It’s hard to open any email or Facebook post these days and not see something about COVID-19. Everyone is in a state of panic and finding it hard to think rationally. Yes, this is a condition that must be taken seriously, however, it is also important to remember that fear and panic are stress responses and stress will reduce your immunity.

I recently shared a post on Facebook by Bruce Lipton, PhD (a stem cell biologist and author of The Biology of Belief). Amongst other things he stated that “the fear of the coronavirus is more deadly than the virus itself!” In sharing this post I was accused of spreading incorrect and irresponsible information and of not realising just how dangerous this virus is.

This is a dangerous virus, especially for the elderly and for those with lowered immunity. It is also a new virus for which we have not yet built an immunity and it is highly contagious. We do need to be vigilant with the precautions being suggested by the Australian Government Department of Health and by the WHO.  We need to look after ourselves, and we also need to look after our family and friends, and the community at large by doing the following:

  • Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. It’s time to stop soldiering on and getting everyone else on the bus or at the office sick too.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze and then disposing of the used tissue immediately.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre distance between yourself and anyone you are looking after who is coughing or sneezing. If you are coughing or sneezing, then please wear a mask so that your carers have a better chance of staying well.
  • If you are sick and think you have symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical attention. People with corona virus may experience fever, flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue and shortness of breath.

While all focus is on COVID-19, people seem to be forgetting that the WHO estimates between 290,000 and 650,000  deaths (globally each year) are associated with seasonal influenza. The Australian Bureau of Statistics ranked influenza and pneumonia as the 12th leading cause of death in Australia in 2018 with 3,102 deaths.

Dr Poland from the MAYO clinic is quoted as saying that seasonal flu is causing many more deaths than COVID-19 for which the latest global statistics are that of the 181,377 people that have been diagnosed with this virus since it’s outbreak in Dec 2019 there have been 7,119 deaths (that’s 3.9%) and 78,085 totally recovered (that’s 43%).  I can only assume the remaining 53.1% are still in the process of recovery.

So here we are, at the beginning of autumn in Australia with the usual cold and flu season approaching and a rampant corona virus on the loose. What else can we do other than panic, wash our hands regularly and fill every room in the house with toilet paper and cans of food?

Your best protection against any virus is to avoid getting sick in the first place. The following are often called “the six best natural doctors” and it’s not just because it makes for a good meme.

  • Sunshine promotes the production of vitamin D within the body which then modulates the innate and adaptive immune responses.
  • Fresh airtime in nature has been tied to health in a multitude of studies. This is also a good time to consider quitting smoking.
  • Exercise – the more physically fit and active you are, the less likely you are to suffer colds in the winter months.
  • Water – staying hydrated helps all the body’s defences function properly.
  • Healthy food – “Nutrition is a critical determinant of immune responses and malnutrition the most common cause of immunodeficiency”. Food is your source of energy, vitamins and minerals and good resources are needed to keep every aspect of your body working well. This is a good time to consider reducing alcohol, soft drinks and junk food.
  • Adequate sleepSleep and the circadian system exert a strong regulatory influence on immune functions

Another great way to support your immune system is to look at how you can reduce stress during this time of crisis. Chronic stress is associated with suppression of both cellular and humoral immunity.

Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of treating contagious diseases and epidemics and the focus is always on a holistic approach to health. We are not trying to kill the virus with Chinese medicine, rather, we aim to assist the body’s innate immune response to deal with the pathogen. Additionally, there is evidence that acupuncture decreases the physiological stress response which then gives your immune system space to work on keeping at bay all the bacteria and viruses that are circulating at this time of year. Finally, if you have an injury that is preventing you from exercising, if you’re not sleeping well or your digestive system is not at its best, then Chinese medicine can help you sort that out too.

In order to thrive through these challenging times my suggestion to you is:

  • Remember the importance of self care
  • Eat fresh whole foods when you can get them
  • Speak with your local practitioner about a program of treatment that will help to support your immunity and reduce your stress levels
  • Create a first aid kit with herbs (prescribed by your practitioner) and supplements (such as vitamin C, zinc and olive leaf) to have at home for when you do come down with a cold or flu so you can help your body fight it off
  • Breathe deeply and know that this too shall pass

Your feedback and questions are always welcome so please leave a comment below.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Tania Grasseschi (Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs and Wholefood counselling). Tania is an AHPRA registered practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine located in Kingsford, NSW and is a Sessional Academic at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Sydney campus.