The Calyx Trust

‘The Calyx has created the cradle for a new spark of life for strength in life.’

The Oasis and Building Bridges initiative, founded by Melanie Taylor, adopted the dormant Calyx Trust in 2004 from Vivienne Klockner. This Charity first provided support for a network of non–locational community building for people all over the country. Through working together in small groups (named Oasis) people experienced a source of healing and renewal as they emerged from a place of suffering or hardship.

Later in 2012, The Calyx Trust also provided the charitable body enabling this community building impulse to develop into a multidisciplinary Therapeutic Centre in Stourbridge. Therapists, Nurses and Doctors provided the resources for health for patients and clients in need of care. This is the Elysia Therapeutic Centre.

The Park Attwood Clinic (1979-2009) had been an inspiration for anthroposophic health care for a full 30 years; its closure also sparked the decision to found the Elysia Therapeutic Centre in Stourbridge in 2010, opening its doors to the public in 2012.

Now, out of necessity in 2020 a new developmental stage has begun. We can see many different organizational bodies offering their founding inspirations to a renewed task through a process of merging, dissolving and re-emergence:

The Calyx Trust has merged, (and closed as an independent charity)

The Elysia Centre has merged, (and closed as an independent Partnership)

Park Attwood Therapeutic Association has merged, (and changed its name) to:

The Elysia Therapeutic Centre Ltd. Community Benefit Society with Charitable status.

Grateful for the past and with thanks to all those who have contributed to Anthroposophic Medical care this century; and towards and what must be for all of us a newly emerging future in 2020.

Sincerely yours, Melanie Taylor

N/B Bequests or donations to the Calyx Trust should please contact the administrator at the Elysia Therapeutic Centre Ltd. for details:

Lindsey Garner, email: admin@elysiacentre.org

ETC COVID-19: Client Guide

Client Guide to Using the Centre During COVID-19: As at 1st September 2020.

As ever, the health, wellbeing, safety and security of all of our clients, visitors and practitioners are our priority. We have spent a lot of time preparing the space, and putting in place preventative measures, as part of our COVID-19 Secure Protocol, to ensure that we reduce the risk of infection from COVID-19 to those using the Centre to the lowest possible practicable level. This will necessarily entail some changes to the way in which the Centre and our Practitioners operate that are outlined here.

Determining if an on-site therapeutic session is appropriate

  • In line with current Government guidelines, our professional therapeutic practitioners will be assessing with each individual client whether it is appropriate to offer on-site therapeutic sessions, with particular consideration given where individuals have been advised that they are clinically extremely vulnerable or for those who fall into the clinically vulnerable category.

Arriving for your appointment

  • Clients will be asked to arrive as close as possible to their appointment time to minimise waiting. There will be no waiting area available in the Centre.
  • If you drive you should park on the Centre driveway and wait to be given access to the building by your practitioner.
  • Driving, walking or cycling to the Centre rather than using public transport, is preferable where possible. It is now a legal requirement to wear a face covering when using public transport.
  • Where a family member or friend has transported clients to their session their supporters should remain outside the Centre or return to collect them at the end of the session.
  • Clients are asked to bring as little as possible with them into the Centre and keep any coats and bags with them at all times. If you wish to have water during your session, please bring a water bottle.
  • Face masks should be worn on entering and leaving the Centre as well as kept on throughout the duration of your session unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it and if the individual is exempt from wearing one.  

 

  • There will be a ONE WAY SYSTEM operating at the Centre for client arrival and departure.
  • ENTRY for clients will be through the side entrance.
  • EXIT for clients will be through the front door.

 

  • Clients will be asked to wash their hands thoroughly using the downstairs bathroom on arrival. Sanitising hand wash, paper towels, and hand sanitiser are provided. You will also be asked to spray the bathroom sink and taps with an appropriate anti-bacterial spray after each use. On departure you will be asked to use hand sanitizer at the front door prior to exit.

Your appointment

  • A reduced number of therapy rooms at the Centre are currently open to limit contact with others. However, if you do find yourself meeting others in shared areas such as corridors and staircases, please observe social distancing as best you are able.
  • Each of our therapy rooms have been set up with two meter spacing between the client and practitioner chairs to maintain social distancing during conversation/talking therapy sessions. This is indicated by tape on the floor.
  • There is now also a 30-minute buffer between clients to allow for cleaning and room preparation, enabling a period of ventilation and to help prevent overlap between clients.
  • All contact surfaces and common areas to include seating, surfaces, handrails, door handles, any equipment used and bathroom furnishings are regularly and thoroughly cleaned with an appropriate anti-bacterial spray cleaner.
  • All of our practitioners wash their hands thoroughly on arrival, after cleaning between clients and on their departure.
  • Centre staff will be completing daily checks and cleaning whilst the Centre is in use to ensure hygiene standards are maintained.
  • As per NHS guidance please avoid touching your face and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze, put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Clients are asked to make payments online where possible to avoid the exchange of cash or cheques.

Cancellations

  • If you, or anyone in your household or a support bubble of which you are part, develop any COVID-19 symptoms (see # below) you must not attend your session, you should cancel your appointment directly with your practitioner immediately and follow the latest government guidance.

# The main symptoms of coronavirus currently specified by the NHS are:

  1. high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature).
  2. new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).
  3. loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

Staying COVID-19 Secure in 2020

At the Elysia Therapeutic Centre your health, wellbeing, safety and security are our priority. We would like to re-assure all of our clients and visitors that we have complied with the Government’s guidance on managing the risk of COVID-19.

