Nutritional Therapy Oxford Dip ION, mBANT
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Since news of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wohan last month, I have been following its spread with growing concern. As a nutritional therapist, I am interested in how lifestyle and nutrition help boost our immune system and protect us from infections. I hope you find this blog a helpful start in protecting yourself from the infections that can spread so quickly.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that causes upper respiratory tract and gastrointestinal infections in mammals and birds and can spread to humans causing illnesses ranging from the common cold, to more serious complications such as pneumonia, SARS and acute respiratory conditions. Early last month, a new strain of coronavirus (Covid-19) was identified in Wuhan, China, and is spreading round the world. People who have caught the virus experience mild to severe respiratory issues, as well as a fever cough and shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. It has been described as a health emergency of international concern and you can read more in the guidelines published by the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England here. The World Health Organisation also has advice you can read here and you can watch a video in which the BBC’s medical correspondent Fergus Walsh assesses the chances of contracting Covid-19 and how we can avoid it.


Keep your distance!

It is important to give yourself the best chance of not getting infected. Since many viruses are passed from person to person via airborne water droplets, it is important to keep your distance from people who are coughing and spluttering. According to some hospital guidelines you may be exposed to diseases such as flu or coronavirus if you are within six feet of the coughs and sneezes of an infected person for 10 minutes or longer. If you have a cough or cold, the most hygienic way of dealing with it is to isolate yourself and be careful to not infect other people. Make sure you cough into your elbow or sleeve (or into a tissue that you discard immediately) so germs don’t spread through the air or on your hands.


Be careful of germs!

As well as airborne viruses, some viruses can stay on surfaces and putting your hands to your face after touching a contaminated surface can spread the virus. It is a very good habit to wash your hands effectively and keep fingers and hands away from mouth, nose and eyes. Basically, as a research article from The Journal of Hospital Infection put it in 2010, ‘don’t touch your face’!  During flu season and if there is a risk of new infections like the Coronavirus, it is very important to be aware that germs get into the body through the mouth, nose and eyes, and to keep your hands clean and away from your face. Teach children to wash their hands properly and regularly and to keep hands away from their faces as good hygiene practice.


Build up your immunity

Having a strong immune system is so important if you want your body to effectively fight any viruses. Your immune system is your body’s natural defence mechanism and you want this to be as strong as possible to prevent any deadly coronavirus infection. Remember that prevention is the best form of medicine!

Try to consume lots of foods that are rich in Vitamin C and take high-doses of Vitamin C in powdered form which is known to be protective against other respiratory issues.[1] Vitamin C is also a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial.  My husband and I keep a pot vitamin C powder in our cupboard and when we feel our bodies begin to fight an infection, we take this at high doses.

It is important to keep a steady supply of vitamin C in the bloodstream so keep on topping up on it rather than having all your Vitamin C in one go. See me if you have a history of kidney problems or kidney stones, or if you are on anticoagulants medication as high doses of Vitamin C may interfere with this and high doses are not recommended.

It is also a good idea to increase your intake of Vitamin E, Zinc and Vitamin D. Recent studies have shown that Vitamin E reduces flu in the elderly population. Zinc helps to maintain immune balance, and deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of infection. Low vitamin D has been associated with both acute and chronic illness.  It is very easy and in expensive to test yourself so please be in touch with me if you would like to do this test.

Psychological stress and trauma has been shown to suppress immunity so it is important to deal with your work-life balance and any unresolved trauma.  Stress management, breath techniques and talking to the right therapist, mentor or coach can be very helpful in achieving this.

Alcohol and smoking have been shown to have a detrimental effect on immunity particularly on the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract so stick well within the daily recommended limits (2 to 3 units for women, and 3 to 4 for men).  Try to avoid alcohol for at least 2 to 3 days a week


Eat more anti-viral foods

Remember to take care of the healthy bacteria and microbiota in your gut as part of building your immunity. There are many foods with natural antibacterial properties, also known as astringents, which can help boost your immune system.

Onions and garlic have sulphur compounds that are also anti-inflammatory. A research article published in 2015 in The Journal of Immunology Research discusses the anti-inflammatory effects of garlic and its use in maintaining the homeostasis of the immune system. Ginger also has properties such as gingerols and zingerone which have been found to inhibit viral replication and enhance the body’s ability fight viruses and outbreaks of influenza, along with other natural herbs as discussed in The Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2010.

Raw honey also has bacteria fighting enzymes, so you might like to try mixing chopped garlic and ginger with raw honey as a natural remedy taken a couple of times a day if you are fighting an infection or feeling rundown. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut kimchi, kombucha and raw pickles are also effective antibacterial foods. You should also be increasing your intake of probiotics and prebiotics and Vitamin D[3]!

Antiviral herbs also help suppress the development of viruses and boost the immune system. Herbal support such as Echinacea, Elderberry and Beta-Glucans modulates immunity. Other antiviral herbs include ginger, calendula, licorice root, oregano and Star Anise. My favourite thing to take is black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) which is great at limiting the length and severity of flu symptoms. It is able to connect to the tiny spikes on a virus protein so that instead of invading healthy cells the virus is ineffective and cannot take over healthy cells. Taking 60 ml a day for adults and 30 ml for children can really make a difference!

Here are some other nutritional food tips I make sure to follow to boost immunity:

  • Cut back on processed food  including white starch, sugar and excessive caffeine and sugar.  Sugar has been shown to suppress immunity
  • Aim for 10 varieties of vegetables or salad a day, and 2 to 3 portions of lower sugar fruit.
  • The Alliance for Natural Health have produced some wonderful guidelines which I regularly recommend my clients follow. They also provide a vegan guide and a children’s guide.
  • Green teas has been shown support immunity
  • Stocks and broths are brilliant for immunity.  They are known as ‘Jewish Penicillin’!
  • Garlic and Onions are anti-bacterial
  • Ginger and Turmeric are anti-inflammatory
  • Oregano and cloves are anti-bacterial


Don’t under-estimate sleep and exercise!

Quality sleep (between 7 and 9 hours a night) has been shown to be beneficial for the immune system.  Tips for improving sleep include regular routines, getting daylight every morning (or having a SAD lamp), dimming the lights at night (or having a part of blue-light blocking glasses), exercise, relaxation before bed, a hot bath before bed (with Epsom Salts if you feel inclined), making sure you bedroom is the nice and dark, and the right temperature, and finally making sure you are following a food plan that helps to balance your blood sugar. Regular exercise (30-60 minutes most days) also boosts the immune system, and this can include walking, gardening, housework, cycling, and swimming.


With every blessing,



Emma Maitland-Carew – Registered Nutritional Therapist

Dip.ION, mBANT, CHNC Registered Practitioner,

Metabolic Balance® Coach, HeartMath Coach.



[1] Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31 (1).

[2] Cohen S et al. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch Intern Med. 2009; 169 (1): 62-7.

[3] Yamshchikov AV et al. Vitamin D for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Endocrine Practice. 2009; 15 (5): 438-49.

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