There is something I have never understood throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. Why have the Authorities never even mentioned the importance of boosting our own innate immune system? Government announcements give the impression that this virus is equally dangerous to everybody, which it is not. With the ‘lockdown’ and the ‘stay at home to save lives’ message, they have implied there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves other than to avoid catching it. Every one of their initiatives is designed to reduce the transmission of the disease. None of their ideas promote our individual ability to cope with Covid-19 if we become infected. We have all been made to feel helpless but, I believe, all of us can and should be taking control of our own destiny. The Government has missed a fantastic opportunity to use this crisis to improve the overall health of the entire nation.
We all have a natural immune system that deals constantly with bacteria and viruses. Some people have a much better immune system than others but we can all do things to make ours as robust as possible. I have previously written about how the vast majority of deaths and hospitalisations occur in people with pre-existing illness and, frequently, a Vitamin D deficiency. I think it makes sense to shield these vulnerable people, whose immunity is compromised. However, most of the people who have tested positive for the virus have had either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. This coronavirus appears, therefore, to be really dangerous only to people who are not in good health and who lack a strong immune system. Why are the Government’s Health Advisers not making this clear? As far as I am aware, boosting our own immune system has never been recommended by any of them.
Unwittingly, the Government may have made matters worse with their ‘lockdown’ strategy. Diet, sleep and vitamin D status all affect our immune status. Another significant factor is stress. Whenever we are in immediate danger, the hormone Cortisol is released to prime us for the ’flight or fight’ response. It adjusts our biochemistry to give us the best chance of surviving when we have to run for our lives. This is a natural and helpful response and the hormone is dissipated by the intense activity which ensues. However, stress hormones become a serious problem when they are released over a long period of time. The process is complex but the result is a diminished immune system. (People with latent viruses, like cold sores, will know they only flare up during times of physical or mental stress, At other times, the immune system keeps them suppressed.)
What causes stress?
1. Isolation. Humans are naturally gregarious people. We thrive on social interactions and find enforced isolation extremely stressful.
2. Work. Our employment often defines us and gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth. Losing a job can be a great source of stress.
3. Fear. Living with a constant worry that something very dangerous may be close by, coupled with the realisation that you do not know where it is, nor how to prevent it, is exceptionally stressful.
4. Money. A serious shortage of money, with mouths to feed and bills to pay, is one of life’s greatest stressors.
5. Denial of access to green spaces. Lots of research has shown that time spent in green spaces, on sunny days, is a potent way to reduce stress levels.
For many people, the ‘lockdown’ will have created chronic, increased levels of stress, which may well have lowered their natural immunity. It is important that we all take steps to improve it. Now that some of the restrictions are being lifted we should embrace the opportunity to exercise, or just spend time, in open, green spaces to boost our mood and allow sunshine onto our skin to increase vitamin D levels. (See the previous blog to understand the remarkable benefits of this.)
I appreciate that some people have endured a far worse ‘lockdown’ than others. To them, my comments may seem irrelevant compared to their plight but an improvement in health and immunity will always have benefits. Taking positive actions to enhance our well-being gives us a stress-reducing sense of control and self-worth.
Our diet is the number one determinant of our health. The majority of people dying of Covid-19 have Metabolic Syndrome which is a collection of health problems including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high serum triglycerides. It often leads to heart disease and type 2 diabetes and is linked to insulin resistance. Contrary to a lot of medical consensus, these can all be reversed or reduced in a matter of weeks with the correct diet.
Some of the steps we can take to improve our health through diet include:
1. Eliminate sugar and ultra-processed and refined foods.
2. Reduce all types of carbohydrates to a low level.
3. Eliminate ‘vegetable oils’ because they increase inflammation. They are present in nearly all processed foods.
4. Eat real food from a farmer or fisherman not a factory.
5. Eat lots of meat, eggs, fish, butter and cheese along with fresh vegetables that grow above the ground.