  • We have carried out a thorough COVID-19 risk assessment for the Elysia Therapeutic Centre
  • We have developed a COVID-19 Secure Protocol to reduce the risk of infection from COVID-19 to the lowest reasonably practicable level through preventative measures in line with the latest Government guidelines
  • We have cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures in line with Government guidance
  • We have taken all reasonable steps to enable people to maintain a 2m distance in the Centre
  • Where people cannot be 2m apart, we have done everything practical to manage transmission risk

 Operating in this new way is a learning process for us all. We always welcome feedback to enable us to improve, so if there is anything that you would like to share or that concerns you, please speak to your practitioner or contact our Practice Manager, Annamaria Balog via email at practicemanager@elysiacentre.org    

 or on 01384 392072.

 

 

Donation of thanks

Thank you for reading our summer newsletter and for your interest in giving us a donation of thanks.

For a one-off donation, please would you pay directly into the Elysia Centre’s account quoting Thank You as a reference.

Name: Elysia Therapeutic Centre Ltd. 
Account Number: 28894760
Sort Code: 309596

If you would like to make a regular monthly donation, please email Lindsey Garner admin@elysiacentre.org and she will arrange this with you.

Thank you so much for helping to keep the Centre’s pulse alive during this challenging time.

Warmest greetings

The Elysia Therapeutic Centre

The long road . . .

By Monika Horber, Rhythmical Massage Practitioner & Reflexologist

I would like to share with you the following extract from one of the books on my bookshelf; it might be helpful, especially in times like these, not to get overwhelmed but to find some orientation, perhaps even some peace.

Taken from the book “Momo” by Michael Ende; a conversation between Momo, a little girl, and her old friend Beppo, the road sweeper:

“You see, Momo, it’s like this. Sometimes, when you’ve got a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you’ll never get it swept. And then you start to hurry. You work faster and faster, and every time to look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder and you panic, and in the end you’re out of breath and have to stop – and still the street stretches away in front of you. That’s not the way to do it. You must never think of the whole street at once, understand? You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom, and the next, and the next. Nothing else. That way you enjoy your work, which is important, because then you make a good job of it. And that’s how it ought to be. And all at once, before you know it, you find you’ve swept the whole street clean, bit by bit. What’s more, you aren’t out of breath. That’s important too.”

The “road” we are finding ourselves on is indeed a very long one and so may find ourselves asking: When we will be back to some kind of normality? And what will the new “normality” look like?

Nobody knows, really. Will it be as before or completely different?

In the meantime, we might also have plenty of things to worry about: How do I pay the bills? How can I keep myself and others safe? How are my parents, the elderly and friends with mental health difficulties, coping? Will I lose my livelihood? How can I stay sane in all this?…

There is of course also a lot of advice out there and some of it is indeed very helpful. However, one might not be able to take up the many suggestions, and might feel low in spite of all the good ideas.

There might be unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – when thinking about the future. Perhaps even guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness and all forms of non-forgiveness when thinking about the past…

What’s left is the present, the present day, the present activity, the present moment. Or in other words: the next broom stroke on the long road. Perhaps this is an opportunity like never before to connect with the present and in doing so to find some inner peace. What is important right now?

Not tomorrow, not yesterday but today. I consciously speak to a friend on the phone, prepare a meal from scratch or make sourdough bread for the first time; perhaps I go for a walk and see things that I have never noticed before. I might observe that I am breathing more deeply, feel more relaxed. I might even discover some new quality in my everyday life, rediscover things, I usually have no time for.

Simple things like arranging flowers and appreciating their colours and scents; going for a bike ride and noticing and enjoying the wind against my face and having a meaningful conversation with a neighbour…I might discover a richness in my life, albeit always being there, often unnoticed or covered up by countless tasks, plans and worries. I might feel more alive, after all, life happens in the present and not in the past nor in the future. I might find more contentment, joy, even happiness. And gratitude for all the things I have – and for life!

Life that is so rich, full of wonder, mind-blowingly beautiful and ingenious!

What else if not living fully in the present will equip me and give me the strength to face whatever comes towards me from the future?

Eurythmy – homecare

Connecting to yourself

In times of outer uncertainty and insecurity it is helpful to connect with ourselves in a deeper way to find inner peace and strength. Eurythmy movements can support us in this process. At the moment many of us spend more time than usual in front of computer screens. This can make us very head orientated and tight up in thoughts, which often result in tensions in our souls and bodies.

I will describe three simple exercises which can help us to relax tensions and to connect better with ourselves. After I have described an exercise I give suggestions how to deepen it.
It’s best to try one suggestion at the time not all together. This makes it easier to stay connected with the movements in a sensing/feeling rather than in a thinking way.
Important: When you have worked with the exercises allow yourself a few minutes of rest.

What you need
You need a stool or a chair without armrests which allows you to place your feet flat on the ground while sitting relaxed and upright. You need to be able to feel the soles of your feet touching the floor; to wear socks or slippers with thin soles would therefore be advisable.

Exercise One: Connecting with your feet

Important: Give yourself time to find a relaxed upright sitting position with your feet on the ground and your hands resting on your thighs. Breathe naturally.
Lift one leg just off the floor keeping the lower leg and foot relaxed. Then bring the foot slowly down again. The toes should touch the floor first. Then slowly connect the rest of the foot from the toe to the heel with the ground.

Try to connect as much as you can to the sensation of the sole of your foot touching the ground. Pause a moment when the heel has connected to the floor to sense how and what you can feel.

Alternating right and left foot repeat this exercise till you can feel the soles of your feet better than before.

Deepening the first exercise

– While you are actively engaged in this leg/foot movement try to keep shoulders and arms relaxed while the hands are still resting on your thighs.

