Vitamin C and hand sanitiser shortages. Hocus potions and black market, untested solutions. It’s a wild world out there right now in the health market, but I’m sticking with tried, tested and verified ways to manage my own health during this coronavirus pandemic.
During a typical day you’ll find me reading research, consolidating reliable information and helping companies formulate health products to launch into the marketplace. As I’m sure you can imagine, there has been an unprecedented demand for quality immune formulas (and hand sanitisers) of late.
A part of my work typically involves lots of conversations with brands, suppliers and manufacturers, and in recent days I’ve increasingly been asked the same question over and over:
‘what are you doing and what supplements are you taking to get you through this global health crisis?’
So I decided to put together a post that outlines what I’m doing, what I’m taking and why.
Before you start, consider this
Before you jump in and embark on any changes to your self-care and exercise routines and take every pill and potion going, it’s worth considering why you actually want to change things up.
Some questions I’ve considered in relation to my health and the COVD-19 crisis include:
- What am I doing for my health and wellbeing during these challenging times? Why?
- Is it really necessary to take any vitamins and/or other supplements?
- Is my immune system down? Could it do with a bit of a boost?
- Is stress a part of the problem? How is uncertainty affecting me, if at all?
You don’t want to just jump in and do what everyone else is doing and take what everyone else is taking without considering your personal situation, including your medical history.
You’re trying to address the root cause of the problem that’s unique to you.
Anything else could be foolish or even dangerous.
Four areas to focus on
The maxim I follow to stay level and healthy looks something like this:
- Support the immune system
- Support the mind
- Eat well
- Sleep well
In the remainder of this post, I’ll go into detail of what I do with the first two, somewhat adapted now there’s a coronavirus pandemic and immune function is of even higher importance.
How to support the immune system
It makes sense to support the immune system so you’re less likely to have unnecessary vulnerabilities and more likely to bounce back quickly if you get sick. The obvious starting point is to follow all the WHO and governmental guidelines on social distancing and hygiene practises.
But then there are some additional ways to boost the immune system, including taking supplements and taking traditional herbal medicines.
While the frenzy of toilet paper panic buying was going on, I was busy stocking up on quality medicines. Here’s what I bought (no brands mentioned purposefully), what I’m taking and why.
General immune blend
Here I take a powder that contains Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin E, betacarotene (precursor to Vitamin A) and bioflavonoids (rutin and hesperidin). I take a dose in the morning and a dose at night. Each dose has approximately:
- Vitamin C: 1-2 g
- Zinc: 15 mg
- Vitamin E: 50 mg
- Betacarotene: 4 mg
Why this specific immune blend?
Vitamin C and zinc are powerful immune nutrients. Both have studies indicating they reduce the chance of respiratory tract infections and reduce the severity of respiratory tract infections. Vitamin C is also required in the normal stress response.
Betacarotene enhances a number of immune responses, particularly when Vitamin A levels are low. Vitamin E helps regenerate vitamin C so it has longer lasting effects.
Vitamin D is literally involved in nearly everything. The amount of research going into this ingredient is phenomenal. In particular it helps with poor immunity, immune function and mental health, among many other things.
I take 5000 – 10000 IU/day for 2-4 weeks, then drop back to 1 – 5000 IU (I have a liquid dropper that provides 1000 IU/drop, so I literately drop 5 to 10 drops into the Vitamin C based immune blend above.
Extra immune boost mix
In our household we’ve been battling colds and coughs so wanted to give our immune system an extra boost. For this extra boost we’ve turned to an astragalus-echinacea-grindelia herbal blend. It might not taste the best, but historically these herbs have a good track record for helping people through sickness.
Astragalus membranaceus root
Astragalus is antiviral, immune enhancing, tonic, and adaptogen (helps deal with mental, physical and emotional stress). It is used to help prevent infection, improve resistance to infection, help fight infection and help exhaustion. I take 4 grams equivalent/day (I have a liquid herb that works out at 4 ml/day).
Echinacea blend of Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia
Echinacea is an antiviral, immune modulating, immune enhancing/immune stimulant and a traditional antiseptic (respiratory tract). It is said to enhance immune response, and is used for treating and preventing upper respiratory tract infections and respiratory conditions. I take 2.5 gram equivalent/day (I have a liquid herb that works out at 5 ml/day)
Grindelia is an expectorant (helps remove mucous from the lungs) and bronchospasmolytic (helps reduce spasms in the lungs). It is used in respiratory conditions marked by spasm, bronchitis, dry and irritable cough and upper respiratory mucous. I take 1 gram equivalent/day (I have a liquid herb that works out at 1 ml/day).
