In these uncertain times of the Covid-19 epidemic, uncertainty and anxiety can cause us to forget the basics that keep us healthy and well. Following is a rundown of a few things to harness any runaway anxiety, and build resilience, stronger defences and lung health.
The main common symptoms of Covid-19 virus are:
– Dry cough and scratchy throat
– Shortness of breath
There is also a risk of developing pneumonia in people who are elderly, have co-morbidity (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disease), or are immuno-compromised.
So what can you do during this period of social isolation?
First things first, being in a prolonged state of fear and anxiety is very detrimental to our immune systems as it will excite excessive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline. Short bursts of these hormones with acute stress (minutes to hours) generally help our immune system fight infection and inflammation. However, when stress levels are sustained longer than a few hours, these hormones deplete us, and the immune system becomes exhausted, opening us to risk of infection. Also, as people age, they are less able to mount appropriate immune responses to stressors.
Therefore, to mitigate such fear and anxiety, perhaps focus on the beauty of the present, the simple things of daily life. Take a deep breath and pause and really notice what is around you. Step outside into the fresh air and breathe deeply to oxygenate lungs, slow the heart rate down and switch the nervous system from the fight or flight response to the restful and rejuvenating parasympathetic pathway. This instantly shuts off the cortisol response.
Speaking of going outside, sit in the sun for 10 mins every day to maximise Vitamin D3, as a deficiency will increase susceptibility to infection. Studies gave indicated that vitamin D supplementation was safe and protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall. Patients who were very vitamin D deficient experienced the most benefit. If you are in colder areas and sun is not really an option, then it is advisable to supplement under the guidance of a health professional.
Our bodies can’t make Vitamin C nor can they store it, so it must be consumed in the diet. To use vitamin C as a preventive measure we need to consume a minimum of 200mg a day. However, it can be challenging to get adequate daily amounts in comparison to supplementing. Most adults will tolerate 1000mg, a recommended dose for fighting infection (to give you an idea, an orange contains 52mg).
A plethora of studies show that vitamin C can reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections. Therapeutic doses of vitamin C (over 1000mg) is capable of relieving chest pain, fever, and chills, as well as shortening the time of confinement during the common cold.
Vitamin C contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system and supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and microbes.
Then there is zinc, which is thought to help decrease susceptibility to acute lower respiratory tract infections (like pneumonia) by regulating various immune functions, including protecting the health and integrity of the respiratory cells during lung inflammation or injury. This means that zinc may help prevent Covid-19 from infecting the lungs and causing fibrosis (where lung tissue becomes scarred and thickened).
Zinc-rich foods are shellfish, meats, vegetables, oily fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and dark chocolate. A tablespoon of pumpkin seeds each day or sardines on toast 3 times a week will do it.
Vitamin A, another favourite for immunity and it also builds and repairs lung tissue. Vitamin A cannot be synthesised by our bodies so it needs to be consumed regularly. It is currently the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with higher incidence of asthma and emphysema and maintaining vitamin A status in these diseases has shown to preserve lung function. In Covid-19, lung pathology places people in the high-risk category.
Foods rich in this nutrient and help strengthen the lungs are apples, apricots, eggs, chicken and turkey, organic beef liver, broccoli, dark leafy greens, yellow and orange fruit and vegetables.
Garlic contains natural antiviral compounds. Ginger is also a contender and is easy to make a delicious tea with honey and lemon – perfect for any cold and flu. Both ginger and garlic have potent anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, garlic inhibited the growth of infectious bronchitis virus (another Coronavirus). Ginger has been shown to help with breathlessness and also fight respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of respiratory infections.
How’s your sleep? Your immune system requires at least 7-8 hours a night to replenish. Catch zeds, not infections.
Last but not least – WATER! Drink loads of it, at least 7-8 cups a day. This keeps your mucus membranes moist and more resistant to infection and becomes even more important if you do become unwell. Your body is healthy only if you are hydrated.
And remember to wash hands thoroughly, cough into your elbow or a tissue, stay home if you are sick or experiencing any signs of sickness, and follow recommended advice from your state health authorities.
Stay well, stay strong, stay calm… and don’t forget to help each other!
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