I’ve been trying my best to respond to the many questions on the COVID-19 pandemic and I hope they have been helpful. The information I provide is also my response to the comments that reflect the fear and anxiety that is rampant globally. The information is my viewpoint as a nutritionist (after doing a lot of research and reading) but more so my viewpoint as one that believes that we don’t need to be a statistic.
I carried this mindset since my diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. Reading the many statistics on my cancer, some good and some bad, I was resolute in being above the stats by changing my lifestyle and mindset. Average is something I’m not willing to be and I believe it’s not something you need to be destined to either.
So how has my life changed in response to SARS-CoV2? I’m now focusing on what I call my 4 C’s :
that are all focused on optimising my immune system and calming inflammation.
I’m actually very thankful for this extra time at home to cook and try out new recipes. I’ve always preferred homemade meals than meals out. I have touted cooking for so many years to clients and now it’s taken a Coronavirus to get people to cook! Now is the time to hone those chef skills and do some experimenting in the kitchen.
What am I cooking ?
I’m staying away from eating raw foods, even if I buy salad greens, I’m lightly sauteeing them in some olive oil or coconut oil in case of any bacteria that’s leftover even from a good wash.
I’m also focusing on anti-inflammatory herbs like :
Check out my anti-inflammatory lentil ginger stew recipe for ideas on how to incorporate these herbs.
I’m increasing my protein intake:
Protein is one of the building blocks for our immune system and so we need to make sure we are getting adequate protein and specifically getting enough of the right amino acids that are crucial for our immune system, like arginine, glutamine and cystine. Though I am plant based, I have been including more grass fed beef that is now more and more accessible in Hong Kong as well as bone broth and cold pressed grass fed whey protein in my meals to ensure I’m getting a complete amino acid profile.
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men." – Herman Melville
We’re living in unprecedented times. More than ever as a society we are the most connected but also the most isolated and lonely. COVID-19 increases this isolation - for good reason, but we must remember the importance of staying in community and utilise technology that has been gifted to us. Depression will become a pandemic if we don’t take good care of our community and tribe.
If you are living alone and self quarantining and working from home, it’s good to stay connected with friends and family via FaceTime or Skype. Video is better than audio because you can see facial expressions.
A neighborhood walk on ‘off hours’ or away from the crowds is also beneficial for the body and soul. I recently discovered a beautiful walk in my neighborhood where I was in the thick of the forest just 10 minutes from my home.
If you know somebody on their own, especially the elderly and marginalised, check in on them and make sure they know they are not alone.
This season where we are home more often, enjoy the time you have with your children and loved one rather than spending the time worrying. Choose to count your blessings even though it’s difficult being cooped up together for so long! Parents - kudos to you!
Consistency is a key player to success in all areas of our lives including our health. I know that my digestive system can only take so many supplements at one time so have decided to put my other supplements on hold first. I was previously working on my hormones (they’re still a bit messed up from all of the chemo), but have stopped that to focus on my immune system and controlling inflammation.
What supplements am I taking?
1g per day. 2g if I there’s a new spike in cases or if I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m going for the highest absorption of Vitamin C these days with the liposomal form.
Watch the video (2m) : Upgrade your vitamin C
Particularly with Vitamin D3, research shows consistency is truly more beneficial than one off high doses.
Research is showing that zinc inside the cells can stop the replication of the RNA virus. The key though is to make sure the zinc is inside our cells and not just in our blood stream. This is why I take quercetin along with the zinc.
A lot of research showing quercetin as a good anti-inflammatory and lowers risk of respiratory infection. It also works together with zinc to lower viral load and inhibit replication the virus.
I unpack these nutrients in my article : [COVID-19 Update] The Research Behind Immunity Nutrients Specific to Coronavirus
Sambu Guard (on occasion)
when I need the extra boost or just want a drink other than green tea, water or bone broth =)
4 capsules per day (from 2 previously). Knowing that my gut has always been compromised and knowing that 70% of our immune cells is in our gut, I’m sure to be upping my intake of probiotics along with beneficial fibres that will feed them.
Ensuring that my base is covered as the slightest nutrient deficiency can offset our body functions, I’m staying on a multi until this virus is over.
Another important lifestyle factor to be vigilant about consistency is sleep. Sleep cannot be made up for and so consistent quality sleep is essential for our immune system.
A study done on 24,656 Chinese adults who died in Hong Kong during H1N1 outbreak in 1998, showed that mild to moderate exercise, categorized as three times a week of exercise, had a reduced risk of dying. While those who did no exercise or excessive exercise (more than five times a week), had an increased risk of dying.
My daily routine including my Pilates practice has been disrupted with COVID-19, social distancing and just the extra precaution of coming into contact with other bacteria and germs in the studio has made it more difficult to keep up with my regular routine. However it doesn’t mean movement needs to stop. Many studios, like Flex Studio are offering online classes but there’s also many YouTube videos with routines that you can easily follow in your own home. I've been mixing in the Live Stream Pilates mat sessions at Flex with some cardio from Tabata workouts.
A Tabata workout, is a HITT (high intensity interval training) style, 4 minute workout that was discovered by a Japanese scientist, Dr Izumi Tabata that showed increase of 27% in both aerobic and anaerobic systems when compared to a group that was doing moderate exercise for 60 minutes.
These were some of the longest 4 minutes of my life but am loving it so far. However a word of caution, is to not over exert yourself during your workouts as this can create inflammation and be a stressor on your immune system. This also goes for long endurance training where you can also suppress your immune system. The key is balance. My training these days consists of a mix of Pilates and Tabata. I follow this with cold showers that have been shown to boost your immune system.
by Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist