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Reinforcing Your Immune System: How to Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

by | Mar 16, 2020 | Autoimmune, Functional Medicine, Getting Healthy, Home/Blog, Infections, Nutrition

Well. What an interesting year we are having so far: Bushfires in Australia, Brexit confirmed, the US election process beginning and now a new global viral pandemic straight out of a John Grisham novel. 

Like most people I know I am glued to the various different news resources for updated information and also to see if there is any sensible instruction from the government and various powers that be, and exchanging information with my family and friends. 

I feel very lucky to have a degree of background knowledge of the immune system and various viral and immune support strategies to rely on and I am really empathetic to those that may feel quite helpless in the face of this. 

These are strange and uncertain times.

I wanted to share with you my thoughts on this crisis, some information that I think is solid, sensible and not alarmist and also to share with you what I am doing with MY family in the midst of all of this.

I think a lot more people than are reported already have it.

Because there is an incubation period, the numbers reported do not reflect the numbers of people who are infected, only those that have been tested and diagnosed. And because the UK has reached the period where the numbers are doubling every day, we don’t really know how many people have it right now. What does that mean? It means we have to be SENSIBLE in our decision making. It doesn’t mean hysterically assuming everyone has it or stockpiling your toilet paper. But we should definitely be using soap and water, hand sanitiser and appropriate distance. 

Here is an article that speaks calmly and with common sense about some of the data.

I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as is feared for MOST people who have it. 

I think that the reality is that a large number of us if not most of us are going to catch this sooner or later. Some of us will be asymptomatic. Some will have it mildly and some will have worse symptoms. But for 80% or more of us, it’s going to be unpleasant but survivable. To be clear, this is not ‘The Flu’ but I think it’s comparable. Nobody wants to get the flu, and we feel absolutely rotten when we have it but we also don’t panic about the idea of getting it unless we are medically fragile. Instead we take precautions: We take vitamin D, we get vaccinated and we take care of ourselves. 

So I think if we can employ the strategy of less panic and more common sense, we’ll generally feel better and be able to navigate the whole situation with greater ease. 

We have a duty and social responsibility to protect those who are at risk, and that includes the elderly and medically-fragile. 

And by this I mean, don’t take risks because you don’t think you or your children are not in harms way. Cancelling weddings, parties, social events and work can feel like a big decision. It may feel like you are making a big deal out of nothing or making a fuss, which none of us generally want to do- or been seen to do anyway. It may also feel a bit scary financially in some cases. 

However not spreading a virus that you don’t know you have is a responsibility that we should be taking very seriously. Because you may not be coming in to contact with a frail elder or at risk person, but someone you come in to direct contact with may be. This is especially true if you have children. Children are not highly at risk at this time, however they are vectors for this type of infection and spread it around in communities. So if it’s possible, consider trying to limit social contact for your children. This may not be possible for those in the community such as nurses, doctors or others for lots of reasons because they cannot work if their children are at home, but if it’s possible for you then it’s something you can do that could make a profound difference.

As a mum I know the stress of having active children at home all day long and not taking them to softplay and other activities. The days are LONG. But this is the time to get creative with Pinterest, get out the jigsaw puzzles and lean in to it. 

We have a duty to protect our healthcare system and health care workers. 

This is a genuine concern that I have. I am worried about the health of those who are working on the frontline of this. I am very worried about the life and death decisions that are going to need to be made and the consequences of those decisions. Our NHS was already in trouble. We do not have enough intensive care beds, staff or resources. 

So, we need to dramatically slow down the rate of spread to keep it below the threshold of capacity and overwhelm. To ‘flatten the curve’.
The UK government is talking about the benefits of everyone healthy getting it as a way of creating herd immunity, and I think there is a lot of merit to this, but it needs to be controlled or slow so as not to overwhelm a system that just doesn’t have the capacity. 