– Allow yourself to become also aware of sensations in parts of your body which you are not moving actively.

Exercise Two: Helping the shoulder/neck area to relax

With your arms hanging down relaxed on your sides make a slow circling/round movement with your shoulders. Start lifting the shoulders up over the front and letting them come down over the back. You can slightly bend your upper body forward for the beginning of the movement.

Try to feel the phase when your chest is most expanded. Do the exercise a few times then try to feel the opening and moving together of your shoulder blades.

Deepening the second exercise

  • Imagine you are not actively lifting up your shoulders but they are lifted up and lowered down by a little wave. This can make your movement softer and smaller.
  • Try to experience the highest point, “the crest of this wave” as a transition. This is the moment when the movement which started in the front continues in the back. Try to sense as much as you can into this space behind you while the shoulders gently come down and relax. Rest a moment after each wave. You could imagine the water flowing down behind you to the ground.
  • If you like you can also imagine scooping up some of the worries of the day with this wave and let go of them in the back.

Exercise Three: Centre and Periphery

This exercise can be best done in standing, but if this is not easy you can also do it in sitting. Give yourself time to stretch and/or bend till you feel as comfortable as possible in your body. Then stand upright and relaxed with your feet slightly apart. (For many people the width of their hips is a good measure) Give yourself time to feel the connection of your feet to the floor and to sense that shoulders and arms are relaxed and you are breathing naturally.

Place your hands on your chest where you feel you are best connected to yourself. You can put both hands on top of each other or cross your arms over your chest. Give yourself time to find the gesture which works best for you.

Now slowly stretch your arms out to both sides horizontally with the palms looking downwards. Try to feel every moment of this process of expansion right into your fingertips.

Then slowly come back to the centre in the same mindful way. Experiment how you stretch your arms. Try to connect with the stretching activity through your collar bones, shoulders, upper arms, elbows into the lower arms hands and fingers.

Keep your shoulders as much as possible relaxed. We are all aware of our hands and the lower part of our arms. Connecting to shoulders and upper arms takes usually more inner effort. It is important that you stretch enough that you can enjoy the expansion. However, if you feel strained and tense in the horizontal position you are probably stretching too much.

If you like you can imagine spreading out your wings to fly and then coming back home to a place of safety. The image of wings being carried on the air might help you to expand in a relaxed way. You can also use an image of your own which you find helpful.

Repeat the exercise a few times.

Deepening the third exercise

  • Allow yourself to feel what happens in the rest of your body when you move your arms.
  • While you are actively moving into the periphery try to also be aware of your centre. When you are connecting to your centre try to sense also the periphery around you. 
  • Connect to your feet touching the ground during the exercise.
  • Instead of standing or sitting with your feet slightly apart experience the exercise with your feet firmly together.

A variation of the third exercise: The centre and a big peripheral circle
The upper part
Connect with your centre and expand your arms horizontally as before with your palms looking downwards. Then turn your arms so that your palms are looking upwards. Connecting to the periphery beyond your fingertips and keeping your shoulders as relaxed as possible let both stretched arms rise upwards till your fingertips meet over your head. Then by opening and lowering your arms come back into the horizontal and then to your centre. Keep the connection to your feet, especially when you are at the highest point.

The lower part
Expand your arms horizontally with your palms looking downwards. Then lower your stretched arms slowly till they are at the sides of your body. While you come down imagine your arms so long that your fingertips could touch the ground at the sides of your feet.
Then by opening and lifting your arms come back into the horizontal and then to your centre.

Deepening the variation of the third exercise

– Try to experience the different qualities of the upper and lower half circle.
– Does connecting to your centre feel different depending on if you come from above or below?
– How does it feel when your arms are expanding downward from the point above? How does it feel when your arms are expanding upwards from the ground below?

– Experience the whole circle without connecting to your centre between the upper and lower part. When you have come back to the horizontal from above, don’t go back to the centre but turn your palms downwards and continue to the lower part, and only when you come from there go back to the centre.

– Now experience the exercise starting with the lower part.

I hope you will find these exercises helpful. If by working with them questions arise, please feel very welcome to contact me via email.

Please also email me if you are new to Eurythmy and would like more information or a conversation how to access it.
Ursula Werner – Eurythmy Therapist  
Email: ursulawerner95@gmail.com

 

Biographical Counselling

by Annette Gordon

Our biography can be called an unfinished work of art, the constant potential to develop as human beings, and within it we meet our karma through events and relationships in life.

Biographical counselling acknowledges that there are rhythms and phases in life from our birth to death.  Although our biographies are unique, there is an overarching signature, a theme to each phase which connects us all.  Most of us can recall for example the period of adolescence with its struggle between dependence and independence, the emotional, physical and social upheavals and the changing perception of authority.  When we recognise and explore life in these terms, we may identify helpful or unhelpful patterns, or consider life themes which have accompanied us. Through this process biographical work may enable us to begin making sense of our experiences in new ways that can lead to a new sense of freedom and activity.

What shall I do? Why is this happening to me?

I feel scared/helpless/angry/anxious/depressed/alone.

Why does this keep happening?

These are some of the inner struggles we can face today.  Outer structures that gave us stability in the past are falling away, and there’s a greater intensity in confronting existential questions that growing numbers of people experience. 

Biographical counselling has an understanding of the human being based on the insights of Rudolf Steiner, the scientist, philosopher and spiritual scientist.  At its heart is the picture of the individual as a being of body (our physical nature), soul (with its thoughts, feelings, impulses, desires and longings) and spirit (the eternal element within).

