There’s a lot of conflicting and scary information out there about coronavirus right now. If you’re worried about your family’s wellbeing, you’re not alone. By taking a look at the facts and taking small steps to support the immune system, you can feel empowered instead of overwhelmed.

Keep reading below or watch our two-part video series about coronavirus and your family here.

What we know about coronavirus so far

Coronavirus is a new and novel form of a virus. The reason it is having such an impact is that we’ve never been exposed to it before, so no one has immune defences for it.

Because it is new, we don’t know the best treatment options yet. Medical researchers around the globe are scrambling to find medications and vaccines that will help. Information changes by the hour as we start to learn more about the virus and how it works.

The virus is spread by infected droplets from sneezing and coughing. It’s not believed to be airborne. It can also spread via surfaces that have infected droplets – some reports say that the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 9 days.

Symptoms can vary, but the main reported symptoms are a high fever, a cough (usually dry) and shortness of breath. Some people also report headaches, aches and pains, and mild congestion.

Although there is self-isolation in place for people at risk or with symptoms of coronavirus, it can still spread. Some people can be asymptomatic, and this means they can carry the virus and infect others that they come into contact with.

It is important to know that the majority of cases are mild, particularly for children. Kids experience mild symptoms as well as a low spread rate – which is surprising, given how grotty our kids can be!

The healthcare system has been overwhelmed by the pandemic. So if your child has a sniffly nose or sore throat, they don’t need to be rushed to the hospital! The majority of cases can be cared for at home.

How can we protect ourselves and our families from coronavirus?

There are steps we can take to minimise our chance of infection, as well as reducing the risk of passing it on to others if we are asymptomatic.

Step 1: Wash Hands!

Washing our hands thoroughly with soap and water is the most effective step against the virus. Antibacterial products aren’t as effective because they aren’t anti-viral like soap is.

There are plenty of videos going around about the best way to wash your hands. You want to make sure you’re getting the ends of the fingers, around the thumbs and over the back of the hands. My kids and I watched a video by Kris Carr as our inspiration. There’s also plenty of options with singing and music to get the little ones enjoying the process!

Step 2 – Into The Elbows!

Another helpful tip to reduce the spread of germs is to cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow. That way, you’re not spreading droplets into the open air. This one can take time for kids to pick up, so you may need to remind them, especially if they are sick.

Step 3: Practice Social Distancing Whenever Possible

Many countries, including Australia, are cancelling large events to reduce the spread. But you also want to do your part as much as possible, especially if someone in the family is sick.

It’s best to avoid non-essential contact with the public whenever you can. After all, you never know if you, or someone at that gathering, is asymptomatic. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still do things like pick up groceries or get fruit and veggies from the farmers market when you need. It’s about minimising contact as much as you can.

A note of caution

It’s important for us to protect our family from falling ill. But there are a couple of other things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Be mindful of media consumption – it’s easy to get caught up in the drama and consume media constantly to find out the latest details. But a lot of the media right now is doom and gloom, which is not healthy for us to consume all the time. More importantly, our kids don’t need to hear it in the background all day long!

You can stay just as informed by checking in with reputable sources once a day.

Look at the bigger picture – we’re all going to be affected by this pandemic, in big ways and small. You might have had to change travel plans, or your child’s sports have been cancelled, or your favourite cafe has closed. Everyone is going to lose out – especially businesses that rely on people being out and about.

So by all means, be disappointed, but consider others as well. If we all come from a community standpoint, everyone will be better off for it.

Taking a naturopathic approach to coronavirus

The three steps we discussed above are the best weapons against spreading coronavirus. But if you’re wanting to reduce your risk even further, there are some nutrients and herbs you might like to consider.

Because this is a new virus, we’re not sure which natural therapies are the most effective against this specific infection. But unlike medications, herbal and nutritional medicine have broader properties when it comes to the immune system. Anti-viral drugs can only target a few specific viruses, whereas herbs and nutrients have general actions that affect many viruses.

