ETC COVID-19: Client Guide

Client Guide to Using the Centre During COVID-19: As at 1st July 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 to re-open, 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 which are outlined below.

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.

• Access to the Centre for clients will now be through the side entrance, with access to the front of the building currently closed.

• Clients will be asked to use the downstairs bathroom to wash their hands thoroughly on entering and leaving the building. 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.

Your appointment

• Only downstairs at the Centre will be open. Upstairs is screened off and there will be no access.

• Our therapy room has been set up with two meter spacing between the client and practitioner chairs to maintain social distancing. This is indicated by tape on the floor.

• There is now 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, door handles, any equipment used and bathroom furnishings are thoroughly cleaned with an appropriate anti- bacterial cleaner after each client.

• 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.

• 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.

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

ETC COVID-19 Client Guide 1 July 2020

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, Sue O’Brien via email at sueobrien@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)

Gov.uk (2020). Major new measures to protect people at highest risk from coronavirus. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-new-measures-to-protect-people-at-highest-risk-from-coronavirus (Accessed 27/03/20)

Gov.uk (2020). Staying at home and away from others (social distancing). Available at:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others (Accessed 27/02/20)

Harvard Health Publishing (2019). How to Boost Your Immune System. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system (Accessed 07/11/19)

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Moliner, P. et al. (2010). Focus On: Alcohol and the Immune System. Alcohol Research Health. 33(1-2): 97–108. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3887500/ (Accessed 06/11/19)

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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.

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Corona pandemic – aspects and perspectives

Matthias Girke and Georg Soldner, 19 March 2020

The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is spreading worldwide and has led to unprecedented consequences and restrictions in public life and of civil rights. The symptoms of the frequently only mild infection affect the airways and cardiovascular system in particular. Alongside the general symptoms such as fever, muscle pain and fatigue, it is above all the lungs as the organ of the middle, rhythmical human being which can be seriously affected if the diseases progresses that far. The affinity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to the ACE2 receptor means that there can be associated cardiovascular regulatory disorders which can, for example, affect patients with high blood pressure, who often take antihypertensive medication (e.g. ACE inhibitors), to a greater extent.

Viruses and other pathogens mostly only lead to the manifestation of a disease if there is the relevant disposition. Not every person develops disease symptoms after infection and if they do, such symptoms can vary greatly in their extent. Thus the estimates of mortality worldwide (calculated across all age groups) for COVID-19 currently fluctuate between 0.25–3%,1 in Germany between 0.3–0.7%.2 Some figures quoted internationally are significantly higher,3 whereby in almost no country a precise comparison of the number of infected people with the number of people who have died has been possible, which would require blanket testing. Thus the true number of infected people is undoubtedly higher than the number of people positively tested, for example in seriously affected Italy.

If the pathogen enters, an inflammation develops as the active response of the person. The aim is to overcome the invader. We thus have to differentiate between the infection by the pathogens, the required disposition of the person and the inflammatory response. As a consequence, the appropriate inflammatory reaction to overcome the pathogen should under no circumstances be uncritically suppressed through anti-inflammatory and antipyretic drugs. There are indications that this could encourage a more serious course of the disease. Therapeutic recommendations of Anthroposophic Medicine on the prevention and treatment of the disease have already been published in this regard. Prophylaxis and prevention accordingly have to relate to different levels. Washing hands is of course particularly important, as is coughing into the crook of the arm in order to prevent droplet infection.

But disposition also has to be taken into account. We know about the clearly higher risk from COVID-19 for elderly people and patients with underlying health conditions such as of the cardiovascular system or sugar metabolism. But stress and anxiety also worsen immune performance and support a more serious course of the disease following infection. Too much tension in our consciousness, too little sleep and lack of movement lead to elevated susceptibility to infection and a disposition for the infectious disease. Currently many people additionally have a real fear of losing the economic basis of their existence as a consequence of the crisis.

The nature of the disease

Diseases have various levels. The visible symptoms coalesce into a whole – the respective clinical “picture”. It expresses a type: diseases can develop clinically in very different ways and yet have something in common. The type of an illness is its spiritual “principle” which manifests and comes to individual expression in the ill person. It thus becomes clear that the disease consist of more than its visible symptoms. The latter point to the nature of the disease which comes to expression in the symptoms. What are the characteristics and qualities of such nature of the disease? The famous pathologist Rudolf Virchow already referred to the necessary disposition for an infectious disease. If an infectious disease requires a disposition, then this is clearly related to its nature. Here we can distinguish several levels:

