can prevent your body from absorbing copper properly—taking too much of any one thing into the human body tends to cause a deficiency of something else.) So the 5mg of zinc in nuun Immunity? It’s on the low end for a zinc supplement. To reach the most effective dose to shorten a cold—remember it does not prevent the cold—you’d need to take 15 tablets per day.

Now if you’re just trying to make sure you get your recommended daily dose of zinc sure, one tablet is almost half. But you can also find it in food—animal products have zinc (meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, dairy) and so do plant foods. Assuming there is adequate zinc in the soil, plants with the most zinc include wheat, seeds (sesame, poppy, alfalfa, celery, mustard, pumpkin, sunflower), beans, nuts, almonds, and blackcurrant.

So how about that “Proprietary Herbal Blend”?

First, let’s look at the label “proprietary herbal blend.” This is a term supplement manufacturers use to avoid stating how much of each individual ingredient is in a product. Some supplement companies, and seemingly every blogger indexed on google, will tell you that this is a sketchy way of avoiding quality control, or hiding what’s in the product. To be fair, there is a reasonable argument to be made that a company may use that term in order to prevent other companies from marketing a competing “knock off” product, essentially stealing their special formula for a dietary supplement. I don’t find it particularly convincing as an argument though, since it’s still possible to buy that product, test it to see what’s really in it, and then knock it off anyway. Further, people who are taking multiple supplements may need to keep track of how much of a given component (like caffeine) is in each product. Federal law only says that the label must identify each component of the “proprietary blend” and list the ingredients in order by weight. So if a “proprietary blend” lists ingredients A, B, and C, the blend contains more A than B, and more B than C. If you want to get nerdy on it, take a look at 21 CFR sec. 101.36(c).

Maybe this isn’t even a big deal for nuun’s “Immunity.” At 125 mg of a 5.4 g serving, the “proprietary herbal blend” isn’t very much of the product. Let’s just do the math: one serving is 5.4g  or 5,400mg.  So 125mg = 2.31% of the product.

Elderberry extract [Sambucus nigra L. (fruit)]. Elderberry syrup has been a folk remedy for colds for like unto forever. I personally have friends that swear by it. If any group was going to make a claim that elderberry is helpful, you’d think it would be the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. But at least as of September 2016, NCCIH states “although some preliminary research indicates that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support its use for this purpose” and “there’s not enough information to show whether elder flower and elderberry are helpful for any other purposes.” These are descriptions of research with PURE elderberry—not a product with some fraction of a proprietary blend. To be fair, there is a study that shows elderberry was helpful to reduce cold duration and symptoms, but it was limited to intercontientnal air travelers. The study is called “Elderberry Supplementaton Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travlers: A Randomins, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” It was published in the journal Nutrients in March 2016. You can read the extract on PubMed. A subsequent meta-analysis—that’s not a study, but an analysis of all published studies—shows black elderberry can be effective in treating upper respiratory symptoms. “Black elderberry (Sambucusnigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials.” This was published in the journal Complimentary and Therapeutic Medicine in February 2019. The abstract is on PubMed. Again, these are studies of actual elderberry, not a fraction of a proprietary blend. Further, the studies that indicate it might be effective show it reduces the length and symptoms—there is no evidence it is preventive.

Organic Ginger Powder [Zingiber officinale L.(root)]. Ginger is well-known for use in settling upset tummies. According to Examine, doses of 1-3 grams can fight nausea. Examine also found studies tend to show ginger reduces inflammation. But remember, we don’t know how much ginger is in the “proprietary herbal blend” and it could be less than 1g. Even if there’s a ton of ginger powder in that 125g, reducing inflammation does not mean you are protected against viruses (including the common cold—caused by a type of coronavirus). It’s also notable that loads of supplement makers and processed food manufacturers are capitalizing on the current “anti-inflammatory” trend. But there isn’t any evidence that inflammation plays a role in catching a virus like COVID-19 (or even a cold, for that matter). Before you get too excited about the “inflammation is bad” theory, you should also consider that inflammation is a necessary component of the healing process for acute injuries, and is also the reason you get sore muscles after a workout.

Organic Turmeric [Curcuma longa (root)]. The health benefits of turmeric (largely as an anti-inflammatory) are intensely overhyped, as I wrote back in October 2018. The little research that has been done is on curcumin, and turmeric is only about 3% curcumin. The articles cited on Wikipedia conclude there is no high-quality evidence for using turmeric (or curcumin) to treat any disease. There’s nothing in PubMed that backs claims for turmeric either (and not much for the 3% curcumin it contains).