It recognises the uniqueness of each person’s biography whilst acknowledging that we are all interconnected; any individual step that we take is also a step for humanity as a whole, contributing to social renewal.  It enables us to gain a freer relationship to the past, awaken to the present and listen to what is calling from the future.

Our Moon Nodes

Throughout life there is a particular rhythm, connected to the time of our birth, which has significance for us.  This is the ‘moon node’, the time when astronomically the sun and moon are in the same conjunction as at our birth, a period of 18 years, 7 months and 9 days.  Referring to an approximate period within our biography, the moon nodes open up insight into our life task, what we have come here to do.  We can experience a shedding of our past and the light of an inner rebirth.  We may also experience the shadow through struggle, challenge or resistance that we need to overcome and to potentially strengthen our being.

The first moon node around 18 and a half is when we are becoming more aware of our own personality and independence, a time often of leaving home to study or begin work, of going out into the world.

The second is around 37 when there can be renewed reflection on our work and may involve change in career path.  Our inner values are changing and we may question our social connections; have I found my people?

Our third moon node is about 55 and a half, a time when our physical body is becoming less resilient and we are taking stock of our lives, our mortality is now in focus; have I made my individual mark on the world?

The fourth at 74 and fifth at 93 can be times when our working through previous challenges develop an inner wisdom to be shared with those around us, a gift of these later ‘years of grace’.

To reflect on our experiences in biographical counselling with the bigger picture in mind creates a context that helps us to imbue meaning on what comes towards us, to recognise opportunities and not feel the victim of life in the struggles of our time. 

About Annette Gordon

Annette has been counselling since 1994, working mainly in private practice, school settings, in general practices and in the voluntary sector. She works with adults, children and young people, couples and families who may be struggling with issues such as relationship difficulties, life crises, anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, trauma, anger and loss. This can be on a short or longer-term basis.
Annette integrates various modalities into her practice, including biographical counselling, the person-centred approach, solution-focussed work, cognitive behavioural therapy, systemic family therapy and the use of creative methods.

She has been working as a counselling supervisor for over 20 years.

During the current lockdown restrictions, Annette is offering counselling via phone or Zoom video calls on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. To find out more or to arrange an appointment please contact 07963 190317.

Walk to be ‘in touch’

By Anna van Zelderen,

Physiotherapist and Rhythmical Massage Therapist

What could we do differently in this time in order to nurture ourselves in this present culture where many of us feel ‘confined by walls and screens’. What about a little ‘time-out’? (45 -60 min)

Why not do a special walk to nurture yourself?
May I make some suggestions?… Put your walking boots/shoes on the doormat. Take with you a pen and paper, perhaps a little notebook. Before you put your socks and shoes on, give your feet a short massage with a little bit of lovely oil. It could be some calendula or arnica massage oil or perhaps simply some olive oil from your kitchen cupboard. Take a moment of preparation to give your feet this care to get them engaged, gently rub the oil on your feet and around your ankles. Actually also your calves might like to have a little rub. (If you tend to have cold feet you could also put some copper ointment on your foot soles.)

Okay.. ready? Then put your socks and shoes on and go… Where to, you might ask. Well, go to a place in nature, where you could be with the trees. It could be your local park (or elsewhere). Once arrived, slow down, feel your feet inside your shoes, feel the air on your skin, and listen to the sounds.. the birds. Can you also feel the Earth underneath your feet? Try to tune in and be ‘in touch’.

Give yourself approx. 15-20 minutes to walk, then start looking out for a special tree, a tree that appeals to you. Please go and sit down underneath that tree and take your time to ‘arrive’ sitting comfortably on the earth and feeling supported by the tree. Perhaps you would like to rub your back against the bark of the tree to actively wake up that part of you which was a bit asleep or… you might like to simply listen carefully with your back, sensing the tree trunk behind you. Sit and open yourself to the surrounding atmosphere, and more specifically to the ‘tree-sphere’…. this moment of real attentiveness could be a real ‘breather’. See if/what thoughts are surfacing after a little while. Perhaps you would like to capture them in your note book. Please write them down..they might be important to understand yourself or perhaps to help you to try to make sense of what is going on in the world right now. Perhaps over time (as you do this walk more often) new insights or ideas might arise, please write them down too. (This time is difficult, but it is also unique and can open new windows to the future…).

When it’s time to get on your way again.. take a few deep breaths before you get up to walk/go back home. When you arrive home and stand in front of your door, create a conscious moment to connect to your feet before you enter to bring with you ‘the little treasures’ from outdoors to the ‘indoors’.

If this has been a worthwhile experience for you, I would suggest -like in a course of therapeutic treatments- to apply a rhythm. Try for example to do this twice a week for a few weeks. You might like to keep doing this by yourself and let it grow in you . Perhaps you would even like to return to the same tree or you might like to sense the sphere of the different trees. Alternatively you could do this with a friend. You could both start your walk together, keeping 2 m distance between you, either speaking with each other or walking without words whatever you prefer, and after approx. 20 minutes walking each of you could choose your own tree in order to have this quiet reflective space by yourself. After approx. 15-20 minutes you could meet up again at a certain spot and walk back home, either sharing some of your experiences or being together ‘in silence’.

Let this process develop and expand in yourself and adapt it where needed to the weather’s circumstances. As it is Spring and we are approaching Summer there might be a lovely warm day that you might like to walk part of the way bare footed or lie in the grass putting your bare feet on the tree trunk and ‘dream’… and see what inspiring thoughts that might bring you. Just try out different ways to nurture yourself by creating an inner space and time in order to be ‘in touch with yourself and your surroundings’ and therefore feeling connected and part of ‘the whole’.