  • General disposition; immunological susceptibility through anxiety; stress; excessive demands of our consciousness and at work – without doubt a signature of the “western model” of a global and materially oriented performance society. Included here is the increasing readiness to ignore disease symptoms such as fever and fatigue – as the reasonable response of the organism calling for rest – for as long as possible and to suppress them with medication. This practice may contribute significantly to a more serious course of the disease. The soul suffering from excessive demands and tension, and thus the development of stress and tension in our emotion, creates the disposition which allows the infection to penetrate the rhythmical system.
  • But the content of our consciousness is also important: if we approach truth, we experience the connection of our being with the spiritual world. Recognising truth can awaken joy, confidence, trust and fulfilment. We encounter a quality which gives necessary orientation, frees the human being from tension and insecurity and thus strengthens the healing forces of the body. In contrast, untruths and lies make us ill: they separate human beings from the spiritual world of truth, isolate them and impede the healing forces which flow from truth. Rudolf Steiner indicated that the “lies of humanity”4 can be of epidemiological relevance. This is not about the individual patient but rather about the way we handle truth in the public discourse. In a time of fake news and untruthful distortion, this spiritual dimension is also of importance. Rudolf Steiner referred both to cultivating spirituality and the harmful nature of materialistic thoughts: “Bacilli are most intensively cultivated when people take with them into the sleep state nothing other than a materialistic mindset. There is no better way to cultivate them than entering sleep with nothing but materialistic ideas and to act from there, from the spiritual world, from our I and astral body, back on the organs of the physical body[, …].”5 Against this background, conspiracy theories about the origin of this pandemic, as circulate not uncommonly also in anthroposophical contexts, are also problematical. The will to examine the truth with our thinking, to digest the wealth of news ourselves and not simply to let ourselves be infected by mere assertions, forms a part of the immunity for which we are ourselves responsible.
  • If the emphasis on the consciousness, that is the nervous and sensory system, gives rise to the disposition for viral colds, its transformation requires warmth-creating movement and will activity. Fear inhibits the will, we are subject to external control, as indeed we are as we “function” in our everyday working lives determined by external “pacemakers”. Accordingly our disposition for disease is marked by excessive demands on our consciousness in the information society; tension, restlessness and the experience of stress in our emotions; and an increasingly paralysing fear in our will. Against the background of our threefold nature, such a disposition is characterised by a shift of the human constitutional elements towards the nervous and sensory system. The organism they have abandoned becomes accessible for infections and outside “occupation”.

Whereas in childhood and young adults the spiritual and soul being of the person unites with the body and shapes it, it leaves the body again with increasing age. To this extent it is particularly elderly people who develop a disposition for COVID-19. The corona pandemic affects humans, evidently no animals are falling ill. It thus clearly indicates that it is related to the I being. Prevention and cure must therefore also include the spiritual dimension alongside many other things.

Reinforcing hygiogenesis, salutogenesis and autogenesis

We distinguish various levels of recovery: to begin with we are familiar with physical healing and as defined by Gunther Hildebrandt refer to hygiogenesis. Physical healing requires mental support. Anxiety and fear are not good counsellors and through tension and inner unrest weaken the generative life and healing forces. When meaning can be identified or created, connections understood and there are also possibilities of manageability in threatening situations, a salutogenic potential develops. Aaron Antonovsky called this mentally transformative work of the consciousness guided by the I as sense of coherence. Finally, inner development can take place through the encounter with the illness and lead to self-development, that is autogenesis.

Prevention thus has inner and outer aspects. Inwardly it is about supportive perspectives and spiritual content which can provide strength, about cultivating inner coherence. The control of infectious diseases leads outwardly to isolation: public events are cancelled, borders are closed; confinement to the house can have a particularly invasive effect if people are separated from the experience of nature, sunlight and the starry sky. To counter this, the inner, spiritual light, the inner sun in the form of increased loving affection, of interest in the other person and inner commitment in the form of lived values, needs in the first instance to be strengthened. After all, there is no healing without hope. To this extent we live on perspectives and inner assurance. External aids are, to the extent possible, our active self-movement and the relationship with the sun (Rudolf Steiner referred to the infectiological relevance of a lack of light in 1920 even before the discovery of vitamin D6). The absorption of sunlight to the right degree and at the right time strengthens our defence against infections; promotes the presence of the I in the body; and forms the basis for stabilising our inner, hormonally mediated light rhythms which are very important for sleep and health. Not only do we need a relationship to the light of the sun freed from fear but also an appreciation of the night, the starry sky, what might be described as “Hymns to the night” to quote Novalis in the title for his cycle of poems. The effects on health of nightly light pollution through artificial light and screens is meanwhile well known.