Echinacea purpurea (aerial). Echinacea is widely sold to prevent or treat the common cold, but the evidence that it does so is sketchy at best. Similarly, a meta-analysis I found on PubMed indicates echinacea might have a preventative effect on upper respiratory infections BUT “whether this effect is clinically meaningful is debatable” AND there was no evidence for an effect on the duration of upper respiratory tract infections. “Echinacea for the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections: a review and meta-analysis.” Published June 2019 in the journal Complementary Therapy and Medicine. Abstract on PubMed. While there is one study about echinacea being effective against the common cold, it wasn’t a study of echinacea in general, but a study of Echinaforce (a specific brand of extract—and not what’s in nuun “Immunity”). “Echinacea purpurea: A Proprietary Extract of Echinacea purpurea Is Shown to be Safe and Effective in the Prevention of the Common Cold.”  Abstract on PubMed.

In Summary: This Is Not Going To “Boost” Your Immunity

Also, that is A Good Thing. Your immune system is a complex system of structures and processes. It’s not something you can easily manipulate with a supplement, especially if your lifestyle involves insufficient sleep. Instead of looking for magic in a potion or a pill, why not adopt some permanent healthy habits and make some lifestyle changes? The New York Times has some suggestions. My favorite? “Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and skip unproven supplements.”

Citrus fruits contain carbohydrate, fibre, vitamin C, potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and a variety of phytochemicals. (c) Style Stock Society
Take a few minutes to stop and care for your mental health, too. (c) Styled Stock Society

As you’ve probably noticed, the situation with COVID-19, our novel coronavirus, is very fluid. That’s unsettling in and of itself. People generally like stable situations, not constant flux. People generally don’t like change. Some people (like me) don’t like not having control. All of these can leave you feeling a bit lost and adrift, especially in the sea of misinformation that is the internet. (That’s before we even think about turning on a news broadcast!)

Plus it’s not a “fun” flux. We’re not getting happy news or pleasant surprises. Waiting for more shoes to drop is enough to make anyone anxious. On top of that we are supposed to practice social distancing, which largely means “stay home.” For those of us who get our social needs met at work and other activities, this can lead to loneliness or depression on top of anxiety. Even for dyed-in-the-wool introverts.

Please note that I am not a licensed counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or any other flavor of qualified mental health practitioner. PLEASE seek professional help immediately if you are in crisis!

Resources for Crisis and Immediate Need

Feelings of scarcity around money and food can be eating disorder triggers. Some resources:

These are definitely not the only resources available–a quick Google search may help you locate something more appropriate. (I welcome comments below with the equivalent services in your country or location.)

Even a short pause during the day to clear your mind can help. (c) Styled Stock Society

Stressed, Depressed, Anxious?

Many Americans are feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious due to the current situation with COVID-19. I’m writing this to provide a collection of potential resources to those feeling stressed or anxious. General mental hygiene advice is good, but it is easy to dismiss as out-of-touch with the current reality. Here are some people and organizations to keep an eye on during this time, following by a list of articles you might find helpful.

VirusAnxiety.com is the very first resource I found that attempts to address mental health and well-being specifically related to COVID-19. Because it is easy to remember, I’ve been splattering it everywhere. I find the simple layout of the site soothing.

Grokker (the fitness app/streaming service) has put together a free course on COVID-19 Coronavirus Prpeparedness. It is a sane guide to fact-based knowledge, no hype at all. One of the videos is dedicated to reducing stress and anxiety. It’s free, and you don’t need a grokker account to watch.

Xen Strength. Founder Danielle Diamond is offering a free guided meditation with full-body relaxation. You can access it online here.

Marie Forleo is a force of nature, and a woman I admire greatly. How many people do you know who have been Reebok dance professional and go on to run a business empire?? Her collection of resources is called “Coronavirus Support Guide: How to Stay Strong & Navigate This Time Together.” It has a curated collection for several topics, including stress and anxiety, “feel good” stuff, how to work from home, how to educate and entertain your kids, and how to serve your community. The comments section is also worth a read. Something for everyone.

Brendan Burchard is also a force of nature (and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him on video talking to Marie!). He recently did a live stream focused on leadership and keeping focus while the COVID-19 situation develops. These are specifically geared towards people who are coaches, or in leadership positions, but I think anyone would find them valuable. “Coronavirus Response: Fear, Focus and Forecasting.” This is more of a tough-love approach.

