The fear and anxiety that has been whipped up by the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) is growing daily and fuelled by rising figures of infection worldwide. It’s not something to be ignored, but walking that tightrope between panic (and maybe a little hysteria) and nonchalance (or a shrugging of shoulders) is tricky. Like everyone else I have been glued to news reports and looking at the practical advice given and applying as many of them as I can to ensure I keep well and do my bit to prevent further unnecessary spread of this virus. I take some comfort from the often forgotten news that hundreds and thousands have recovered from flu and other viruses and that you can increase and strengthen your chances for fighting off this ‘attack’ by looking at certain behaviours and your diet.
There are plenty of practical and effective steps to keep you well and your immune system strong in these scary times. Regular hand-washing is vital (and I hope we have all got that message); sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of it safely; foregoing the handshakes, hugs and cheek kissing is another – and other UK Government advice about seeking help (see here with a question and answer format). If you’re not from the UK much of the advice is helpful but check your own authorities websites.
There are a few others which I shall be adding and they may be something to also consider as a WLS patient. I am no medic so they are what I think are sensible precautions and not designed to override any medical advice your GP or medical practitioner might advise. If you find yourself unwell then do contact them for medical advice. But here they are:
Take Your Protective Vitamins
There are so many vitamins that are responsible for immune health and not taking them means you are at risk. I shall continue to take my usual bariatric formulation but also ensure my diet has plenty of vitamin C and D.
Vitamin C is a master anti-oxidant and cannot be made in the body (which is why it is classed as an essential one). I want my levels to be optimum during this time so am ensuring my diet has plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Low levels of vitamin D can weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to viruses and infections. Clinical trials showed that taking vitamin D reduces the odds of developing a respiratory infection by about 42% (2017 Martineau study on vitamin D supplementation). I shall be using my Vitamin D spray as a boost for this.
I know that sleep if you’re anxious isn’t easy to lock-down but it’s precisely sleep (and plenty of it) that fuels our immune cells (also called T-cells) and they help to fight infection at the frontline. The good news is that it’s free! Try and make it a priority at the moment to give yourself the best chance of staying well. I am limiting screen time (especially before bedtime); leaving my devices out of the bedroom; following a good clean bedtime regime to relax and then sliding between the sheets for a good 8 hours nightly. If you wish to read about some other ideas for a better night’s sleep then read here.
Gut Health & Food
This is a topic I have been reading a good deal about just recently and most timely because almost 80% of the immune system is found in our gut, so supporting the balance in the mircobiome is important. This is also where many many WLS patients might feel compromised.
Ways to encourage a healthy ecosystem in your gut include:
- eating fermented foods like ‘live’ yogurts, kefir, kombucha, miso, kimchi and other fermented foods – I have started to make some of my own – like sauerkraut.
- adding an effective probiotic to your diet – there are plenty around to choose from
- eating what our dietitians call ‘the food rainbow’ – fruit and vegetables across the spectrum which will also keep fibre levels high (that also feed the good bugs). Eating whole foods rather than processed will also help – so get cooking as much from scratch as you can.
Keep your immunity up by drinking plenty of water to stave off infection. Staying hydrated helps your body to naturally eliminate toxins and other bacteria that cause illness. Water also helps to carry oxygen to your body cells, which results in properly functioning systems so keep up the fluids!
Numerous research studies have shown that excess intake of alcohol can tamper with the immune system in a swift manner. Drinking 3 or more alcoholic drinks can decrease the ability of immune cells to multiply, function and fight bateria, viruses, fungi and parasites. So keep the booze to a moderate or low level.
Clean Your Hands
Hand-washing as has been said is one of the most effective and protective actions you can take and better than ready-made hand sanitisers. The latter are only about 60-70% as effective as soap and water. But there are times when you can’t get to a sink, you’re on the move or want a personal formulation that gives you security or puts your mind at rest.
I haven’t been able to locate any on sale anywhere local to me – shelves have been stripped bare, people are stock-piling and stocks are being grabbed well before they reach any outlets. Shame really because everyone’s health depends upon us all staying safe not just the stock-piling few. Those without any can still continue to pass on the virus so it’s a shortsighted reaction.
So I have resorted to making my own with some rubbing alcohol and some vitamin E oil or Aloe Vera Gel. You’ll need 60 ml/4 tbsp rubbing alcohol to 30 ml/2 tbsp vitamin E oil or Alo Vera Gel. if you want something a bit more pampering then add a few drops of essential oil (like rosemary or lemon). Mix in a bowl, top up to 100 ml/4 fl oz/ scant ½ cup with boiled, filtered water then pour through a funnel into a small spray bottle. I find this makes 5 x 30 ml/2 tbsp bottles which will keep up to about 1 year. According to the medical world, as long as you hit the 60% mark with the alcohol then they are pretty effective in preventing viruses being passed on in this way.
Get Some Fresh Air
You may want to curb contact in crowds or big events but don’t forego the walks, runs and taking some exercise in the open air. All of these are proven ways to improve immunity and I would vouch for the fact they reduce anxiety levels too. I am taking advice from my Spa about safety precautions of visiting there – check out your own for their advice on visiting and practices to follow.
Manage Your Stress
Not so easy I know but chronic stress suppresses the immune response of the body by releasing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol interferes with the the immune cells to reproduce and receive signals from the body. Cortisol also reduces an antibody that lines the gut and respiratory tract – our first line of defence against pathogens. I’m trying to reduce mine with some exercise, meditation and breathing exercises.
Contact with others is also helpful and whilst you might not feel like skipping along to your face-to-face support group at this time, do engage in on-line support or by phoning a friend so that you don’t become isolated in a bad way.
A Final Word …
You may well think some of the measures imposed by authorities across the globe are ‘over the top’ but I personally don’t think this is the time to dispute these measures. They may be based on models that are questionable but we know very little about this virus so I, for one, will bow to greater knowledge from those who know more.
Now is the time to be patient, kind, generous and responsible – and as a community, to set a dignified and effective standard for other groups to follow to prevent the coronavirus’ relentless spread. I also know that optimism has advantages – it helps you to succeed, to carry on when others give up, and it even boosts your health. Let’s Keep Calm and Stay Well during these challenging times.