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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr. G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.

Dr. Steven Gundry (00:16):
Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. So not long ago, the New York Times bestselling author and long distance runner Charlie Engle joined me to talk about overcoming addiction, surviving incarceration, and running across the entire Sahara desert. Clearly, this man is no stranger to adversity. But today, Charlie is joined by his wife, Astacianna, to talk about a different challenge. In April, they both came down with COVID-19 and the ordeal is far from over. On this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, Charlie and Astacianna will join me remotely to share their experience with the virus, including some atypical symptoms and a mad dash to the ER. They’ll also talk about how this virus is very different from the flu and what they’re doing to regain their strength and care for each other during this difficult time. Plus, they’ll share their advice for coping with COVID-19 whether you’re infected yourself or have a loved one who is. Welcome to the program.

Astacianna (01:28):
Thank you.

Charlie Engle (01:28):
Thanks a lot.

Astacianna (01:28):
Thanks for asking us to come on.

Dr. Steven Gundry (01:30):
Yeah. Charlie it’s great to see you again and to meet your lovely wife. And this is going to be very interesting. I’ve done a bunch of podcasts about the virus and what you should do, et cetera, et cetera. But this is exciting to actually talk with someone we know who’s gone through all this. So you guys have been through a lot in the last two months and I really appreciate you rallying to be here today. Tell us a little bit about your relationship. How did you guys meet and how long have you been married?

Astacianna (02:02):
It depends on who you ask how we met.

Dr. Steven Gundry (02:05):
Oh, this is going to be good. All right.

Charlie Engle (02:10):
I’ll let her do that. I’ll let Astacianna tell her story.

Astacianna (02:12):
Well, we did meet in a gym, which is sounds like a typical story for two athletes. We met at a very small gym in Greensboro, North Carolina. And that was a little over six years ago?

Charlie Engle (02:25):

Astacianna (02:26):
Yes. And Charlie likes to say there were 50 bikes and they were all available and I chose to sit right next to him on a bike.

Charlie Engle (02:35):
That’s what happened.

Astacianna (02:36):
There were two bikes in the entire gym and there was only one option. So I did sit next to him and started up a conversation that just kept going.

Dr. Steven Gundry (02:47):
Is that the truth Charlie?

Charlie Engle (02:50):
It’s close enough and I will admit she had the universal sign of don’t bother me by having her ear pods in and I completely ignored that and continued to chat her up. But luckily I had been to Ecuador and she had just returned from Ecuador. She’s a world renowned ornithologist, a wildlife biologist and renowned bird expert. So she had been living in the Amazon jungle for a while, so we bonded over adventure travel.

Astacianna (03:23):
The word Ecuador is really what made me take my headphones out eventually. I was really trying to ignore him very much so. And he asked the question, “So I haven’t seen you in here. Are you from around here?” And so I told him I had just moved back from Ecuador and he said, “Oh, I’ve been to Ecuador.” And that made me take my headphones off because generally people can’t even find it on a map, much less have been there. And yeah, so went from there.

Dr. Steven Gundry (03:49):
So did you say, “I want to show you my bird collection,” or I mean, come on.

Charlie Engle (03:53):
I tried to get her to come out and run with me and she actually completely refused, turned me down flat. And I actually was standing there with my phone like expectantly, hopefully like, hey, maybe we can run some time and she looks at me and says, “No, I really, I prefer to run alone. That’s my alone time.” And she left me hanging for like 10 seconds. And then she said, “Oh, but I’ll give you my number if you’d like.” And I’m like, “Yes, please.”

Astacianna (04:23):
I did not get what he was doing. I was on the treadmill by this time and he came up and he asked me and I was just honest, I’m not a person who likes to say, “Oh yeah, sure, let’s do that.” And then you just avoid doing it. So I just was like, “No, I don’t want to.” But I didn’t see the phone in his hand until after he asked me the question and it was very cute. And so, yeah, I was like, “But you can have my number, I just don’t want to run with you.”

Charlie Engle (04:46):
In fairness too, little did she know she’s the actual athlete because she played professional beach volleyball for years and even cycled professionally. She’s an actual high end, fast twitch athlete. Yes, I run very long distances, but my skills are fairly one dimensional.

Dr. Steven Gundry (05:09):
You’re the plotter in the family. You can-

Charlie Engle (05:11):
Exactly. I just, I keep going and when I finally managed to convince her to run with me, she was-

Astacianna (05:19):
Yeah, he guilted me into running.

Charlie Engle (05:20):
She was fascinated at how slowly I ran.

Astacianna (05:22):
It’s true. It’s true. I kept shuffling my feet and looking down at his feet and I was like, “I’ve just never run this slowly before.”