Ramit Sethi the author and speaker, is hosting “Fireside Chats” every night at 8:30 pm eastern in IG live https://www.instagram.com/ramit He has a list of topics posted on his Instagram, with more to come.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some resources. They are largely aimed at specific populations. I found them a bit dry, but I didn’t click through to the children’s activities.

5 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety During the Coronavirus Outbreak.”  https://www.shape.com/syndication/coronavirus-anxiety? Valuable advice includes limiting your media diet and realizing that it is actually okay to be worried. (Everyone is worried a little bit, even if they are not anxious!). A quick read.

“How to Cope with Anxiety—Now, in 60 Minutes, and Long Term.”https://greatist.com/health/how-to-cope-with-anxiety This is more of a how to do it article, with a list of suggestions, but also instructions on how to execute them. It doesn’t just advise you to “breathe deeply” but instead offers a specific step-by-step. There are linked resources for apps, articles, and citations (backing claims with sources).

Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a website with a specific page dedicated to COVID-19. There are links to a bunch of different essays, news articles where members are quoted, and links to resources on PTSD. A number of resources specifically address talking to teens and children.

American Psychological Association has a podcast episode specific to COVID-19. The guest is “Baruch Fischhoff, PhD, is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and an expert on public perception of risk and human judgment and decision-making. He explains why we worry about new risks more than familiar ones, how to calm our anxiety and what are the psychological effects of being quarantined.”

AHA Voices for Healthy Kids. https://voicesforhealthykids.org/internal/coronavirus-covid-19-resources-you-can-use They describe this collection as a “list of coronavirus resources from our partners and grantees on the frontlines of helping families in underrepresented communities:”

“49 things to do if you’re staying at home due to Coronavirus.”https://medium.com/@neilpasricha/49-things-to-do-if-youre-staying-home-due-to-coronavirus-19b9e47a3cfe This list includes both adult thinks (like reading a long but worthwhile book) and kid-friendly ones, like making a pillow fort. There are links to online resources (the most popular TED talks of 2019, anyone?).  Many of these ideas are about establishing new habits, which seems like a good idea when your entire daily routine has been shot to hell.

“21 Productive Things to Do Today” https://www.urbandaddy.com/articles/43291/21-productive-things-to-do-today The subtitle promises that each one is “social distancing approved.” Some of these are humorous, but all are things you can actually do. Some are short (donate to your favorite charity) others are longer-term projects like learning a foreign language. This is a short, quick read.

“COVID-19: Tips for Working Remotely And Combating Stress.”https://www.lizandmollie.com/blog/2020/3/12/covid-19-tips-for-working-remotely-and-combating-stress Yes, in 2020 it is much more common for people to “telecommute” than it was back when I was growing up in the 1980s. That doesn’t mean all of us know how to do it. Personally, I thought it would be much easier than it has turned out to be. This article has 7 suggestions to help those of us who are new to this way of working. (Heck, I don’t even have an office! I’m working from the sofa and dining table!)

“11 Tips for Staying Calm During the Time of the Coronavirus.” https://gretchenrubin.com/2020/03/10-tips-for-staying-calm-during-coronavirus Gretchen Rubin’s article goes well with a mug of warm tea or a mocha, in my mind. Some of the tips are standard fare (connect with friends and family, reach out to others to help you feel less isolated) but are, of course, sincere. My favorite tip is to tidy up, because even though it makes no actual sense, that has always made me less anxious. (Also since I just moved in November, and have a few projects going on, my house is in a shambles and needs it!)

“9 Ways to Make Working From Home More Joyful”https://www.aestheticsofjoy.com/2020/03/9-ways-to-make-working-from-home-more-joyful/ Whether you love working from home or resent being pushed out of your office, here are a few ways to make your working day better. Getting some sunshine has really helped me out.

“4 Tips for Not Touching Your Face, Since It’s So Hard To Stop.”https://www.shape.com/syndication/how-to-stop-touching-your-face? Why do we touch our own faces? I don’t know, but I know I do it too. It’s one of those things they tell you NOT to do as a kid, again again when you’re a tween or teen and your face breaks out. But it sems like we do it all the time without even noticing!

Can you find a few minutes in your day to unplug and unwind? (c) Styled Stock Society

How are you caring for your mental health?

What are your go-to practices and resources?

Borrowed from the CDC.

This started as a single post on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. When I started on Wednesday, I thought I’d hit “publish” on Friday. We are now living in a different world, and that single post is MUCH too long to be a single post. (Click here for the second one, A Practical Guide to COVID-19.)