So I think we all need to self isolate if we are able, and to take care of those around us – elderly, sick, frail so that they can isolate too. My family is not waiting until the government makes the announcement, we are putting these measures in place now for ourselves (working from home, kids out of nursery etc). I feel fortunate that we have the ability to do this and also that I am able to take some action for what I think is the greater good. 

The better we can prepare our bodies and reinforce our innate defence system, the better we will be. 

My most important anti-viral strategies are: 

1. SLEEP. I cannot overemphasise the importance of a really solid night’s sleep during times like this. Not just once you are sick, but as a preventative strategy and to build up some basic immune resilience. That probably means going to bed earlier than you are used to but you know what? This is WAY more sensible that buying three months worth of toilet paper and pasta. Also, added benefit, sleep makes you feel much healthier, happier and more positive so take proactive steps to reduce screen time or impose a screen curfew after supper and read a book in bed before turning off the lights instead. 

2. Cut out sugar. In times like this, to be honest I would be more aggressive about this than the usual 80/20 rule. Just don’t buy commercial treats or have it in the house. Sugar suppresses the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to being run down and catching whatever is going around. If that’s just a minor cold then it’s really not that big of a deal, but this time I think we should be taking it seriously. You can make your own treats using dried fruit, nuts, seeds and cacao all of which are nutrient dense and add a lot of benefit to the body while being naturally sweet. They are not ‘sugar free’ but they have a totally different impact on the body and the immune system. 

3. Eat loads of fresh vegetables and fruit.
Now is 100% the time to be loading up on soups, salads, smoothies and trying new recipes. While the shelves are stripped totally bare of toilet paper, pain killers and pasta in the supermarkets there is LOADS of fresh veg available, so stock your fridges full and eat that rainbow every day. 
See my Pinterest boards here and here for inspiration and recipes if you are in a rut. 

4. Take some sensible supplements. Do not go an panic buy the shelves clean at your local health food store but you can sensibly support your immune system. 

Here is what my own family is using / taking or I have in the cupboard ready for if we need it. Please seek personalised advice from me, your own nutritionist or your doctor before making decisions if you have any health complications. I’ve included links to the dispensary I buy from for any of you that would like to buy your own. 

Further resources:

My e-book on Epstein Barr Virus has a very comprehensive list of antiviral and immune strategies for viruses in general, not just specific to EBV. I have included a link to download that for free here

I have found Holistic Paediatrician, Elsa Song’s information on this crisis to be very well researched, calm and reasonable. I recommend following her for information here.

Tanya Borowski has written a great article on the immune system and you can read that here.

Caroline Sherlock has written a great article on Viral Outbreak Strategy. Read that here.

The institute for Functional Medicine has a great article on The  Top 6 Strategies for Managing Stress around Infectious Disease 

Head over to Instagram to interact with me on my page there. I’ll be around this week to chat and interact and to continue to share resources as we get more information. 

Wishing you and your loved ones the very best of health in these uncertain days. 

Robyn is a Clinical Nutritionist with a specialised interest in the Functional Medicine approach to health. Robyn is very involved with the field of Coeliac Disease, Gluten-Reactive Disorders and Autoimmune Disease. Her passion for the healing power of food, has led her to work with complex cases, involving multiple diagnoses, and chronic health issues such as ME, auto-immune diseases and fibromyalgia. She also has a passion for working with the growing tide of chronic, lifestyle mediated illness; diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, and runs a lifestyle intervention clinic for these issues. Robyn works with patients to nutritionally support their bodies, so that they can heal. She has successfully helped many people around the world improve their health and increase their quality of life. Robyn sees clients in London, Tokyo and New York, and has a virtual practice that allows her to work with people all over the world.

Robyn Puglia

My mission in life is to share my knowledge in order to help people heal. I love to unravel the health stories and the biochemistry to get to the heart of the problem, and to help support nutritional and lifestyle changes that have the ability to transform people’s health. I have seen incredible changes in the health of my clients, and I hope to do the same for you.

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