Charlie Engle (05:33):
I actually told her, I said, “You understand that’s not a compliment, right?” I mean, I don’t know. Anyway, it was a start of something great. And to tell you how committed we are to that, we actually, when we did get married out in Big Sur, it was just the two of us and we actually went on what we call a runny moon. And so we spent the week running all over San Francisco and the Bay Area and Big Sur and just kind of seeing that part of California by foot and we haven’t stopped since, except for now.

Dr. Steven Gundry (06:10):
Except for now. Okay. Well, let’s get into now. Now Charlie, you were pretty healthy before all of this, but Astacianna, you’ve had some serious health struggles including a battle with cancer. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

Astacianna (06:24):
Sure. I’ve always been a very healthy, very active person and a lot of people wouldn’t know the struggles that I’ve gone through. But starting at a young age of eight, I started having some struggles with lymphoma and had a very severe, debilitating bladder disease that I still deal with on a daily basis. And then the most recent recurrence of lymphoma was nine years ago. I had a PET scan last year and all of that came out well. So I don’t love the term cancer-free for some reason, but it’s been nine years and that has left with it the treatments I got for those cancers. It’s done some havoc on my body, which is expected. So I have some immune issues, I have some blood count issues and I just call those the side effect of being alive for me because I am alive and those are the things I just have to deal with. And so I’m always in a group that might be considered at risk just with my immune system.

Dr. Steven Gundry (07:33):
Gotcha. So when all this kind of started, I would take it that you were pretty diligent about keeping your distance from others. So what other precautions were you taking?

Astacianna (07:51):
We took it very seriously and Charlie right away understood that he had to stop going places because he didn’t want to be going and bringing it back to me. So I was on complete house quarantine right from the beginning of finding out about this virus. And Charlie canceled some races and some speaking engagements because he didn’t … We were trying to figure out, well, would you leave and then would you come back and get a hotel? It was too complicated. So he just didn’t go anywhere either. And he started, he was the crazy looking person back in March that had a mask and gloves on in the grocery store and people were worried about him because he started doing that right away.

Dr. Steven Gundry (08:31):
All right. So you’re pretty much locked up at home. You’re not venturing out to Costco for toilet paper.

Astacianna (08:41):
No. No.

Dr. Steven Gundry (08:45):
So what were your symptoms early on? And then tell us how that progressed.

Astacianna (08:53):
You want to start that?

Charlie Engle (08:53):
Yeah, so and again, my biggest concern was bringing this back to her. And I mean, I probably did. I mean, we still have no ideas we’ll get into, but I mean, we made the decision that I would be super careful. I’d wear a mask and gloves when I went out. We started ordering it. We actually have been ordering groceries. We’ve had a secret for years. We use Instacart to order our groceries most of the time anyway. And so that’s what we’ve always done. And so we continued to do that, but occasionally I did need to go into a grocery store. But I really tried to leave the house as little as possible.

Astacianna (09:34):
And you sanitized every-

Charlie Engle (09:35):

Astacianna (09:35):
He put every item on the front porch and took it out of the bags and sanitized everything before he brought it into the house. I made him strip down and put his clothes right in the washer. [inaudible 00:09:46]. Yeah.

Dr. Steven Gundry (09:46):
Oh, wow.

Charlie Engle (09:49):
So the first was April the sixth. About a month and a half ago, I woke up in the middle of the night actually with a stomach that was quite upset and crampy and just very … Yeah, I just knew something wasn’t quite right and I had a headache. But quite frankly, those were not symptoms that I had read anything about. And like I’m not subject or prone usually to allergies or whatever, but I mean it seemed very unlikely. And then a couple of days later, Astacianna woke up one morning and was having some of the same issues, but then add on top of that all of the other symptoms. I was downstairs and I heard her coughing upstairs. It was one of those things. And I literally stopped what I was doing and raised my head and just listened for a second and internally said, “Uh-oh.” And I sort of knew at that moment that things were, it felt like they were changing.

Astacianna (10:55):
Yeah. And Charlie hadn’t thought much of his stomach being upset, but I am a scientist and I read a lot of research and I already knew at that point that stomach upset was a symptom in a pretty decent proportion of the population that got it. So yeah, that did lead us to start considering that it might be.

Charlie Engle (11:15):
Yeah. But we had a week, doc, where we didn’t feel great, but then like four or five days into it, actually, we both felt better. And I was still going out and getting out in the neighborhood and walking and even a little running and that kind of stuff. Nothing crazy. But just getting outside and then we actually, yeah, we had like two days where it seemed like we were done. It was over and then it really hit Astacianna very, very hard. And it became clear that we needed to get her doctors on the phone and started having some consultations. But I’ll let her tell you. But at that point, the first conversation with the doctor was, I don’t want to say it wasn’t helpful, it just was nobody knew anything still. It was still like nobody had answers.

