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  • Writer's pictureDr Ruth Briant-Jones

Facts, Fear, Future

COVID-19 has rather eclipsed everything else at the moment - and frankly, it's for good reason. The data we are seeing from other countries is concerning, and we face some major challenges in the coming months if we presume that the same situation is developing here in the UK. These challenges are the reason that I have decided to suspend all of my private medical activity, and to return to A&E. The NHS, and our population, needs all hands on deck, and it wouldn't feel right to stand on the sidelines. For my existing patients and clients, I will maintain contact where possible and support you remotely should you need it; I am not abandoning you! Please, do reach out if you have any concerns. My hope is that we will return to normality within a few months - but time will tell.

This is an anxiety-inducing time for the well-informed. Briefly (because I'm sure we're all sick of seeing emails and notifications about COVID-19), I have put together a few thoughts on health and our behaviour, that I hope will be useful to you.

Your Health

I could write a long spiel about COVID-19, the symptoms and the current management options - but this information is everywhere. Instead, in this lifestyle and functional medicine world, I'd prefer to share some information about what we can all do to help our immune systems at this stressful time. I don't take any credit for it; this is information shared across functional medicine forums from the leading education source for functional medicine in the UK. If there is any time to be focusing on your health, then it is now. I've listed below a supplementation plan and recommended dosing to assist with strengthening the immune system, and providing better defence against viruses. Please note, this is all evidence-based, and backed up by scientific literature - no snake oil here. Please ALSO note, that it absolutely does not negate the requirements to take sensible and advised precautions to avoiding contracting or spreading the virus, namely hand washing, social distancing, and quarantine or self-isolation where applicable.

If you'd like the full report, which details the rationale for these supplements, please ping me an email and I will gladly send it on to you.

In addition to these dietary supplements, maintaining a varied and healthy diet is important. 'Eat the rainbow' of phytonutrient-dense fruits and vegetables - try not to succumb to the lure of beige food! Sleeping well is vital to maintaining a healthy immune system. If you're struggling with anxieties or worries at this time, try one of the stress-busting apps available - Headspace is currently free of charge (for the next 3 months) - alternatively Insight Timer is a fantastic app containing lots of guided meditations. Connect either remotely or in person with your loved ones; support is vital.

Your Community

This situation has highlighted some important things and these are worthy of reflection. In times of crisis, we see both the worst and the best of people. In times of crisis, our values rise to the surface, constrained less by societal 'norms' or expectations. We show who we are; we default to being givers or takers. In some cases, fear takes over, and our primal instinct to survive can make us selfish. Hoarding, of course, is a prime example of this. Not complying with advice to employ social distancing, or isolating where appropriate shows equal selfishness - and if not selfishness, then dangerous complacency. Naturally there is fear, and many of us are anxious and uncertain of what lies ahead - financially and personally. Many self-employed people I know are understandably worried about business and about making ends meet. Parents worried about their children's education. All of us worried about loved ones who may be at higher risk. But fear does not serve us in these times. I'll cite my experiences in Afghanistan as a small example of this: for those who have been deployed somewhere in the military, there is a bond like no other that develops from being in that enivronment. Why? Because in that environment, and as part of the military ethos, not a single person is looking out for themselves - they are looking out for their colleagues and friends. Trust is given, and returned. In a dangerous place, there is great comfort in that - in knowing that you are not alone and that others are looking out for you. Instead of fear then, I propose that we choose hope, and that we choose to serve others above ourselves. If we all did this, then we would all be looked after. No toilet paper shortages, no staring at empty shelves, and a much reduced transmission of this virus to our vulnerable community.

This isn't just a rant about selfishness though. On the flip side, just as we have seen the worst of people, here too, we have seen the best of people. Calling cards to vulnerable people, offering to fetch shopping or prescriptions, community schemes to share resources, apps to conduct virtual gatherings and to prevent loneliness during isolation. We all have it within us to choose the noble path - the path of giving, and not taking. So, my question on this is: who will you decide to be in this time of crisis?

To your good health, and to the spirit of service in these troubled times. See you on the other side.

Dr Ruth

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