I hope you’re keeping in good spirits during these unchartered waters we’re in with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
I’ve been reading the scientific literature, and have attended a few lectures, which has given me specific insights into protocols for preventing or limiting infection of this Coronavirus. In this article, I’m going to share some basic to advanced strategies you can use to protect your health and the health of those around you.
First, please note that this is the information as it stands as of March 21, 2020. I’ll continue to update this article with the latest health insights.
Of course, as you know, we can all do our bit to help to ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce exposure or transmission by practicing self distancing, washing hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, sanitising mobile phones, handles and other places commonly touched in your home, avoiding touching surfaces in public places and touching your face.
Beyond that, we can also strengthen our internal defenses – our immune system – to make us more resilient. This is more important for the elderly and immune-compromised, or those with cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic conditions like diabetes and obesity, though can help us all strengthen our immunity, particularly as we’re just about to head into flu season here in Australia.
If you’re feeling anxious and stressed at this time, I understand and feel you! Worrying about the unknown is natural – especially when it’s about things we can’t control. Though while much is out of our control, thankfully, there are some things within our control. We can choose to:
- Eat a healthy diet based on the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet which includes plenty of fresh fruit and veg – at least 8 servings / 4 cups of fruit and veg per day, plus meat, fish, beans and legumes
- Stay hydrated (to support all the body’s functions, especially the immune system) – drink water as well as warm fluids like ginger, turmeric or green tea and warm broths regularly – which can help reduce your exposure (viruses hate heat, and you can swallow them if they’re in your throat, rather than let them get into your lungs)
- Focus on getting a good night’s sleep every night (have a Magnesium rich Epsom salt bath before bed to wind down)
- Practice being mindful and present to reduce stress. Check out Psychologist Lillian Nejad’s informative article on how to deal with stress and anxiety here.
- Exercise regularly, and get out in nature and fresh air each day
- Stay connected to others – spreading love and empathy in this challenging time. Reaching out to those in need – like the elderly, the unwell, and the isolated (I reached out to my elderly neighbour yesterday, and she said my support meant so much to her as she has no family around. The reassurance that someone is there can make a big difference.)
- Choose to switch off from sensationalised, negative media that’s all doom and gloom, and focus on creating joy, peace and harmony instead.
- Avoid processed sugar and refined carbs and limit alcohol as these deplete nutrients in the body, and can compromise immune function
All of these will help to reduce stress, which in turn strengthens your immune system. Now more than ever, doubling down on all your healthy habits is key. Do the best you can, and go easy on yourself if you’re not perfect (like when I ate half a bar of 95% cocoa chocolate yesterday!).
More advanced strategies
In terms of specifics with diet, eating foods with immune supporting nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin D is helpful. Other nutrients like Selenium, amino acids like Arginine and Glutamine found in protein, Vitamin E, and Essential Fatty Acids are inadvertently involved in the immune system’s function, whether by being an antioxidant or quelling inflammation – a key factor involved in the immune response.
As a starting point, focus on eating these foods:
Liver (highest in beef – choose organic only), eggs, dairy products, fish liver oil (cod liver oil), plus green, red, orange and yellow fruit and veg: carrots, oranges, apricots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, melon, spinach, peppers, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus etc., pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts.
Peppers (chilli + sweet), watercress, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, citrus fruits, kiwi, peas, melons, tomatoes, parsley, blackcurrants, apples, papaya, bean.
Vitamin D (main source is sunshine, with small amounts in foods):
Herrings, mackerel, salmon (wild caught only), oysters, cottage cheese, eggs. You’re best to get your vitamin D levels checked, and if below 100, supplement to get to optimal levels (around 150 is optimal) if needed.
Seafood, shrimp, shellfish (esp. oysters – although limit as they also contain mercury), haddock, canned fish (avoid tuna because of mercury), ginger, lean red meat (esp. lamb + beef), nuts (pecans, Brazil, almonds, walnuts), peas, turnips, eggs, oats, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), rice, lentils, pulses, molasses, calf’s liver, Crimini mushrooms, dark green leafy veg (esp spinach, collard greens), asparagus, turkey, quinoa.
Aim for 1g of protein per kg of body weight. Protein is essential for immune function, and surprisingly, many people don’t meet their daily needs. The best protein sources are animal products like beef, kangaroo, lamb, and chicken, followed by eggs, legumes and beans. Protein is especially important for the elderly or convalesced. Prioritise this if you’re either.
Also include anti-viral foods such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, Manuka honey, and mushrooms like Shiitake, Reishi and anti-viral herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage in cooking.
Things I’m making at home are immune boosting bone broths made from chicken frames (one thing not sold out at the butchers!) with heaps of rosemary, chicken livers (another thing available at the butchers) marinated in garlic, olive oil, parsley and lemon, large batches of hearty vegetable soups with my homemade broth for freezing, and squeezing lemon or lime juice into water to get some anti-viral vitamin C.
In addition to that, eat fermented foods like saeurkraut, yoghurt (unsweetened), natto or kimchi.
Foods like colostrum (find it in powder form in your health food store – add some to a smoothie) or probiotics like Sacchromyces boulardii may also be helpful for supporting immune function.
Drinking or even gargling with green tea can reduce the risk of contracting viruses because the tannins in green tea have antiviral properties. Even gargling with hot (not boiling!) water can help, as viruses become denatured (and therefore die) when exposed to heat.
It appears that the coronavirus uses human enzymes called furins to attach to human cells and replicate. Green tea has a compound in it called Epigallocatechin gallate that may inhibit furin production. Other compounds that also inhibit furin production are the herbs St Mary’s Thistle and Andrographis and the master antioxidant, glutathione.
Other than that, I’m supplementing with a range of nutrients and herbs to support my immunity, namely:
- Vitamin C – 2mg per day in divided doses. If I do get sick, I’d increase that to 1g per hour. Intravenous vitamin C is starting to be used in hospitalised cases of coronavirus with some success.
- Zinc – 20mg per day in divided doses. Zinc citrate lozenges have been shown to inhibit the virus production – you can find these at your local pharmacy (zinc gluconate is also ok).
If I do feel unwell, i’ll add onto that:
- Liposomal glutathione – 2ml morning and night to inhibit furin production and virus attachment/growth
- My own herbal anti-viral mixture of Licorice, Andrographis, Dandelion Root, Rosemary, Green Tea and Baical Skullcap. All of these work in different ways – from boosting immunity to being anti-viral or anti-inflammatory.
- Bioceuticals ArmaForce and UltraDefense Mushroom 7 (you can get these from some pharmacies)
To get your hands on some of these supplements (excluding the herbal tinctures and glutathione which are practitioner dispensing only), visit your local health food store or pharmacy.
Alternatively, if you’re an existing patient of mine, simply email me and I can organise some for you (stock of my suppliers permitting, given many are being sold out right now).
I hope the above strategies give you some things to focus on and put into action.
There’s no better time than now to care for your health. If you’re in need of personalised health advice to strengthen your immunity over these coming months, or improve your health overall, I’m here to help. Book an Immune Resilience telehealth session here.
I’m wishing you the best of health, sanity and resilience during this challenging time.
Please do reach out if you have any concerns, questions, comments or requests – I’d love to hear from you, and will help in any way I can.
With love and hope,
PS: References will be added to this article over the coming days. I’ll also be updating this article regularly to keep abreast of the unfolding situation and any new strategies I discover, so be sure to bookmark it and come back, or get on my mailing list. Stay safe!
Melissa is a naturopathic nutritionist and coach who helps exhausted women get their energy back. She consults with people worldwide via the web from her home in Melbourne, Australia.