Even if you haven’t rushed to your local store to stock up on loo paper and hand sanitiser, you can’t help being aware of the growing concerns about this rapidly-spreading virus.
9 Ways Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus
Many countries are in lockdown. More organisations and authorities are advising anyone 60 plus to stay at home.
And, no matter, seems like some can’t avoid coming into contact with it. So how can we reduce its effect?
What is the most single most important thing we know so far?
Most deaths from coronavirus are in the elderly, those with existing health conditions and/or weakened immune systems.
So let’s look at ways to support our immune systems and make the odds ‘ever in our favour’; giving us the best protection from this global pandemic.
A strong Immune System is Your Best Defence
Dr Jenna Macciochi, immunologist at the University of Sussex, says that there are plenty of small things we can do that may strengthen our immune system.
Dr Jenna’s book, Immunity: The Science of Staying Well gives the full lowdown on how we can take charge of our health and wellness to live our best lives.
Immunity & Common Sense
The Corona Virus is a dangerous viral disease with no cure or vaccination currently available.
But, by strengthening your immune system and taking some common-sense steps, you’re giving yourself the best chance of fighting off or recovering from the virus should you be exposed to it.
1. Wash your hands - like, really wash your hands
Don’t stress if you can’t get your hands on antibacterial wipes or hand sanitisers.
The good news is, nothing beats good old soap and water; washing your hands for at least 30 seconds. A recent study showed that almost 95% of people don’t wash their hands properly. Women are generally better than men but, on average, most people only wash their hands for 6 seconds.
So lather up and wash for a good 20 – 30 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the first verse of Twinkle, twinkle little star.) Most soaps, hand wipes and sanitisers are only antibacterial, not virucidal (kill viruses). Then really, really rinse with loads of warm water (viruses don’t like heat).
Sanitisers are better if they contain at least ⅔ alcohol which is both antibacterial and antiviral.
2. Eat all the colours of the rainbow, Mediterranean style
Having a varied Mediterranean-style, low-carb diet rich in fruit and vegetables of every available colour is the recipe most nutritionists advise to keep living your best health. The wider the variety of colours, the richer the nutrients. Have a look at these mouth-watering 25 Mediterranean recipes from BBC food for some culinary inspiration.
“A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract,” says Dan Peterson, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
One of the best ways to protect yourself against the Coronavirus is by eating well and giving your body the best ammunition you can to stave off infections.
Eating vegetables and fruit – with fibre-rich skins on wherever possible – gives you an army of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that will give you the best protection.
At the very least, try and include these 15 colourful heavyweights in your diet:
- Citrus fruits – rich in Vitamin C which helps fight infections
- Red bell peppers – turbocharged on Vitamin C (even tops citrus).
- Broccoli – packed with A, C and E vitamins antioxidants and fibres. This superpower vegetable is best eaten as raw as possible.
- Garlic – recognised centuries ago as a health wizard in fighting infections. Crush it to release its life-giving compound, Allicin.
- Ginger – known for its antinausea properties, it may help reduce inflammation and sore throats. And it just adds flavour to any dish.
- Spinach – Vitamin C rich and packed with antioxidants and beta-carotene. Cook lightly.
- Greek yoghurt – the live, active culture variety with no added sugar. Flavour with fruit and honey. It’s a good source of Vitamin D, a vital immunity regulator.
- Almonds – rich in Vitamin E, antioxidants and immune boosters. A handful a day should give you your RDA.
- Turmeric – the bright yellow curry spice has a high concentration of Curcumin, a recognised anti-inflammatory, said to treat heart conditions and arthritis.
- Green and red bush teas – packed with antioxidants which enhance immune function and germ-fighting compounds.
- Papaya – rich in minerals and loaded with Vitamin C. Its enzyme papain has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Kiwi – full of minerals, Vitamins C & K. Boosts white blood cells and helps maintain health.
- Poultry – Mom’s chicken soup recipe really is good for you. Chicken and turkey are especially rich in Vitamin B6, which both protect and heal.
