• Dr. Paul Kasenene

Learn how to keep your immunity strong in the wake of coronavirus


It’s been a while since my newsletter. I hope you are all doing your part in this time when the novel coronavirus besieges us.

Many of us are worried, anxious and frankly scared about COVID 19 (the name given to the virus). But all is not doom and gloom. If we take the right steps, we shall all have a chance to overcome this virus.

There are three things I would like to share in this regard

1. Do everything in our power to stay safe and to protect everyone else around us. I will not go into repeating all the guidelines given, but I would like to stress that we should not take these simple measures like social distancing and washing hands for granted. They could be the difference between life and death at this time. Please don’t make the mistake of assuming the virus isn’t at hand. It is. It is predicted that the virus has reached every corner of the earth and everyone has potentially been exposed. And infection isn’t only from direct human contact; even surfaces can pass on the virus.

We should all act as if everyone we meet and every surface we come into contact with is infected. That way, we shall all be more vigilant and take more precaution. Don’t wait for the first death or serious infection to wake up.

Please follow the guidelines, if not for yourself, for those who are most at risk. Remember the virus doesn’t spread. We spread the virus. So, minimize movement and stay at home. Avoid going to visit or check on your parents (call them by phone or video). Wash your hands often even when at home. Keep social distancing, and if you feel unwell or have any respiratory symptoms, please please stay at home and self-isolate. Call the helplines if you feel that you need medical help. Don’t just get up and go to seek care.

2. We must be cautious about the information you get about the virus on social media, the internet, Facebook. A lot of the information circulating is actually causing fear, distrust or panic actions.

There are a few important things to note in this regard

  • There is no known cure for coronavirus. Viruses are technically not living things and so hard to kill. They need our cells for them to divide and spread but on their own they aren’t technically alive and so are hard to kill. It is our immune system that usually fights off the virus.

  • Viruses generally do not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics are aimed at bacteria. Taking antibiotics out of fear may actually be worse for you because they may kill the good bacteria in our gut that boost our immunity. Please do not take antibiotics unless a professional prescribes

  • Please do not self-medicate on chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine or any other medication that is being portrayed as being useful for this virus. You could do more harm than good to your body. Let us wait for guidance from those who are tasked with leading this cause.

3. Keep your immune system healthy

While we may not have much control over what everyone else does and how the virus spreads, we do have a lot of control and choice over our actions. Making choices that will keep you healthy and boost your immune system will probably be the wisest thing you can do. With most experts suggesting that up to 60% of the world’s population will eventually be infected with the coronavirus, your best bet is ensuring that your body is best suited to fight it off in the unfortunate event that anyone gets infected.

People experience anywhere from mild to extreme symptoms. And the most important factor that will determine this will be your immune response to the virus.

Fortunately, there are several things we can do to support our body’s immune response.

  • Stay hydrated. All the cells in our body need adequate water to function well. The cell’s cytoplasm where most functions take place is mostly water. Not having enough water in our system can lead to malfunction or dysfunction of cells, including those of our immune system. We should all drink at least 2 litres of water each day. You can estimate your bodies daily water requirements in litres by dividing your weight in Kg by 30. Children should also drink lots of water and up to six glasses a day. Remember to drink throughout the day, not all at once.

  • Avoid the following foods

  1. Sugar, sugary drinks like soda and sugary foods like sweets, lollipops and ice cream. Sugar is a known immune suppressor. Within 30 minutes of taking sugar, your cells that fight viruses (the lymphocytes) have a reduced capacity to do their work, and this effect lasts for up to 5 hours.

  2. Foods rich in refined carbohydrates including foods made from refined wheat like white bread, chapati, cake, mandazi and biscuits. Other foods made from refined grains include cornflakes and posho

  3. Deep-fried foods such as chips, crisps, fried chicken and other such foods

  4. Processed meat like sausages bacon, ham and frankfurters

  • Eat the following foods in abundance

  1. Garlic and Onions. These bulb vegetables are high in Sulphur compounds that are antiviral and antibacterial.

  2. Vegetables and in particular cruciferous vegetables that include cabbage, Sukuma wiki, broccoli and cauliflower

  3. Colourful fruits of all types. Aim to have four servings a day. A serving is the size of your fist. Fruits high in vitamin C such as guavas, mangoes, oranges and citrus fruits

  4. Mushrooms. These are some of natures most powerful immune-boosting foods

  5. Orange foods such as pumpkin, carrots, orange sweet potatoes

  6. Seeds including chia, flax, pumpkin and sesame

  7. Nuts including almonds and cashews

  8. Whole grains like oats, millet, whole maize

  9. Foods high in healthy fats like avocado

  10. Green tea and in particular matcha green tea that is high in detoxifying and immune boosting catechins

  • Consider the following supplements to boost your health and immunity

  1. Vitamin C high dose – 2 to 4 grams a day

  2. Omega 3s – 1 to 2 grams a day

  3. Vitamin D – about 5,000 i.u

  4. A supplement that has curcumin (the active compound in turmeric)

  5. CBD oil

  • Keep active

Being active helps keep your immune system strong. Aim to get at least 2 hours a week of moderate exercise. Many of us are staying at home most of the day. Surely we should be able to find time to exercise. Even if you are working from home, use the time that you would have spent en route to and from work to exercise

Many of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. But, as the human race has done many times before, we shall overcome this virus and come out stronger. This period may be challenging but is an excellent time for all of us to focus on our health and come out healthier than ever before.

Let’s all unite, come together and support each other to overcome this virus.

Like Malcolm X once said, When I is replaced by We, even ILLNESS becomes WELLNESS

Be safe. We shall overcome!


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