Coronavirus is now known as SARS-CoV-2 or Novel Coronavirus or more by the disease it causes in humans “COVID-19” emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The rapid spread of the virus caught the world off guard as it exploited a few fundamental ways in which we interact as human beings.
The first problem we faced was the cognitive dissonance toward “threats” that affect “other people”. This simple misunderstanding saw a silent spread through many asymptomatic carriers passing the virus on to other carriers with the disastrous impacts on immunocompromised individuals and the elderly.
Mainstream reports including that of the World Health Organisation recognise that there is no present pharmaceutical or immunization solution for COVID-19. Which meant that “lockdown” self-quarantine, restricted human to human contact coupled with elevated hygiene protocols are still one of the best courses of action to slow the spread of the virus.
The virus will ubiquitously ascend through all strata of our society until our immune systems have built their natural defences or we develop a vaccine for it.
The vast majority of the people catching COVID-19 fully recover, without needing medical attention and only experience “mild flu-like” symptoms, unfortunately, this “mildness” is also what perpetuates the spread.
Dr Stephen Gluckman an infectious diseases expert and director of Penn Global Medicine.
“Coronaviruses aren’t new, they’ve been around for a long, long time and many species – not just humans – get them,” he explained. “So we know a fair amount about coronaviruses in general. For the most part, the feeling is once you’ve had a specific coronavirus, you are immune. We don’t have enough data to say that with this coronavirus, but it is likely.”
This likely means that people who initially recovered may relapse rather than get reinfected with the virus. According to one study, people with mild infections can test positive for the virus by throat swabs “for days and even weeks after their illness”.
But, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to contract the disease again, especially in those who may be immunocompromised.
“The immune response to Covid-19 is not yet understood,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains. “Patients with MERS-CoV infection are unlikely to be reinfected shortly after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with Covid-19.”
And, as WHO states, “As of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.”
Flattening The Curve in South Africa
While there are many new reports of new findings of COVID-19 the universal intent these communications to date is about managing the impact that the virus will have on global healthcare systems for the +-10% of COVID-19 patients that do require medical attention. “Flattening the curve” is about limiting the contention for bed space in hospitals where the demand for respiratory equipment and medical resources will exceed the supply.
What is largely missing from the media’s attention is the pivotal role that your immune system plays in protecting you from all viral outbreaks.
In ensuring your immune system functions optimally you are able to naturally fit into the vast majority of cases +95% of people who only experience mild symptoms without needing any hospitalisation or direct medical intervention and hopefully recover with no lasting effects of the virus.
Contracting COVID-19 is not the plague, it is much like the flu, stay home in self-isolation and ensure that you are not contributing to the rest of societies infection curve is the bottom line. The contagious nature of this particular virus is that people are spreading it without having symptoms or knowing that they even have it and that is what caught the world off guard.
The human immune system over the millennia has learned to deal with many “novel” viruses of this nature, that is what the immune system essentially does. When a new or “novel” virus comes along the immune system kicks in and learns how to deal with the intruder with its own antibodies.
Learning about how your immune system functions not only for COVID-19 recovery but also for your greater experience as a healthy human being could never go amiss.
This post is thus dedicated to ensuring you can prepare your immune system for operating optimally.
Magical Vitamin C
When many people think about “immune system boosters” the go-to default is Vitamin C. Families doctors, friends and coworkers have been advocates for decades on the merits of Vitamin C however there are many modern studies to cast conjecture onto the efficacy of Vitamin C being used as an immune system booster.
So much so that the Linus Pauling Institute (An institute dedicated largely to Vitamin C advocacy and research issued this public service statement).
“there currently are no available data to show vitamin C can prevent or successfully treat COVID-19 infections.”
We are among the few animals that do not produce ascorbic acid in our own bodies naturally, and we need it in our diet or we land up with diseases like scurvy which is directly caused by Vitamin C deficiency.
Most institutes involved in Vitamin C research conclude their findings along the lines of.
“As long as you consider the evidence, and adjust your expectations accordingly, there doesn’t appear to be much harm in reaching for some vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on.” –
The bottom line is that taking Vitamin C in isolation to build your resistance to Coronavirus, will leave you short stacked in the fight, yet as a valid dietary supplement, it’s probably not going to cause you any harm.
You have more ability to influence viral resistance than you have been led to believe.
