In these uncertain times, unprecedented in our lifetime, alongside a plethora of conflicting information in relation to the Covid-19 virus, confusion reigns and emotions run high.
It seems inevitable that Australia will follow many other countries in the world and ask us all to self isolate in the near future, and that the situation will likely become worse before it gets better.
We have always been of the view that we have tremendous capacity to heal, given the right conditions, both physiologically and psychologically. Our propensity to succumb to any pathogen, and our ability to recover, very much depends on these conditions, in particular our immune and nervous systems.
Whilst there are varying levels of panic in the community, we all respond in individual ways. For many, this threat to survival has manifested in hysteria, leading to the panic buying of certain items for example, without regard for the impact this may have on others. Our emotional responses will often seem automatic as our thinking brain (cortex) is bypassed to prioritise our survival instincts.
This is a time the community needs to stay connected, work collaboratively and support each other, within the constraints required to slow the transmission sufficiently for our over stretched health care systems to cope and support the most vulnerable.
In one of the hardest hit areas, in the north of Italy, it has been devastating, and yet there have been heart warming stories of love and resilience.
People singing and playing music from the confines of their house arrest, and children drawing rainbows. It is this kind of unity and solidarity that lifts spirits, provides hope and promotes resilience and connection.
Louis Pasteur, known for his work on Germ Theory spent much of his career devoted to identifying the way in which certain pathogens caused disease. At the same time, another scientist, Antoine Béchamp, argued that it was the condition of the body, rather than the germ itself which caused disease. It has been reported that on Pasteur’s deathbed, he admitted to his nephew that he believed the latter theory was correct. We may never know whether this is true, however it is well established that both these theories existed and that the ‘germ as enemy’ philosophy prevailed. Despite the many circulating theories, the annihilation of this particular germ, is the mainstream approach, with little focus on the host. Yet, at the same time, we are told that people with pre-existing conditions, even those with obesity, are at greater risk of severe disease. This relates to the host, or conditions. This is why it is important to do what we can to strengthen the host.
So much is still unknown about this virus. Information on incubation periods and transmission is very inconsistent, severity of illness spans from no symptoms at all to life threatening.
Without proper and extensive testing of both active virus and antibodies, we do not have accurate information. Information on how long this particular virus lives on surfaces is inconsistent and it could be up to several days.
By definition, a pandemic involves a new strain of pathogen, to which the entire population has had no immunity. This accelerates spread, as we have seen. It does not mean our immune systems will not respond as it would against any invading pathogen. Many people have tested positive without exhibiting any symptoms.
Coronaviruses have existed a long time and vary from a common cold to serious respiratory illness. An example is SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which also threatened to become a Pandemic.
What we can do:
- Hygiene practices. Hand washing & sanitising is of course fundamental and a widely publicised message.
- Social isolation…. limit contacts, particularly people who are susceptible to developing severe symptoms such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, particularly respiratory conditions. It is important to also support these people by ensuring that have sufficient supplies via delivery and regularly checking on their welfare. Ideally, when we can identify those who have developed antibodies to this virus, these people would be well placed to support vulnerable people without risk of transmission.
- Definitely stay home if you are unwell. This should always be the case. We need rest to recover and unfortunately it has taken a pandemic to help people realise that exposing others to viruses is not responsible, albeit promoted by ad campaigns such as ‘soldier on’ with cold and flu medications.
- Check on others. People returning from overseas, with empty fridges, have been told without warning that they cannot leave, they cannot have visitors, or they face heavy penalties. The delay on food deliveries is 5 days. Kindness goes a long way in times like these. There are a number of food delivery services providing much needed nourishment to your door. For fellow Sydney siders, we highly recommend Transform Health.
Ways to bolster our immune system:
- Consume whole, nutrient dense food. We know that this is not easy currently with the frenzied shopping happening, however fresh produce still appears to be available. This is a good time to have a supply of nutrient dense superfoods to help fortify our nutrient intake.
- Fresh juices provide a range of nutrients to support our immunity and overall wellbeing.
- Nutrients and phytonutrients. Consuming a range of nutrients is the best way to support your immune system, with bioavailability best achieved by the above methods. There is a body of research demonstrating the role in particular nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and quercetin.
- Include anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory spices such turmeric and ginger.
- Encourage healthy gut flora. A healthy gut microbiome is an essential component of our immune function.
- Have on hand manuka honey, lemon and ginger.
- Salt water throat gargle. This is an often dismissed traditional remedy for sore throats involving mixing salt (approx. 1/2 tsp) into warm water, gargling, then spitting water out. In addition to anecdotal reports and tradition use, a randomised study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine found that this practice was effective in reducing bronchial symptoms. We recommend using a high quality Himalayan salt.
- Stay hydrated.
- Get enough sleep. This is time for restoration and repair for our bodies and minds.
- Emotional regulation. This impacts all of the above. If we are able to regulate and slow down our nervous systems, this will have a profound impact on our immunity, our sleep, our ability to utilise nutrients we are consuming, the health of our gut microbiome and our resilience on a cellular, epigenetic level. Fear and stress increases our cortisol and lowers our immune system, making this a critical time to consider emotional regulation and mindfulness practices.