How to help ourselves during COVID

Echinacea flower
Echinacea flower

There’s no panacea for avoiding COVID apart from following all the social distancing, masks and handwashing rules, and of course more recently the vaccination.  However, we can keep ourselves in tip top condition so we are more able to cope with it if we do get it. Some people are very ill, while others seem to breeze through it with very few symptoms, while others are asymptomatic.

Healthy Soul asked Ali Cullen, nutritional practitioner and consultant at A. Vogel, herbal manufacturers, to give us some advice. She is a nutritionist and herbalist and the following is what she recommends for staying healthy.

Support the immune system naturally:

• Get plenty of sleep.
• Drink alcohol in moderation only.
• Quit smoking.
• Exercise regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight or obese can risk changing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut and encourages inflammation in the body, both of which can leave you more vulnerable to illness or infection.
• Get out in nature daily if possible.
• Minimise unnecessary screen time.

What to eat

Ensure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, specifically those containing vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries, red and green peppers and broccoli, and beta-carotene (vitamin A), such as red peppers, carrots, spinach, and yellow fruits such as apricots and mango – these nutrients help keep your respiratory tract healthy so that it is better able to fight infections.

Ensure you include sources of zinc in your diet, such as meat, shellfish, cheese, bread, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals – zinc helps to keep the immune system functioning normally and is essential for wound healing.

Use herbal support

By supporting the immune system, Echinacea helps to maintain the body’s resistance to infection.

Echinacea is a plant native to America but is now cultivated extensively in Europe. Up to 10 species of Echinacea have been identified, but only three (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida) are used medicinally. Echinacea purpurea has been most widely researched, and recent research flagged up its potential use against new coronaviruses.1 (See details of research at the end).

Vogel’s Immune Support provides:A Vogel Immune Support

• Vitamin C sourced from acerola cherries, which contains up to 100 times the amount of vitamin C found in lemons or oranges. Vitamin C is extremely supportive of immune function, and that found in acerola is more readily absorbed and used by the body.
• Nasturtium extract which contains glucosinolates that have an affinity for the lungs, and is also a very rich source of vitamin C.
• Zinc which is immune supporting.
• Vitamin D, also an immune supporting nutrient.

http://www.avogel.co.uk

LEARN MORE:

The science behind Echinacea:  

Echinacea has been shown in numerous studies to be effective in relieving symptoms of colds and flu. In 2004, Goel et al published a trial that demonstrated the efficiency of Echinacea purpurea extract in the treatment of colds and flu, when it is used as soon as a cold starts. At seven days, 95 per cent of the subjects using Echinacea were free of symptoms compared with only 63% in the placebo group.2

In 2005, Goel published another trial showing that volunteers taking Echinacea purpurea extract at the onset of a cold had a greater decrease in their daily symptom score than a placebo group.3 Both studies by Goel involved ethanolic extracts of Echinacea purpurea extract produced from freshly harvested plant material, as in our Echinaforce drops.

In 2006, a Cochrane Report reviewed 16 controlled clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of several different Echinacea preparations for treating the symptoms of common colds. They concluded that some preparations based on Echinacea purpurea (including the aerial parts) might be effective for shortening the duration or decreasing the severity of cold symptoms in adults if taken after the onset of those symptoms.4

Max the vitamin content of your meals

Numerous studies have shown Vitamin C to be beneficial for the immune system. In research, it has been shown on several occasions to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.5

In one study, participants were given a tomato juice rich in lycopene (another antioxidant which helps to prevent against cell damage) and Vitamin C. Results found that, after consuming the tomato juice, markers of inflammation (associated with infection and disease) amongst participants went down, and the level of antioxidants went up.6

Vitamin C is also thought to be helpful in reducing fever. Consumption of fruits that are rich in Vitamin C is thought to help people recover more quickly from a fever, as well as reducing the ‘hot flush’ feeling that occurs when the body reaches a high temperature.7 Whilst high temperatures are useful at the initial stage of an infection, a persistent high temperature is uncomfortable and dehydrating.

As well as contributing to normal function of the immune system, Vitamin C helps to protect cells from the oxidative (chemical) stresses we face daily, helping us to feel less tired. It also helps the normal formation of collagen which is important for the functioning of our blood vessels, bones, joint cartilage, gums, skin and teeth.

Zinc contributes to normal functioning of the immune system, and a deficiency in zinc may lead to a weakened immune response. Zinc supplements are known to play a role in reducing oxidative stress (which can increase the risk of illness and infection). One review of several studies found that 80-92mg per day of zinc may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33%.8 In addition, zinc supplements have been found to reduce the risk of infections and promote immune function in older adults.9 Zinc also plays a critical role in wound healing and is commonly used in hospitals to treat burns, certain ulcers and other skin injuries.10 This is because zinc is required for collagen synthesis and the body’s inflammatory response, as well as immune function, all of which are crucial for wound healing.

Another key nutrient in Immune Support is Vitamin D. Vitamin D has a role to play in various bodily systems, including the immune system which it helps to support function normally. As vitamin D deficiency is a fairly common occurrence across all population groups, this could be a contributing factor in regular bouts of sickness, colds and flu.

Biologically active forms of Vitamin D contain calcitriol which acts as a cytokine, a chemical produced by infected cells to help mobilise immune cells into fighting the infection. Low levels of vitamin D are, therefore, associated with lower levels of cytokine activity. This means that, when the body is under attack from pathogens and viruses, it is less able to call on the help of immune cells.

Vitamin D can sometimes be hard to come by in the winter months when we don’t get sufficient access to sun light – a key source of vitamin D. At this time colds and flu can be more abundant so it is especially important to ensure you get enough vitamin D, either through your diet (although these sources are fairly limited or by taking a gentle supplement.

RESEARCH:

1 Signer, J., Jonsdottir, H.R., Albrich, W.C. et al. In vitro virucidal activity of Echinaforce®, an Echinacea purpurea preparation, against coronaviruses, including common cold coronavirus 229E and SARS-CoV-2. Virol J 2020; 17: 136.
2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14748902/
3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16177972/
4 https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000530/full
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23440782
6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17640421
7 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2003.10719272
8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28515951
9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702361/
10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4413488/
4 Tobler M et al: Characteristics of whole fresh plant extracts. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur GanzheitMedizin, 1994

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