In an age of consumerism, pharmaceuticals, mainstream media hysteria; we seem to have forgotten how beautifully intelligent, powerful and instrumental our minds bodies are in creating a healing and protective environment that we call “ourselves”. In summary your immune system does not exist in isolation of you. It is systemically part of many environmental, social, physical and emotional ecosystems that makes up you.
In spite of millions of articles and pharmaceutical claims, we still can’t preemptively “boost our immune system” with a tablet. To boost your immune system you need to start address your full ecosystem. Immune system “boosting” really comes down to mindfully and candidly addressing your individual thoughts and behaviours which will influence and allow your immune system to function unhindered.
By making meaningful, conscious and sustainable lifestyle changes, you will be able to shed behaviour patterns and routines that are detrimental to your greater wellbeing. The most meaningful change starts from within you being willing to trust in yourself and making holistic decisions about your health.
Stress elevates the bodies production of cortisol and adrenalin which over time negatively impacts the normal functionining of many bodily systems including your immune system.
Outside of dietary supplements; our environment, thoughts, beliefs and emotions play an intrinsic role in your physical health through your immune and nervous systems ability to function correctly.
This means that both systems must to function optimally when they needed and then stop working when they are not required to.
In other words, both systems fire up if the body needs to protect itself. This happens through a complex series communications and responses depending on the threats at hand. However when remaining in fired up states unnecessarily or over extended periods of time can have detrimental consequences to the body.
Unfortunately most of this biologically automatic and we cannot consciously influence the responses between our nervous and immune systems.
This layman observation that stressed people get sick more often than unstressed people and take longer to recover is almost stating the obvious, but it’s true and does not end there. Stress is the underlying factor in the widest range of illnesses that cause people to see a doctor. As a society we have become accustomed to living in high stress environments and thus our ability to self-soothe our responses has become somewhat obscured.
If we classify stress into 3 tangible categories that each need specific attention when they arise wellbeing.
- Physical stress: Accidents, injuries, surgery and other physical traumas such as physical abuse e.t.c
- Chemical stress: Bacteria, viruses, hormones, toxins, hangovers, disease, blood sugar levels, serotonin levels e.t.c
- Emotional stress: Relationship issues, family tragedy, divorce, societal perceptions, death, incarceration, emotional abuse, work issues e.t.c
Most of these stressors activate the adrenal and nervous systems to enable you to respond when threatened in what commonly referred to as the fight, flight or freeze response. However in the case of the immune system where viruses and bacteria are stressing the body from the inside, the working mechanics are far beneath our conscious understanding.
This is where science and belief tend to merge and the most obvious solutions are the ones we already know and so often neglect. Healthy diet, exercise, sleep, emotional stability and spirituality or belief systems.
Dr. Kelly Turner New York Times best-selling author of the book Radical Remission documented 1,500 remission cases where patients had recovered from life-threatening illnesses that Western medicine was not able to treat.
Her research digested to 75 common factors that could account for these seemingly miraculous healing scenarios. The most consistent factors throughout her research cycle included the following key points that are the focal point of her book, docuseries and online courseware.
- Changing your diet
- Taking control of your health
- Following your intuition
- Using herbs and supplements
- Releasing suppressed emotions
- Increasing positive emotions
- Embracing social support
- Deepening your spiritual connection
- Having strong reasons for living
Dr Turners research is not entirely unique and many of them play into the roots of psychology and using the mind to make sustainable healthy life choices and discontinue bad routines. This starts with gut health, adequate sleep, oxygen, self-reflection practices, social support, nervous system coherence and exercise.
Building from the inside out starts with gut health and mental health, being mindful of routines and intuitively changing them into a format that works for you.
Scientists have long recognised that individuals that live in poverty or are malnourished are far more vulnerable to infectious diseases and more likely to need medical attention. Taking a daily multivitamin supplement may bring many other greater health benefits and possibly benefit the immune system. However, taking a single vitamin does not address the spectrum of all the body needs.
In the first factor for changing your diet, most people Turner interviewed reduced or eliminated their sugar, meat, dairy, and refined foods consumption while increasing fruits and vegetables. Gut health focus ensures that the right nutrients are going into the body to sustain a well human being.
