The preventative measures shared in this article are not meant to replace the medical care and recommendations provided by your doctor, paediatrician, health department, or any other healthcare provider. As the COVID-19 Coronavirus situation is rapidly changing, we are continuing to monitor the guidelines and updates provided by the Government, the NHS, and the General Osteopathic Council.
Bramley Osteopaths is committed to providing the best care possible to each patient. At this time our clinic remains open 8.30 am – 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday. We are taking extensive steps to clean the clinic several times per day in addition to adjusting appointment times so to avoid the need to wait in the waiting room.
If you have a fever, are coughing, or suspect you have a serious illness, please call to reschedule or adjust any upcoming appointments as we will be unable to see you in person. This decision has been made to support the health of our entire community and those that are at greatest risk. Remember, phone consultations are always an option for existing patients who cannot be physically present for appointments. Our goal is to make sure you have the best support and care while also promoting the health and well-being of others.
We are currently at the tail end of Winter and during this seasonal time we may find ourselves needing extra immune support as colds, flu, and viral bugs continue to spread. With recent events, our collective diligence in preventing viral spread is important.
Not everyone has the same risk of catching a virus, and our ability to mount an appropriate immune reaction varies on several circumstances including our past medical history, family history, and general lifestyle. The variability of weather, increased stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise all contribute to our immune function as well as our ability to respond when exposed to a virus or bacteria.
The most basic actions you can take to reduce your risk of exposure are:
Wash your hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20-30 seconds
Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, or use a tissue and dispose of it in a wastebasket immediately
Stay home from work or school if you are sick. Individuals over 60 or those with compromised immune systems should limit their exposure to large groups during times of viral outbreak.
There are additional lifestyle and daily hygiene tips that make a difference. Incorporating simple daily practices can have a big impact on our seasonal and lifelong immune function, and most can be easily incorporated into our daily routines.
Immune Health is a Daily Practice
Our immune system is always working. It is affected by the same internal and external factors that every other body system responds to, including weather, stress, diet, exercise, sleep, travel, environmental toxins, and even antibiotic use. Each day, we make decisions that can either enhance or deplete our immune function. In order to enhance our immune function, we need to practice daily habits that encourage internal homeostasis (balance) and give all of our organ systems—including the immune system—the best chance to support us.
Here are a few of these daily practices to follow:
Good sleep hygiene: Getting at least 7+ hours of restful sleep each night so the body can repair and rejuvenate. Avoid screens prior to bed and be intentional about sleep hygiene.
Practice stress management: When stress is present in our lives it impacts every body system and puts a strain on both our gut health and immune function. Studies have found that stress impacts the immune system by lowering its responsiveness to the environments around us. A daily habit and tool that supports stress reduction is practicing mindfulness.
Get daily exercise and movement: It has been consistently shown that moderate, daily exercise enhances immune function and may even delay the degeneration of the immune system. Even as little as 20-30 minutes of movement a day is beneficial! Being in nature and breathing fresh air is extremely therapeutic and has been shown to increase the function of natural killer (NK) cells against viruses.
Eat a healthy, balanced, and whole foods-based diet that limits sugar consumption, including alcohol (more on this below).
It is important to stay informed during times of stress, viral outbreak, and illness. Too much worrying, however, can have a negative effect on our immune system. Be mindful of over-triggering your fear response, which can cause additional stress for your vagus nerve. Remember, the vagus nerve plays a huge role in your mood, immune system, stress response, cardiovascular function, and digestion.
Hydrotherapy can be therapeutic during times of stress or illness. The easiest form of hydrotherapy is to end your showers in cool or cold water for 20 seconds. Similarly, warming socks treatment can be beneficial if you have a cold, sinus or lung congestion or fever.
Keep your mucus membranes moist by using a humidifier in the house, rinsing your sinuses daily with a saline rinse such as a neti pot, or gargling with saltwater. Consider gargling salt water or rinsing your nasal passages. Saline rinsing or gargling is an effective practice that keeps the nasal passages moisturized and clear, as well as decreases the risk of transmission to other viruses.
Read More: What is the Immune System?
Herbal Virus and Flu Prevention
Elderberry is one of the most popular herbal antivirals on the market today. This herb has been used for hundreds of years to support the immune system and is still used today for seasonal immune support and prevention. Due to its high flavonoid and antioxidant content, elderberry is a great seasonal choice to supplement with during winter months. Elderberry has the ability to reduce adherence of viruses to the mucous membranes and inhibits the enzyme found in viruses, called sialidase. For people traveling, elderberry has been found to successfully reduce the duration of viral illness when compared to placebo therapy. It has also been useful against influenza A and B infections. You can take elderberry as a tea, syrup, and through some over-the-counter products that are pleasant in taste and relatively easy to administer.