Astacianna (12:09):
Yeah. So about we did, we had that, maybe a week or so in and I would call it a surge. Like, wow, I feel great. It seemed like that. And Charlie stayed pretty okay. But I started going downhill and called my longtime primary care who also works with my oncologist doctor and had a conversation and was really discouraged from trying to get a test for COVID or there really wasn’t any encouragement to go to the hospital or to go anywhere else to do that. And we also spoke with a couple of other healthcare professionals who didn’t suggest it, but I just kept getting worse. And we were keeping a close eye on my respiratory symptoms. But to take a step back, I’d like to tell you my symptoms. So pounding headache, like a pulsating headache that also includes some dizziness and this feeling that my head is so heavy that I can’t hold it up.
There’s so many times where I wanted to literally ask Charlie, “Can you help me hold my head up?” And so very a sore throat but not like a strep throat. It was just like this really burning situation that went further down into the top of my chest. Deep body aches, extreme fatigue, and then the stomach upset. What came last was the coughing. So all of those things were present and all of that was happening. Once the coughing started, I pretty quickly started, actually, my chest was sore to the touch and when it got to the point where when I breathed in it hurt was when we were quite concerned. And that is when I called my doctor back and I had a telehealth appointment. And I think that seeing me, our first conversation was on the phone and the next one was video.
And I think seeing me, I mean she looked a little startled by how I looked. But she said, “I want you to go to the emergency room now. Just roll out of bed, put your clothes on and go.” And so that’s what we did. And I felt pretty darn terrible. I mean, talking was like, I got completely out of breath just by trying to speak. It was pretty rough.

Speaker 1 (14:28):
So let me stop you there. So is this a week into this time frame or about-

Charlie Engle (14:36):
We are over two weeks.

Dr. Steven Gundry (14:39):
Two weeks.

Charlie Engle (14:39):
So we’re about two and a half weeks from what we felt like were some first symptoms and so I don’t … It’s hard to say exactly when it manifested. But I mean, I feel pretty confident. I started taking notes early on because I wanted to be able to answer a doctor’s question if I was being … For me, as you already know, I’m not a particularly cautious person by nature, but I was determined that I was going to have answers and be able to remember kind of what happened progressively and-

Astacianna (15:15):
Yeah. He does have a chart of the dates and when certain symptoms started and kind of once all my respiratory stuff happened, we had this list of symptoms, but then all of a sudden on the same day, it’s like, oh yeah, I’m completely unable to eat, that happened. When it kind of took a really big turn for the worst, it’s just kind of like everything happened. Up until that point, I think we both thought it might be COVID, but we also both were like, “Well, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it isn’t.” And then-

Charlie Engle (15:43):
Let me just say too, you’ve never known anyone that appreciates food the way my wife does. So when she refused to eat, I knew we really had a problem. That’s when I knew it was really trouble.

Dr. Steven Gundry (15:55):
So during this time, are you doing … You’re a scientist, are you saying, “Okay, what sort of things should I be doing at home? Should I change vitamins? Should I go get prescriptions?” I mean, what was going through your mind?

Astacianna (16:13):
I always think I’m going to be okay no matter what circumstance I’m dealt. And it was a really big trust thing between Charlie and I because Charlie was always ready to take me to the hospital and I asked him to trust me that I would know when that time came. So I just stuck with, I have a very well rounded diet. I’m excellent with hydration. I didn’t change a lot of things. I imagined that this virus would take its course and that there wasn’t a miracle drug or supplement that was going to get rid of it. So I don’t actually think that I changed much. I started drinking more tea. I had arnica tea and some green tea and things like that which were just soothing to begin with, but also have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant things in them.

Dr. Steven Gundry (17:10):
All right, so you go to the emergency room and they look at you and say, “Oh boy.” What happened next?

Charlie Engle (17:17):
Yeah, so we drove up. We got in the car and we actually even … I mean, it felt weird, but I felt like it was my responsibility in a way. We shot some videos actually in the car driving to the ER. And I did recognize like with some … I knew how helpful it was for me to see other people on the news or whatever, that we’re actually talking about this. Not fear based talk, not whatever, just real talk about this is what’s happening. So we get to the ER, we’ve discussed sort of a plan. I’ve got a backpack full of things and I want to make sure that she’s able to communicate because I knew I tried my best to get myself into the ER too to be tested, but my symptoms, they were having none of it.
So we pulled up to the ER and there’s the emergency overhang and we pull up and there was no one else in front of us and there was a nurse standing in the doorway, full body armor on. And like nothing else was open. There was no, not your typical hospital scene where people are coming and going and whatever. And so my wife stays in the car. I get out, walk around and start answering some questions from the nurse and I explain what’s going on, roll down the window of the car. And she asked my wife a couple of questions and then I opened the door.

Astacianna (18:42):
I think once they saw me, I was super weak. So me getting out of the car and just kind of taking me in. I was so incredibly weak and tired. And they asked me if I had a fever, that sort of stuff. And yeah, they decided that they should definitely take me in.

