March 31st 2020
What doctors and health experts are doing to stay well right now
March 16th 2020 / 0 comment
Health professionals reveal the precautions they are taking in the time of coronavirus – and we're following their advice
It seems as though everywhere you look there's news on coronavirus and with conflicting information flying around (social-distancing! self-isolate! sing happy birthday while you wash your hands!) it can be hard to know what advice to follow - so we went straight to some of our most trusted experts. If they're doing it for themselves, then we're taking notes.
Dr Sophie Shotter former A&E doctor and now an aesthetic practitioner and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic
"Most of all I’m keeping a calm head, staying rational and meditating a lot. I’m doing this both for the people in my immediate sphere and for the wider population. I’m trying to come at this from a place of love, not fear. I’ve actually been taking rational precautions since early February. This began with screening patients - we’ve been asking patients with any cold or flu-like symptoms to stay away from the clinic, and have been screening people for their travel and that of their immediate family."
Walking more and wearing disposable gloves
"There are times I do have to use public transport, although I’m avoiding it where I can. I’m walking everywhere when I’m in London instead of using the tube and making sure I get some exercise that way. In public places I’m wearing disposable gloves - as much as anything, this reminds me not to touch my face as I’m used to not doing this whilst looking after my patients."
Carrying a bottle of Clinisept+
"I carry a bottle of Clinisept+, £18.50, with me at all times - this is more than 99.5 per cent effective at killing bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores in 15 seconds (much better than alcohol gel). I’m using this to clean my phone, spritz my face and my mouth."
Taking supplements - especially zinc
"I always supplement well anyway, but my focus has been on Zinc, Magnesium, Probiotics (I take Symprove, £21.95), vitamin D3,
and Liposomal Vitamin C two to three times per day as it is more bioavailable than other forms. I’m also taking echinacea."
Filling the freezer with frozen veg
I’ve made sure my freezer is full of frozen vegetables (peppers, broccoli and green beans have been my go-to for a good mix of colour). I’ve got pasta in the cupboard and I’ve made sure I’ve got enough coffee (probably the one thing I wouldn’t want to live without!). I’m eating a balanced diet, rich in protein and vegetables so that my immune system is as supported as it can be."
Drinking lots of water to clear the virus particles
"I’m drinking a lot of water - hydration is important. It also helps to wash the virus particles through your pharynx and into your digestive system where the stomach acid will kill it. If it lingers too long in a dry mouth then it is more likely to travel into your respiratory tract.
Turning my notifications off and limiting my screen-time
"Managing other people’s panic has been the hardest bit - there’s so much misinformation around; I’m being sent ‘information’ from all sorts of sources. My phone was constantly pinging with these and BBC News notifications until I turned my notifications off. I’m not in denial, but it means I can boundary the time I spend looking at this. Twice a day is good for me, rather than a constant stream of panic. I’m trying to be an island of calm for the people around me and set them an example."
Avoiding large gatherings
I’m still doing nice things and seeing friends, but I’m avoiding large gatherings, unnecessary travel and personal contact. I’ve cancelled plans to take my parents to the theatre in London, as for them it’s not essential and they are in a more vulnerable age group than I am. They also look after my nephews every week and I’ve suggested maybe they should avoid that for a while, as even though children don’t seem to become as poorly they are powerful infection spreaders. In a work capacity, I fully understand that some people are anxious at the moment so I’m increasing my availability for remote consultation through an online consultation platform called Get Harley. I also have contingency plans in place for my team should any of them become affected.
Dr Sophie Shotter is founder of the Illuminate Skin Clinic in London and Kent.
GP Dr Clare Bailey, co-founder with husband Dr Michael Mosley of the Fast 800 online plan
"There is a lot of sensible advice about how to avoid catching the coronavirus or passing it on – protecting yourself on the outside from the virus. However, there are also many small changes you can make that will help you to protect yourself from the inside-out by boosting your immune defences to coronavirus. Luckily I’m able to work at home much of the time. We have a washbasin near the front door where we wash and sing our 20-second songs. I only recently realised that the soap actually cleans AND kills the virus and does so better than alcohol. We are trying to cocoon elderly relatives who appear somewhat too ready to go out and meet friends or go to church for our liking! It feels like the table has turned and they are resistant teenagers. But relative isolation is tough."
"Two of our adult children are returning to the roost from abroad, both chasing closing borders and the other from a recently closed university. And one who is a junior doctor will be working in ITU."
Take your own pen and bow hello
"If I take the train I try and cycle at either end to avoid the underground and am usually lucky enough to be able to travel off-peak. As for contact with surfaces I try to avoid it if I can, I carry my own pen, use contactless payments if possible, have occasionally worn gloves on transport and would rather take the stairs rather than press the lift button. I haven’t worn a mask, yet! That would probably be more to protect others."
