Immunity in a Viral Pandemic - 2022 edition

With high coronavirus case numbers in the community, there is an increased likelihood that you will be exposed.   Vaccination offers excellent protection against serious illness, but unfortunately can’t stop you getting Covid altogether. Adopting healthy food and lifestyle habits before you get sick can help with a quick and complete recovery if you do happen to contract it.  An optimal diet and lifestyle is the foundation for all aspects of health, including good immune health. 

Good health doesn’t mean never getting sick, but is more about how you recover when you do. An emerging risk of contracting Covid is the increased incidence of post-Covid illness, or long Covid. A significant number of people report lingering symptoms after a Covid infection, including persistent cough, fatigue and memory problems. In Chinese medicine theory, pathogens that remain in the body and cause a persistent immune response, like long Covid,  are called Lingering Pathogens. Read more on Chinese medicine treatment approaches and strategies for long Covid here. 

Whilst there is much that feels out of control at the moment, there are concrete steps you can take to support your health and boost your immune system, should Covid find you. 

Just Eat Real Food

A wholefood diet low in sugar and processed foods is the best defence. Think lots of different, colourful, plant foods. Include a variety of spices such as ginger, garlic, turmeric and pepper. Animal products can be an important source of fats and protein, but are also inflammatory, so eat them in moderation. 

Manage your Stress

Life is stressful at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. Chronic stress can lead to a dysregulated immune system, contributing to inflammation and an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. We experience stress every day, so we need to do something stress-relieving every day. Exercise, spending time in the garden and patting my pets are things I find helpful in managing stress. And of course, acupuncture! Find a few things you like and try to do one of them each day to support a healthy nervous system. 

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep has also been disrupted for many people in the last 2 years. Limiting your exposure to blue light after sundown is one of the simplest ways to support your natural sleep wake cycle. I’ve written in more detail about supporting healthy sleep here. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, so if you’re getting less than that you may benefit from Chinese medicine and acupuncture support. 

Consider Supplements

Whole foods are always the best source of nutrients however it’s not always possible to get the levels we need from food alone.  Specific nutrient supplements may be needed for short periods in times of increased demand, including illness. Vitamins D and C, zinc and quercetin are key nutrients for the immune system, playing a number of essential roles in our immune response. Whilst the exact mechanisms are unclear, it has been observed that people with a deficiency of Vitamin D are 14 times more likely to experience severe or critical disease with Covid infection. Many people, especially women, have suboptimal levels of zinc. Zinc is important for the immune system but is also a potent anti-viral on its own. I recommend practitioner only supplements to ensure products are thoroughly tested and efficacious. If you’d like further advice about which supplements may be right for you, get in touch via email or ask at your next appointment. 

Manage Your Exposure Risk #CovidIsAirborne 

The best defence remains to reduce your risk of exposure. Whilst the vast majority of people experience it as a mild to moderate illness, it is still a new pathogen with many unknowns, including a risk of long Covid. The SarsCoV2 virus is airborne, so socialising outdoors where you can and avoiding indoor crowded spaces will reduce your risk. If you can’t be outside, wear an N95 mask or consider double masking (a surgical mask with a cloth mask over the top).