AMR Awareness Week (Day 7): how can we as individuals help reduce the risks to ourselves?
Well, welcome to the last day of WAAW week, taking note as before of a particular part of the official blurb, this time that “World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is intended to encourage best practices among the public”. In this final blog we anticipate the possibility that a nasty drug-resistant infectious bug does materialise some time in the future (as Sally Davies amongst many other have been warning) and address what we can do about this in terms of proactive preventative action. In other words what we can do to protect ourselves from the more dire consequences that have been predicted because of AMR.
What can we do to protect ourselves and our families from this threat?
We identified in the second blog in this series that ‘the first step is to minimise our need for using antibiotics at all by taking all practical steps to keep our immune systems strong’. In that blog this advice was related to minimising antibiobic use and thereby reduce the risk of enabling random mutations to develop, but this same solution (keeping our immune systems strong) is also what we can do to protect ourselves from what any AMR pandemic (or a random AMR infection) might bring. So this is what we are focusing on this final blog in more detail, and as we’ll see, there are lots of options.
If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything useful, it’s taught us that we owe it to ourselves and to our health services to do all that we reasonably can to protect our health – not just because of pandemic-type infections like SARS-CoV-2, but because one of the tragic consequences of this pandemic has been to stretch existing health systems to their limit and beyond. What this has meant is that even in wealthier countries no-one can rely on health care surviving at the levels we have been aspiring for it
So here are a few tips to kick us off – we know that they’re not the final statement on the matter, and you will probably be familiar with most of them. But we must also immediately add the necessary caveats: that you should always consult a health professional if you have any doubt in your mind that any of them might do you harm. Nevertheless, we think that they are basically safe, and all worthwhile considering, not least because (in the spirit of Moxafrica) they are all cheap and cheerful).
Here's a good COVID/immunity graphic to kick us off, from the University of Kentucky
A couple of other things worth mentioning. We’re not suggesting that you rush into using any of these suggestions immediately, but we certainly think it’s worth considering them because it’s a certainly that most of them have some preventative action against infections by strengthening the host immune system. As was said in Ancient China: it’s too late to start digging a well if you’re already thirsty, and it’s too late to start forging a sword when you are already under attack. What we are generally suggesting is that if any of them take your fancy it might be worth looking into it more deeply and then giving it a go if it makes sense to you. But don’t take our word on any of this because the science is continuously evolving. Please look into any of these more deeply for yourself – and (of course) if you find that starting any of them makes you feel odd, then you must STOP!
1.. Get enough sleep if you possibly can because sleep and immunity are closely tied. Most adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night but of course we equally recognise that many of us are currently struggling with sleep disturbance of one sort or the other.
One thing we know is that there are two things that can help if they are possible to manage. The first is to try and expose yourself to natural sunlight (or at least bright morning light) as early as possible in the day. The second thing is to reduce exposure to blue (screen) light as much as possible as the evening wears on. Blue light tends to wake up our internal day/night clock, and redder light tends to do the opposite, so experiencing both at the right time of day just might help set the sleep clock better and promote better sleep.
2. Eat more whole plant foods - foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants and may give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens. We’re not saying ‘go vegan’ because we know it’s not for everyone, but all current evidence suggests that including as much plant food in our diet as is practical helps our body deal with pathogenic intruders.
3. Eat more healthier fats like olive oil, coconut oil and fish oil, because this may boost your body’s immune response to pathogens. In particular, the current ‘frontline knowledge’ belies the idea that polyunsaturated fats are the bees’ knees. It actually turns out that this idea was wrong. Without going into too much detail (and if you’re interested you should be able to find a lot on the internet) the key appears to be in the healthy balance between omega 6 and omega 3 oils, knowing that most of us consume too much omega 6 and too little omega 3. In other words, we probably all can do with more omega 3 in our diet unless you're an Inuit in Greenland.
4. Eat more fermented foods or take a probiotic supplement. There is so much out there now linking a ‘healthy gut’ and a stronger immune system. Fermented foods don’t necessarily sound that appealing, but if you develop a teste for them (which is easy to do in our experience) they can become a very tasty part of our diet. Such foods include (live) yoghurt, (unpasteurised) sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and natto (though it can be a challenge to cope with this last one!). What makes this suggestion both so much cheaper and more fun is that all of them can easily be made at home (meaning you can have much better control of their quality and content - a lot of live yoghurts, for instance, have been found not to have the live bacilli that they claim to contain, for instance). If you don’t regularly eat fermented foods, probiotic supplements are another option but they can get very expensive. But both should improve your overall health and your immunity.