Goldenseal is an herb that contains many different constituents including one in particular known as berberine. As an herb, goldenseal (or berberine) has been used in medical practice for a variety of illnesses including infections ranging from upper respiratory to bladder infections. More specifically, goldenseal and the constituent of berberine is known to decrease viral growth in influenza A. Goldenseal is best taken as a liquid extract but can also be successful as a powder or capsule. When taking it as a liquid extract, be prepared for its bitter taste. Taste aside, the medical properties of goldenseal are known to decrease viral growth or replication, not just for influenza A but also for other viruses such as CMV (cytomegalovirus), hepatitis C, and even Zika virus.
Licorice has been used for centuries in various ways against viruses. It has a number of anti-viral constituents including glycyrrhizic acid, glycyrrhizin, and glycyrrhetinic acid. These constituents are known as triterpenoids which have shown effects against herpes, HIV, hepatitis virus, SARS coronavirus, and influenza viruses. Within licorice, the specific component known as glycyrrhizic acid has been shown to inhibit the influenza virus growth and replication. Licorice is a relatively popular herb that comes in many different forms including teas, syrups and combination products.
Reishi is a popular medicinal mushroom that comes in a variety of forms including tablets, capsules, tinctures, and teas. This special mushroom also has anti-viral properties that have been used to decrease the viral replication or load in a number of viruses including HPV, Hand foot & mouth disease, and other skin manifestations of herpes viruses. Reishi is also helpful for the reduction of pain associated with shingles.
Lemon Balm is a classic antiviral that may be effective in supporting some infections such as influenza when taken at appropriate doses and times. Some research has shown that lemon balm is useful for resistant herpes infections where typical antiviral drug therapy is no longer useful. Lemon balm can be found as a liquid extract, tea, and often in other combination products. It also has a pleasant smell and taste and can easily grow in a home garden.
Vitamin D has been found to impact our innate (born with) and our adaptive (maturing) immune system to engage in an appropriate response when we are sick. It is recommended that you regularly assess Vitamin D levels through lab testing to ensure proper function of the immune system. For example, a 2019 study found that children with low Vitamin D levels were at greater risk for certain viral infections leading to hospitalization. The researchers noted that having normal levels of Vitamin D “appears to have some beneficial influence on the incidence and severity of some, but not all, types of these infections”. Additionally, Vitamin D has been found to support the immune response of children who received a flu vaccine. In elderly patients, Vitamin D was also found to have a positive response to the immune system after receiving the flu vaccine. Before supplementing with Vitamin D, it is ideal to know where your internal levels stand. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that, under rare circumstances, can build up in the body. Staying current with your labs helps your medical team discern the best dosage if needed. In dietary form, Vitamin D can be consumed freely in foods including mushrooms, fish, liver, cheese, eggs, and butter.
Vitamin C has been shown to be helpful when the immune system is compromised, such as when we are actively sick or in recovery. There is some research that supports the practice of taking Vitamin C as a preventative or for immune upregulation. The results of three controlled trials found that Vitamin C was successful in preventing pneumonia, and an additional two controlled studies found Vitamin C to be a helpful treatment for subjects who currently had pneumonia. The dosages within these studies varied between 3-8g. Vitamin C is readily found in various foods including citrus, fruit juice, and green vegetables such as broccoli and kale.
Read More: Our Approach to Autoimmune Disease
Nutrition-Focused Virus & Flu Prevention
Aim to eat five different colours of whole foods each day. The more colour you consume, the more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and nutrients your body can utilize to support body systems as a whole. Colourful fruits and vegetables also strongly support liver detoxification, which plays a big role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Drink plenty of water. A good baseline for water consumption is half of your body weight in ounces (not to exceed 100 oz). For example, if you weigh 140 lb aim for 70 oz of water per day. Staying hydrated supports cellular health, elimination pathways, bowel function, liver detoxification, kidney function, and blood health.
Avoid processed sugars and artificial sweeteners. These sugars are some of the most pro-inflammatory foods we can consume. Pay attention to food labels and avoid ingredients like aspartame, sucralose, Splenda, Equal, high fructose corn syrup, and white sugar. Instead, sweeten foods with honey, maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar or natural fruits if necessary. People also tend to forget that high sugar content is found in certain alcoholic drinks, such as wine. Alcohol is one of the first things that should be avoided when the immune system is lowered or at risk.
Consume probiotic-rich foods daily. Probiotics are an essential part of a healthy immune system. Trillions of probiotics make up a large part of our immune system in the gut. Consuming foods rich in natural probiotics helps to repopulate and support our natural defense system. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, miso, and pickles are all great choices.