A good example of this gut health and nutrition is serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that affects your mood. Much like ascorbic acid not being naturally produced in the body. Serotonin (fundamental to controlling mood and soothing from stress) requires the introduction of the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is absorbed from foods such as salmon, milk, eggs, spinach, nuts, seeds, chicken, cheese, turkey and soy products. Neglecting healthy foods that contain Tryptophan will result in a lack of serotonin and the minds automatic nosedive into lethargy and depression. This simple example demonstrates one of many systemic dependencies where food influences mood.
Optimise Your Gut Health
Go green and eat your vegetables, some fruits, seeds, nuts, and roots. Be mindful when you consume naturally addictive foods with high salt, wheat/flour or sugar content. Limit, reduce or completely remove alcohol from your diet it does not serve any value to gut your health. Choose alkalising drinks such as herbal tea as opposed to drinking coffee; to cleanse the digestive system and optimise your metabolism. Include gluten-free diet days in the week gluten can impede the small intestine, causing nutrient deficiencies in the body. Exercise 20-30 Minutes four-five times a week enough to break a sweat. You can learn more about healthy diets here.
Alkaline water benefits have not been proven but are said to include many immune system benefits. Theoretically, alkaline water has a higher pH level than ordinary tap water, thus advocates say that it may neutralise the acidity in your bloodstream. Some research suggests that alkaline water is unlikely to significantly change your blood pH level. Typical conjecture aside.
Water sparks the conversation about pH because your immune system is affected by high acid levels in your bloodstream. These high levels of acidity are most often caused by poor diet, constant stress and environmental toxins (which may or may not come from local tap water) but can store in your body.
The general rule of thumb with water is the same since the dawn of civilisation. Drink the least contaminated water that is available to you.
Why? Water helps maintain blood pressure, lubricates the joints in your body, forms saliva, boosts skin health, cushions your brain and spinal cord, regulates body temperature and flushes body waste.
Sleep and adequate rest and “downtime” plays a fundamental role in the restoring the immune system. Lack of quality sleep comes with a whole host of stress-related issues that in-turn affect nervous and immune system functions with many detrimental short and long-term medical side effects. Read more about establishing better sleep patterns here.
We are constantly on a journey of discovery, our learning in life enhances our experience and grows confidence and self-esteem by encouraging safe social interaction.
Breathwork refers to a range of breathing exercises or techniques that people can use to improve mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Breathwork is synominous with many yoga and meditation practices.
Meditation is designed to reduces stress and help you gain control of anxiety. By establishing meditation routines you will begin the process of psychological clearing that stabilises you emotional health and self-awareness. This gives you the ability to make clearer decisions, lengthen your attention span and reduce memory loss. Most of all meditation gives you the space to start making healthy and constructive decisions about yourself and your relationships. Learn more about meditation for busy bodies here.
Focused Daily Routines
Daily routines allow you to operate more efficiently by eliminating wasted time and stress in figuring out what to do next in your day. Daily routines will help you create new good habits as well as putting a stop to destructive or self-limiting bad habits. By structuring your day with a simple plan, you open the door to operating at your peak efficiency. Read more about structured daily routines here.
There is incredible evidence that feeling close or connected or valued by people is a necessary need as a human being and who actively and positively contributes to the world. Your social relationships are key to renforcing your wellbeing and serves as a layer of support for your mental health and includes people of any age group throughout their lives.
Exercise & Morning Practice
Exercise is vital for slowing many age-related declines and for enhancing your well-being. Being conscious of your physical body is a vital for activating core muscles, flexing of the lower abdomen, spine which in turn activates the nervous system. Exercises such as in certain types of yoga specifically target the awakening of the spine and connected nervous system.
There are a number of “morning practice routines” is a combination of yoga, breathwork, meditation and mindfulness exercises designed to focus on maximising your day ahead by providing you with grounding and coherence between your heart and circulatory systems, nervous systems, emotional feedbacks. Read more about morning routines here.
COVID-19 Safe Boundaries and Careful Learnings
Somewhere inbetween the global anxiety of “the world ending” or the denial that this is “just a storm in a teacup” is the truth. With CoronaVirus we need to start caring for people we may never meet.
Coronavirus teaches us that how we behave directly influences others and how they behave influence us and that our mindful collective efforts are important to our survival. We cannot live in fear and we also cannot continue with the denial.
Washing your hands and respecting sanitization protocols could be the etiquette that saves the life of a grandmother or an immune compromised bread winner of a family. You have a responsibility to uphold your end of the bargain and to encourage others to be mindful and observant of their same roles.