Top Five Tips for COVID-19 Sanity

1. Get news and information from reliable and trustworthy sources.
Your two best sources are the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and your state or local (county, province, city) health authority. The World Health Organization (WHO) is another reliable resource. Unless your people are citing to similarly fact-checked and reliable sources, skip Facebook. Skip the well-meaning mommy bloggers. Skip the fear-mongering fake news sites. Sadly, skip any source that reports the current president’s public statements about the virus are credible (because, in fact, they are not—we’re well behind the ball on developing and implementing effective testing, a vaccine is only just now starting phase 1 human trials, and you only have to read about the experiences of a few travelers to learn we have not “closed the border” and kept COVID-10 out). Skip anyone who is peddling a cure, too–there is no cure, and megadoses of vitamins and other fake cures promoted on YouTube can make you sick.

When you’re sharing information about COVID-19, whether online or in person, stick to the known facts—what you’re reading on the CDC website, your local health authority website, and MAYBE (sadly, also not a given) MAYBE your local news affiliate. Spreading false information doesn’t help anyone, may incite more panic than is reasonable, and has the potential to hurt others. This includes well-meaning but false statements that imply COVID-19 is just a flu.

2. Save your money. Skip the slick marketing campaigns, and the snake oil.
This past week, the FDA and FTC issued warning letters to Vital Silver; Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd.; Xephyr, LLC doing business as N-Ergetics; GuruNanda, LLC; Vivify Holistic Clinic; Herbal Amy LLC; and The Jim Bakker Show. All of these companies were claiming they have a product that can prevent or cure this virus. Read more here.

There is currently no vaccine (they’re working on it), no reliable (evidence-based) preventive lotion or potion or pill or serum or drug or herb or anything else, and no “miracle cure” for those who are already ill. (This doesn’t mean everyone who gets sick is going to die—far from it. It just means it’s not like an ear infection where you can take an antibiotic and it will go away.) You can’t prevent yourself from getting sick by mega-dosing on vitamins (though megadosing vitamins can make you sick), or diffusing “thieves” essential oil blend, or putting potatoes in your socks, or slathering your body with “flu cream” (thanks for that ad, Instagram), or whatever else people are proposing on Facebook.

Sadly, health and fitness professionals are sending out misinformation (Jorge Cruise just sent an email titled “The superfoods help fight coronavirus”), nutrition companies including Nuun, FNX, Kuli Kuli, and The Feed are holding sales on their “immunity” products (none of which have evidence that the enhance your immunity in any way, and none of which and even some doctors are trying to make a fast buck by claiming their test can diagnose, or their magic powder can cure, COVID-19. Many companies are not saying/writing “this product will protect you from coronavirus” but are implying it by serving up ad campaigns and sales on products for “immunity” (I’m looking at you, nuun: there’s no evidence that adding all the trendy ingredients du jour to your drink will do anything to help your immune system stave off COVID-19!). If the pleasant scent of lavender essential oil calms you, great. If drinking extra vitamins in your water makes you feel better mentally, great. If you’re buying it to “protect yourself,” save your money. You’re better off using it to stock your pantry with essentials in case you need to stay home.

3. Don’t panic—and don’t panic buy anything.
It started with face masks, even though the most effective thing to do with a face mask is to put it on a sick person to help them not spread germs. There hasn’t been any credible recommendation that the general public wear them for COVID-19 prevention, and there is little to no evidence that they are effective in the general public for keeping healthy people from catching the virus. Yet try to buy any type of mask—from the hospital face covers to the white 3M masks intended to keep dust out of your mouth—and the stores have none. In some places gloves were similarly popular, and I saw at least one article reporting people buying condoms to put on their fingers so they don’t have to touch elevator buttons.

If you’ve been in Costco lately, you’ve noticed the shelves that usually hold toilet paper, tissues, and hand sanitizer are bare. Why? Did people just suddenly start wiping their noses, butts, and hands? Look, I understand that people associate being sick with running from both ends…but unless your last name is Duggar, you don’t need a truckload of toilet paper to make it through the next two weeks. While we’re at it, why are people panic-buying bottled water? Did I miss the CDC announcement that COVID-19 has the power to turn off the municipal water supply or something? Look, you’re not doing yourself any favors by stockpiling cold and flu medication—and at the moment, people who are actually sick can’t buy those things because the shelves are empty! If you’ve got to spend money to feel like you’re prepared, stock your pantry and fridge, refill your prescriptions early if you can, and set aside money to pay the bills

Remember that hoarding doesn’t help you, and it hurts your community. Personally, I’d like all of my neighbors to have enough toiler paper and soap. Oh, and while we’re at it, please DO NOT support virus profiteering. Yes, there are people hoarding-for-profit.