Nutrition and lifestyle strategies to support your immunity

By Lara Seago, Nutritional Therapist

To get you started, I would like to share with you some information regarding nutrition and lifestyle changes that may help to keep your immune systems strong and healthy. 

First and to put this into context, let’s look at how the immune system works . . .

The main functions of human immune system are to protect us against infection from pathological microorganisms, to clear damaged tissues, and to provide constant surveillance of potentially malignant cells that grow within the body. The immune system also develops appropriate tolerance to avoid unwanted response to healthy tissues of self or harmless foreign substances. (Wu et al, 2019)

The skin, cornea, and mucosa of the respiratory, GI, and GU tracts form a physical barrier that is the body or immune system’s first line of defence. Some of these barriers also have active immune functions.  If these barriers are breached, 2 types of immune response may occur…Innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

The innate immune system is the natural immunity we are born with and adaptive immunity is that which develops over time in response to exposure to antigens (Delves, 2018).

Frequent infections, autoimmunity, digestive complaints and fatigue are all common symptoms that may indicate a struggling immune system. 

All human beings experience low immunity at various points in their lives and to varying degrees, from the common cold, to serious autoimmune diseases or even cancer.

While medications may help in certain circumstances, many people do not see this as the long-term solution and they understandably seek advice on how nutrition and lifestyle may be able to help.

Unfortunately, with increasing age comes a greater susceptibility to immune dysregulation and most older people above 60-65 experience immunity challenges to some degree.  Ageing results in a loss of lymphoid tissue, particularly in the thymus, and the ability to respond to pathogens, antigens and mitogens decreases. Mucosal barriers also become impaired with age, resulting in weaker immunity.  The development of long-term immune memory is affected, with a diminished response to vaccination. This mostly seems to affect adaptive immunity but also the innate immune system to a lesser extent (Maggini et al, 2018). 

A diet rich in antioxidants which help to combat oxidative stress may help to slow down the ageing process and protect the immune system from more rapid decline.  Supplementation may also be required in order to reach and maintain optimum nutrient levels. 

How Might Nutrition Help to Support Immunity?

There is a wealth of research confirming the importance of good nutrition for a strong and healthy immune system.

Pae et al. (2012) highlighted the importance of optimal nutrition in maintaining a healthy immune system as we age.

A review by Maggini et al. (2018) supported the view that good nutrition is crucial for optimal immunity and suggested human nutritional requirements for a strong immune system are likely to change over the course of a life span.  Sometimes diet alone is not enough and tailored supplementation is needed to bring the immune system back to peak condition.  Registered Nutritional Therapists adopt this individualised approach to nutrition and supplementation, being mindful that no two people are the same and requirements will greatly vary depending on age, circumstances and many other variables.  It is always advisable to seek advice regarding supplementation from a registered Nutritional Therapist before embarking on any regime.

Let’s look at some of the underlying imbalances that are often found in those with poor immunity or autoimmune conditions.

Nutritional Deficiencies

The immune system needs enough of the appropriate nutrients in order to function efficiently, ideally in optimum levels.  If you would like guidance on how to test and clarify your levels, I recommended you speak with a Registered Nutritional Therapist who will be able to advise you.

Key micronutrients to consider for supporting immunity

The following are the key micronutrients instrumental in human immune function: –

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is crucial for protecting epithelium and mucus integrity in the body. Vit A is known as an anti-inflammatory vitamin because of its critical role in enhancing immune function. Vit A is involved in the development of the immune system and plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses, responsible for activating T-lymphocytes that are reactive against specific antigens and humoral immune processes, responsible for protecting us against toxins and pathogens (Huang et al, 2018, Britannica, 2020).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress.  Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and a higher susceptibility to infections. Supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections (Carr and Maggini, 2017).  Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, brightly coloured and green vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, sweet potato, papaya, strawberries, kale, cauliflower and broccoli (Web MD, 2020).

Vitamin D

Small amounts of vitamin D can be obtained from egg yolks, liver, beef and fatty fish.  However, our main source of Vitamin D is produced from the skin’s exposure to sunlight.  Given the lack of sunshine is the UK, vitamin D deficiency is very common, particularly during the Winter months.

Studies have confirmed vitamin D has a positive impact on both innate and adaptive immunity and may also help to prevent or lessen autoimmune inflammatory diseases (Wu et al, 2019).

Vitamin E

Although human studies are still lacking, animal studies have highlighted a clear link between Vitamin E deficiency and immune system impairment.  Vitamin E is thought to enhance mucosal barrier integrity.  Some studies have also shown a positive correlation between optimal vitamin E levels and reduced risk of developing influenza in the elderly (Wu et al, 2019), further supporting this potential correlation.  Sources of vitamin E include: wheatgerm, hazelnut and sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pine nuts, goose, salmon, trout, avocado, red peppers, mango and kiwi fruit (Arnarson, 2017).

Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) and folic acid (B9)

Evidence suggests that deficiency of folic acid and / or cobalamin can significantly impact on immunity by the production of nucleic acid, protein synthesis, inhibiting the activity of immune cells, and interfering with metabolic processes, including methylation. Inefficient methylation can lead to raised homocysteine levels which causes systemic and vascular inflammation, resulting in an immune response (Mikkelsen and Apostolopoulis, 2019).

Foods rich in B12 include liver, kidneys, clams, sardines, beef, nutritional yeast, trout, salmon, dairy and eggs (Semeco, 2020).  Given that the majority of B12 rich foods come from animal sources, vegans are particularly vulnerable to B12 deficiency and may want to consider supplementation.