Once we come through the other side of our colds, the above dosages will be reduced dramatically and likely stopped.
If you’re thinking of taking any herbals to help boost your immunes system, you really need to take into consideration your own unique circumstance and if necessary, get advice off a healthcare professional to give you a targeted and personalised prescription.
How to support the mind
Stress, anxiety and depression are likely to skyrocket in these uncertain times. Being isolated at home and having less contact with others will have its consequences.
Then there’s the stress and anxiety associated with the fear of the unknown and of what this all means in regard to health, work and social connection and the future of the world at large.
Stressful times call for targeted measures. I know I have work to do and want to reduce the chance of stress. I want to stay focused and on my game.
Here’s what I take (again, no brands) and why:
Acetyl L carnitine
Acetyl L Carnitine is known to reduce the chance of depression, reduce the severity of depression, improve memory, brain function and mental acuity, improve energy and reduce fatigue. I take 2 grams per day (I take a capsule that has 500 mg/capsule, so two in the morning and 2 at night).
Piper methysticum (kava)
Kava is shown to help with sleep, helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and it also helps you to relax in general. I take 100mg kavalactones/dose per day. I take a tablet that contains 50 mg kava lactones/tablet and also has lemon balm and passionflower in it, so two at a time. Combined these help to support the nervous system and calm the mind and body. I just take two tablets as needed if I’m feeling stresses or have to reduce the noise.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 supports the cardiovascular system and reduces the chance of mental health issues. I take 6g per day from a 1g fish oil capsule that has 360mg of EPA and 240mg DHA/capsule. I take three capsules in the morning and three at night.
I meditate to stay level so that stress, anxiety, fear, confusion and the unknown are manageable. Meditation is the fuel for compassion, love and kindness. Even ten minutes a day is shown to have an impact. I’ve recently been getting into the Waking Up app by Sam Harris. Listen to his excellent 20min talk Meditation in an Emergency.
Yoga also helps me to stay level and thankfully our favourite yoga studio has just started doing online classes on Zoom. Yoga helps with exercising, stretching, staying level and keeping in contact with our community. If you’re looking for something to do and enjoy Iyengar yoga (taught by one of the best) check it out here.
And then the rest: eat well, sleep well and get some exercise
Stress and anxiety are often linked to poor health choices. Poor health choices are often linked to poor immune function. It’s pretty straightforward (but takes some discipline): keep up good food choices and keep sugar and refined carbs down.
In our area, the shop shelves have been drying up of certain staples, but we are trying to plan for small, good quality meals as much as possible. If you are at home, take advantage and make some quality home cooked meals.
Some of the things we’re working with:
- Lots of fruit and vegetables with a variety of different colours. Frozen berries and bananas are great for smoothies.
- Salads with nuts or another form of protein.
- Small serving sizes.
Don’t panic eat and choose processed foods or high sugar foods. You need to stay on your game for the long game.
When it comes to sleep, there’s likely to be a bit of tossing and turning with the uncertainty of this all, but sleep is absolutely essential to help us process the mental and physical stress this places on us. The advice I keep hearing? Practice good sleep hygiene (including no screens for at least an hour before bed).
As for exercise, going to the gym isn’t an option right now but that doesn’t mean you should scrap exercising altogether. A walk around the block (or the house) is still a good idea.
We’re lucky that right now here in Brisbane we’re still able to get outside for a walk, so each morning I go for a morning stroll around the block with my dog and son. Here we get some exercise, sunshine and fresh air. It also makes for a great start to the day in these challenging times.
I’ve also been trying to get to two online Iyengar yoga sessions per week (we go to West End Yoga Centre) but can feel my body and mind is missing my other cardio classes. Could be time to check out some of the many HIIT sessions on YouTube.
Exercise in these times might take some creativity and it may be tricky to maintain your usual exercise routine, but just do something. A walk, a few push ups and sit ups, a few squats, a bit of yoga.
What are you doing to stay healthy and level during these challenging times? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.