4. Stick with the basics.
The first lesson of kindergarten? Keep your hands to yourself! Unfortunately as the #MeToo movement illustrates, some adults never got the memo. We currently understand the COVID-19 spreads primarily by coughs and sneezes that propel little water droplets into the air or onto other people. It’s also possible to share those droplets by shaking hands or being in similarly close contact. While it isn’t the primary manner of spreading, current best knowledge also says that the virus can live on surfaces for quite some time after contact. (This is why you keep reading about “deep cleaning” or “enhanced sanitation” and seeing pictures of workers wiping down concert venues and shutting down schools and office buildings for cleaning.)

If you are currently healthy, your very best course of action is to get a little germophobic. Wash your hands like you’re Adrian Monk—and if you’re tired of singing “Happy Birthday,” look on Twitter for dozens of other options—using soap and water. Do it often. Wash ‘em after riding public transit, after handling things other people touch (like door handles), after going into a bathroom for any reason, and before eating or touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth. When you can’t wash, use 60% alcohol hand sanitizer. Use bleach wipes or similar to wipe down your home and office (keyboard, phone, and door knobs among others). Wipe down your cell phone too—what’s the point of washing your hands if you phone is filthy?

Gotta sneeze? Cover your nose and mouth! If no tissue is handy, use your elbow—NOT your hand. (BTW, regular ol’ runny noses are not a known symptom of this virus.) Speaking of hands, did I mention to wash them? Consider a fist bump or elbow bump instead of shaking hands.

5. Be kind to others: if you are sick, stay home!
If you are a generally healthy person, be kind to those with weaker immune systems. Chances are good that someone you know has a weakened immune system that makes them more susceptible to viruses. That’s anyone who has had chemotherapy, for example, or who is elderly, but also anyone with an autoimmune disorder like lupus, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, Guillian-Barre syndrome, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and more. Evidence to date shows that “older adults” (which appears to be anyone over 60) and those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, or high blood pressure, are at a higher risk. The best things you can do to help those who have weaker immune systems or are known to be at a higher risk? Stick with the basics (wash your hands, etc.) and if you are not feeling well, stay away from public spaces and gatherings—stay home if you can.

BONUS TIP: Be kind to others: help if you can. (more on this in Part 2)
The most common advice in circulation is to prepare in advance by stocking your home with at least two weeks of supplies, and staying home if you feel sick. This is sound advice, I’m following it—maybe you are too—and I’m glad to see it being repeated. If you can join me in following it, you’re facing this virus from a place of privilege. No matter where you stand, I encourage you to remember those who don’t share in that privilege.

Millions of Americans do not have paid sick time or paid vacation. This means they don’t get paid for time they don’t work. Worse, if they are not working because they are sick, there are probably medical bills and other costs stacking up too. Two weeks of lost wages might be the difference between paying the rent and getting evicted.

Even with some paid sick time—let’s be real here, most of us don’t get three weeks of paid sick time—or paid sick time and paid vacation (because some employers are telling workers they need to use vacation if they get sick—that’s right U. Conn, I saw your notices), lots of people don’t have the ability to stock up for two or more weeks at home. Looking just at medication, if you are in the early phases of a methadone treatment program you are required to go pick up (and take) your medicine at a clinic. Some medications are restricted by federal law, and that’s not just limited to opioid painkillers; you might have to go see a doctor in person to get a refill, or wait until you have taken your very last dose before you can get more. Other drugs are limited by insurance coverage that won’t allow you to refill “early” (which is anywhere from 5 to 10 days before the medication runs out) unless you can afford to pay the full cost out-of-pocket. Some drugs, including some injections, have a very narrow window between opening the container and the expiration (loss of effectiveness of the medication).

Please don’t think I’m implying that only the economically disadvantaged are going to need help. Plenty of people are facing reduced hours and cancelled shifts as concerts are postponed, flights get canceled, tourism is down, conventions are nixed, and the economy takes a nose-dive.

Reliable Resources:

  • Simulator that explains why “social distancing” works. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator
  • How I’m tracking today: https://projects.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/
  • For those who are visual learners, a compilation of charts that explain the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/3/12/21172040/coronavirus-covid-19-virus-charts