Fear is setting in and there is a looming sense of darkness descending across the world. COVID 19 is a new virus for us humans with different behaviour patterns to the viruses we have met before. This brings an element of the unknow, with anxiety associated with the uncertainty, and a challenge to our sense of control over our lives. While the actual harm experienced by most people is minimal, we are being asked to respond with our community & greater population in mind, to reduce the impact on others and the NHS system. By changing some of our behaviours and routines over the next few months we will be helping our communities and our nation, but there are many things which can be done proactively on a personal level to take care of yourself. While the collective duty is to minimise exposure & to reduce its chances of spreading, there is also a personal & domestic duty to take extra care of our immune systems so that we can respond efficiently when COVID19, or any other virus, does come our way.
This article is a collaborative piece, drawing on research, specialist health training & clinical experience of a group of Integrative & Complimentary Healthcare Practitioners. We hope the information helps you choose strategies to support your health and specifically your immune system over the coming weeks, so that you can take care of yourself and those around you as well as possible in these unprecedented times.
With all the drama unfolding, let us offer you something positive…..
The good news is that our immune systems are alive and dynamic with inherent skills to be responsive and adaptive. As well as being reactive to invading pathogens, the immune system also responds to good care. This means that we can be proactive in supporting our own personal defence systems. It will be our ally as we step cautiously through the next few weeks and will massively benefit from your extra care & attention right now. Here are some tips & strategies to upgrade your immune care regime, so that it can work at its most effective in the months ahead.
These recommendations WILL NOT PREVENT you from catching any virus but can enhance your resilience to invaders when they do come your way. It is important to follow government & NHS advice, but it is also important that your system can fight viruses effectively to minimise the effects on your health and the impact on your life. We want our personal virus killing mechanism to be as strong and vital and effective as possible in times like these. If you or a family member develop symptoms and you act to self-isolate, a strong immune system and some simple strategies could reduce the length of time of the illness.
Here are some simple strategies to boost, up-grade & enhance the power of your immune system:
- Up the nutrition!
The immune system is heavily reliant on certain vitamins and minerals. So, eating certain nutrient rich foods & having a good gut environment (to aid absorption) are fundamentals. And having bowels that function properly are useful too as this is where the toxins and pathogens and expelled from the body.
Key vitamins & minerals for Immune Health: Vit A, C, E, selenium & zinc, Vit D, B6, B12, Folate & Iron (see food recommendations below).
- Reduce stress & inflammation
Stress & inflammation in the body are known to have a negative impact on the function of the immune system. Reducing sugar / processed foods, tiredness & smoking, and increasing gentle exercise will lighten the overall ‘load’ on your system so that the fighter cells have a greater chance of success.
Look to increase these items in your diet to increase the vitamins & minerals and to reduce inflammation.
- Vit A: dark green leafy vegetables eg spinach; carrots; potatoes; squash
- Vit C: blackcurrants, red & green pepper, kiwi, oranges, lemons strawberries, broccoli, kale (TRY drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice with warm water & honey)
- Vit E: almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, oils (wheatgerm, grapeseed)
- Selenium: brazil nuts (no more than 3 per day), sunflower seeds, tuna, chicken, eggs
- Zinc: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beef & poultry, chickpeas, beans & lentils
- Anti-inflammatory foods: Garlic (eg crushed and mixed into vegetables, or just chewed [hardcore!!!]), Fresh ginger (ginger tea; cook with it; add to soups), Turmeric (turmeric latte; add to soups & curries), Fruit & Veg generally (Especially apples, Red grapes, Pineapple, Onions & Broccoli)
- Respiratory Health
COVID 19 is a respiratory syndrome affecting the lungs and airways and can lead to fluid congestion. When you stop smoking the tiny cilia (remember them?) and mucus, coating your lungs will work better at clearing out bugs and debris. Add in diaphragm breathing exercises for 3 minutes each day to pump the lymphatic system and aid fluid drainage. Daily general exercise is also advised for reducing inflammation, clearing congestion and stimulating the immune system. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. A gentle walk (ideally outside for the Vitamin D) is enough.
- Keep hydrated
The lymphatic & respiratory systems depend on ample fluid in the body to flush out bugs, debris & toxins. It is helpful to increase the fluid intake when you are unwell to assist in this process which will be working at maximum capacity.
- Phone loved ones & spend time outside for positive Mental Health
In addition to the previously mentioned Vitamin D boost and the benefit of general movement, getting out in the elements is relaxing which reduces stress and creates a more conducive environment for the immune system to shine. Anxiety & depression may be aggravated at this time so take steps to lift the spirits, phone someone funny, watch your favourite films and take a break from the doom & gloom.
- Additional domestic tips…
Home diffuser – use essential oils to help your respiratory tissues: Tea Tree, Lemon Balm, Frankincence, Oregano, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Thyme.
Olbas oil steam – inhalation remedy for chest infections
Echinacea – a licensed herbal remedy for colds & flu, sold in most high street pharmacies.
- Keep in contact with your Complementary Healthcare Practitioner
Osteopathy, Naturopathy, Herbal Medicine, Chinese Medicine & Homeopathy all have treatments and systemic health advice which can help to support your immune system so that you can manage any new invader better. These Healthcare Practitioners are trained to support individuals in their personal health plans. Many therapists will be offering phone consultations to continue supporting clients. A discussion and advice from your favourite practitioner could be a strategic approach to boost your system.
We are in for a tricky few months with impacts on every area of our lives. When you are considering changes on the domestic front and thinking about stocking up, include these immune strengthening ingredients for your meals. Make sure you have turmeric, garlic and ginger in the house. Remember that high street pharmacies stock Echinacea and Multivitamins as well as pocket tissues and hand sanitizer (or at least they used to..). Take advice from your trusted practitioners. As we cut back on physical contact with others, we can step up the self-care, be proactive and take responsibility for our own health & immune systems as a way of responding to this global viral load and minimising the impact on local communities.
This information is based on research carried out by Brian Isbell & Chloe Henaghan, as well as years of specialist health training & experience in practice of several other health care practitioners. We wish to offer advice & to support our community and we hope the information is useful in your personal & domestic health care. We all have an exceptionally intelligent security & defence system within us. Give it some extra care & resources so you can get back to your normal ASAP.
Whatever you decide to do, we wish you well and look forward to seeing you when the time is right.
If you would like any further advice from any of the contributors, please contact Chloe on Chloe@mulberrywellbeing.life.
With best wishes from us all at the Mulberry Wellbeing Hub,
Chloe Henaghan BOst, BSc (Hons)
Principle Osteopath & Practice Founder of Mulberry Wellbeing; www.MulberryWellbeing.Life
Osteopath, Craniosacral Therapist & Naturopath; www.Healthmattersforyou.co.uk
Traditional Chinese Medicine; www.kunlun.co.uk
Medical Herbalist; www.lucyblundenherbal.com
Psychotherapist & Counsellor; www.danielleglennon.com