Charlie Engle (19:00):
So the crazy part was of course, I sort of walk her over to this nurse a little but I keep my distance and I’m wearing a mask. We both are and I need to move my car. There’s no one right behind me. But I mean, I remember sort of rushing, going back and getting the car in this little parking lot right there. And I literally, I parked and she’s gone and it doesn’t occur to me till that moment that like, I don’t know where this is going. Right.

Dr. Steven Gundry (19:34):
Bye honey.

Astacianna (19:35):
But we didn’t do it and they very quickly told him to stay back and took me in. And there was no like hug or words. I was just taken back. So yeah. And so Dr. Gundry, I’ll tell you that I’ve probably been in more emergency rooms than I can count with my health issues in the past and I’m not the least bit squeamish about hospitals. They’ve kind of been a second home to me unfortunately. However, what I experienced in this emergency room visit was entirely different than anything I ever have. As soon as I was taken into the Coronavirus kind of ward that they had, it was so stark. First of all, they had these hand motion doors that sealed behind you and everyone was in the full gear that you see on TV. But any of the worst images you see on TV about how everything looks is exactly what it looked like.
And being surrounded by doctors and nurses in this full gear was, it had a profound effect on me. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but there’s some … being amongst it was very intense. And there were only about eight beds in there and they had curtains in between them. But going in, going past the patients and seeing how sick they looked and not being able to see anyone’s face because they all had the mask on. So it was a scary environment and I would never say that about the hospital for me, but it felt official that I was in this club all of a sudden that I didn’t want to be in.

Dr. Steven Gundry (21:21):
Gotcha. Something that happens to me in my line of work, people are dying around you. What was that experience like? Somebody passed away, what, in a bed or so away from you?

Astacianna (21:32):
Yes, they were two beds away from me and I couldn’t see them, but I hadn’t been there very long. And I could see some of the patients like their feet and things like that and I could hear some moaning or whatever. But so two beds to my left, I heard some really panicked noises from a person that was in distress, trying to breathe and just making a lot of noise. And then a code was called. So I heard the code be called and all the noises that happened with that. And there was probably less than a minute of more struggle and events and then they were dead. They were gone.
And as soon as all of the ruckus and the noise of the machines and the person themselves taking their last fighting breaths ended, there was a loudest cry, just someone started sobbing so intensely and hyperventilating. And I don’t know, I’ve wondered if it was a nurse even because there were no visitors in there. I don’t know who it was, but it was hard. So it’s like I was just taken through all of the sounds of all the steps of this person dying and then the impact that it had on the people around him.

Dr. Steven Gundry (23:04):
Now in the meantime, Charlie, you can’t come visit, right?

Charlie Engle (23:08):
No. And I mean, some of this is in hindsight of course, but just what Astacianna just described is, I was sitting in a parking lot with about … like I sat there for several hours and I watched probably I’d say 15 more cars over that period of time, pull up, drop someone off and join me in the parking lot. And then some people would go back down, pick someone up and leave. But it was a weird scene because I’m in this parking lot with a bunch of people. We’re all solo sitting our cars with the windows down and just waiting. Now, she had her phone and was able at a few points to text me and I appreciated the fact actually that she …
There is no one, when it comes to health, there’s actually nobody you’ll ever meet that’s less dramatic than my wife because of all that she’s been through. And so she doesn’t like to freak me out is what it boils down to. She knew how I must be feeling out there. Therefore she was sending me the occasional text. She’s worried about keeping me sane while I’m sitting out there. Meanwhile, of course I’m worried about her, but it’s that she did actually share that text with me that she had heard someone pass away and-

Astacianna (24:36):
I hesitated. But I think I felt alone. I felt very alone and it was just, it’s like I just needed to share it with somebody and somehow texting that to Charlie was … It just felt better to do that. But yeah.

Dr. Steven Gundry (24:53):
So Charlie, what did you feel like getting that text?

Charlie Engle (24:55):
Well, I’m busying myself by texting her mother, by …. Like I’m keeping everybody up to date about what’s going on. And actually we almost without even speaking it agreed that I would not be sharing that part. We could share that at another time later. But I mean, look, I sat there fully aware and understanding and I mean, I don’t know, some people might not like to ever think this way, but I’ve been through a lot in my life. And I sat there in the car and I thought to myself, I don’t know if I’m ever going to see my wife again because I knew if they admitted her that I would not be allowed to come in. I knew from watching the news, all these stories and people being intubated and just the process that was going on very often if you are admitted with COVID-19. And the good part is she was telling me all the things that they were doing for her-

Astacianna (25:57):
Yeah. Right. Which we haven’t. Obviously we didn’t say that-

Charlie Engle (25:57):
Right. And she did say like the nurse and the doctor. I mean, we’ve been to a lot of doctors together and I can tell pretty much immediately whether she’s comfortable with the person that she’s working with because she knows her way around doctors and hospitals and-