"Socially I’m keeping a distance and trying out various manoeuvres including bowing, blowing kisses, and friendly elbow nudges."
Stock up on zinc
"If I do get infected I plan to take a moderate daily dose of zinc, which has been found to reduce cold viruses by 50 per cent."
Eat fresh food – it’s not selling out!
"One of the most effective ways to eat to beat infection us vt eating a lowish-carb Mediterranean style diet which is already known to be the healthiest diet on the planet; one rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, spices as well as fish, cheese and full-fat Greek yoghurt. Curiously most of these are still available on the supermarket shelves and what has disappeared from the shelves is the less healthy white pasta, white rice and pre-cooked tinned foods. I have to confess that I’ve stocked up with a few extra tins of tuna and tinned tomatoes (sorry), dried lentils and beans, brown rice and quinoa, some extra nuts, a few jars of anchovies, dried apricots, two tins of dried milk and brown flour for bread."
Get your gut in good shape
"The Med-style diet, with all the healthy fibre it contains is a brilliant way to boost your gut microbiome, the trillions of microbes that live in your large intestine and which are so important for your health. The “good” microbes convert the fibre you eat into health-promoting substances, which are great at reducing inflammation and infection and play a significant part in maintaining a healthy immune system. At times like this, your immune system needs to be in good shape and ready for action."
Include fermented foods
"My husband Michael Mosley and I try to include some fermented foods on a daily basis. We like to have kimchi or sauerkraut with an omelette, or on salads, or accompanying any savoury dish. We love the tangy, sweet and salty flavours. But we also like the boost indirectly gives to your immune system. These probiotic-rich foods which are also rich in vitamin C, iron and zinc, are known to boost the immune system. Other fermented foods you might include are live yoghurt, cheese, kefir or sourdough bread. Most of these probiotic-rich foods are also rich in vitamin C, iron and zinc, also known to boost the immune system."
"We try to nurture a healthy gut microbiome; feed it with care and it will, in turn, look after you. Eating loads of sugary or processed foods, on the other hand, will just reinforce the “bad” microbes that also live down there in the gut, leaving your immune system compromised."
Sleep releases immune-fighting chemicals
"Getting a good night’s sleep turns out to be far more important for our immune systems than we previously thought. A range of infection-fighting chemicals are released when you are in deep sleep. Michael’s, latest book, Fast Asleep is a great guide to improving your sleep. And it also includes plenty of my low-carb Med-style recipes to boost both your sleep and your immune system.
Join an outdoor exercise group and meditate
"The evidence is clear that keeping active helps your immune system work more efficiently. I have been doing an exercise class in the local park for the past few years, come rain or shine. And there is still plenty of space to keep your metre distance apart. I also walk the dog daily and run two-to-three times a week, both of which are great for relaxation too. We know how important it is to try and reduce prolonged periods of stress as stress decreases the ability of our immune system to respond effectively to infections. So it’s even more important to find ways to manage stress at uncertain times like this. I’m planning to practice meditating more regularly. Our blissful escape from grim reality over the last few weeks has been to go Corfu with The Durrells series, via Netflix."
Registered nutritionist Daniel O'Shaughnessy
"Since the coronavirus outbreak I've seen no change in my health but I am working from home a lot more. I’ve offered online calls instead of coming to the clinic and extended my cancellation policy - a lot of my clients have chosen to go online. My big fear is the gym closing as it’s my stress buster so will have to think of something to do at home in place of that."
"I only look at the news first thing in the morning; It just depresses me watching the same thing all the time. It's not good for my overall mood to graze the news all-day."
"The two things I’m very particular about cleaning are my phone and keyboard, which I touch frequently when I’m out and about and I’m always using them. I use Method cleaning products - I spray it onto a piece of kitchen paper and then use that to wipe my devices."
"I washed my hands well enough before the virus outbreak so nothing new there. I'm using nutrition mainly to stay well. I have cut alcohol completely from my diet and making sure I am getting good sleep each night to support my immunity."
Eat 8-a-day fruit and veg
"Nutrition wise I’m making sure I’m getting my eight-a-day fruit and veg intake as well as exercising daily with some immune-supportive functional foods. My fridge is full of shiitake mushrooms and peppers. I also get a veg box each week from The Organic Delivery Company which is organic and in-season - great value too.
"Examples of fruit and vegetables in my fridge are:
Red bell peppers and citrus fruits due to vitamin C content which help our body increase white blood cells (which help us fight infections).
Garlic as it contains sulphur-containing compound called allicin which has been shown to have immune-boosting properties.
Ginger - it has health-promoting effects as an anti-inflammatory though its functional ingredients gingerols, shogaol, and paradols.
