How to enhance your immune system during the virus COVID-19 crisis


Amidst all the uncertainty, concern, fear and panic about Coronavirus (COVID-19), we need to focus on what we CAN DO to help our immune system function optimally so it can fight off any infections effectively.

I like to help my patients make simple lifestyle changes to enhance their wellbeing. Here are my holistic tips for creating a stronger immune system to help keep viruses and bacteria at bay.

Eat more immune boosting foods

As always, eating plenty of fresh vegetable and fruit is key. Specific vitamins and minerals essential to proper immune system functioning include:

Vitamin C - high in peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, papaya, oranges, strawberries and pineapple.

Vitamin D - in wild salmon, sardines, fish liver oil, full fat dairy products and eggs. It’s also derived from the sun and this form is thought to circulate for twice as long as that from food or supplements so it’s best to spend at least 15 minutes a day outside with some of your skin exposed to the sun. Light boxes can be useful in the winter months.

Zinc - high in oysters, crab, lobster, beef, chicken, cheese, kidney beans, chickpeas, cashews, and almonds.

Also eat 1-3 cloves of raw garlic per day. It’s anti viral and immune boosting. It must be raw because when heated the active ingredient (allicin) is destroyed. You can make garlic bread / toast or a bruschetta. You can add minced garlic to a salad dressing, sauce or mixed in with vegetables. You can even pop in your smoothie for a boost.

There are many herbs that have immune enhancing and anti viral qualities. You could try any or a mix of the following easy to get herbs in your cooking or as a tea: Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Lemon Balm, Calendula (Marigold), Elderberry, Licorice root ( not if you have high blood pressure) and Ginger.

To make Tea with FRESH HERBS

  • Place a few sprigs / leaves / berries or slices into a cup or teapot / cafetière.

  • Pour over boiling water and ensure you put a lid on the pot or cover your cup with a saucer (this keeps all the essential oils in).

  • Allow to steep for a minimum of 5 minutes.

  • Drink as is or add a slice of lemon and some honey ( locally produced is best).

To make Tea with DRIED HERBS

In a cup

  • Place 1 teaspoon of the dried herb into a tea ball.

In a pot

  • Place 1 teaspoon per amount of cups you are making into the po.t

Then

  • Pour over boiling water and ensure you put a lid on the pot or cover your cup with a saucer (this keeps all the essential oils in).

  • Allow to steep for a minimum of 5 minutes.

  • Drink as is or add a slice of lemon and some honey ( locally produced is best).

  • Remember the therapeutic dose is 2-3 cups per day.

Tip: sugar suppresses your immune system so try to reduce it as much of it as possible and this includes limiting or avoiding alcohol.

Move your body every day

Regular moderate exercise has been shown to improve the activity of natural killer cells and thus your immune function. So go for a walk, take the stairs, do some gardening, stretch or dance around your living room or follow an exercise class online.

Schedule in daily relaxation time

We often feel too busy to take time out for rest but it is essential to help fight off infections. Simple ways to do this include: listening to music or a podcast when commuting; take a walk at lunch time; take a tea break and simply sip your drink and do nothing else; have an aromatherapy bath before bed; write in a journal; practice yoga or tai chi; or work on a hobby.

Make sleep a priority

Seven to nine hours restorative sleep is essential to keep your immune system functioning well. Top tips are:

  • Turn off devices at least an hour before bed and dim all the lights in your environment.

  • Try an herbal tea one to two hours before bed. For Sleep onset try Valerian, Passionflower, Withania, Lime blossom or Zizyphus. To stay asleep try Valerian, St John’s wort or Skullcap. For anxiety have Lemon Balm, Chamomile or Skullcap.

  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark and devices out.

  • Sleep on your left side for better restorative sleep. It keeps the airways clear and supports brain clearing. Sleeping on your back is also beneficial as it distributes weight evenly to prevent you waking up in the night from pain.

If you are feeling anxious and worried about the virus crisis consider:

  • Homeopathy to help your body find its own peace and equilibrium. Google Registered Homeopaths in your area.

  • Flower essences to support emotional re-balancing. Googles flower essence practitioners in your area.

  • Listening to a guided meditation to help you to let go of worries and relax your body before bed. Look in the App store for Calm or Headspace. Or try Arianna Huffington's sleep meditation sound track.

Be diligent with your hygiene

Follow this NHS advice:

Do

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds.

  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work.

  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.

  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.

  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Don’t

  • Touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

Use essential oils

You can also use anti viral and anti bacterial essential oils for wiping hands and surfaces.

For hands, mix a few drops into a hand cream or aloe vera gel. For cleaning surfaces, mix a few drops into a spray bottle with water. Effective oils are lemon, thyme, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, pine, clove, peppermint and Cinnamon.

Always seek a qualified Medical Herbalist before using herbs.

Always check how the herb or supplement interacts with any medication you are taking.

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