Astacianna (26:13):
The nurses were great. They were fantastic and as you’ve probably heard so many times, the nurses in a hospital make all the difference as to what your experience is like. They were fantastic. They were really great. As soon as I was taken in, of course they did my pulse ox and it was fluctuating between 83 and 86. So I was put on oxygen immediately. That was the first measure was just getting that oxygen on and trying to get my oxygen levels back up. They would go up, they finally saturated up to about 94, but if I had a coughing fit or just had to talk a lot, then they would dip it back down again. So I was obviously kept on oxygen for several hours. I was given fluids and also IV Tramadol for inflammation and they gave me a shot of steroids as well.
So I was given … They took a lot of blood and they obviously tested me for COVID with the double nose swab in the inside of the mouth. And it’s very funny. They did it after. It’s incredibly uncomfortable, but they did it and the nurse said, “Oh my God, you’re the first person that doesn’t look like they want to punch me. I was like, “It’s okay.” But there was this incredible, like there was a delayed reaction and my eyes just watering and kind of being uncomfortable. So I was kept there, given the fluids, give the oxygen and they were going to admit me. There was a discussion about that they needed to keep me, but they ultimately decided not to keep me. They just kept me there for several hours to try to hydrate me and get me the oxygen.
And there was an argument, I wouldn’t even call it disagreement. There was an argument between the nurse and the doctor that I did overhear, but they didn’t know I could overhear it. They were outside of my little boundary. But the nurse really was upset that the mind had been changed, that I was not going to be admitted. She thought I needed to stay and definitely to keep having oxygen. He thought that I was more at risk from staying in the hospital than I was for going home because of my immune system and other issues. And he said that he did not think a hospital was a place that I should be. So that’s how that decision was made. And I’m really winded now.

Charlie Engle (28:42):
Yeah. It was interesting for me when she said, because it seemed like she was going to be admitted, going to be admitted, going to be admitted and then like I’ll be out in three minutes. And I was like, “What?” And I was actually, I was super excited and relieved. Of course, I wanted her to have the care that she needed, but I also know, I mean the things that she’s survived in the past. A virus is different and a virus is going to run its course. And we’ve seen with COVID-19 that the course isn’t predictable. And every single person is different. What it did in me was much different than what it did in her. But I felt like the best place for her to get healthy as long as she was breathing okay was going to be at home. So I was-

Astacianna (29:33):
That was the concern. I mean, they did say to me Dr. Gundry, upon leaving, “If you feel like you need oxygen again, come back.” And I was like [inaudible 00:29:40]. So like I was now-

Dr. Steven Gundry (29:33):
Have a nice day.

Astacianna (29:46):
It was a little strange because with oxygen on, I really wasn’t satting all the way up, it’s like as much as I would like to. So they were interesting parting words.

Charlie Engle (29:57):
And she did end up getting albuterol. Right?

Astacianna (30:00):
Yeah. I was given albuterol with the full mask set up to be more of a breathing treatment. And it made a huge difference actually. The first couple of times I did it, there is the most soothing effect of actually feeling like my lungs were kind of opening up. I could really feel it. And oh, they did x-rays by the way. I did not have pneumonia. Did not have pneumonia, but I had inflammation of the epiglottitis and bronchial tubes. And I had fluid sacks just sitting right on the top of the pulmonary area, but not into my lungs. So that’s kind of where I stood. If I’d had pneumonia, I think that probably I would have been kept there.

Dr. Steven Gundry (30:00):
Gotcha. Well, how long were you there?

Astacianna (30:48):
About five hours. Yeah. So five hours of fluids and oxygen. And like Charlie said, they brought me, the nurse came in and I didn’t understand what she was giving me and I said, “Are these discharge papers?” And she said, “Yeah.” And then I was out. It just kind of all happened pretty suddenly as far as being discharged. But yeah. I did have to talk to someone. I was given the phone, which was interesting. I had to be registered even though that I obviously didn’t have my results for my tests back yet. They really assumed I did have it. So I’m unclear who I talked to. I don’t know if it was someone with the CDC, but it was someone outside of the hospital where they asked me questions about where I lived and exposure and that sort of stuff. So they did tell me I was going to be put on some sort of a list. And so that did happen while we were there too.

Dr. Steven Gundry (31:39):
Okay. Two questions. What have you learned about COVID-19 that surprised you? That’s the first question. And the second question is, okay, what are you doing to recover and how’s that going?

Charlie Engle (31:54):
So I want to say one thing, because you’ve done a great job of the timeline, but just for listeners. So like April the eighth was when we first started feeling lousy. This is like April 29 when we end up in the ER. And obviously, today we’re into May, well into May and so it’s been a really long, a long process overall. And so I was unable to get tested at the time when we went to the ER, which I found very frustrating. I won’t go into all the details of that, but anybody who said that you could get tested, they were just wrong.

