It’s hard to know whether we should be overly worried or not – there’s a lot of conflicting media noise out there about the coronavirus, or COVID-19. There are many articles citing much higher numbers of deaths daily, worldwide, from pneumonia, or malaria, for example, but also valid reporting on the virility of this particular strain of coronavirus.
When you hear reports from medical staff on the frontline, you know it’s serious. And people are dying, so we can’t underestimate it, understanding what we do about how it’s spreading, and fast. But, we do need to keep perspective. A vast majority of people will just get mild flu symptoms, or even be asymptomatic, and get better. Those affected seriously, and fatally, are elderly and/or have underlying health conditions.
New information is coming out all the time. For example, reports show those with high blood pressure are more at risk. Researchers are now examining whether a common class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure might be playing a role. These drugs — known as Ace inhibitors — reduce blood pressure by interacting with a receptor on the surface of a patient’s cells. The coronavirus uses the same Ace receptor, which plays a critical role in governing water content of the blood, to lock on to cells and infiltrate them.
I think what we do know is, that like regular, plain old influenza and straight up pneumonia, people can die. These are the more vulnerable members of our society, so we shouldn’t all panic, but we do have a social and moral duty to look after those more vulnerable by preventing the spread of disease as much as we can. The main problem is that unnecessary deaths will occur purely because the hospitals and emergency services may get overwhelmed if we all get it at once. There simply won’t be enough ventilators for one (machines that take over the work of the heart and lungs while the body recovers), which can mean the difference between life and death. So, by preventing the spread as much as possible, we protect the vulnerable, and delay and reduce the pandemic proportions so that hopefully we can cope as a nation, and as a world.
And for those that are parents and carers, we also want to know what we can do to help keep our families and loved ones as healthy as possible.
We are all now well (Happy Birthday) versed in hand washing for front-line prevention. This really works. According to one study, only 70 percent of people wash their hands at all after using the toilet in the airport. And of those who did, only 50 percent, so 35 percent total of people after using the toilet, washed their hands correctly using both water and soap and washing for at least 20 seconds. Waving your fingers vaguely under the tap for a couple of seconds is pointless people – yes, I see this ALL the time…
So how do you wash your hands properly? My eldest daughter is training to be a midwife and she’s been teaching all of us! Wet your hands with clean running water, and then apply soap. You can turn off the tap at this point and save water. Rub your hands together until it lathers well. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. The friction is a major factor in removing microbes. As a timer, make like Boris, and sing the Happy Birthday song from beginning to end twice. 20 seconds is a lot longer than you realise. Then rinse your hands under clean running water, and dry them using a clean towel or air-dry them.
This is good general practice at any time to prevent the spread of infection. But please don’t worry about antibacterial soaps as that’s part of what’s got us here in the first place… regular soap is perfect, and a bar soap is kinder on the environment. If you can’t wash your hands then an alcohol based hand sanitiser of at least 60% alcohol is the next best thing.
Following your country’s guidelines for self isolation, and ‘social distancing’ in general is a good idea in this outbreak of course. But, as most of us will likely get some form of the virus, is it worth a collapse in the economy, with the knock on effects to quality of life and health, if we don’t invest in local businesses at all, by hiding, scared? I won’t be visiting my (getting on for) elderly parents and mother-in-law right now, but I will frequent local businesses, keeping a polite distance for now.
We should also be mindful of keeping active, and getting outside if we can, or airing our homes if we can’t. Sitting and stagnating in fear is not going to help your immune system to cope with any potential virus or other infection. Stress is a major player in all the chronic conditions becoming more prevalent in society.
Loneliness is also a risk factor for ill health. We should be mindful of maintaining connection with family, friends and colleagues, and not marginalising people without real cause, and looking out for neighbours who may feel lonely.
So, politics and social behaviour aside… What else isn’t being talked about in the mainstream media so much? Good nutrition and sleep! I watched a lady in the supermarket the other day, stockpiling processed foods, discussing keeping her family fed in the crisis with the cashier. The whole conveyor belt was laden with sweets, chocolate, sugary cereal, fizzy drinks, and all manner of processed meals – packet macaroni and cheese, even packet rice (surely with some self isolation there may be time for some real cooking??). Not a vegetable or protein source in sight. What’s one of the reasons death rates are higher in developing countries? Malnutrition. The best way to protect yourself from ill health is to provide the body all the essential nutrients it needs to fight disease. Did you know the mineral Zinc helps to prevent replication of viruses? You don’t find that in the sweet aisle, you find it in real, whole foods, like red meat, shellfish, pumpkin seeds and chickpeas. I’m not criticising this lady, this was not an entirely unusual trolley full, merely pointing out the contradictions, and how far many of us have come from healthy living. I imagine, if her house is anything like mine, wrestling iPads out of tired little hands and encouraging sleep is hard too.
So, what can we do practically, in our homes and family units? It’s far better to be proactive, than feel helpless and worry.
- Sleep 7-8 hours a night for an adult. Toddlers need around 12 hours of sleep a night; children aged three to six, 10-12 hours; seven to twelve years olds, 10-11 hours; and teenagers, around 8-9 hours.