Turmeric - The active ingredient is curcumin - a well researched immune-supportive food
Green Tea - it contains a powerful antioxidant called EGCG which can enhance immune function
Shitake Mushrooms - They're rich in beta-glucans which play a role in supporting the immune system
Shellfish - It's rich in zinc so helps immune cells function"
Keeping away from exercise mats at the gym
"I’m still going to the gym as exercise is a good thing to do to support your immune system. I am however showering at home and keeping away from exercise mats - they gross me out anyway. The gym claims to be taking extra precautions but who knows there...
"I’m not using the tube, I cycle about which you could argue is isolation enough in London."
The supplements I'm taking
"Vitamin C- 500mg twice a day
Vitamin D daily - I have low vitamin D anyway
Turmeric - I take Lamberts; it’s one of the strongest on the market and a lot of my clients also rave about it
Pure Encapsulations Anti-Stress Herbs - stress plays a big role in immunity so these are much-needed for me
Optibac Probiotics - to help support my gut
I also take Betaine HCl as I find it helps me digest my food better. You could argue that digesting your food better means you’re taking more nutrition from it.
Drinking mushroom coffee
"I’m addicted to coffee but that has its benefits especially when I have a lot of creative work on. Sometimes I have mushroom coffee which has things such as lions mane in; it has less caffeine but makes you alert. I use Four Sigmatic - it has ingredients to help support immune function, chaga mushrooms, for example - so I switch one of my daily coffees for this during this time."
Daniel O'Shaughnessy is a Nutritional Therapist at thenakendnutitionist.co.uk
Dr Mark Hughes, cosmetic dentist and co-founder of Define Clinic
“For the most part, my life and daily activity are the same and my work and businesses continue as normal. The everyday routine in dental practice is to create a very sanitised and ultra-clean environment and cross-infection control is something we are experts at already!"
"At work, we are now offering more online consultations using Facetime or similar. We do this already but by doing this more we can offer some initial advice and treatment monitoring/reviews if people are in any way nervous about visiting the clinic. Overall we are working as normal. In fact, we have seen an uplift in patients who are normally quite time-poor. Time enforced away from vacation or work or school has opened up opportunities to improve their smile or have their braces started!"
"I’ve made a few changes personally: I usually commute three days a week, but recently I have started to drive in – I have pinched our family electric car from my wife to save on petrol and emissions."
"My wife and I have stopped all social gatherings at confined or crowded places, and we have cancelled all trips we had planned, other than those we can do by car. Why take the risk and there are plenty of places we can visit at home?"
"I carry hand sanitiser with me everywhere and am refraining from shaking hands or embracing friends. Our biggest family concern is my wife’s parents, who are both elderly and have underlying medical conditions. We have two small children and so a self-imposed distancing from their grandparents has had to be implemented, as well as from us. This is heartbreaking because we do not know how long this will have to continue for but the elderly and infirm are at greatest risk."
"My diet and drinking habits have not changed. I have always believed in drinking plenty of water and having a nutritious and well-balanced diet. The only additional supplements I am taking is vitamin C. I have started taking our dog for more walks at our country home, for both the extra exercise and the fresh clean air. Being surrounded by nature is also a great way to clear one’s mind, to be able to think positively about the world.”
Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist
"Aside from washing what are now very dry and itchy hands, there are lots of other things I have found myself doing to keep abreast of any infection."
"I’m not going to stop going to the gym so I carry a small hand sanitiser around with me when working out and I also use a lot of small towels so I don’t have to touch the cargo machines or the barbells (I wrap a towel around the bar bit). I am also really conscious about not touching anything above my neck! This is much harder than it sounds! I also hand sanitise before going into the shower after training - is that weird?"
"I seem to be using my elbows and feet to open doors etc and I just shake them dry."
"In terms of greeting people, this has become quite a giggle as we work out new ways - today I did an elbow bump!"
"I have now switched off from all news about the virus and refuse to talk about it with people as it feels like the new Brexit conversation! I am carrying as normal and making every effort to be really mindful of what I am doing on a daily basis."
"I have to say I have actually stocked up on a few essentials as I eat a shed load of food and would hate to go hungry (worst nightmare!) - foods include pasta, pesto, canned tuna, tomato sauces, rice, beans, pulses etc…. I have also bought chicken, salmon and mince and stuck it in the freezer. I have not stocked up on loo roll though!"
Katie Brindle acupuncturist and Chinese medical practitioner and founder of the Hayou Method
"The Chinese approach to health is that prevention is as important as the cure. The theory is that if your body is in a healthy, balanced state, it is harder for illness to get a foothold in the body. The fundamental thing that I do every single day to boost my immunity is body gua sha, bamboo tapping and a short breathing technique called the rescue breath."
