The best defence against known and unknown viruses is a robust immune system. Bill Anderson, the idle beekeeper and inveterate health researcher, has dug out a handful of tips
Get 7-9 hours every night. For a brilliant, swift clarification of the eye-watering biology of our immune system and why sleep is so important to it, watch this video from 2 minutes in. And if you’re still not sufficiently exhausted, here are 33 suggestions you could try instead of counting sheep.
Not to tan like Trump, but to make vitamin D in our skin. Vitamin D? Isn’t that all about rickets and bones? Not since December 2016 when a British Medical Journal study concluded “a major new indication for vitamin D supplementation: the prevention of acute respiratory tract infection.” In the winter not enough sunlight cuts through the atmosphere for our skin to make any vitamin D at all. Maybe that’s one reason why influenza viruses fair less well in the summer when we can get much more vitamin D from sunlight on our skin than from our food. If you can’t afford to eat shoals of wild salmon or haven’t the time to munch through buckets of mushrooms, vitamin D3 supplements are cheap and widely available, but your mileage may vary – don’t over-do it – a daily 5000i.u. is plenty for a short-term boost. D3 is a team player, working best with calcium, and vitamins A, E and K2, all readily available from healthy foods.
3. Vitamin C
A general immune system booster which found the spotlight when, before he ever gave his sailors lime juice, Captain Cook fed them barrels of sauerkraut – its lactic fermentation makes the natural vitamin C in cabbage up to 100 times more bioavailable to us, and prevented scurvy amongst his sailors. Now we know vitamin C helps prevent and treat respiratory infections. But if you want a boost more powerful than Berocca, you can make your own Liposomal Vitamin C – not a skin cream, even for Presidential tanners, it is liquid vitamin C encapsulated in microscopic lipospheres that look, and behave a little like biological cells. In this form it slips through the wall of your gut and into your blood stream by a mechanism that’s 50% more effective than standard vitamin C can achieve. You’ll need a high speed kitchen blender, distilled or purified water BP, soy or sunflower lecithin, and vodka. Full instructions here.
If the prospect of whizzing up your own concentrated C feels a little too Breaking Bad you can just buy it, but commercial liposomal vitamin C rarely contains the vodka – at times like these an opportunity missed for the fun of something approaching a wicked cocktail: possibly “The Corona Cracker”, definitely stirred, not shaken.
A plant flavonol found in various foods including blue berries, red onions, kale, cranberries, broccoli, and green tea. Lots of delicious ways to enjoy quercetin, but why would you want to specifically boost it now? In addition to its antiviral properties which have been shown to inhibit a wide range spectrum of influenza strains, including H1N1, H3N2 and H5N1, it also can alleviate the pathological damage of lung tissue and inhibit the release of “cytokines (IL-1β and TNF-α) in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid”. These cytokines are not any virus, they are a product of an immune response to a virus, troops we send to fight it, and when that battle reaches its climax so many cytokines can be in the fight that we become exposed to friendly fire – we can “drown” in fluid we released into our lungs to protect ourselves. Even on a ventilator. A daily 1000mg of quercetin costs less than 10p and is the dose that half a group of cyclists took for 5 weeks – the other half were given a placebo. After 3 days of 3 hours cycling they were exposed to a virus – 45% of the placebo succumbed, only 5% of those on quercetin. I’m risking a daily ten pence punt that this might work without pumping the pedals…
A strong immune system relies on a ready supply of magnesium, and relentless stress depletes both. But it’s difficult to get enough magnesium from our diets – food grown in soil depleted by modern agriculture gives us less than it used to, and our guts are not brilliant at absorbing the little they come into contact with, especially as we age. So in addition to all the exotic and practical, mindful and mindless things we do to reduce stress, consider a soothing footbath of epsom salt – it brims with magnesium and we can absorb it very effectively through our skin. Fill a washing up bowl with a couple of inches of warm water and dissolve a kilo or more of epsom salt in it – if it’s a little crunchy, no harm. And if you wash your feet thoroughly before submerging them in the footbath, you will be able to keep re-using it for weeks with a little topping up to replace evaporated water – nothing untoward will start to live in such a strong salt solution! With your feet purposely and productively fixed to the spot, you can take the opportunity of this gently enforced idleness to enjoy favourite humorous books, films and podcasts, or if your isolation feels a little over-splendid, have a laugh with a friend on the phone – we all need a robust commune system too.