Foods rich in B9 include legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy greens, beets, citrus, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, nuts and seeds, beef liver, papaya, wheatgerm, bananas and avocado (Link, 2020)

Zinc

Zinc helps to maintain homeostasis of the immune system and its deficiency impacts on both innate and adaptive immunity. Deficiency of the essential mineral is particularly common in developing countries and amongst children and the elderly.  This increases risk of infection amongst these deficient population groups.  Interestingly 30% of the world’s population are said to be zinc deficient.  (Wu et al, 2019). 

Zinc rich foods include seafood, legumes, meat, nuts and seeds, dairy, eggs, wholegrains, potatoes, green beans, kale and dark chocolate (we know that last one is usually appreciated!) (West, 2018).

Selenium

A review by Avery and Hoffmann (2018) concluded that a deficiency of selenium and selenoproteins (Selenium containing proteins) can impair both innate and adaptive immunity.

Selenium can be found in brazil nuts, cashews nuts, fish, ham, beef, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, cannellini beans, lentils, oatmeal, spinach, milk and yoghurt and bananas (Butler, 2018).

EPA/DHA

Essential fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA derived from fish oil have been extensively researched and found to help modulate both innate and adaptive immunity.  This is largely due to its powerful anti-inflammatory action (Wu et al, 2019).

The best source of EPA and DHA is oily fish like wild salmon, sardines and mackerel.

Catechins

Green tea contains high content of catechins (around 10–15% of its dry weight) which include epicatechin (EC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC), and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG is the most abundant and most biologically active, which is believed to be a primary factor responsible for green tea’s health benefit. Green tea and EGCG have been shown to be effective in modulating multiple aspects of innate and adaptive immunity (Wu et al, 2019)

Beta-Glucans

Although the precise mechanisms of action are unknown, beta glucans have been found to have a powerful immunomodulatory effect, stimulating immune system cells and therefore helping to fight infection and even malignancies (Kim et al. 2011). 

Beta-Glucans can be found in oats, barley, shitake and reishi mushrooms, seaweed and algae.

Malabsorption and how to support

Of course, it’s all very well eating a fantastic diet packed with all of these immune supporting nutrients, but if we are not digesting and absorbing them effectively they will not be have the impact on our immune system and overall health that we would like.  A number of factors increase the likelihood of malabsorption, including: –

  • damage to the intestine from a previous condition or surgery
  • antibiotic use
  • conditions such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and pancreatitis
  • lactase deficiency or lactose intolerance
  • diseases of the gall bladder, pancreas or liver
  • intestinal parasites
  • radiation therapy
  • certain medications
  • high alcohol intake

(Kerr and Cafasso, 2017)

Potential signs of malabsorption include anaemia, bloating, fatigue, stomach cramping, weakness and weight loss.  If you think malabsorption may be an issue for you a registered nutritional therapist will be able to confirm this via a stool analysis. 

What changes can we make to our diet to support our digestion?

Drinking apple cider vinegar diluted with water prior to meals, lemon water and eating pineapple and papaya may help.  There are also several supplements helpful in supporting digestion and proper absorption.

Maximise your gut bacteria

There is lots of noise in the media these days about our microbiome and its importance.  Our microbiome is the collection of billions of live bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract.  An imbalance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract is very common (known as dysbiosis), and usually confirmed via a stool analysis.  Unfortunately, dysbiosis of the microbiome can have a detrimental impact on immunity.  Thankfully this can be resolved relatively easily by introducing probiotic rich foods into our daily diet.  These include kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, fermented miso and live yoghurt.  Probiotic supplements may also be an effective way to re-populate the gut with beneficial bacteria.  Probiotic intake reaches and interacts with the gut mucosa and mucosal immune system where the largest proportion of the body’s immune cells are found (around 80%).  Probiotics modulate immune and inflammatory response in the gut through their interaction with intestinal epithelial cells.  Studies also suggest that the beneficial impact probiotics have on the immune system is not restricted to the gut.  Modulatory effects from probiotics have also been observed in the respiratory tract and findings suggest they could even support the systemic immune system, both innate and adaptive.  Probiotics have been found to modulate inflammation and help to reduce or prevent allergies. (Wu et al, 2019).

Avoid food sensitivities

Food sensitivities may impact on the integrity of the mucosal barrier in the GI tract, which may in turn lead to an immune system reaction and inflammatory response.   It is important to eliminate any foods you are sensitive to from your diet at least for a period.  A Nutritional Therapist would be able to confirm any food intolerances and advise accordingly how best to proceed. Once the integrity of the GI tract and proper digestion is restored, it is sometimes possible to re-introduce foods.  Common sensitivities include, wheat, dairy and eggs, although it is possible to develop sensitivities to any food.

Reduce Inflammation

Given that inflammation triggers a response from the immune system, it is important to reduce our inflammatory response as much as possible.  Maintaining a healthy weight, keeping active, avoiding smoking or drinking excessively all help, along with sufficient, good quality sleep and relaxation are all helpful.

But what about diet?  Well, of course there are lots of foods and nutrients found to have anti-inflammatory properties.  Make sure you are including plenty of the following in your diet: –

  • omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, walnuts, flax and chia seeds
  • antioxidants from a rainbow of fruits and vegetables
  • anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger, rosemary
  • quercetin rich foods which include red grapes, red apples and red onions
  • resveratrol.  This is where red wine comes in.  Yes, is a great source. But please in moderation!
  • optimising your vitamin D levels by getting out in the sunshine!
  • magnesium rich foods, including dark chocolate, avocado, nuts, legumes, dark leafy green vegetables, tofu, seeds, wholegrains, salmon and bananas.