Body gua sha to support immunity
"This is a therapeutic healing technique, that has been widely practised in China for thousands of years. It involves using a round-edged tool to press-stroke the skin until a red flush appears. Gua sha is nothing short of remarkable, scientists have discovered that it upregulates an enzyme called H-o1 which is anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting. In addition, it offers a unique stimulation of the immune system through the fascia and connective tissue. As the lymphatic channels run through the fascia, when the fascia is ‘slippery’, the lymph fluid moves through easily and the immune cells within the lymph fluid are able to fight infections and subsequently, reduce inflammation. For a video see here."
"Well – aside from feeling amazing, this is a great way to encourage the circulatory system – which is crucial to good health. The circulatory and lymphatic systems both work together as a team, and tapping is something that has been practised for millennia. I use the Hayo’u Body Tapper Bamboo, but you can easily use a cupped hand. Tap the thymus gland every day. The thymus is situated behind the breastbone, and it’s where T cells, which fight infection, are produced in the body.
"We have many lymph nodes in the abdomen, so it’s also particularly good to focus around this area. In Chinese medicine, tapping the abdomen supports the vital organs, which control the overall health of the body."
Breathing to stay calm
"Breathing is quite simply the most powerful self-healing cure we have. Breathing properly will immediately switch your body into its parasympathetic, or rest phase. There is no end of articles online talking about how you can support your immunity with breath techniques – I practice the Rescue Breath every day, because it only takes one-minute so is easy to fit in!"
Keep moving and turn up the heat
"I try to go walking in nature as much as possible, and I get up early to practice qigong outside. In Chinese medicine, movement is even more important than food. I have also recently discovered a Russian Banya in London, The Russian Bath House, which is a mixture of very hot (70C) and very cold plunge pools and I’m addicted! The heat from the banya creates an artificial ‘fever’ and stimulates the immune system. They say regular use of the banya helps combat common colds, viruses, laryngitis and asthma."
Limiting the ‘four whites’, caffeine and iced drinks
"I live by everything I talk about in my book, Yang Sheng- the Art of Chinese Self-healing. I limit the four whites (sugar, flour dairy and salt) eat lots of fruits and vegetables and limit caffeinated drinks and processed foods. I also eat according to the season, to keep my body at strongest. I take astragalus root and elderberries for immunity."
"I drink lots of jasmine tea and avoid ice in drinks! In Chinese medicine, it is like pouring ice on the furnace of your stomach and it really slows down the process and your body has to work a lot harder to compensate. I also make sure I get lots of sleep and fresh air and burn eucalyptus oil at night."
Katie Brindle is founder of the Hayou Method
Junior doctor Claire Keith at the Great Western Hopsital, Swindon
“I’ve recently moved house and had been planning on joining the gym but even with sanitising the equipment I still don't fancy being in a room full of people huffing and puffing. I am however still going to my aerial silks class. The class has a maximum of nine people in it, plus the instructor so is relatively small and I just love it too much to stop until I have to. I'm also a fan of the body coach Youtube HIIT videos, so will keep on doing these at home rather than joining a gym for the time being.”
Buying quick and easy meals
“I don't think it's necessary to go overboard with stocking up on food but I am expecting to be at work a lot more with extra demand on the NHS and thus cooking a lot less, so I’ve started to fill my freezer and cupboards with some quick and easy meals and frozen fruit and veg are next on my list to stock up.”
“I haven’t started taking any supplements to ward off coronavirus, and I haven’t changed what I drink on a day to day basis either. When I’m at work I always keep my water bottle filled up and with me too because otherwise, it can be impossible to stop for a drink.
“Working in the hospital can mean you’re surrounded by talk of coronavirus more than most, so to switch off from it I buy myself flowers which feels like a treat, and I do get stuck in the occasional Insta-hole of dogs with babies.
Keeping children separate
“I'm currently working in paediatrics and we're trying to keep babies and children as separate as possible. Luckily the outbreak doesn't seem to be affecting children as much which is something of a relief.
“As soon as I feel like I've been exposed at work to coronavirus I'm going to stop seeing my parents for a while as they'll be much more at risk of this than I am. I'll make sure to keep in touch though. The social isolation is likely to be the worst part of this for many so it's really important to still make an effort even if you're not seeing someone in person.
“My advice for you would be to avoid large events and hand sanitiser even more than you usually do. Ideally, work from home and would avoid tube and buses if at all possible but especially at peak times.
Preparing to cancel my annual leave
“On my next rotation I’m due to be working as a GP, but there’s a chance I might be taken from my GP job and asked to work in the hospital instead, and I suspect any annual leave I have booked might be cancelled. I'm not sure how accurate it is but I have heard a statistic that 14 per cent of healthcare workers get very unwell so there will be a lot of extra pressure on the NHS workers."
What precautions are you taking? Let us know in the comments below!