Many of you must be weighing up the risks and benefits of spending time with loved ones over Christmas this year and wondering what’s best to do. There are no magic answers and the government is right to highlight the potential downside of celebrating together. But maybe there are things – over and above the current public health advice – that we can do to protect ourselves from infection and, more importantly, to ward off the worst case COVID scenario if the virus manages to get through our defences?
Obviously the most important thing is to follow the guidelines about mixing households, keeping your distance, washing and sanitising your hands. You know all that. And if you don’t there are plenty of places you can read about it online.
More difficult to find online – despite the fact that we’re supposedly ‘following the science’ – is reliable information about the well-researched and established science of supporting your own miraculous immune system. The government and health agencies have been shockingly silent on this one for reasons that I find inexplicable and inexcusable.
Despite our ‘first world’ status, there are widespread nutrient deficiencies throughout the UK population. We normally associate malnutrition with starvation and poverty, and it’s not widely appreciated that micronutrient malnutrition – from a diet rich in calories and poor in nutrients – is a significant risk factor for many diseases. As scientists scramble to work out how to tame the pandemic the emerging science is clear that these deficiencies are involved in COVID infection and recovery.
We’ve known for a very long time that Vitamin C may be able to reduce the risk of viral infection, and there has never been any good reason to think that the COVID virus, a member of the coronavirus family, is any different. Vitamin C may also be able to reduce the risk developing acute symptoms if infected. Patrick Holford, together with a group of respected nutrition scientists, published a masterly review of the evidence last week, and I’ve included the abstract below:
“There are limited proven therapies for COVID-19. Vitamin C’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effects make it a potential therapeutic candidate, both for the prevention and amelioration of COVID-19 infection, and as an adjunctive therapy in the critical care of COVID-19. This literature review focuses on vitamin C deficiency in respiratory infections, including COVID-19, and the mechanisms of action in infectious disease, including support of the stress response, its role in preventing and treating colds and pneumonia, and its role in treating sepsis and COVID-19. The evidence to date indicates that oral vitamin C (2–8 g/day) may reduce the incidence and duration of respiratory infections and intravenous vitamin C (6–24 g/day) has been shown to reduce mortality, intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital stays, and time on mechanical ventilation for severe respiratory infections. Further trials are urgently warranted. Given the favourable safety profile and low cost of vitamin C, and the frequency of vitamin C deficiency in respiratory infections, it may be worthwhile testing patients’ vitamin C status and treating them accordingly with intravenous administration within ICUs and oral administration in hospitalised persons with COVID-19.“
You can find the full text here: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/12/3760
Another group of people who have worked tirelessly to keep the public informed about natural health alternatives this year, the Alliance for Natural Health, launched the Vitamin D Test and Take campaign in October. Again the motivation behind this campaign is to help us take care of ourselves when public health information can’t – or won’t – keep up. You can find the details here: https://www.anhinternational.org/campaigns/test-take-vitamin-d/
Selenium and Zinc
Several other nutrients have made headlines in the natural medicine world, and deficiencies of zinc and selenium are both linked to worse outcomes in COVID.
DIY Health Improvement
I have spent the last twenty years of my life studying personalised nutrition and few people know better than I do that improving you nutritional status is an individual equation that should be approached with a combination of caution and wisdom. Normally, I would avoid giving advice online about supplement intake. But deficiencies of these nutrients are killing people needlessly and it needs to stop.
There’s still time before Christmas to boost your own immune system and even to help your elderly relatives. If you are planning to mix households over Christmas then I suggest taking oral vitamin C of 3g per day for the duration of the festivities, starting today if you can. Take with a glass of water and spread the dose out over the day. Don’t take it all at once, or it may cause tummy upsets to rival the traditional Brussels sprout response! (In fact, flatulence is a good sign that you have reached Vitamin C supplement saturation.)
Keep up with your Vitamin D too – at around 4000iu per day, Yes, it’s a good idea to get yourself tested for Vitamin D as soon as you can, but I don’t think that should stop you taking a daily dose in the meantime. Consider taking a good quality multivitamin with around 10-15mg Zinc and 100-200mcg Selenium; good brands are Biocare, Cytoplan and Nutri Advanced.
I continue to be shocked and saddened by the wilful blindness at the heart of our national health strategy – the blinkered high-tech, drugs-focussed approach to health, and the total avoidance of acknowledgment of our innate and powerful healing apparatus. Even while I was clapping for our wonderful health workers in the Spring I was cursing the ignorance of the system that failed to provide our brave doctors and nurses with supplements to keep them safer. If only we could take an integrated approach to all forms of healthcare, combining the wonders of modern science with the marvels of ancient biology, we would all have happier and healthier lives.
The Power Through Breast Cancer Masterclass – online in 2021
There’s a reason the COVID response has upset me so much: it has echoes of the way I feel about the way we ‘do’ cancer care in the UK. It’s just so blinkered and disempowering. That’s not to detract from the amazing people who work within the system, it’s the system that fails us. And we urgently need to change it. The science is clear that cancer is a highly individual and adaptive disease and our best hope in tackling it is to cover as many angles as we can at the same time, and we can’t do that without working with, rather than against, our own healing ability. Cancer and COVID patients alike suffer from the blinkered approach of the UK health services. Our stubborn refusal to harness the power of nature and biology in our quest for health causes untold morbidity and mortality and, after this year, I’m more committed than ever to calling out that mistake.
One of the most wonderful things about 2020 for me was the chance to work with Yes to Life, a charity that is 100% devoted to providing cancer patients with all the information they need to build an integrated cancer care strategy, using the best of conventional and complementary medicine. I was thrilled to be part of that initiative during the Your Life and Cancer 2020 conference.
At the end of 2019 I launched my Power Through Breast Cancer Masterclasses. The original plan was to host a group of five breast cancer patients at my home in Kent for a day of education, inspiration and collaboration – explaining the Five Frontiers model that underpins my PTBC programme. I was frustrated that COVID stopped this taking off.
For 2021 I’ve decided to put the programme online as a four week programme starting on 1 February. To maintain a friendly and collaborative atmosphere I’ve limited the numbers to 8 participants. You can read more about the programme over here, and you can book your place on the course here. To be completely honest, one of the things that was stopping me from launching the course was the need to learn about online course technology, so I’ve decided to bypass that hurdle and keep it simple. When you book you will be given a start date, and it’s up to you to keep the same time on the following three weeks free. We will meet on Zoom every week and I’ll send you the link each time.
I’ve no idea how much this will appeal to people so I’ve only made one course available so far. Please let me know if you want to book but can’t for any reason.
Meanwhile, it only remains for me to wish you and yours a happy and healthy Christmas.
See you in 2021!