The COVID-19 pandemic prompted shortages in food and supplies that haven’t been seen since the Depression era. It also shifted, practically overnight, trends in consumer buying behaviors, turning previously mundane items into hot commodities.

Toilet paper, cleaning supplies and nonperishable foods flew off store shelves in the pandemic’s early days while, in the weeks and months that followed, disruptions in manufacturing and the supply chain contributed to shortages among lumber, appliances, aluminum cans, meat and even coins.1

Supplies of some of these items, like toilet paper, have rebounded in many parts of the world, but other staples, like hand soap, can still be hard to come by. It remains to be seen whether a “second wave” of COVID-19 will hit in the coming months, prompting additional lockdowns.

However, in the U.S., the government appears to be preparing citizens for the worst, even though indicators that track COVID-19-like illness and the percentage of laboratory tests that are positive for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — have decreased nationally since mid-July, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, also stated that Americans shouldn’t expect to return to normal anytime soon, even if a fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccine is released. “If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to COVID, it’s going to be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021,” he said in a news release.3

With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to be prepared in the event you find yourself quarantined, isolated or living in an area with strict lockdowns in place that trigger another round of panic buying.

Following are some of the most important items to stock up on now, but first it’s important to understand the psychological reasons why lockdowns may contribute to panic buying and increased hoarding — even when it’s not necessary.

Perceptions of Scarcity Trigger Panic Buying

In a letter to the editor of the journal Psychiatry Research, researchers noted that public health emergencies have prompted panic buying, or increased buying behaviors, since ancient times.4 There are some psychological explanations, including the fact that a perception of scarcity is linked with panic buying and hoarding, along with feelings of insecurity that trigger people’s desire to collect things.

At the same time, a pandemic can contribute to the perception that you’re losing control over your environment, and along with it induce fear and anxiety. When you feel you can’t control the pandemic, the ability to control your purchases and collect necessities may help bring back a sense of control.

Meanwhile, the stockpiling of goods may be perceived as a method of preparing for and coping with pandemics, and when people see others in their community panic buying, “people tend to indulge to buy madly,” they wrote, adding that it may be a form of herd instinct.

That being said, it’s often the case that people overestimate the risk of danger and underestimate the options for relief, and this lack of trust and belief that resources could be exhausted also triggers panic buying. Importantly, sensationalized movies, media reports and fear-mongering also contribute to unnecessary panic, which is why sometimes turning off the news is your best recourse for staying sane:5

“Sometimes people get threatening perception from the media reports that people are buying more excessively than before; there is a possibility of a global crisis. Sometimes, the media reports the crisis in a sensational way which raises more panic. Another important factor is the way the viruses or any pandemic has been portrayed in the movies. People tend to learn from them and try to imitate whenever they are faced with pandemics.”

Stock Up on These Eight Items First

The items that follow are important for health and hygiene. Some of them quickly became in short supply when the recent lockdowns were imposed, while others may help you stay well and avoid infectious diseases. All of them can also be stored for longer periods, making them ideal staples during a lockdown.

1. Air Purifiers — Air purifiers have proven health benefits,6 and in the case of COVID-19 may help to remove some of the virus from the air. Air purifiers with a HEPA filter remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles with a size of .3 microns.

In one study of air purifiers in dental clinics, where saliva is frequently aerosolized, the use of air purifiers reduced employee exposure to aerosols by 80% to 95% and researchers concluded, “It is highly advisable to use air purifiers as an easy-to-use, portable, inexpensive, and high-efficiency precaution measure.”7

2. Toilet Paper or a Bidet and Feminine Hygiene Products — As we saw in March 2020, toilet paper is a popular item to hoard during lockdowns and many stores still have limits on how much you can purchase at once. Picking up an extra package or two when you shop can help you avoid an uncomfortable situation later if supplies once again become scarce.

Installing a bidet, which works by aiming a small stream of water around your anus to rinse off any material that’s left after you’ve had a bowel movement, is another option — one that has the added benefit of being more sustainable than toilet paper.

Online searches for bidets are on the rise, and increased 304% from March to April 2020,8 which means they become a highly sought-after item if another lockdown happens and toilet paper supplies dwindle once again.

Shortages of disposable menstrual products have also been reported, not only in the U.S. but also in the U.K., Fiji and India.9 In addition to stocking up on organic cotton feminine hygiene products, you may want to consider reusable options like organic cloth pads and menstrual cups.

3. Meat — Tyson, JBS USA, Smithfield Foods and Cargill Inc. control the majority of U.S. meat and poultry, most of which gets processed in a limited number of large plants. Because the processing is concentrated into a small number of large facilities, closures have serious effects on the meat supply.

A U.S. government statement noted in April 2020, “[C]losure of any of these plants could disrupt our food supply and detrimentally impact our hardworking farmers and ranchers.”10

While the move to keep meat and poultry processing plants open during the height of the U.S. pandemic was met with criticism from unions calling for increased protections for workers in the cramped conditions, the government cited statistics that closing one large beef processing plant could lead to a loss of more than 10 million servings of beef in a day.

Further they noted that closing one processing plant can eliminate more than 80% of the supply of a given meat product, such as ground beef, to an entire grocery store chain.11 Fortunately, meat can easily be frozen, so your best bet is to find a local, grass fed meat farmer and purchase a large share of meat that can last you for a month or more at a time.