Astacianna (32:31):
Charlie didn’t have any respiratory symptoms and he did live with me and he did have other symptoms, but I think that the respiratory symptoms were-

Charlie Engle (32:40):
I mean, we of course assumed and treated me as if I was positive because there was no doubt that I was, but it just, it was frustrating for data that I wouldn’t be tested. Because it just shows you how the numbers were so skewed and there probably were so many millions more people that were positive, whether they had symptoms or not. But anyway, I did eventually. About 10 days ago, my own doctor, I got an email saying that they had tests available. And so I did a drive in at my own doctor’s office and someone came out and I filled out a questionnaire and they gave me in one side, one nasal passage-

Astacianna (33:21):
Only one nostril. It’s like one might have it and the other one doesn’t. You never know.

Charlie Engle (33:26):
And so three or four days later, I did come back negative. And once again, it’s a little frustrating because we don’t know what that means. That particular test I came to find out had a 30% chance of false negatives and it had also been a long time and I probably was, I mean almost certainly was no longer shedding virus as they say. And so I didn’t still have the virus and so I probably should have at the time gotten an antibody test too. I probably could have done both at the same time. I still would like to get the antibody test just so I know where I stand even though I have no … like there was no distancing in our house and-

Astacianna (34:15):
He was sick first. I mean, and then my symptoms started exactly the way he his were. So he was sick first.

Charlie Engle (34:21):
But she needed care. Like there was no … Like I couldn’t go to another part of the house and we weren’t together. She needed to be taken care of at that point. So look, our routine has been, as you already know, we’re plant-based eaters. We take a lot of vitamins and supplements, we’ve been using obviously I’m a Vital Reds guy. I always have been. So that’s my daily routine. The mushroom product I really enjoy. These are things that I mean I do all the time anyway. But even more focused now for me, I’m just staying on my hydration, my sleep. Because it’s like with training for a run, I always tell athletes, you can train your butt off and if you don’t sleep and you don’t hydrate, then the benefits of your hard work are never really going to take hold. And so I’ve treated COVID-19 the same way. And I’ve had a lot of exhaustion issues. So my issues, even now-

Astacianna (35:28):
Charlie has said several times, “I have never been this tired in my whole life.” He said that several times. And that’s saying something because I see him after he does an ultra endurance event, when he’s run hundreds of miles and he’s darn tired then. But it’s just this oppressive fatigue. And I’ve never seen my husband just curl up on the couch for a day and not move. But I think that that has been the biggest surprise for him and how long lasting it is. For me, the surprise is the longevity of it for sure. The extent to which it impacted my stomach blows my mind. I mean, I still have a lot of stomach issues, a lot of abdominal cramping, a lot of rumbling, inability to really eat normal foods without feeling terrible, without feeling so bad in my stomach that I really need to let curl up and lie down.
But also the cyclical nature of this since the hospital, things continued really badly for a while. But I had several days where I’m like, “Oh, I feel so much better.” And some particular symptom will be completely gone. Like the sore throat, the cough. I tell my mom, she’s excited and then the next day it’s back again. Still to this day I’m continuing with fatigue, but my body aches haven’t gone away. This morning was really a hard morning for me. It’s this very intense body ache, particularly through the back. So all the way from my upper back down into my lower back just hurts intensely. But the longevity I think would be just the longterm impact on fatigue and just feeling of wellness has been surprising.

Dr. Steven Gundry (37:18):
Now there’s been a lot of talk that there are mental changes or emotional changes that have associated with this virus. Any feeling about that?

Charlie Engle (37:32):
We forgot to mention that. There’s mental changes.

Astacianna (37:36):
I kept saying to Charlie, I would say, “I’m not this stupid. I’m not as stupid as I’m acting.” But my short term memory and focus for a few weeks was shocking and scary. I would do things and immediately not remember I did them. We watched TV shows, I didn’t remember that it happened. I was having a hard time, some word aphasia. I was having a hard time coming up with words. It was quite profound and marked and he definitely … tell them how you experienced it with watching me.

Charlie Engle (38:09):
Yeah, it was borderline. Look, I make fun of hardship usually. And so I always struggle that even in this kind of case to not make it always so heavy and to sort of laugh at ourselves. But I will freely admit, there were a couple … We’d sit down the next night to watch a Netflix show that we’ve been watching for two weeks and we turn it on and she’s like, “What’s going on?” And I’m like, “Well, you remember the this and this and this.” She’s like, “No.” Absolutely no clue what I’m talking about. And that did, look-

Astacianna (38:43):
I have a great memory. Like I never-

Charlie Engle (38:44):
You don’t know. She’s a bird expert. She identifies thousands of bird species by sound alone. Like there is a computer in her brain that is the most robust and advanced mental capacity I’ve ever seen. And she would leave her cup here and she’d leave and I mean like she couldn’t find anything. She couldn’t do anything.

