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Functional blog
20 Nov 2021

Covid – A functional medicine approach

A Functional Medicine approach to boosting immunity

Supplements, nutrients and foods to support your immune system.

There are several nutrients, and supplements that can boost immune function and provide symptom relief during illness and may help to shorten the duration of illness. For preventing and treating viral upper respiratory infections, consider some of the following:

Vitamin C: Vitamin C may help to prevent infections, including those caused by bacteria and viruses. Regularly administered vitamin C has been shown to shorten the duration of colds. Recommended dose is 1000-2000mg daily for an adult.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is one of the most important and powerful nutrients for supporting the immune system. This can be useful for prevention and therapy. Numerous studies have shown that it helps reduce the risk of colds and flu. Unfortunately, a high percentage of the population is deficient, so daily supplementation (ideally in the form of vitamin D3) offers the best protection. In the event of a viral upper respiratory infection you can take between 2,000 to 5,000iui for adults. Please note these are high doses and can be taken for a maximum of 14 days after which time testing of vitamin D levels are recommended. 

Zinc: Zinc plays a significant role in boosting immunity. Zinc can help to reduce the frequency of infections as well as the duration and severity of the common cold when taken within 24 hours of onset. Daily adult dose recommendation is 15mg to 25mg. 

Honey: Honey, preferably raw, is a good demulcent (it relieves minor pain and inflammation of mucous membranes), has antioxidant properties, and has some antimicrobial effects. It is helpful for coughs and sore throats and can be added to hot tea.

Tumeric: Tumeric is well know for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. You can make turmeric and ginger drinking shots or add it to your cooking. You may also take cur cumin in a supplement form which is the active ingredient in turmeric.

Seaweed: Eat plenty of seaweed. It can be bought as dried seaweed which can be added to soups and any meal. Seaweed is rich in iodine which is an excellent antioxidant and immune booster.

Lifestyle measures to boost your immune system.

Stress reduction: Chronic stress can negatively alter immune system responses, making you more likely to get sick and for viruses to linger. Take this opportunity to identify your stress triggers and step away from them. Video call old friends all over the world that you have not had a chance to catch up with to reduce the feeling of isolation. If you are isolating as a family, play games like scrabble, indulge in PJs and Netflix lazy days. Include mediation and light yoga regimes – just 10 minutes a day.

Sleep: Sleep has a big influence on immune function, so it is essential to get plenty of sleep. Sleep before 11 pm is worth double the hours, set a reminder to help yourself go to bed on time. Practice good sleep hygiene —turn off screens and mobile phones and switch off your WiFi at night. Ensure the room is cool, quiet, and dark.

Exercise: This is a guilt-free time for pausing your exercise regime and allowing your body’s immune system to kick in. During a viral illness, stopping exercise removes any unnecessary extra burden on your body and allows it to focus on fighting the infection and repair cells.  Aerobic exercise such as gentle walking, gentle yoga and deep breathing is encouraged as it helps boost circulation and clear chest secretions. 

Nutritious foods/diet: Eat the rainbow. Research indicates that brightly coloured vegetables and fruits are rich in phytonutrients and boost immunity. Aim to put a food of each colour on eat meal plate in the day. 

Hydrate: Drink plenty of fluids- at least 2.5 litres a day; filter water. Homemade vegetable or bone broths are also extremely beneficial. Various herbal teas/hot drinks can help with hydration and reducing symptoms; good choices include peppermint, ginger, fresh mint and hot water with lemon, honey, and cinnamon.

Sore throats: Salt water gargles are excellent for loosening mucus and helping fend off bacterial throat infections. Two tablespoons of honey in hot water can also help to soothe and decrease throat inflammation and pain. Chamomile and peppermint teas are also helpful for soothing irritated sore throats, as are teas or infusions made from  licorice root.

Respiratory congestion & sinuses: For respiratory congestion, use a humidifier, vaporizers, or steam inhalers, or spend time in steamy baths or showers.  Deep breathing exercises are very useful for shifting mucus and respiratory secretions and clearing the chest.


Prevention Strategies in alignment with the Public Health England

Hand washing: The most well-established way to prevent respiratory infections such as influenza and coronavirus is frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water. Scrub your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Hand sanitizer: Handwashing with soap and water is the best way to reduce germs, but if they are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol can help to reduce the spread of infection.

Covering your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; if your hands are not free or you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your bare hands.

Not touching your face: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, which can help provide the virus with a route of entry into the body. Since the average individual touches their face an average of 15 times per hour.

Keeping surfaces clean: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially when someone is ill. Surfaces to consider include doorknobs, phones, computer keyboards, remotes, and other surfaces that are frequently touched in rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen.

Consider helping others: Support those in self-isolation by delivering any grovcery or medicines to their doorstep. Buy only what you need. There is genuinely no need to overstock. 

Please note that the above advise is for mild symptoms only, and most healthy individuals should only experience mild symptoms. If however you experience any worsening symptoms please call 111 immediately.