Our rhythmical system is connected with the sun and its course throughout the day. We thus have a large number of circadian rhythms. A rhythmical structure to the day and particularly a physiological relationship between waking and sleeping are important. Too little or too much sleep both make us ill and lead, among other things, to the restriction of immunological functions. Another crucial factor is the relationship with warmth. The cardiovascular system forms the central organ of our warmth organism and requires strengthening, as does the respiratory system. A central role is played here by our self-movement. Here the hygienic exercises in eurythmy therapy as given by Rudolf Steiner in the fifth lecture of the eurythmy therapy course of 1921 – particular the triad of A reverence, love E and hope U, supplemented by the rhythmical R – can offer valuable reinforcement and can also be learnt by many in small groups and then used independently.

The importance of movement outside and the regular absorption of sunlight has already been mentioned. Although being sensible in many respects from an infectiological point of view, “house-bound quarantine” nevertheless also has worrying consequences against this background since it restricts the aids mentioned above.

Why do viruses arise as human pathogens?

There is, however, one big question: where do these evidently new types of virus come from and why have they arisen? Interestingly, many of the viruses, including coronavirus, come from the animal kingdom. We too carry in our intestinal tract not only bacteria, the microbiota, but numerous viruses which are undoubtedly important for our health in a similar way as we know the gut bacteria to be. We know, after all, that it is not just our immune functions but many other areas of the organism, indeed our mental wellbeing, that is influenced by the gut bacteria.

Why, then, do viruses from the animal kingdom pose a risk to humans? We are currently imposing inexpressible suffering on animals: mass and cruel slaughter, up to and including experiments on laboratory animals, leads to pain to which the animal world is helplessly exposed. Even the normal trade in live animals can put them under exceptional stress with heightened fear. Can such suffering lead to consequences which change viruses living in the animal organism? We are used to looking only at the physical level and to see it mostly as separate from the mental level. We are, however, today aware of relationships which connect the intestine for example with the mind. Thus with regard to many viral diseases it is not just the microbiological question which arises regarding the origin of the virus but also the ecological and moral one as to the way we treat the animal world. Steiner spoke about these connections more than a hundred years ago.7 Today it is up to us to investigate these relationships and to ask deeper questions alongside the scientific analysis.

Perspectives

The focus thus turns to the ecological dimension of this pandemic. Globalisation has so far developed very much in the light of economic interests and political power plays. The corona pandemic makes us aware of the great extent to which, as humanity today, we form a whole which is responsible for the health of our fellow human beings, our descendants and the earth. It can teach us a new reverence for life which Albert Schweitzer so urgently called for, the so often neglected dimension of the totality of life in which there is ultimately no separation of one living being from another and their fate. These days and weeks are showing the extent to which apparently incontrovertible principles in the economy, education and transport are turning out to be relative when life is at risk. They can teach us a new flexibility and consideration for others in our behaviour. There can be no question that everything should be done to prevent the at-risk groups in particular being infected. This is where the measures which have meanwhile been taken to halt the spread of the pathogen, particularly the rapidity of it, apply and here everyone should act in solidarity with the whole of civil society and the world community.

If for a long time homage was paid to the goal of eliminating infectious pathogens as radically and comprehensively as possible, the corona epidemic teaches us instead – as does the rapidly increasing antibiotic resistance, for example – that the question of the co-existence with and acquisition of immunity and demarcation from the world of animals, plants, bacteria, fungi and viruses requires a sustainable developmental perspective instead of demonised images of an enemy. The SARS-CoV-2 virus cannot be eliminated or eradicated and we have to expect further new mutations in this field in the coming decades. Protection against infection and, on the other hand, the gradual development of communal immunity (the technical term “herd immunity” also indicates a distorted relationship between humans and animals) requires well-thought out measures which are guided by the goal of a balance between necessary abstention and necessary relations. Movement outdoors in nature, but also empathy and interest in other people have a health-giving action and are particularly important now. Healing, too, requires affection and human assistance. There are studies which show how social relationships – here the degree of popularity of children – have a positive effect on their longer-term infection risk.8

Mentally it is about coping with anxiety, calmness, courage and spiritual perspectives. Anxiety and mental tension restrict immunological functions and can be presumed to contribute to the spread of disease in the same way as careless and thoughtless behaviour. Conversely, a positive mental mood (“positive emotional style”) has a beneficial effect and leads to a reduced risk of falling ill.9 The concentration of cortisone in saliva as an indication of mental stress and tension also correlates with the susceptibility to infection.10

We therefore have inwardly to counter anxiety and often generated fear since only clear thinking, a balanced frame of mind and courage reduce the disposition for disease. “[…] fear of the diseases which occur all around at the source of an epidemic and [if we] enter the night and sleep with fearful thoughts, then unconscious after-images will be generated in the soul, imaginations which are riddled with fear. And that is a good way to foster and cultivate bacilli“11, is how Rudolf Steiner characterised it more than a hundred years ago.

