Coronavirus – useful tips

Introduction

This article is not about preventing infection. Instead, it’s about how you can help your immune system cope better with the virus if you ‘catch’ it. In other words, how you can improve your general health and specifically the health of your immune system. The tips below apply whether you have a good immune system or a weaker one.

But if you have a weaker one due to a medical condition or the medications for that condition, then you can always check with your doctor whether the following advice is appropriate for you.

Remember, none of the following suggestions are independent of the others; they all affect each other in multiple ways.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 seems to have a role in regulating inflammation caused by the lung’s immune system. Make sure you are supplementing. If you haven’t been supplementing through the winter, start doing so now, and take 4 times the recommended dose (RDA) for the next six weeks. Some research here. Don’t be tempted to think that if 1500 IU per day is good for you, then ten times that amount must be ten times better. That’s not how the body works. It’s a balance.

It’s important to restate that taking Vitamin D3 won’t stop you ‘catching’ CV-19. But NOT having low levels of Vitamin D3 might well mean that you cope with the virus better than you otherwise would.

Here’s a short video from a professor of medicine at Harvard on why it is so important to have sufficient blood levels of this vitamin.

Sleep

A sleepy baby yawning

Sleep especially helps the immune system. That means getting to sleep at the right time for you, following all the rules for so-called ‘sleep hygiene’, and waking at the right time for you. Do what you can to help this.

Exercise

Exercise is so important, and light to moderate cardio exercise is probably the best way to boost the immune system, followed by light to moderate resistance (strength) exercise. Heavy resistance training may even depress (temporarily, perhaps for a day?) the immune system. That would be even worse if you don’t leave enough rest/recovery days. This also applies to draining and exhausting cardio. So, even if you feel frustrated, cooped up and stressed, a hugely heavy workout may not be the best thing right now.

For a more scholarly explanation of the above, see here.

By the way, doctors believe the same: see this.

Restorative Activity

By this, I mean any activity that is known to improve the functioning of the so-called autonomic nervous system. This can be achieved by improving (boosting) parasympathetic function and/or by improving (reducing?) sympathetic function. Activities such as yoga, mindful breathing, meditation, singing, and humour have been shown to do this, but there are others. There are many mechanisms that connect the autonomic nervous system to the immune system; some of these ideas are explored here. Try to spend at least 10 minutes a day doing one or more of these activities.

Smoking

If you can summon up the will-power, then stop smoking for the next couple of months. Or at least cut back. That’s not an easy ask at a time of such significant stress, but your lung’s immune system will appreciate the break.

Eat Less

This is relevant if you do start to feel unwell, unlike the tips above which are helpful to do now, before you feel unwell.

Remember the old adage, starve a fever, feed a cold?

There may be some truth in this. There is plenty of evidence that calorie restriction can help chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, but how about an acute flare in the immune system (e.g. this new virus)?

If your body is trying to mobilise resources to fight the virus, the last thing it wants to do is digest a heavy meal. The body will tell you that it isn’t hungry. Listen to this message, just like the other messages your body will give you (exercise less and sleep more).

You may have to resist the pressure of family members who tell you that ‘you need to keep your strength up’. Most of the time, that pressure comes from the basic human need of a loved one to be doing something for you.

Instead, listen to your body!