“Man is a pupil, pain is his teacher.” ~ Alfred de Musset
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to it’s knees. Nature has demonstrated very rapidly and in stark terms that we are not above it. We are part of it.
Humanity exists as part of a complex ecosystem that we have disrupted in ways we can barely comprehend, and we are feeling the effects of our activity with increasing frequency.
As populations around the globe continue to experience climate change in one form or another, we are now all having to deal with the highly contagious and potentially deadly coronavirus.
It has never been more timely to study the ecology of disease.
This is not the scenario we would consciously choose for ourselves, but sometimes we get what we need, not what we want. Or maybe in this case it’s also what the planet needs. Collectively mankind is being forced to take a ‘time-out’.
Could the Universe be instructing us to be human beings rather than human doings for the forseeable future?
Carbon emissions and pollution are especially reduced in China, so in some small measure it is benefiting Earth. Whilst social distancing will be tough for the majority of us, as an inherently social race, as well as slowing down the spread of the coronavirus it appears to be having a positive impact on the environment.
When this nightmare scenario has passed we must collectively learn from every aspect of it before returning unconsciously to our old habits.
Many of us, (including me) have at times felt anxiety, fear and panic as chaos and uncertainty unfolds around the world, with fear causing the markets to plummet.
We are quickly having to come to terms with the seriousness of this virus.
It has been somewhat surreal, like living in a disaster movie, one that we are all starring in together.
Where I live, as in most parts of the world, we have witnessed fear based behaviour such as panic buying causing increasingly empty shelves to those sort of burying their heads in the sand and carrying on as if nothing was happening.
My worst day so far was on Monday. I was feeling inadequate, helpless and angry, but most of all angry. Angry at the lack of leadership on display from our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and his cabinet of far-right sycophants.
Angry that this shambles of a government and our scientists who had a chance to learn from China, South Korea and mainland Europe (who we are weeks behind in the spread of the virus), squandered the opportunity to prevent unnecessary loss of life.
They chose instead to pander to intellectual vanity with their own hypothesis of ‘herd immunity’.
Mike Galsworthy explains why they got it so wrong:
At last the government has finally given the nation some sensible direction in a bid to slow down the Covid-19 peak, but their initial advice to slow the spread was rife with inconsistencies.
How can social distancing be fully effective if it is only employed here and there?
Up until yesterday afternoon, schools and the education system were open when the government announced the closure of all schools from Friday until further notice.
At my eldest daughter’s school they announced a suspected case of coronavirus last Friday. It turns out Emily and her friends knew the girl and had spoken to her just over a week ago. Naturally she was frightened, even though we had explained the virus only mildly affects children. She didn’t want to catch it and pass it on to the rest of her family.
Luckily none of us are considered to be in a high risk group and will not have contact with any of our relatives that are.
I was disappointed they did not close the school, or at the very least for a limited time to conduct a deep clean in the way private businesses and doctors surgeries have been doing.
I can’t help thinking that keeping the schools open until now has indirectly put the most vulnerable in society in danger. The USA and Ireland closed their schools two weeks ago.
It is such a difficult situation on so many levels.
We all have to make a living, but bluntly we cannot if we are seriously ill or dead. We must prioritise our health and well-being at this time. Working mothers will no-doubt take the brunt of supervising home learning. I still have three minors living at home, but I accept that in the long run it is a lesser of two evils.
My son will not be taking his A-Levels this summer as all exams are cancelled.
My youngest will be robbed of her leaver’s assembly at primary school. These will likely be her last two days with her friends of many years. But on the plus side she will have more time to put into her piano studies.
Many other countries are now in complete lock-down and my heart is broken seeing their suffering.
Testing for COVID-19
Which brings me on to the other reason for my incandescent rage earlier in the week — the complete lack of testing for Covid-19 in the UK.
Seeing disturbing pictures and reports of the overwhelming challenges faced by the Italians and from around the world, compared with the seemingly indifferent and incongruent attitude of the UK government — advising people only to self-isolate as and when they experienced the symptoms was distressing.
Until now the only people the UK have tested are those seriously ill in hospital and the prison community.
At the very least the government should be testing healthcare staff, the GPs, doctors and nurses we are expecting to treat our friends and relatives in the weeks and months ahead.
A surgeon returned from skiing in Italy, having had Covid-19, but rather than self-isolating he returned to work, passing on the virus to his colleagues and patients. This is surely not the only instance of this kind of scenario.
How can we expect our already over-burdened NHS to cope if its staff are not given guidance and supported?
How can we monitor the coronavirus infection rate and mortality rate across the nation if we don’t test large swathes of the population?
Now that we have billions of extra pounds that was promised from Brexit, surely funding cannot be an excuse!
