Philippa has invited me to write about what we all might consider doing to optimise our immune health as we face this wave of infection. She has asked me because I have dedicated my adult life to keeping well simply and I have backed up this passion with formal education, a BSc degree in Herbal Medicine, and continue to practice as a professional member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.
You are perhaps feeling inundated with information right now but I hope this is a small offering that gives you something positive to do to help yourself through the health challenges ahead. Frankly anything we can do to ease the strain on the NHS and state ought to be undertaken seriously.
Follow Official Advice
This is the most important thing to do… our government advice is here
Hand-washing, social distancing and the appropriate time to seek medical advice.
The next most important thing to do is to relax. If you are in flight, fight or freeze mode your internal resources will be directed towards “running away from the tiger” because this is the sensible priority for your body (if you get killed by the tiger in the next few moments nothing else matters, including fighting off a virus). So do everything you can to relax and get into the parasympathetic nervous state most of the time – including turning off the news! That is so you can digest your food and get the maximum nutrition from it, so your immune system is responsive, so your elimination is working as it should. Save the dynamic and powerful fight or flight mode for occasional bursts, if you possibly can.
In my family, we are watching funny films, having a good belly laugh each day, dancing, watching the stars, and finding joy in the little things around us.
Adopting an attitude of gratitude lets that little buzz feeling of ‘love’ resonate from your heart out to the world and back again. Something I think we might witness in bucket loads over the coming months.
Get outside in nature & move
Getting outside in nature will help you relax, especially if you also use the techniques Philippa and the team have taught you over your time together – be mindful, slow down, notice the insects, the sounds of nature, touch things and really feel them, use the 7-4-11 breath. Take the time to appreciate the breeze, the sun, the damp, the smells, the emerging green.
You could also take the opportunity to connect with the earth by weeding or taking off your shoes and socks for 20 mins daily (bare skin on concrete or grass/earth). I know it sounds woo woo but ‘grounding’ can do wonders and I am sure you can be creative about keeping warm whilst also touching the earth. You might find this docu-film interesting.
Once April comes along, we in the UK ought to be able to get Vitamin D via our sunshine, so if you have not benefitted from a sunny winter holiday or have not been supplementing with Vitamin D3 (&K2) over the winter, it might be good to get your Vit D stores up by exposing your skin to the sunshine for 10 mins or so each day, of course taking care not to burn.
Rest and Repair
Getting a good 7-9 hours each night helps the body rest and repair so that it is optimal for the new day ahead. That means sleeping in the total dark, with no gadgets in the room, having eaten a good few hours before you went to bed so that you are not actively digesting by the time you go to sleep. And a few hours without a screen before bedtime helps prepare the endocrine system for sleep. In an ideal world, don’t drink alcohol in the evening either (….its only for a period of time…). Sleep hygiene is worth addressing to help you get ‘fit’ for fighting off bugs.
Drink sufficient clean water daily. Counterbalance every diuretic drink – that is caffeinated tea and coffee or alcohol with at least an extra glass of water. It’s important to stay hydrated.
Nourish with food
If ever there was a time to eat clean, it is now. Cut out the junk. It just doesn’t support your health.
Aim to eat only real food (things that grew, rather than things that were made in a factory). Aim to eat every colour of the rainbow daily – red, orange, yellow, green, purple, black, to maximise the variety you eat thus the nutrition you get from it. Fresh food full of vitality is best, frozen is next best. Plant foods contain polyphenols and other constituents that protect your frontline defences.
Consider cutting back on refined carbohydrates, sugars and fats to maintain optimal blood sugar levels and therefore reduce ‘stress’ internally, so that your resources can be focused on more helpful internal processes. You might be happy to know that giving yourself an occasional chocolate treat that is at least 70% cocoa is good for you!
Adding a wide variety of herbs and spices to your food will extend the range of nutrition. Cinnamon is great but is quite stimulating so best avoided in the evenings.
Chew well before you swallow, try and eat mindfully, so that you are better able to absorb the goodness from your food as it goes through the digestive tract.
Great supplements for the immune system include Vitamin C and Zinc – always follow the packaging advice and seek prof. help first if there might be a reason to do so.
And personally I am freezing a few lemons and ginger pieces so that I have them on hand, should I need a hot toddy in due course.
And last but not least, eliminate waste well
Yes, I do mean poo and wee regularly – don’t get bunged up. Breath deeply. Sweat freely. Cry if you need to. Try dry skin brushing to stimulate your lymphatic system.