- Sunflower seeds – packed with nutrients, Vitamin B6 and the super antioxidant, Vitamin E.
- Shellfish – rich in zinc which is a vital immune booster and also aids the uptake of Vitamin C in our bodies. Crab, lobster and mussels are all good sources.
Supplements: Of course, you can stock up with supplements or effervescent cocktails, but please get advice from your GP before you start as some may interfere with other medication you may be on.
3. Sweet Dreams
“Adequate sleep is the bedrock of your whole immune system,” says Dr Jenna Macciochi, immunologist. “If you’re not sleeping, no other lifestyle measure will make such difference because while we sleep the hormone melatonin stimulates new immune cells.”
Couldn’t agree more. No surer way to upset the balance of your body, mind and soul than with a healthy dose of sleep deprivation. Try and get a good bedtime routine to ‘get you in the mood’ as you wind down at the end of the day. A good meditation app can also help lull you off to dreamland.
4. Mindful Movement
Go for that walk. Do your yoga. Try Tai Chi. Dance like no one’s watching. Stretch. Your body begs it of you.
“Regular and often is the key for exercise and immunity,” says Dr Jenna. “Movement throughout the day is essential for your lymphatic system, which relies on movement and muscle for stimulation.
“It’s essential to helping your immune cells perform their surveillance function of moving around the body fighting germs that might be trying to get inside your tissues.”
Enough said? Love your lymph. Keep it moving.
5. Drink up
Get your minimum of 1 ½ to 2 litres of liquids in per day. This can be water (preferably) and herbal teas. Avoid fizzy drinks, regular tea and coffee, as they’re often diuretics.
Staying hydrated is one of your best defences. It keeps your mucus linings in your respiratory tract moist and more resistant to infection.
“Indeed, if you get dehydrated, it can change the mucus layer in your respiratory tract and your digestive tract that has antibodies that trap germs and stop them getting into your cells”, Dr Jenna says.
6. Get enough vitamin D
Several clinical trials have shown that many people are deficient in this sunny vitamin and adequate levels can help prevent pneumonia, colds and flu.
A recent study in Japan showed how a deficiency of vitamin D is associated with the development of pneumonia. By providing supplements, it may lower the incidence as well as prolong the survival of elderly, especially those in institutions.
As with anything, it is possible to overdose on vitamin D so always check with your doctor and pharmacist on the correct dosages for your needs.
7. Just add zinc
“We can’t make zinc in our bodies, we have to get it from our diets,” says Dr Jenna Macciochi. “Yet it plays a role in hundreds of reactions in our bodies and is extremely important to fighting infection.”
New evidence shows that it’s only helpful to take zinc in the winter months to prevent infections. Again, too much can cause toxicity so check with your pharmacist.
Natural sources of zinc include red meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds and – the good news – dark chocolate.
8. Eat gut-friendly foods to build your immunity
“Your gut bacteria – or microbiome – is crucial to immunity,” says Dr Jenna. ‘This breaks down your food in the digestive tract and produces metabolites known as ‘post-biotics’ that are helpful for our immune systems.”
Some of the trendy – but largely old-fashioned – sources of these are sour dough bread and fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut and drinks like kombucha and kefir.
Once again, homemade and home grown is best. Find an artisan baker who uses old-fashioned unrefined grains for the healthiest options.
9. In garlic we trust
These flavoursome bulbs are rich in allicin, a compound widely studied for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Besides which, they just taste amazing and transform the dullest dishes.
According to Dr Jenna, “allicin is only released when the garlic has been crushed and left to sit for a while, before we use it in cooking.”
For those who can’t do the taste, smell or sight of garlic (yes, sadly, we know you exist), you could try garlic tables, but there are no scientific studies yet to show whether they are effective or not.
Get the Facts
Finally, there is so much hype in the media – every which way we turn. While we can beef up our health to give ourselves the best possible protection, it’s vital to separate the facts from the fiction.