You may also wish to consider supplements for additional support.  A Nutritional Therapist will be able to advise on which supplements are right for you.

Positive Lifestyle Changes to Support Immunity

Manage Your Stress Levels

Research indicates that psychological stress or trauma can dysregulate the human immune system and increase the possibility of developing chronic illnesses long-term or exacerbating existing ones (Morey et al, 2015). 

Now, in the wake of COVID-19 and the world slowing down might be a good time to take a step back and review your work/ life balance.  What small changes might be possible to reduce your stress levels? Gentle exercise like walking in nature and yoga is also helpful, and please remember to breathe!  There are some great mindfulness apps you can download onto your phone for free.  Try incorporating just 10 minutes per day into your routine and feel the difference.  Epsom salt baths are also helpful for relaxation and for replacing some of that magnesium we tend to use excessively during stressful times.

If you are dealing with unresolved trauma, consider talking therapy via the Elysia Centre: talking therapies at elysia centre. This could be done remotely from the comfort of your own home.

Keep Active

Studies support the view that regular moderate to high intensity exercise most days for 30-60 minutes enhances immune system performance.  However, be careful not to overdo it!  Research also demonstrates increased immune system dysregulation and inflammation amongst athletes with intensive training schedules. (Neiman and Wentz, 2019). This activity doesn’t need to be formal exercise. Housework, gardening, walking the dog, cycling – they all count!  Make the most of your daily opportunity to leave the house for exercise and make the most of getting out amongst nature.

Optimise Sleep

Humans need between 7 and 9 hours of good quality sleep every night; and anything less than this has been proven to detrimentally affect the immune system.   Many studies of healthy human volunteers subjected to sleep restriction or sleep deprivation demonstrate changes in circulating pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, soluble receptors, inflammatory signalling pathways, and innate immunity (Opp and Krueger, 2015; Haack et al., 2004; Haack et al., 2007; Irwin et al., 2010; Lekander et al., 2013; Mullington et al., 2009; Mullington et al., 2010; Simpson and Dinges, 2007).

Practices for improving sleep include regular routines, getting daylight every morning and dimming the lights in the evenings, daily physical activity, stress management and relaxation techniques, avoiding caffeine and alcohol after midday, a hot bath before bed, ensuring the bedroom is sufficiently cool and dark and following a low-glycaemic diet.

Something else you may wish to try is including tart cherries in your diet before bed.  Tart cherries are naturally rich in the sleep hormone melatonin so may be a helpful sleep aid.

Moderate Alcohol Levels

Before you get too excited about the potential benefits of resveratrol in red wine, it is also worth mentioning that there is much research highlighting the immunosuppressive effect alcohol has.  Alcohol impacts on all aspects of the immune system, including structural human defence mechanisms in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract as well as the innate and adaptive immune systems.  The immune system is affected both by the direct impact of alcohol and through dysregulation of other components caused by alcohol (malabsorption of nutrients for example).   (Molina, 2010).

We know how tempting it is to pour a drink or two, particularly at the moment when we are all stuck at home without the usual opportunities to socialise.  But resist the temptation to go overboard!  An occasional drink is usually fine but make sure you stay well within the recommended daily alcohol limits (2 to 3 units a day for women and 3 to 4 units for men) and have at least 2 to 3 alcohol-free days a week.

Avoid Smoking

Smoking negatively impacts on both the innate and adaptive immune systems.  It can cause a whole host of chronic illnesses from autoimmune, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, to allergies and cancer. Cigarette smoke generally weakens immunity against infections but promotes autoimmunity. (Qui et al. 2017).

If you do not already smoke, then please avoid and if you do try to quit or at least cut down. For those of you looking for support to quit, free stop smoking services are available via the NHS:

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/nhs-stop-smoking-services-help-you-quit/

Consider Toxic Exposure

New research shows that maternal exposure to industrial pollution can harm the immune system of offspring of subsequent generations, weakening the body’s defences against infections such as the influenza virus. (Post et al, 2019).

Of course, it is impossible to avoid toxic exposure altogether.  We can’t avoid car fumes for example.  But there are lots of environmental toxins / pollutants that can be controlled and minimised. 

Try to keep your toxic load to a minimum by using non-toxic cleaning products, personal hygiene products and cosmetics, Avoiding Plastic wrapped food and plastic bottles, eating organic and filtering water.  Increasing your intake of antioxidants may also help to combat potential free radical damage caused by pollutants / toxins.

Antioxidant Boosting Smoothie Recipes

Now, we know that including optimal amounts of fruit and vegetables into our diets can be hard work and difficult to achieve at times, particularly when juggling work, running a house with childcare and home-schooling, as many of us are in the current crisis. 

A quick and convenient way to increase your antioxidant intake is to introduce plenty of juices and smoothies into your diet.  They take minutes or sometimes even seconds to make and make a great breakfast or snack.  You may even wish to consider adding some of those anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger.

Here are a few recipe suggestions to get you started.

Vitamins A to Zinc

A handful of rocket

1 banana

1 yellow pepper

1 cup of strawberries

¼ cup of pumpkin seeds

Top up with water and blend

Citrus Zing

1 orange

½ lemon

½ lime

1 cm cube of ginger

A pinch of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt

2 tbsp raw honey

Top up with water and blend

Power booster

1 carrot

1 red apple

1 orange

1 cm cube of ginger

Squeeze of lime

Top up with water and blend

Blueberry delight

Handful of spinach

Handful of blueberries

Handful of macadamia nuts

1 tsp of cinnamon

1 tsp of turmeric

1 tbsp of maca powder

Top up with coconut milk and blend

For more information or to book a consultation with Nutrition for Vitality for your own personalised nutrition, lifestyle and supplement plan (all from the comfort of your own home), or for a FREE 15 minute discovery call, contact Lara Seago on info@nutritionforvitality.org.uk or 07887 943037.