We also know that there is a lag time between contracting the virus and symptoms showing. That’s why we’re bolstering our defences now – to reduce the risk of infection, and to ensure a mild and quick-resolving infection if we do get sick.

Building a strong immune system is our focus. It’s not a guarantee that you won’t get the virus, but it does mean your body is ready to fight the virus quickly. It also means that you’re less likely to get sick again as we’re exposed to the usual wintertime germs.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ways to support your immune system naturally.

Diet and lifestyle

Avoid stress and sugar

There are many factors that can deplete the immune system, but two of the big ones are stress and sugar.

Stress is a big one for parents and kids alike right now. The constant media coverage of coronavirus is stressing us out and making us feel more anxious. That’s why it’s important to not only minimise our media consumption, but also ramp up our self-care.

Some simple stress management techniques include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing
  • Journalling
  • Gentle exercise
  • Spending time in nature

Within 30 minutes of consuming a high-sugar food, your immune system is down for hours. Although you don’t need to ban sugar, you want to avoid overloading on it.

To learn more about how stress and sugar suppress the immune system, check out our previous article here.

Include plenty of wholefoods

It has been interesting to see what people have been buying at the supermarket – it hasn’t been the foods that build the immune system up! The immune system thrives on the nutrients found in wholefoods.

You want to be including plenty of:

  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Fresh fruit and veg when possible
  • Frozen fruit and veg if needed
  • Herbs and spices
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil

Keep your food choices as nutrient-dense and natural as possible. Go for a rainbow of fruit and veggies to include a variety of antioxidants. Include raw veg and salads each day, as they contain higher amounts of antioxidants than cooked veg.

Sauerkraut and other fermented foods are a great option to include with your meals. They are higher in nutrients, but they also help to feed your gut bacteria – an essential part of the immune system.

Grab some fresh herbs and spices to include in your meals. Garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon are some good choices. If you can’t get your hands on fresh, use the dried varieties instead.

Another wholefood superfood for the immune system is bone broth. It is healing for the gut, and supports the immune system. You can add it into sauces, spag bol – anything that you’d use stock for normally. For a simple bone broth recipe, click here.

Opt for zinc-rich foods

Zinc is an antioxidant as well as an immune-boosting mineral. When it comes to protecting your family from infection, you want to get in plenty of zinc-rich foods throughout the day.

You can find zinc in foods such as:

  • Red meat
  • Seafood
  • Bone broth
  • Eggs
  • Pumpkin seeds (add them to cereal, a smoothie or some yoghurt)

Supplements

There are several supplements that can support the immune system. These are the ones that we have been recommending to clients, as well as taking within our own families.

Zinc – zinc chelate is the form to go for, as it is better absorbed. If you can, go for zinc combined with vitamin C

Vitamin D this not only supports the immune system, but also regulates it. This is particularly helpful for kids with asthma. Over summer, we get enough vitamin D from a good amount of sun exposure. But as we are heading towards winter, a supplement is useful for maintaining a good level.

Probiotics a good general probiotic can support the gut flora and immune system. Opting for well-researched strains in therapeutic doses is the best approach. We personally take a probiotic with rhamnosus LGG, acidophilus and bifidobacterium.

Medicinal mushrooms – these are amazing broad-spectrum anti-virals. We use a supplement that combines reishi, shiitake, cordyceps and coriolus.

Other immune-supportive herbs – Andrographis supports the immune system and helps with acute respiratory infections. Olive leaf extract and echinacea are also good options for building immunity.

Like any aspect of health, little steps add up when it comes to your immune system. By including little habits and small changes throughout your day, you can build up a strong and healthy immune system.

Looking for more tips for supporting your family’s immune systems naturally? Make sure you grab our FREE Foods To Boost Immunity Cheat Sheet. You’ll learn the everyday foods that can help your family stay healthy this winter. To download your copy, click here.