Its been a few months since the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has well and truly shaken up life as we know it. I think its fair to say that it’ll be a while until things go back to normal, if they ever will?
We just wanted to take a moment to share a few of our top strategies for staying healthy amidst the new and evolving norm of infectious diseases.
As an added bonus, the are all completely FREE since its mother nature that provides them.
We also invite you to get in touch with us by sending us an email, letting us know if there is anything we can do to support you during these times.
As a nutritionist, I am always being asked about ways to stay healthy. Although I must admit, lately I’ve had to pivot to stay on top of the evolving global COVID-19 threat. Normally, I am focused on the prevention of slow killers like diabetes, heart disease and degenerative diseases. COVID-19 is a new one, and an imminent threat to a great deal of us.
Whats become clear for me though, is that its all the same. Protection from chronic disease is the same as infectious disease. From the first habits of the day right the way through to the last, it all counts towards a healthy immune system and protection against disease in general.
So I thought I’d share a few ways that Gaia helps us support a healthy immune system for both long term and imminent threats.
On most days I like to keep it fresh, by starting with a cold shower.
Because its Gaia’s way of helping us build resilience. The cold is stressful, thats why we avoid it. But in the right doses, and with controlled exposure it can train us to better deal with both psychological and physical stress.
When we align ourselves with the power of nature, some real magic happens beyond just the rude awakening.
Repeated cold exposure 3x a week for 6 weeks has been shown to boost numbers of disease fighting white blood cells (1).
30 days of (hot-to) cold showers have also been shown to reduce self reported sick days during the influenza epidemic in the Netherlands from 2014 to 2015 (2).
Pretty relevant to whats going on right now, eh?
Nature IS medicine, give it a try and drink in some of Gaia’s goodness.
Start off warm, then go cold for 30 seconds and go from there. Its only 30 days – give it a try.
This is a literal translation from the Japanese word shinrin-yoku – Forest Bath.
The Japanese have long believed that spending mindful time in the woods supports a healthy mind and body, which is just what we need right now.
For a lot of us taking walks in the woods may seem quite intuitive. But others who have grown up in urban surroundings may not know what they’re missing!
Its no mystery that we’ve become more distant from nature as modern life has progressed. We see a clear correlation between this separation, and the increasing rates of unhappiness, loss of intuition and illness.
Some interesting studies have shown just how nourishing forests can be. They found that walks amongst trees can reduce the biochemical markers of stress, such as cortisol (3), (4). This stress hormone, cortisol is super important for keeping immune cells in check. When its out of whack our immune systems can become compromised, so keeping it cool is really quite powerful.
Think of that colleague thats always sick, because they are always stressed. Stress inhibits the immune system for lurking nasties to take hold.
Forest bathing has also been found to support the immune system (5), which has never been more important at a time like this.
Find a place where you are surrounded by trees, take the time for numero uno. Try get out every day, for at least 20 minutes to drink in some nourishment from Gaia.
Breathe as if your life depended on it. Oh wait, it does!
We obviously cant live without oxygen. Although we all get enough oxygen to stay alive, a lot of us may not be getting enough to stay alive and well.
Oxygen is crucial to maintaining PH balance in the body – acidity:alkalinity. When we are too acid or even too alkaline, this inhibits our immunity.
In most cases, our bodies are too acidic.
Too much acidity has been shown to reduce the overall numbers and killing capacity of white blood cells (6).
In cancer for example, the immune system is suppressed by an overproduction of lactic acid, due to a lack of oxygen utilisation in cells. This is known as the Warburg effect.
So a plentiful supply of oxygen is key for balancing acidity and strong immune defence.
The way we breathe dictates how much oxygen we can harness from the atmosphere. A lot of us breathe inefficiently, and don’t even know it. Stress is the biggest reason why, as it causes us to breathe shallowly and inefficiently, getting less oxygen.
The great thing about breathing is we can take conscious control over an unconscious process. At any time during the day we can check in with how we’re breathing, and take some deep, rhythmic breaths.
Rhythmic breathing practices Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayam were found to increase the number of Natural Killer (NK) cells after 12 and 24 weeks of practice (7).
NK cells are important for initiating the immune response to viral infections in particular (8). Although there is no evidence for COVID-19 directly, a stronger immune system cant hurt.
Check out these breathing practices:
Sunshine (Vitamin D)
Let me shed some light on this one ; )
Vitamin D is more than a Vitamin, its a hormone. It can change the way our genes are read and express themselves, which is a pretty big deal for influencing our health.
We need exposure to ultraviolet light to make Vitamin D for ourselves. The rate at which we make and respond to it depends upon where we live, how dark our skin is (melanin), and our genetics.
Vitamin D plays a key role in immune system function. Its a messenger which gives immune cells crucial instructions on organising attacks and defences, fortifying immune cell numbers, and co-ordinating their movement and strategy when dealing with infections.
A deficiency of Vitamin D is associated with a greater risk of viral infections (9), which may also increase the susceptibility to COVID-19.
There’s very little research on COVID-19, so we cant say anything concrete yet. But some studies have found an association between vitamin D levels and mortality rates in those infected with COVID-19.
In Indonesia, 780 people with COVID-19 were monitored for their vitamin D levels, whilst controlling for other confounding factors. 98.4% of people with vitamin D deficiency died, 88% with Vitamin D insufficiency died and only 4% of patients with sufficient Vitamin D died (10).
Another pre-print study in New Orleans found that 84.6% of COVID-19 patients had vitamin D deficiency compared to 4% of patients not in the ICU (11).
Until more research emerges, we can only look at associations between COVID-19 and Vitamin D.
But in the meantime, try to get out as much as possible everyday, and exposure as much skin as you can without getting arrested for indecent exposure.