Understanding that finances are currently tight for many, during the COVID-19 restrictions and until further notice, we will be offering all existing and new patients a 15% discount from our usual fees, so now is the time to take advantage!  Let’s take control of our health and build our resilience.

Written by Lara Seago, Nutrition for Vitality (April 2020)

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Additional Reading

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2017). Protect Your Health with Immune-Boosting Nutrition. Available at: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/protect-your-health-with-immune-boosting-nutrition (Accessed 07/11/19)

Arnarson, A. (2017). 20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin E. Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-vitamin-e (Accessed 27/03/20)

Britannica Encyclopedia (2020). Humoral Immunity. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/humoral-immunity (Accessed 27/03/20)

Butler, N. (2018). 20 Foods Rich in Selenium. Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-foods-high-in-zinc (Accessed 27/03/20)

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Medications that Weaken Your Immune System and Fungal Infections. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/infections/immune-system.html (Accessed 06/11/19)

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World Health Organisation Europe (2019). Benefits of a Balanced Diet. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/nutrition/a-healthy-lifestyle/benefits-of-a-balanced-diet (Accessed 07/11/19)

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The long road . . .

By Monika Horber
Rhythmical Massage Practitioner & Reflexologist

I would like to share with you the following extract from one of the books on my bookshelf; it might be helpful, especially in times like these, not to get overwhelmed but to find some orientation, perhaps even some peace.

Taken from the book “Momo” by Michael Ende; a conversation between Momo, a little girl, and her old friend Beppo, the road sweeper:

“You see, Momo, it’s like this. Sometimes, when you’ve got a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you’ll never get it swept. And then you start to hurry. You work faster and faster, and every time to look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder and you panic, and in the end you’re out of breath and have to stop – and still the street stretches away in front of you. That’s not the way to do it. You must never think of the whole street at once, understand? You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom, and the next, and the next. Nothing else. That way you enjoy your work, which is important, because then you make a good job of it. And that’s how it ought to be. And all at once, before you know it, you find you’ve swept the whole street clean, bit by bit. What’s more, you aren’t out of breath. That’s important too.”

The “road” we are finding ourselves on is indeed a very long one and so may find ourselves asking: When we will be back to some kind of normality? And what will the new “normality” look like?
Nobody knows, really. Will it be as before or completely different?

In the meantime, we might also have plenty of things to worry about: How do I pay the bills? How can I keep myself and others safe? How are my parents, the elderly and friends with mental health difficulties, coping? Will I lose my livelihood? How can I stay sane in all this?…

There is of course also a lot of advice out there and some of it is indeed very helpful. However, one might not be able to take up the many suggestions, and might feel low in spite of all the good ideas.
There might be unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – when thinking about the future. Perhaps even guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness and all forms of non-forgiveness when thinking about the past…

What’s left is the present, the present day, the present activity, the present moment. Or in other words: the next broom stroke on the long road. Perhaps this is an opportunity like never before to connect with the present and in doing so to find some inner peace. What is important right now?

Not tomorrow, not yesterday but today. I consciously speak to a friend on the phone, prepare a meal from scratch or make sourdough bread for the first time; perhaps I go for a walk and see things that I have never noticed before. I might observe that I am breathing more deeply, feel more relaxed. I might even discover some new quality in my everyday life, rediscover things, I usually have no time for.

Simple things like arranging flowers and appreciating their colours and scents; going for a bike ride and noticing and enjoying the wind against my face and having a meaningful conversation with a neighbour…I might discover a richness in my life, albeit always being there, often unnoticed or covered up by countless tasks, plans and worries. I might feel more alive, after all, life happens in the present and not in the past nor in the future. I might find more contentment, joy, even happiness. And gratitude for all the things I have – and for life!

Life that is so rich, full of wonder, mind-blowingly beautiful and ingenious!

What else if not living fully in the present will equip me and give me the strength to face whatever comes towards me from the future?

Coronavirus – Managing Fear and Anxiety Support Line

Please see below our counsellors and psychotherapists who have volunteered to provide free telephone support at the specific times listed, to listen and help you talk through your anxieties about COVID-19.

We ask you to please note the following:

The support you will receive is not counselling or psychotherapy nor a substitute for such support. For our psychotherapy, counselling and coaching services, please visit our Talking Therapies section.

For anxieties and concerns around your financial situation we recommend you make contact with your local council.

Should the practitioner be busy with another call, please do not leave a message but instead try again within the available time slot given.

If you have missed the time slot offered and your need is desperate we advise you to please call the Samaritans on 116 123. 

PractitionerAvailabilityContact Number
Jonathan LivingstoneMondays
10:00 – 10:30 am
10:45 – 11:15am
Call: 07951 260446
Joanne KingTuesdays
10:30 – 11:00 am
11:00 – 11:30 am
Call: 07412 238249
Sue RogersWednesdays
2:00 – 2:30 pm
2:30 – 3:00 pm
Call: 07776 084401
Annette GordonThursdays
10:00 – 10:30 am
10:45 – 11:15 am
Call: 07963 190317
Melanie TaylorFridays
2:30 – 3:00 pm
3:30 – 4:00 pm
Call: 07810 048739
Jonathan LivingstoneSaturdays
10:00 – 10:30 am
10:45 – 11:15 am
Call: 07951 260446