- Eat whole, real, unprocessed foods wherever possible, including at least 7 servings of vegetables and fruit (a serving is around 80g), and a palm sized, good quality serving of protein at every meal, plus healthy fats and whole grains. The Alliance for Natural Health have a wonderful graphic Food4health-adultplate which you can also access through their website, along with other useful resources. Specific foods like garlic, ginger and fresh herbs serve as anti-microbials and anti-virals, with many benefits for proper functioning of the immune system. Raw honey too – and this is an easy one to persuade the kids to have a daily spoonful of!
- Keep hydrated with plenty of filtered water. How much is plenty? More than you think! Divide your weight in kg by 30. The answer is the number of litres you should be drinking per day.
- Keep active. Get outside in nature for a walk, or run, if you can. If you are stuck indoors there are plenty of videos online with workouts to suit all ages and fitness levels. Yoga is a fantastic all rounder that not only keeps you strong and fit, but reduces stress and encourages deep breathing which oxygenates the body and has a myriad of other benefits, including returning the body to it’s rest and repair state, allowing the body to heal itself. I like Yoga with Adriene, and she also has plenty of videos on You Tube for free.
As a preventative measure it really helps to supplement too, especially as the quality of the soil and produce isn’t always as it was, plus demands on the body are higher, increasing daily need for micronutrients. These are vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients that serve as cogs in the wheels of the body’s repair and defend mechanisms.
For general, preventative viral support I’d recommend:
- Vitamin C powder with bioflavonoids 2g (1g child) split dose
- Vitamin A 5000ius (2500iu child)
- Zinc 25mg (15-20mg child)
- Probiotics – a good multi-strain of at least 10 billion
- (NB children aged 2-5 – Vit C 300-400mg, Vit A 2500iu on alternate days, Zinc 7-10mg, 100mg)
Then when cold/virus symptoms start, double or triple the dose for just 4 or 5 days.
You can also try the below (however, I would recommend seeing a specialist practitioner or Naturopath, for these more specialist interventions – all of whom will see people via online video):
- Medicinal mushrooms – chaga, cordyceps, and reishi (try Hifas Da Terra or Myco Nutri)
- Herbs – elderberry syrup (another palatable one for kids, try Pukka Herbs), olive leaf extract, liquorice, polygonium, kudzu, Chinese skullcap (try Baldwins suppliers)
- Aromatherapy – lemon, lavender, thyme, cinnamon, clove, frankincense, eucalyptus, oregano, rosemary (diffuse in your home, doTerra are a pure, therapeutic brand)
- Homeopathy – Aconite (early phase, sudden onset of symptoms, sensation of heat in the chest, fever alternating with chills), Eupatorium (bone/body aches and pains, great thirst for cold drinks, raw chest, high fever), Bryonia (dryness of mucous membranes, great thirst for warm drinks, hard, deep, painful cough), Gelsemium (extreme fatigue and weakness, heaviness to the body, especially the head, emptiness in chest, pre existing heart problems), Arsenicum (advanced stage, extreme chilliness, anxiety, restlessness, burning in throat and chest, better for sitting upright, difficult, laboured breathing) (try Helios Homeopathy, and ask for potency 30c in no. 6 sucrose pills)
Chris Kresser, a leading functional medicine practitioner in the US, passed on some herbal formulas in a very good, recent podcast (also the source of my airport hand washing data). It’s well worth a read in general, but he also cited the herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner and his referenced article Herbal Treatment for Coronavirus Infections, and this was his summary:
Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Botanical Formula
For this formula, you’ll need to combine:
- Three parts Cordyceps
- Two parts Angelica sinensis
- One part Rhodiola
- One part Astragalus
Take one teaspoon of this formula three times per day for protection against infection. Take one teaspoon six times per day if you’re experiencing symptoms.
Shuang-Huang-Lian Antiviral Formula
For this formula, you’ll need to combine:
- Two parts Forsythia suspensa (also known as lian qiao or weeping forsythia plant)
- One part Lonicera japonica (also called jin yin hua or Japanese honeysuckle)
- One part Scutellaria baicalensis (also known as huang qin or Chinese skullcap)
Take both formulas in conjunction with each other if you suspect you have a virus.
I hope all of this helps, and you feel you have some power back. I am giving all of the basic supplements to my family, plus some medicinal mushrooms, a herbal formula and I diffuse essential oils throughout the home. If you choose to use any of the above with your family, please remember that not all herbs and oils are suitable for all, especially the very young and the pregnant, and that professional advice is always preferred.
And the best way to fight infection going forward? Keep well, by getting the basics right and ensuring that you and your family eat well, stay active, sleep enough and manage stress as much as possible. Try not to let the media deluge engulf you, and come up for air, with a good, deep abdominal breath! 6 feet away from anyone else perhaps….
None of this advice is intended to replace primary, medical care, but to help with resilience, for prevention, or adjunct care. Please refer to the NHS website, and if you cannot get help online, call 111, if you need medical help and think you have COVID-19 symptoms.
The coronavirus knows no race, we are all in this together, blame won’t help anyone.