4. Canned Alaskan Salmon — Canned salmon labeled “Alaskan Salmon” is a healthy, affordable food that can be stored for long periods of time. Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, with its rich concentration of beneficial omega-3 fats, is, in fact, close to a perfect food. People with the highest levels of omega-3 fats lived for 2.22 more years after age 65 than those with the lowest, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.12

The researchers suggested eating one to two servings of fatty fish per week could lead to health benefits, such as extended lifespan and a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.13

Salmon also contains beneficial B vitamins, which are important for energy production and have anti-inflammatory benefits, and the trace mineral selenium, which has antioxidant properties. Phosphorus and magnesium — important for bone health — can also be found in salmon, as can astaxanthin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that’s beneficial for heart and immune system health and has anticancer properties.14

Eating salmon regularly may reduce your risk of heart disease by increasing your omega-3 levels,15 support healthy weight loss16 and protect your brain health, even leading to slower cognitive decline with age.17 All this from a food that you can store on a shelf and stock up on, even in the midst of a pandemic.

5. Vitamin C — In my March 17, 2020, interview with Dr. Andrew Saul, editor-in-chief of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, he mentioned being in contact with a South Korean medical doctor who is giving patients and medical staff an injection of 100,000 IUs of vitamin D along with as much as 24,000 mg (24 grams) of IV vitamin C. “He’s reporting that these people are getting well in a matter of days,” Saul says.

As explained by Saul, vitamin C at extremely high doses acts as an antiviral drug, actually killing viruses. While it does have anti-inflammatory activity, which helps prevent the massive cytokine cascade associated with severe SARS-CoV-2 infection, its antiviral capacity likely has more to do with it being a non-rate-limited free radical scavenger.

Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., also noted that vitamin C may be protective against respiratory diseases. In one study, people with the highest vitamin C levels were 15% less likely to develop respiratory conditions compared to those with the lowest levels.18

For the actual treatment of sepsis and/or COVID-19, the dosages needed generally require IV administration. That said, Dr. Robert Rowen, whom I’ve interviewed about the use of vitamin C and ozone therapy for COVID-19, suggests taking upward of 6 grams (6,000 mg) per hour for acute illness, to simulate intravenous administration levels.

While doses higher than 20 grams per day of oral non-liposomal vitamin C typically result in loose stools, you can take up to 100 grams (100,000 mg) of liposomal or IV vitamin C without encountering such problems.

Prophylactically, it is not recommended to take such high doses, however. In fact, I discourage people from taking mega doses of vitamin C on a regular basis if they’re not actually sick, because in high doses it is essentially a drug — or at least it works like one — and doing so could result in nutritional imbalances.

6. Zinc — Zinc is an essential mineral that may help thwart a COVID-19 infection. Zinc is important to your immune health as it not only helps halt the replication of viruses inside the cells,19 but also functions as a signaling molecule for the body’s T-cells, which are white cells tasked with destroying infected cells.20

Research is also underway at Cleveland Clinic in Florida, where they will investigate whether newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients are less likely to require hospitalization when given vitamin C and zinc.21 They’ll also assess whether the combo might reduce disease severity and duration. The goal is to enroll 520 patients and start them on the supplements within two days of diagnosis. 

Dr. Vladimir Zelenko is among those who have also published the positive effects using a protocol with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc sulfate.22 In the Zelenko protocol, hydroxychloroquine functions as a zinc ionophore, moving zinc into the cells where it halts the replication of the virus.

This allows him to prescribe lower doses since zinc is the key component of the treatment. According to Zelenko, the combination of zinc and a zinc ionophore can be used preventively to reduce the risk of acquiring a COVID-19 infection.

7. Quercetin — Zelenko notes that if people cannot get HCQ to move zinc into the cells, then quercetin is a second option.23 In much the same way Zelenko uses hydroxychloroquine and zinc as a preventative against COVID-19, you have access to quercetin and zinc to perform the same function.

Vitamin C and quercetin also have synergistic effects that make them useful in the prevention and early at-home treatment of COVID-19. Both are part of the MATH+ protocol developed by the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Working Group (FLCCC), which recommends vitamin C, quercetin, zinc, melatonin and vitamin D3 for COVID-19 prophylaxis.24

8. Vitamin D — Vitamin D is also noteworthy in terms of COVID-19, as an analysis of medical records revealed a direct correlation between levels of vitamin D and the severity of illness in people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.25

In addition to that, vitamin D lowers viral replication,26 boosts your overall immune function by modulating both innate and adaptive immune responses, reduces respiratory distress,27 improves overall lung function and helps produce surfactants in your lungs that aid in fluid clearance.28

To improve your immune function and lower your risk of viral infections, you’ll want to raise your vitamin D to a level between 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) and 80 ng/mL.

In Europe, the measurements you’re looking for are 150 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) and 200 nmol/L. An easy and cost-effective way of measuring your vitamin D level is to order GrassrootsHealth’s vitamin D testing kit and learn more about vitamin D and its impact on your health.

Get Prepared, Not Panicked

Panic is contagious, which means the more panic buying that ensues, the more shortages are likely to continue. In addition to the list above, a number of additional products have also faced shortages, including things you wouldn’t expect, like mushrooms, carbon dioxide (such as that used in seltzer water and beer) and yeast.29

Other items have also been placed in high demand due to changing lifestyles, which are more focused on the home. Home exercise equipment, board games, sewing machines and bicycles are examples of items that you may want to purchase sooner rather than later if you’re at all in the market.

The key to remember, however, is to avoid buying into the panic and instead stay sensible. Get prepared and stock up on the things you’ll use and that promote your health and well-being, but avoid purchasing products solely out of fear or the perception of scarcity.

One of my most important foods are grass fed bison and lamb. Since the shortages in the spring I now keep a four- to six-month supply in my freezer as a contingency plan for whatever craziness is fostered in the next “plandemic.”

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