All the natural ways to stay happy, safe and healthy (despite coronavirus)
Coronavirus is challenging all corners of our lives, including our physical and mental health. Boosting your defences will help you get through these turbulent times.
Here are some natural actions you can take to improve and protect your physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
Stick to a healthy diet
“Our immune system requires certain vitamins and minerals to function properly, so the goal is to nourish the body with healthy whole foods,” says naturopath and nutritionist Michaela Sparrow.
“Of course, regardless of how healthy your diet is, there is no guarantee you won’t get sick, but at least you have given yourself the best fighting chance to prevent it and/or recover.”
Immune-boosting nutrients, foods and drinks
Vitamins A, C, D and E, and the mineral zinc are particularly helpful for immune support.
Nutritional scientist and naturopath Matt Legge also recommends loading your diet with garlic and onions, along with herbs and spices including cumin, anise seed, caraway seeds, thyme, oregano, fennel seed and turmeric.
“These support a healthy immune system and have other soothing and protecting properties specific to the throat and respiratory tract,” says Matt.
He recommends using the whole food – including skin, peels, seeds and pulp – as much as possible for maximum nutritional benefit (and less waste).
- Eat healthy: Foods to boost your immune system
Keep up your fluids
Adequate fluids, particularly hot liquids such as teas, can help defend your body against infection.
“The process of hot liquids flushing the throat alone can be beneficial, as we keep flushing the mucous away from the lungs and into the digestive tract,” says Matt.
Certain teas are known for their immune support.
Liquorice root, widely used traditional Chinese medicine, has a compound found to be active in inhibiting replication of the previous SARS coronavirus outbreak – though Matt recommends working with a healthcare practitioner to ensure correct dose.
Matt says reishi mushroom powder and Chinese wormwood (sweet Annie) are other popular teas with a long history of use for supporting immune system function and efficiency.
Keep on top of your mental and physical game
With life confined largely to our homes, and uncertainty over what the future will look like, it’s more important than ever to prioritise mental wellbeing.
As well as its physical benefits, moderate exercise is a key ingredient for maintaining mental wellbeing, says House of Wellness TV co-host and fitness trainer Luke Hines.
“Movement releases so many good endorphins in our body, and in a time like this when it’s quite depressing to watch the news or see what’s happening on social media, we need to stay as positive as we possibly can,” he says.
- Get moving: How to stay fit through coronavirus
Meditation and mindfulness
Practising mindfulness meditation for even 30 minutes a day is considered a useful technique to manage anxiety, stress and uncertainty.
Free apps such as Smiling Mind offer guided meditations, or adopt mindfulness techniques that help you connect to the moment, such as focusing on breathing, slowing down and paying attention to your environment and noticing all your senses.
- Keeping calm: How not to let stress harm your immune system
“Sleep is where our body repairs and rejuvenates itself,” says Michaela.
“When we have poor-quality sleep (frequent waking through the night) and not enough sleep our body won’t function at its optimum.”
Sleep expert Dr Carmel Harrington says lack of sleep can also impact personal drive and happiness.
“People who’re sleep-deprived can be highly strung in their personal relationships,” she says.
“Their level of happiness goes right down and the ability to be continually motivated is difficult.”
As well as eating well and exercising, Dr Harrington recommends good sleep hygiene practices including: giving yourself enough time in bed each night to allow 7-9 hours of rest; Avoiding coffee and alcohol; turning off screens at least an hour before bed; and dimming the lights and doing a breathing or relaxation exercise.
Keep a clean, safe environment
Wash your hands properly
Regular, thorough handwashing is vital to preventing any infection, including coronavirus.
“Handwashing helps remove the bacteria from our hands so we don’t ingest them, helping to lower risk of infection,” says Michaela.
As well as removing germs from your hands, coronaviruses are encased by a fatty membrane, which is broken down by soap making the virus unable to attach itself to your cells.
- Hygiene 101: How to wash your hands properly
Natural cleaners and essential oils
If you can’t tolerate the whiff of chemical disinfectants, there are effective natural cleaning agents.
“Tea tree oil and eucalyptus oils have well-researched antimicrobial effects when used as cleaning agents or topically,” says Matt.
Add a couple of drops of tea tree and eucalyptus to some water and vinegar in a spray bottle to make a good all-purpose cleaner.
Other oils including oregano, cinnamon bark, thyme white, lemongrass and sandalwood have also been shown to have antimicrobial properties.
Matt says myrhh oil is recognised for its infection-fighting ability, through the antimicrobial properties in its smoke.
“The smoke can really help to penetrate into the materials that you can’t access, so burning myrhh around the house is a good sanitiser,” he says.
- Natural cleaning: Your DIY guide to eco-friendly cleaners
Written by Claire Burke.