Astacianna (39:11):
It was a deep fog. Deep, deep fog. I mean, it just, I felt lost and just dazed and confused. It was just a … but I would have moments where I didn’t realize I was like that. But then I wouldn’t remember anything. But yes, a lot of starting something. Charlie was really worried about me. I was baking and he was going to try to go out for a walk and I kept forgetting that, did I do this? Did I do that? Is the oven on? Did I … And he was like, “I can’t leave you like this. You can’t be baking.”

Charlie Engle (39:40):
See, it’s a little unfair too because I was experiencing a lot of the same things, but it’s really hard to tell the difference with me.

Dr. Steven Gundry (39:50):
Yeah. You probably couldn’t even remember which episode of Tiger King you saw.

Charlie Engle (39:54):
Oh my God. Yeah. I did-

Astacianna (39:56):
I didn’t watch that one.

Charlie Engle (39:57):
I’m embarrassed to say that I watched it. Actually, if I could go back and unwatch it, I would, but-

Astacianna (40:03):
I would say, there’s one question we didn’t answer just briefly as far as what we’re doing. We have, we’re fortunate to have a back deck and a front porch where we get good sunlight. So for me even on my worst days, the medicinal effect of just for my spirit and how good it feels, we’ve both tried to just get out and feel the sun for a while, just to get that fresh air. It’s very rejuvenating. And so that’s one thing that has been very important to me. If I were in an apartment where I couldn’t go out and get that sunshine and fresh air, I think it would be much harder.

Dr. Steven Gundry (40:34):
Okay. So one of the reasons I wanted you on, obviously, we are starting to open up around the United States and people are absolutely going stir crazy in cabin fever. You two guys are great athletes and you’d be kind of down the list of who you would expect this to happen to, although obviously you’ve got some immune issues. What do you tell everybody? What’s the takeaway from all this?

Charlie Engle (41:07):
Well, we talk about it every single day and we’re were horrified when we watch the news and all of that. And I would say, and I’ll give my two cents and then let Astacianna chime in. But first of all, we have no idea how we got this. I mean, obviously we all watch the news and more and more evidence seems to be coming out that it’s less likely that you’re going to get it from touching a surface or whatever. It’s more human to human contact. And we had very little of that. So how-

Astacianna (41:41):
I had none except for Charlie.

Charlie Engle (41:42):
She had none. I was in the grocery store twice, but I was wearing a mask and I didn’t kiss anyone while I was there. So I mean, it’s like, so that’s still a part that I’d like to … I don’t want to scare people, but you just have to be cognizant and don’t let your guard down. Don’t bump somebody’s elbow or fist or whatever. I mean, clearly don’t shake hands, but just take this time and be mindful of that and then-

Astacianna (42:12):
Anyone can get it. I want to say one thing. Since I’ve known Charlie, he’s never been sick. This is the first time.

Charlie Engle (42:17):
I had the flu when I was an 18 year old college freshman at Carolina, and I have never, I don’t remember ever being sick before then or after then. Quite literally, my immune system’s probably as strong as anybody’s out there. And there’s no doubt that I got this first and brought it into the house. I mean, I’m as certain as I can be of that. And I’m grateful of course that it’s turned out okay for us. But I think the thing is that people are crossing the line out there with … and sorry, I’m not trying to talk politics, but they’re confusing politics with making good decisions. And I understand we have to open back up.
We in North Carolina are in our second phase of opening up, which means restaurants can be 50% capacity. I have a son who’s a waiter in a restaurant. So we’ve had a lot of discussions about what that means for him and we get that. It’s going to happen and therefore arguing about it being a bad idea is almost like a waste of breath. So it’s more-

Astacianna (43:25):
I might argue that it’s a bad idea.

Charlie Engle (43:26):
Well, but it’s more about arguing for how to do it. And if you’re going out there trying to make a political statement by not wearing a mask, I just, I can’t even, I can’t condemn that kind of attitude or approach anymore. I’m adamant about the fact that that’s just not the right way to go. And so people need to wear masks and that’s what we’re doing. When we go out, we’re careful. Well, Astacianna hasn’t been out yet. But as I go out, it’s wearing the mask, it’s being respectful of other people and just-

Astacianna (44:05):
But you’re not going out to do anything social. You’re still not doing any of that. So out is just to go to the pharmacy to get a prescription for me or to do something like that. Yeah.

Charlie Engle (44:15):
Yeah. And I am … Look, I walk or run most days right now and I’ve chose … I’m on totally different routes than I ever normally use because I like to stay away from people as much as possible and I use a buff. So I have what’s a neck scarf basically that anytime I come close to anyone I just pull it up. And again, I just, there’s smart ways to do this that I think are protecting and will help us get to this next stage.