Great questions arise from a spiritual perspective: what do pandemic diseases call for from humanity? On the one hand, this pandemic is dramatically inhibiting the life of society and thus turning into a growing economic, social and societal threat. On the other hand, it is leading to a pause with the possibility of questioning the direction of society, its values and goals, and determining them anew. Here the relationship between humans and the realms of nature, particularly the animals, is of great importance. Currently, in addition to the climate crisis and thus the illness of the earth, we have an acute human global illness of the same magnitude as the great chronic diseases of our time which can make us more awake to a necessary ecological reorientation, including in the field of medicine. In the long term we cannot just wage war on diseases and pathogens, as valuable as such skills are – we have to work with the same strength on the sustained strengthening of the human being and on the ecological balance between humans and nature in the light of our common cosmic origin.

Strengthening resilience has a physical, mental and spiritual dimension in this crisis.

Alongside maintaining warmth and the rhythms of life as well as getting the sun, attention should be paid at a physical level to healthy nutrition and the avoidance of poisons (tobacco, alcohol). Bitter vegetables strengthen immunity, greater sugar consumption reduced resistance. Prevention and constitutional reinforcement can be supported with appropriate anthroposophical medicines and eurythmy therapy.

When a person falls ill, it requires management of the inflammation as the reasonable response of the organism to eliminate the pathogen, and not uncritical anti-inflammatory and anti-pyretic treatment. We currently do not have any evidence-based treatment for when people fall ill with life-threatening COVID-19 which is still therapeutic uncharted territory for all involved. Just as in intensive-care medicine we know about the treatment of respiratory distress syndromes, Anthroposophic Medicine also has therapeutic experience in the treatment of community-acquired pneumonia which is relatively often triggered by viruses. The therapeutic recommendations of Anthroposophic Medicine can in our judgement be of help in all stages of the disease and particularly support the treatment of pneumonia. Since several anthroposophical hospitals in coordinated action are involved also in the intensive care of patients with serious cases of COVID-19, it may perhaps soon be possible to continue to update the current recommendations on the basis of experience.

Matthias Girke and Georg Soldner, 19 March 2020

1 Wilson N et al.: Case-Fatality Risk Estimates for COVID-19 Calculated by Using a Lag Time for Fatality: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/6/20-0320_article

2 Drosten C: https://www.charite.de/klinikum/themen_klinikum/faq_liste_zum_coronavirus/

3 Baud D, Xiaolong Q et al.: Real estimates of mortality following COVID-19 infection: The Lancet, published: March 12, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30195-X

4 Steiner R: Die Theosophie des Rosenkreuzers, GA 99, Dornach 1985, Vortrag vom 30. Mai 1907.
5 Steiner R: Wie erwirbt man sich Verständnis für die geistige Welt?, GA 154, Dornach 1985, Vortrag vom 5. Mai 1914.

6 Steiner R: Geisteswissenschaft und Medizin, GA 312, Dornach 2020, Vortrag vom 24. März 1920. Vgl. dazu Reckert T: Titel Sonnenlicht, Vitamin D, Inkarnation. Der Merkurstab 62 (2009), S. 577–593.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.14271/DMS-19529-DE

7 Steiner R: Die Offenbarungen des Karma, GA 120, Dornach 1992, Vortrag vom 17. Mai 1910. Steiner, R.: Erfahrungen des Übersinnlichen. Die drei Wege der Seele zu Christus. GA 143. Dornach 1994, Vortrag vom 17. April 1912.

8 Ulset VS1, Czajkowski NO2, Kraft B1, Kraft P1, Wikenius E3, Kleppestø TH1, Bekkhus M: Are unpopular children more likely to get sick? Longitudinal links between popularity and infectious diseases in early childhood. PLoS One. 2019 Sep 10;14(9):e0222222. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222222. eCollection 2019

9 Cohen S1, Alper CM, Doyle WJ, Treanor JJ, Turner RB: Positive emotional style predicts resistance to illness after experimental exposure to rhinovirus or influenza a virus. Psychosom Med. 2006 Nov-Dec;68(6):809-15. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

10 Janicki-Deverts D1, Cohen S2, Turner RB3, Doyle WJ4: Basal salivary cortisol secretion and susceptibility to upper respiratory infection. Brain Behav Immun. 2016 Mar;53:255-261.

11 Steiner R: Wie erwirbt man sich Verständnis für die geistige Welt?, GA 154, Dornach 1985, Vortrag vom 5. Mai 1914.