Five things we can do to keep healthy during the Coronavirus lockdown

Well done – you’ve made it through the first half of lockdown! It’s not easy for a nation of outdoors-lovers to be held to house arrest in our homes, flats, shacks or even tents. And it’s hard to know how we will pay our bills when there is little or no money coming in. It’s also difficult to prepare against an enemy that we can’t hear, see or touch.

I hear these concerns from people on a daily basis, but it is important that we sit back and remind ourselves just how well we are coping under the circumstances. When life has spiralled out of control, I find it helpful to think of five things that I can control. With that in mind, here is my list of the five most important things that we can control from home to optimize our health:

1. Sleep, sleep, sleep – It is not by chance that good sleep is our most important health booster. We should aim for eight hours of quality sleep during the hours of darkness. If we can do some outdoor exercise in the day and avoid screen time in the evening, then both of these factors should boost more melatonin in our brains at night to optimize our sleep. Quality deep sleep will enhance our immune system and reduce inflammation in the body1. Melatonin supplements improve deep sleep and, as we get older, play an important role in enhancing our immune systems both to fight off infections and reduce the chances of cancer2.

2. Moderate exercise – As much fun as it might be to run across mountains or cycle all day, excessive exercise has the risk of wearing out our immunity. Equally, even though we are currently restricted to our homes, being a couch potato will result in a sluggish immune system. Instead, we want to apply the Goldilocks Principle where the porridge is not too hot and not too cold. A moderate amount of exercise at home during lockdown should be the perfect boost to the immune system. Examples could be anything from five minutes of high-intensity exercise (doing burpees, air squats, sit-ups and pushups) to 40 minutes cycling on a stationary bike. It could be an online aerobics or yoga class that we can access via the free Zoom app. Even better, many of these classes are now free as people are coming together to help each other through the shutdown.

3. Vitamins – There are a lot of vitamins that people can and do take, but only a few that are proven to help the immune system. These are my essential three:

Vitamin D – there is a slew of research to show that low vitamin D levels leave us susceptible to infections and that vitamin D supplementation boosts our immune system3. Metagenics, Xymogen and Solgar all make very good vitamin D supplements. Note, though, that taking excessive vitamin D can be toxic to the liver.

Zinc – this boosts our immunity, while a lack of zinc can leave us at risk of infections4. ‘Flavozinc’ made by Solgar is my favourite of the many good supplements available. Taking zinc repeatedly through the day does not add any immune benefits.

Vitamin C – this is an important vitamin that helps boost our immune system5. If we take large doses of it every day then there is concern that it may switch off our own important SOD and glutathione antioxidant systems. My suggestion is to take a citrus fruit daily (grapefruit or orange) for a healthy daily dose of vitamin C and save taking a large dose (1000mg-2000mg) for when you have a sore throat or a cold. Mixing in some citrus fruit to your vitamin C will add bioflavonoids that supercharge the vitamin C.

4. Healthy food – We want to be eating like a rainbow. That means we want multiple different colours of foods on our plate. Not just the brown that we find in starch and meat, but a range of green, yellow, orange, red and purple that we find in vegetables. These foods not only provide us with essential nutrients, but also supply our intestines with the all-important fiber. This fiber supports our intestinal flora which boosts and supports our immune system6.

As the weather starts to cool, bone broth is not only delicious but has important immune-boosting properties. Bones contain zinc, magnesium and iron, but most importantly, they are a good source of Vitamin A. Boosting our vitamin A levels will elevate our fighter T-cells and antibodies and make us more resistant to viruses7.

5. Sunshine – Last but not least, we need to get outside every day. Stepping out into the sunshine boosts our cortisol immune-boosting hormone system. This, in turn, boosts our night-time melatonin system. Sunshine converts our vitamin D into active vitamin D. It boosts our endorphins and brain “happy hormones”, and relieves our adrenaline and stress hormones. Despite the lockdown, we need to make an effort to get outside every day.

I am seeing more and more people who are getting these five points right and are starting to thrive despite these difficult times.

However, remember that if you are struggling, our clinic is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and we are always happy to give free advice over the phone. If you do need to come into the clinic for immune-boosting injections or drips, please note that we are a prevention centre and not a treatment centre. Therefore, we will only see a maximum of seven healthy patients a day – which is the best way we can ensure that you will not be exposed to anyone with Covid-19.

To arrange an appointment, call Noreen on 021 434 2564 or email admin@ihasa.co.za.

References:

1Silvestri M et al. Melatonin: Its possible role in the management of viral infections – a brief review. Ital J Paed.
2013: 39: 61.
2Srinivasan V et al. Melatonin, immune function and aging. Immunity and Aging. 2005: 2: 17.
3Aranow C. Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med. 2011: 59: 881-886.
4Barnett JB et al. Effect of zinc supplementation on serum zinc concentration and T-cell proliferation in nursing
home elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. American J of Clin Nutrit. 2016: DOI:
10.3945/ajcn.115.115188.
5Carr AC et al. Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients. 2017: 9.
6Yan F et al. Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroent. 2011: 27: 496-501.
7Huang Z et al. Role of vitamin A in the immune system. J Clin Med. 2018: 7: 258.