Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Protecting the vulnerable

Latest advice*

* Official guidance from the UK government, the UK NHS and World Health Organisation

As the latest strain of coronavirus moves through our communities the priority is to follow latest guidelines above to slow down the spread of the infection. Then do keep reading for some additional science-based suggestions for improving your protection.

We need to agree  priorities first: COVID-19 appears to be relatively contagious and there is already evidence that it can be caught before there are symptoms like coughing. This means that as well as airborne transmission it can be transmitted by direct contact. The advice is to wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or use high alcohol hand gels, (if you cannot buy one try getting surgical spirit or rubbing alcohol from your pharmacy – vodka or other drinks do not provide the necessary 60% alcohol). Hand cleansing should be after any contact with surfaces other people may have touched and before you touch your face or food. Carefully dispose of tissues and other possibly contagious materials.

What more can we do? So far for over 80% of people who get infected, this strain of coronavirus is relatively mild, especially if you are young and relatively fit. The main care focus is on people with pre-existing conditions. The evidence from the frontlines in China, Italy, the USA and other countries , including the UK, indicates that the most risk is for people with a combination of two or more of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney and liver disease, who are also usually older. This makes COVID-19 different from flu.

The science is rapidly helping us understand why people in these categories are getting harmed by this virus, particularly why so many risk factors involve the cardiovascular system. We can now see 6 specific ways to increase protection against COVID-19. A key frontline in the defence against this coronavirus appears to be the cells lining the blood vessels (the endothelium). This is where inflammatory processes begin and disturbances in endothelial function are at the heart of the first three risk factors above.  Most of the recommendations below will help here.

There is also new evidence emerging from Chinese clinicians that COVID-19 dangerously disrupts healthy bowel flora and so weakens the response to the infection: they recommend probiotics to reduce this impact.

These are all generally accepted health measures. However if you are in one of the risk groups above, now is the time to be more proactive. The good news is that many of the benefits are seen in a few days.

1. Cut back hard on refined carbohydrates and sugars, fats and alcohol. This will reduce the stress on the endothelial frontline caused by higher blood sugar levels. ‘Insulin resistance’, brought on by high fast-carb diets is a major disruptor of endothelial function as well as a precursor to diabetes.

2. Make sure your diet is dominated by PLANTS: vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, green, and black and herbal teas (see below). They contain polyphenols and other constituents that protect the endothelial frontline. For more of these you can reward yourself with chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa !

3. For similar benefits take more spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon (use these in cooking, herbal teas or supplements).

4. Step up your exercise, if possible in fresh air. Aim for 5-15 minutes of enough exercise to breathing hard each day.

5. Vitamin D will add to your protection especially if you have high blood pressure, so take in 15-30 minutes sunshine on face and arms each day if you can (longer if your skin is darker), consider a good supplement, and eat fish, egg if you can, or top up with mushrooms and other plat sources .

6. Take probiotics (see below) and prebiotics (vegetable and cereal foods, and some spices, that help nurture healthy gut flora) to help maintain your normal gut defences .

There is evidence to support these recommendations. For an academic review of the most recent clinical information on COVID-19, complete with links to new research papers, click on the following link and download the pdf:

Covid-19 – selfcare for the vulnerable

Below are some home remedies with evidence generally for improving defences to respiratory virus infections in general. Although COVID-19 is a lower respiratory infection and different in other ways, the principle of improving resistance always applies and these approaches should be considered with anyone who is at higher risk. Remedies in red are most likely to be helpful given the new knowledge above.

In the event that you do contract the virus, the remedies we recommend elsewhere on this site to relieve the symptoms of flu and the common cold may also be helpful.

Home remedies with evidence for improving defences against upper respiratory viral infections

(click on each to learn more)

Knowledge and best practice in the health field are constantly changing.  Each person and illness is also unique and no general information can anticipate every circumstance, nor be appropriate for every reader. Each individual case is best assessed in person by a qualified health advisor.

In the case of remedies or other products, users should read the label carefully for detailed information about safe use and in the case of natural products should choose responsible manufacturers with independently assured quality standards and safety monitoring procedures.

To the fullest extent of the law, neither the College of Medicine nor the authors, contributors or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions or ideas contained in the materials herein.