There are other key workers and essential supply chains of food, and medical supplies that also need to be supported at this critical time. If our supply chains fail then the fabric of society is at risk. The military will likely be called in.
I find it hard to believe that the UK government has displayed such startling insouciance since the beginning of this outbreak. Now it is a pandemic and they are still sluggish to implement more stringent measures to fully protect the nation.
The fact that we have had to petition the government to take action on testing medical staff is staggering. It’s as if they deliberately wanted to cause undue suffering.
In contrast to what the UK government have been doing until now, the World Health Organisation have been clear in their message: Isolate, test, treat and trace.
In the face of ignorance, arrogance or a combination of the two, we must look out for each other. Extreme situations bring out both the worst and the best in people.
We have very limited control over what the government says or does, and the same applies to the spread of the coronavirus.
But we do have control over our attitude. Panic will not serve us, however sangfroid will preserve our sanity during these unprecedented times.
“The same wind blows on us all; the winds of disaster, opportunity and change. Therefore, it is not the blowing of the wind, but the setting of the sails that will determine our direction in life.” ~ Jim Rohn
I realised my anger wasn’t strengthening my immune system and was upsetting my family, and so I took a walk in the woods and have poured it into my keyboard!
Diet and lifestyle
As well as the precautions and measures that we should all be following, we do have control over our diet and lifestyle. We can still do many things to build-up our immune system and stay centred and calm during isolation and times of crisis.
As ever, it is the microscopic organisms that we cannot see that either help us or harm us.
Our gut microbiome is the first line of defence — 75% of our immune system resides there. Trillions of bacteria, fungi and viruses make up 90% of our DNA, but they are invisible to us. Keeping the right balance of health promoting bacteria over pathogenic critters is key.
Imbalances in the gut (dysbiosis) are the root cause of obesity, diabetes, metabolic dysfunction, non contagious diseases, allergies and auto-immune conditions.
This vast inner eco-system impacts every major system in the body, including the cardiovascular system (the respiratory system is most affected by Covid-19).
See some of the latest scientific studies about the gut microbiome by visiting Microbiome Man
The best way we can protect ourselves over and above the advice already given is to focus on gut health.
Eat a Mediterranean style diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean protein and cut down on starchy carbohydrates such as commercial bread, white potatoes (unless cooled) white rice, cake, sugar and processed foods.
If possible replace them with more complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, butternut squash, quinoa and oats. Basically eat the rainbow!
Prebiotic foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, asparagus, onions, garlic, under-ripe bananas only get digested in the colon, providing fuel for our health promoting bacteria.
A starved microbiome cannot protect us from disease.
Imbalances in microbiota can impact how well we absorb nutrients from food as well as our weight and mood by causing inflammation.
Endotoxins from pathogenic bacteria cause perforations in the single cell thick gut lining and then undigested food and toxins can travel around the body in the blood stream causing leaky gut and a raft of seemingly unrelated conditions.
Probiotics are also essential so that we can keep our friendly bacteria colonies robust. I use and recommend Bacillus Coagulans as it is a team player.
Regular walks in nature are essential, as our bodies and bacteria need exercise too. Thankfully being outdoors (as long as not in close contact) is not a risk to our health.
In a generous move the National Trust have opened their gardens and car parks to the nation to help us spend time in nature and preserve our mental health.
Quality sleep is equally as important as diet and exercise in keeping us healthy.
Meditation can help us become comfortable in stillness and solitude, and equally social media and technology can help us stay connected. I’ll have to see my mum on a video call instead this Mothering Sunday.
Whilst this Coronvirus outbreak will challenge us all in many ways, I feel this time will strengthen our family bond and highlight the truly important things in life.
Aside from facilitating my children’s learning and feeding them (which I have no doubt will take up a fair amount of time) I plan to start my next novel and develop my new health website.
What new projects have you put on the back-burner and could now start? What books have you always wanted to read?
Here is a wonderful read from Brain Pickings: Figuring Forward in an Uncertain Universe
I am also helping clients improve their health remotely (thanks to Zoom). I am offering a FREE Lifestyle Analysis consultation (30 minutes well spent) which determines the body systems (if any) that are operating efficiently and optimally and identifies those that are below par.
Once you have identified the areas that need attention you can bridge the gap between the nutrition you get from food (modern farming methods have significantly depleted produce of essential minerals and vitamins) and what your body needs in the way of nutritionally therapeutic supplements to operate in abundance rather than deficit on a daily basis.
I can then further advise you on a gut health programme and lifestyle matters. If you would like to take up this offer just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime I wish you fortitude, happiness and health at this difficult time. We must keep in mind that ‘this too shall pass…’
“Ad meliora.” ~ Latin for ‘Toward better things’.
My blog: rhap.so.dy in words