An overview of the virus and how you can prioritise your health
This has been a challenging time for the human race; a global pandemic is something most probably never dreamed would happen in their lifetime. The restrictions and degree of change that has affected businesses, relationships and financial situations is immense. Not just financially but emotionally, this has hit hard on everyone in some way
I wanted to take this time to share some optimism with you by providing information, tips and insights into maintaining your health through a pandemic. Understanding the virus and how to maintain good health is empowering in what is a very challenging time for all
Here in Victoria, we face another 6-week lockdown with the tightest restrictions yet, a curfew from
8 pm - 5 am and not to leave the home unless for groceries, the doctor or work.
There will always be mixed feelings about how this virus could be handled but what we do know is that community transmission currently poses the biggest threat to mass infection and due to numbers rising in Victoria the Government recommends isolation as the best method for reducing cases and therefore having our freedoms returned to us as quickly as possible
So what is COVID-19 and what will it do to us?
COVID-19 is the disease obtained from being infected with the virus SARS-coV-2
SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus from a group of viruses called coronaviruses that also include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
SARS-CoV-2 has a spike on its cell surface that allows it to attach to receptors (ACE 2 receptor) that are present in many cell types and tissues of the human body including red blood cells (our oxygen transporter), lungs, heart, blood vessels, and gastrointestinal tract. Without going into too much biochemistry, the virus can enter the human cell and continue to replicate using the DNA from our own cells. ACE 2 receptors provide very important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions for our cardiovascular system; therefore the damage caused to these receptors places many challenges on the tissues of this system, especially the lungs and red blood cells. This damage leads to decreased oxygen (difficulty breathing) and free iron mobilisation (reactive oxygen species or excessive inflammation) that also damages the lung tissue (amongst other tissue) which is why we see shortness of breathe in this disease
As you are probably aware now, symptoms of COVID-19 can include a cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath. Those infected may feel completely fine like they have a mild cold, others may develop full-blown pneumonia. While most people will recover easily, some will not and that can be for many reasons
There is no current treatment available although many are hard at work trying to find solutions; this means we are heavily reliant on our innate immune system (our own, very clever, inbuilt army)
The most effective means of public safety is by reducing the spread of the infection so that our healthcare system does not become overwhelmed. This means physical (not social) distancing, practising hand washing and wearing PPE when in close proximity to others. Secondary to this, learning about this virus and taking your health into your own hands is the next best thing you can do
There is ample evidence to suggest that the state of a person’s immune system and general health will be a crucial determinant of the severity and outcome of this disease
So how can we give our immune system a helping hand?
There is enough research and evidence to suggest that certain diet and lifestyle patterns can influence the function and capacity of the immune system. Such patterns achieve this by reducing inflammation within the body, and not only reducing the risk of illness but also offsetting the severity and sequelae if one does fall ill.
You see, our immune system is an intricate and complex system, upon detection of a threat it will come to our aid causing the release of chemicals and inflammatory mediators that attack and defend human tissue, this is normal, healthy and warranted. It becomes problematic when the immune system doesn’t know how to switch off and inflammation gets out of control (you may have heard of a cytokine storm). This kind of inflammation may occur in metabolic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance where internal signalling is impaired and blood glucose is poorly managed, as well as in the elderly where protective mechanisms aren’t as robust as they once were
Nutrition goals for a resilient immune system
1. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. This may sound lame but you’ll be surprised just how profound this is for our health. Aiming for at least 10 servings per day. Eat the rainbow, the colour of each F&V contains a different superpower (or phytonutrient) to enhance the gut micro biome (our immune system). Fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise and good sleep all flick on a cellular switch (called Nrf 2) this then switches on hundreds of genes that fight for us, they switch on antimicrobial defences (bye-bye virus), they enhance our detoxification pathways (clean up the mess), increase antioxidant defences (protect our genes), modulate inflammation (shuts off attack when appropriate) and increases energy (yes please)
2. Consume dietary fibre, a minimum of 28-35 grams daily, preferably from whole foods Ie: whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, wholegrain rolled oats as well as non- starchy vegetables (hitting the above vege intake will get you mostly there), some starchy veg, beans and legumes
3. Eat fermented vegetables such as (a couple of tablespoons) sauerkraut, Kimchi, fermented beets or other probiotic-containing foods such as kefir and unsweetened yoghurt to maintain epithelial health and gut barrier function .1/2 cup Vaalia or Activa yoghurt in the supermarket or 20-100 ml of organic kefir if you’re wondering how much is enough
4. Reduce or avoid immune offenders such as added sugars and salt, high-glycemic foods (including processed carbohydrates), and excessive saturated fat i.e. 2-minute noodles, pies, processed biscuits, white bread, pastries, cakes and lollies....