Astacianna (44:48):
Yeah. It makes me nervous. The opening back up certainly makes me nervous. I worry about my parents and they’re … I think one thing to remember is that if you’re not concerned for your own health and safety, just remember that every person you come in contact with and then later when you see your loved one, you are bringing that to them. So I think a lot of people might … It’s natural if you’re younger to feel like you’re immune to things. That’s not true, but it’s natural to feel that way. But you may not feel the same way about your parents or your grandparents. So to keep in mind, it’s not just me, it’s everybody I’m going to see later that I might be giving this to. And I understand the economic stuff too. But man, it’s a tough one. I really would like to see the virus slow down a lot more before people start getting together. And I think a big part of opening up is just being impatient versus necessity.

Dr. Steven Gundry (45:46):
All right, very good. So Charlie, what’s this doing to global adventure mission and all of that? I mean, what’s going to happen?

Charlie Engle (45:57):
My global adventures have been on my back deck recently like so many people. And I have, I’m proud of the running community in general because we have, there’s tons of virtual events out there and people have kind of embraced this and people understand. I think we’ve all got a different situation. I’m very lucky to have some trails that I have access to that are not popular. There’s not many people on them. And if there are, I can keep my distance. So I have the luxury of being able to get out and run some trails. But there’s all these virtual events now that you can actually enter. The Boston marathon or whatever. Of course, you can’t go run the Boston course, but it’s still that fellowship and community that I think is really important. So-

Astacianna (46:46):
You were on your way to Australia.

Charlie Engle (46:48):
Yeah, as you guys know, I was on my way to Australia and obviously I had to put that on hold. And it’s been interesting too. I’ll just say this one last thing about it. Australia is starting to open up, not to foreign travel, but I’ve really tried to, I’ve tried to rethink my own philosophy. I’ve got plenty of time, right? I don’t need to be in a big rush. And so what I’ve actually done is looked to, there’s two big adventures that I’m looking at and planning that are right here in the state of North Carolina that would allow me to do some things that are local, that are things I’ve always wanted to do and I think can still take people on an adventure and remind them that we still have to get out there and see the planet. We just have to do it safely.

Dr. Steven Gundry (47:39):
So with that in mind, how do people follow you? I know how to follow you, but how do we find you?

Charlie Engle (47:46):
And I follow you too, which is how I know what you’re doing. So just the simplest way is just charlieengle.com is my website. But any of the social media platforms, it’s always just Charlie Engle. So Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Astacianna (48:08):
He’s most active on Instagram I would say.

Charlie Engle (48:08):
Yeah, Instagram. And I’ll say this last thing. I mean, I really disappeared off of Instagram and social media several weeks ago and I felt like I just needed to give myself a little break from it. And then of course I made the announcement several days ago and a lot of that had to do with us having a discussion. My wife is incredibly private about her, especially her medical background and I’m proud of her for stepping up today and actually sharing some of what she’s gone through in her life. And we decided that we actually had a responsibility though to share some of our experience so that people need to be wary. Not necessarily afraid and terrified, but take precautions and understand what to do. Have a plan. We had a plan, like we talked about it beforehand. If we get sick, even though we thought it was a tiny chance that we would get sick, but if we did, what are we going to do? And I think talking those things out and having a plan really helped us when the time came.

Astacianna (49:14):
Yeah. We’ve received a lot of messages from people saying that they didn’t know anyone until they saw our story that had it and it made it more real. And thanking us for sharing our experience. I do think it’s valuable to see. So often when you just see something on the news, it doesn’t seem real, but when you have a conversation with someone who’s actually had it, it makes you think about it a little more seriously.

Dr. Steven Gundry (49:35):
Yeah. Again, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing both of your stories. I think it’s going to be very helpful to everybody. All right, so we’ll look forward to seeing you on the trail and I’ll have you over to the house. I want you to identify some birds for me.

Astacianna (49:35):

Dr. Steven Gundry (49:51):
Yeah. I’m a big bird lover myself, so-

Astacianna (49:56):
Oh, good. Good. Migratory season has been entertaining me here on my porch.

Dr. Steven Gundry (50:01):
Okay. Alright. Great. We’ll let you go and I wish you both a full recovery.

Charlie Engle (50:06):
Yeah. Thank you doc. I appreciate it.

Astacianna (50:08):
Thank you. Take care.

Dr. Steven Gundry (50:09):
Take care. Okay, it’s time for our audience question. Following my recent episode with Jeff Chilton, one of the world’s foremost mushroom experts, Leddy Guzman Garcia on YouTube wrote in and asked, what is the most beneficial way of eating mushrooms, raw or cooked? Well, believe it or not, I actually like them both ways. However I can get mushrooms into your mouth is my preferred way. One of the nice things about cooking mushrooms is they are a lot of water and so you can actually eat a whole lot more mushrooms if you cook them because they will shrink. A lot of people don’t like the sliminess of mushrooms. And we actually on that episode went through some great tricks to kind of French fry them so that they’re not slimy. But either way, however I can get them in, put them, slice them on a salad, that’s actually what I do often. So great question. Thanks.

Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you into that you can find the show on iTunes, Google play, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch each episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/drgundry because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.