Thursday, August 12, 2021

What is Vitamin P and how do we treat Vitamin P deficiency when the Covid numbers are shooting up?

I have discovered a new vitamin: Vitamin P.  Two observations led to this discovery. 

First, my daughter came to stay at my house. I am on a tight timeline of summer work [yuck!] so at first I thought this would throw me off course. I was shocked to discover that the simple presence of another person around the house increased my efficiency one thousand percent. This was completely counter to my predictions. 

Second, a friend of mine was in tears, saying she couldn't get off her couch and was in a serious depression. I asked about her trip to Arizona the previous weekend,  "Oh I had a great time," she replied.  Now, in my book, serious depression does not let up for trips even to great places: it's socked in.  So my mind started scrolling through the reasons one might be tied to the sofa, thinking life is meaningless.  I was reminded that I was in a similar state on Monday when my daughter was gone, but got out of it on Tuesday, when she dropped by again.

That is when I made the historic discovery of Vitamin P and I don't mean Flavonoids, which will have to move to F or Fl, I mean Vitamin People.  I am a person with a Masters in Nutrition. I love the stories of the discoveries of the vitamins. I am very proud to be adding one to the list.  The point here is that the discovery of a vitamin depends on several factors. A vitamin, by definition, is a chemical that our bodies can't produce, but need to function.  We discover a vitamin by recognizing the deficiency and by "curing" the deficiency by supplying the nutrient. Vitamins have been discovered long before there was mastery of the chemistry to isolate the chemical, as with the discovery that limes prevented scurvy. In this case, I don't know what the chemical is that is supplied by People. I am convinced that there is one. 

Back in BC--Before Covid--when people were around all the time, we only had glimpses of the power of this vitamin. Eric Klinenberg's study of deaths in the 1995 Chicago heat wave pinpointed social isolation as in the pathway to demise. Other studies have said that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking. 

But the removal of normal social exchange from all our lives -- this is the kind of "natural experiment" that scientists find reveals much about the hidden workings of the world, including the myriad ways in which we are hive beings, unable to function well absent the buzzing of our hivemates.  

The question of how to supply Vitamin P is a difficult one. We know that, despite the downsides of isolation, people have made some adjustments to it, and are hesitant to re-emerge into society. We also know that, thanks to our gross mismanagement of the Covid pandemic, we are now a new wave of illness caused by the highly infectious Delta variant.  

The steep sweep at the end is a very big problem, compounded by the incredibly stupid decision by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to monitor "breakthrough" infections, among others.

So what are we to do for a nation with Vitamin P deficiency, on the one hand, and risk of Covid infection, on the other?

This is where Klinenberg's observation about social networks becomes crucial. Not everyone is as isolated as everyone else. People who are in motion--and getting more or less enough Vitamin P--need to reach out to the people at home alone and get them out of the house: take them for a walk, for openers, to an outdoor restaurant for coffee, and eventually, as they build tolerance, to an outdoor concert. Take it slow. An hour a day with one person will be great at the beginning. And encourage that person to reach out to another isolee for the walks-coffee-concert series.  

I just want to be clear: we have to have our vitamins EVERY DAY.  This includes our Vitamin P.  I believe that the chemical is transmitted in person--think pheromones--so Zoom is no use for treating this problem. Getting a nation off the sofa is a challenge, but I think we can do it. Outdoors, slow re-acclimation to the Vitamin P, and daily dosage are the key.  



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