5. If you are overweight, adopting healthier eating habits, losing just 5 to 7 per cent of your body weight and doing moderately intense exercise (like brisk walking) for 150 minutes a week may prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (improving your blood glucose control, which improves immune function)
——If you weigh 100 kg, that’s just 5-7 kg loss and 5 x 30 minute walks per week
Even in lockdown, this is do able <3
So ask yourself today.......
how many different vegetables do you eat per day?
Have you got the same on repeat?
How often do you exercise per week?
Do you partake in mindfulness daily? Mediation/dance/yoga/reading a book (screens don’t count here) / daily gratitude diary
Do you practice self-care daily? Take a bath/face mask/ exfoliate/journaling/creativity/setting and keeping goals?
How many hours zzz per night do you get?
How much alcohol do you drink per week?
Supporting your frame of mind
Stress states harm our immune system via adrenalin surges that use up our water soluble vitamins like B's and magnesium creating more stress for the body. When stress is prolonged, the hormone cortisol can cause blood sugar issues and if sustained sleep and immune issues also
Daily mindfulness has been shown to lower stress levels, cortisol and create better state of mind
Here are 5 tips to maintain your sanity through a lockdown and reduce stress levels
1. Set a routine for at least 5 days of the week. Include at least 30 minutes of exercise 5-7 days per week. Youtube has millions of home workouts you can follow from your lounge room (I’ve listed a couple below).
2. Plan your food for the week lunches and dinners especially so you can do a shop for the week ahead and avoid last-minute takeaway. Cook extra at dinner for the following days lunch
3. Practice mindfulness every day for at least 10 minutes, 30 minutes ideally. Here is a 3-minute body scan meditation to get you started https://www.mindful.org/a-3-minute-body-scan-meditation-to-cultivate-mindfulness/
Meditation apps: smiling mind, calm, and Insight Timer are also great. Find a practice you love and dedicate 10- 30 mins of your day to mindfulness
4. Journal your stressors writing things down helps offload them and gives them less power over your emotions
5. Exercise If you cannot leave the house, here are some YouTube links for you to try. 20 minutes per day is a great (& achievable) start
· Yoga with Adrienne
· Amanda Bisk 14 Fitness Lockdown Challenge
6. Connection Aim to catch up with someone each day over the phone or virtually, and check in on those in your life who may not have a lot of support (giving is just as rewarding as receiving). Look for virtual community or spiritual groups if you miss being social. Avoid negative chat groups, persons and media, get your news and shut the telly off. Here are 5 books recommended by Yale & Harvard professors for insightful reading during corona virus lockdown https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/24/best-books-to-read-during-coronavirus-pandemic-quarantine-harvard-yale-professors.html
If you are not coping or know someone that is not, please give them this number, it’s OK to not be OK. Lifeline 13 11 14
Remember, some days you will feel lousy or completely unproductive and so you should, these are challenging times, these are just some tips to help get you out of the "funk" and to help you find a bit of a norm during the chaos
Sleep is medicine
Good quality and quantity of sleep are of utmost importance for immune maintenance and during times of recovery. At least 7-8 hours of deep sleep is required for a healthy immune system and for the prevention of food cravings and poor choices like a greasy, salty packet of chips. Do your best to keep a consistent sleep schedule, for the best sleep, turning off screens at least 1 hour before bed and making sure your room is dark, cool and quiet for optimal sleeping conditions
Definite weekly immune musts
Green leafy veg
Plus whatever else you love!
Yes, there are lots of supplements that have been studied for their role in immune function, inflammation control and healing. It is recommended to work with a qualified practitioner though, to ensure you are receiving therapeutic doses and without interaction with other medication you may be taking
One safe recommendation is Vitamin D3, taking 1000IU daily over winter is recommended as we do not get enough sun exposure to synthesise our own stores and most will be deficient in winter. Vitamin D3 is very important for immune function
I hope this has been helpful If you have any questions feel free to email me at email@example.com or on social media
I am available for consultations online, meaning I can see you from the comfort of your own home anywhere in the world
Take care and support each other :)