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Guest post from Anesthesiologist and Yoga Teacher Dr. Kaya Jeyarajah, BSC MBCHB FRCA
What I’ve learned from COVID-19 is that our staff and teams are what enables our hospitals to look after our patients in such an incredible way. They are working together so well, even when the situation changes rapidly from day-to-day.
I also feel that the strength in thriving through the pandemic comes from finding kindness in your community. Being in a tough situation brings out the best in some people to support each other. Even more now than ever, I chose to be around the “joy makers”, the ones who radiate light even in the dark moments.
The best thing we can all do for ourselves during this time is to boost our immunity, so we can stay healthy. Here is my guide to thrive though COVID-19.
Eat nourishing food with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. Keep hydrated. Avoid excessive caffeine. Blueberries boost levels of Natural Killer Cells & mushrooms boost IgA l, the anti-body blood level (1).
Getting enough sleep improves the ability to fight common infections. Less than 6 hours of sleep per night increases the chance of catching the common cold four times (5,6,7).
Systemic reviews of randomized control trials have found positive associations between yoga practice and improvements in diabetes (2), cardiovascular function (3) & mental health (4). If children run around for 6 minutes, they have a 50% increase in immune cells circulating in their blood stream. In a study of elderly and sedentary women, those who took a daily 30-minute walk reduced the risk of getting a respiratory infection from 50% to 20%.
Follow the general medical guidance (no more than 14 units/week). Notice if you are using alcohol as a means to combat stress or boredom and consider other ways to manage this. Alcohol disrupts sleep and immune responses are impaired in high-dose consumers of alcohol. However, the risk of catching the common cold may be reduced in those who enjoy a moderate alcohol intake compared to no alcohol! If you are going to have a drink – red wine appears to be the best choice (7,8).
Unless you already take vitamin D or recently had a winter sun holiday, it is highly likely you are currently deficient in vitamin D (6). A recent meta-analysis in the BMJ showed that daily vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, especially in those who are currently deficient (7). Take 800-2000 IU (20-50mcg) daily.
A Cochrane Review shows that vitamin C reduces the duration of common cold symptoms. In periods of extreme physical stress, vitamin C halves the common cold risk (cochrane.org). Take 1000mg/day. If you can’t find any vitamin C due to shortages then try this Trinidadian Remedy – squeeze a whole lime and mix with 1 teaspoon of honey. Drink as a shot daily.
Turmeric has been shown to benefit inflammatory conditions (11), metabolic syndrome, pain, and helps in the management of inflammatory conditions. While there appear to be countless therapeutic benefits to curcumin supplementation, most of these benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (12).
Supplementing with good bacteria (probiotics) might have immunity enhancing effects. White blood cells and Natural Killer Cells extracted from subjects on a probiotic regimen have significantly enhanced activity. A randomized controlled trial showed that those who take probiotics have significantly fewer colds. Take a high-quality probiotic supplement or increase intake of probiotic foods such as Kefir. Alternatively, increase foods which feed good gut bacteria such as fiber and whole plant foods (1).
A Cochrane Review shows that zinc administered within 24hrs of onset of common cold symptoms reduces the duration and severity of illness (cochrane.org). Take 15mg zinc daily and in- crease the dose to 50-75mg.----
To show support to our friend Dr. Jeyarajah please visit her wellness package initiative here and help spread the story! She has created over 250 wellbeing bags to help medical staff take some much needed time for themselves during COVID-19.
1) Greger, M. (2015). Chapter 5: How Not To Die From Infections. How Not To Die pp 90-114 2) Aljasir B , Bryson M , Al-Shehri B . Yoga Practice for the Management of Type II Diabetes Mellitus in Adults: A systematic review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010 Dec [cited 2011 Aug 20] 7(4):399– 408 3) Chu P , Gotink RA , Yeh GY , Goldie SJ , Hunink MGM . The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of rand- omized controlled trials. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2016;23(3):291–307 4) Kirkwood G , Rampes H , Tuffrey V , Richardson J , Pilkington K . Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence. Br J Sports Med [Internet]. 2005 Dec [cited 2011 Jul 1];39(12):884–91; discussion 891 5) Besedovsky, L and Born, J. (2015). Sleep, Don’t Sneeze: Longer Sleep Reduces the Risk of Catching a Cold. Sleep 38(9):1341-1342 6) Bryant, P. et al. (2004). Sick and tired: does sleep have a vital role in the immune system? Nature Re- views Immunology 4:457-467 7) Cohen, S. et al. (2009). Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. JAMA Internal Medicine 169(1):62- 67 8) Romeo, J. et al. (2007). Moderate Alcohol and the Immune System: A Review. British Journal of Nutrition 98(1): S111-1159) Skarphedinsdottir, S.J. et al. (2014). Vitamin D deficiency in anesthesia department caregivers at the end of winter. Acta Anaesthesiol. Scand. 58(7): 802-80610) Martineau, A. et al. (2017). Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ11) Gupta S.C., Patchva S., Aggarwal B.B. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. AAPS J. 2013;15:195–218.12) Aggarwal B.B., Harikumar K.B. Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerattive, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. Int. J. Biochem. Cell Biol. 2009;41:40–59