With Covid-19 impacting everyone, it is more important than ever to keep fit and healthy. We ask local experts how to look after our immune systems
By Sophia Charalambous
During the current health crisis there is an ever more urgent need to boost our natural immune systems.
Covid-19, or Coronavirus, is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs and airways, but it is said that immunity boosting can help defend against pathogens, bacteria and viruses.
The typical coronavirus infection is short-lived, with symptoms such as a new, persistent cough, fever, aches and pains and a general feeling of being unwell.
Fake advice regarding coronavirus such as being able to hold your breath for ten seconds without coughing is quickly being dispelled, but other than social distancing, there are other precautionary measures that can be put in place to avoid illness altogether.
The Organic Pharmacy‘s senior homeopath, Lisa Granditer, offers a general overview of how to boost immunity amidst the crisis: “Personal hygiene is essential, and try to stay active, which is good for your circulation, and exercise whenever you can to keep the lungs strong.
“Dehydration can compromise immunity, so drink plenty of water which can also be in the form of hot drinks and eat fresh food whenever possible, with plenty of fruit and veg, herbs and spices such as turmeric and black pepper, ginger, garlic.
“Regular meals to maintain blood sugar levels and regular sleep are also important to wellbeing, and supplements can also help to boost immunity.”
Supplements have become a hot topic of conversation, with Vitamin D and Zinc being recommended for immunity and magnesium for stress, but one that is always cited is Vitamin C, which is best absorbed in its natural form.
Euan MacLennan, Herbal Director at Pukka Herbs and Medical Herbalist says: “Vitamin C plays an important part in our immune function by improving the activity of some white blood cells such as ‘natural killer cells’ and also allows our immune system to communicate and coordinate its attack against invaders.
“It is responsible for hundreds of processes within our body, some are minor and others are crucial, for example, vitamin C is used by our body to make proteins which are the building blocks for many of our tissues and organs.”
Stress is an overlooked depressor of the immune system – it is said to increase your susceptibility to infection, so it is important to reduce it as much as possible.
Dr Nish Joshi, who founded the Joshi Clinic on Wimpole Street in 2002, who takes a holistic approach to healthcare and is now offering digital consultations, suggests naturally increasing serotonin levels to reduce the metabolic effects of stress.
His Balancing Act supplement contains 5 Hydroxytrptophan which is an amino acid precursor to serotonin.
He says: “We had very similar levels of stress during the financial crash and many people manoeuvred a path for their future that could be perhaps more weatherproof and able to sustain such calamities.
“I am sure that if we were to approach the stress levels on yourself from a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) perspective, the initial step would be to accept the situation and find ways to move forwards.
“Write down your thoughts before sleep to help clear your head, use aromatherapy oils to create a relaxing atmosphere, play softly in the background a sound that relaxes you such as a beach.
“Try to avoid taking B vitamins and Vitamin C at night as they can stimulate you, thus affecting your sleep pattern.”
The gut is another key area to consider in immunity defence as more than 70 per cent of our immune system is located in the gut. Symprove is a water-based food supplement, providing a source of beneficial bacteria as well as nourishing existing microbiomes.
Nutritional therapist for Symprove, Eve Kalinik says: “The barrier of the gut separates the external world to our internal one and it is your gut that decides what is allowed to pass into the body so it needs to have a very intimate relationship with the immune system.
“This also depends on the health of the gut microbiome (all of the trillions of microbes that live in the gut and their genetic material) and the substances they produce to help to manage and support a robust immune system.”
Gastroenterologist and consultant for Welbeck Health, Dr Lisa Das, explains that the makeup of our microbiome is individual to us, constantly changing and adapting and sensitive to diet and stress.
She says: “In this unprecedented Covid 19 pandemic we’re all experiencing some stress, anxiety and fear.
“It is too early to know the effects of Covid 19 on our microbiome, but we can make active efforts at optimising our immunity.”
One of the areas Dr Lisa specifically mentions is sleep.
“Sleep deprivation is similar to over drinking in its effects on our brain,” she adds. “Sleep is inherent to the normal functioning of our immune system.”
Sleep significantly decreases the body’s ability to defend itself against pathogens.
Dr Jenna Macciochi, one of the UK’s leading immunologists adds: “Specialised viral fighting cells called ‘natural killer’ cells are one of our first lines of defence against the cold and flu.
“Just one bad night’s sleep can make the numbers of the cells plummet by 70 per cent.”