It is one thing to contract Covid-19 and treat it, and our emotional reaction to Covid-19 in March 2020 in NZ may be different from our reaction in August 2020 (so, it’s 5 months already and Covid is still amongst us? Really?). The whole issue is clearly not in the same category as a passing ‘flu. But it is quite another thing to view it as a long-haul issue with no definite end-point and (seemingly) indiscriminate incidence.
However, I contest that view, as evidence shows that it is mainly people with impaired immunity or chronic inflammatory conditions who are most at risk, and these people happen, for the most part (but not solely), to be the older part of our population. But don’t believe that it only hits old people. Half of people hospitalized in France are less than 60 years old, and we’re talking 20+ days of hospitalization with severe pneumonia and lung damage. However, data is not available that tells us what the pre-existing health conditions were, for instance, obesity.
Here is a reminder of who are deemed the people most at risk (HealthMeans):
My previous stance on “focus on building immunity, not on killing the virus” still holds, and as we in New Zealand appear to have contained the virus for now, it is easy to drop our vigilance. However, now is the time to continue and consolidate those healthy habits, or to adopt them if they are not already in place.
Here are a few recommendations to reduce risk and promote immunity:
Gargle and drink green tea. Consuming green tea, in particular gargling it, has been shown to reduce the risk of contracting influenza and the common cold. The tannins in green tea have been shown to have broad antiviral effects topically. Gargling helps coat the mucous membranes in the mouth & throat, which together with the nasal passages are the main points of entry for viruses. If these surfaces are coated with an antiviral substance, there is less likelihood of the virus taking hold. Also, it is known that the coronavirus likes dry surfaces, so keeping our mucous membranes well-hydrated offers some protection.
Stay well-hydrated. One of the questions I always ask my clients is “How much water, or non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic, non-sugary drinks do you have daily?”. About 85% of responses is a wry grin accompanying the answer “Not enough!” We know we should drink somewhere between 6 – 10 glasses per day, depending on our age and circumstance, but we do get caught up in the busy-ness of our days and it is easy to forget. Setting a timer on our phones (or alarm clocks) is one way to prompt us to get up and get a drink.
Taking vitamin D, particularly for people who are vitamin D deficient, reduces the chances of developing acute respiratory infections including influenza. Most studies reviewed used adult doses ranging from 2000IU to 4000IU a day, which is known to be safe to take long term even in the absence of deficiency. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=30675873.
We know that humans can convert sunlight on our skin into vitamin D, and there are two factors currently which directly affect that. The first is that it is winter, and although it is a fairly mild one so far, we are less likely to be baring our arms and legs when outside. The second is that to some extent some people are hesitant to leave their homes and go for walks outside because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is an interesting fact that mushrooms also convert sunlight into vitamin D, which is another good reason to factor mushrooms into the diet (or take medicinal mushrooms as a supplement).
Keep your home above 16°C. Having a cold home reduces respiratory resilience and increases susceptibility to and mortality from respiratory tract infections. This is especially important for people who are elderly, asthmatic or have other chronic/recurrent respiratory conditions.
This is especially true for us in New Zealand, where some of our older homes are inadequately insulated and heated, and perhaps where the people living there do not notice the temperature dropping. It is much harder to heat up a cold house than to maintain the heat.
Get enough sleep (insufficient sleep or waking up frequently through the night can directly affect the immune system).
Maintain a healthy exercise regime to boost endorphins, maintain a healthy weight and pump the lymphatic system to get rid of waste metabolites.
Try to keep stress levels in check.
Socialise as much as you are able, whether it is in person or by phone or Zoom or messaging – it has been shown that social interaction is critical for healthy immune function, whereas isolation and loneliness detract from our immunity. It is physical distance that we need, not emotional.
All of these are integral to your immune system working well.