One thing worth adding here. It's been identified that one probiotic strain (bifidobacter) can effectively control Clostridium difficile in the gut which is an extremely nasty drug-resistant bug that is really hard to cure any other way. It's also been found to supress SARS-CoV-2 as we understand it.
5. Limit added sugars and processed foods: added sugars doesn’t just contribute significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, but they can also suppress your immune system. Lowering your sugar intake may also.decrease inflammation.
6. Engage in moderate exercise: moderate exercise can also reduce inflammation and promotes a healthy turnover of immune cells. Jogging, biking, walking, swimming, and hiking are all great options, but lighter exercise is also still beneficial.
7. Stay well hydrated: given that dehydration can make you more susceptible to illness, be sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day.
8. Manage your stress levels as best you can. You can lower your stress levels through meditation, yoga, exercise, and any other practices you find suits you. Practising 'gratitude' has been found to be extremely helpful as well. Reducing stress can really balance your immune system in an optimum way to fight any sort of pathogenic invader.
9. Supplement judiciously: the following supplements may strengthen your body’s general immune response (and there is much more on this, we know):
Vitamin C. , taking 1,000–2,000 mg of vitamin C per day is something shown to reduce the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children.
Vitamin D3 – take at least 2,000 IU’s per day, especially during winter (we also suggest taking Vitamin K2 with this vitamin, certainly unless you are on blood thinning medication)
Enough said: you’re on the Moxafrica website so you probably already know quite a bit about the immunomodulatory effects of moxa. We developed a moxa/immunity manual at the start of the pandemic, sp please feel free to download this manual, which specifically recommends how you can support and strengthen your immune system with moxa. The manual is free although we do ask for donations to help support the Moxafrica charity if the spirit moves you. Donate | moxafrica. We also ask that its contents are not distributed for any profitable purpose, but we're more than happy if they are otherwise shared as widely as possible.
11. Cold showers! Curiously (and they’re definitely not for everyone) they appear to help strengthen the innate immune response. But please don’t go too hard core and overdo it.
12. Get outside as much as is reasonable, especially exposing yourself to judicial amounts of sunlight. This isn’t just to reset your body clock by a morning walk, nor is it just to bump up your vitamin D levels (which are stoked by absorbing what are also potentially harmful UV radiation in natural sunlight, so you must be careful).
This is about Near InfraRed (NIR) radiation that is another (safe) component of natural sunlight – and its benefits are only just starting to be fully appreciated. Amazingly,NIR can't just penetrate through glass (unlike UV light) but it can also pass through clothing and what's more its beneficial effects can reach up to 8cm beneath the skin. Why this is so important? It’s because NIR has a massively beneficial antioxidant effect on the inside of our cells, something which has never previously been realised and which could prove to be really important to our ongoing health and wellbeing.
Please don’t take our word on this. Here is a link to a really excellent video that explains it all much better than we can!
One last thing on this important option if you are super-sensitive to sunlight. You don’t necessarily need to be in direct sunlight to benefit. NIR reflects randomly of greenery, so you could benefit even if you are in the shade and an adjacent hedge is in strong sunshine.
13. Consider using tea tree oil as your first option if you think you have an infection that can be treated topically. This oil possesses antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties so could well not just save you from a trip to the docs and could also keep you from needing an antibiotic or other antimicrobial medication. But for God’s sake, don’t consider swallowing it!! It should only be used topically.
Immune enhancing Foods
We think it was Hippocrates who said: ‘let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food’.
On that note we feel we must also include a few foods which are always good to include on a regular basis if you can.
Used throughout the ages for its healing properties (like many foods on this list), ginger been linked to cancer prevention (which suggests it generally promotes ‘host’ immunity) in addition to benefitting inflammation, sore throats and upset stomachs. The root is easy to incorporate into your cooking, and you can make tea with it as well.
Like ginger, studies have linked the root to anti-cancer benefits. Garlic’s anti-cancer powers are so widely accepted that even the conservative National Cancer Institute has said, “preliminary studies suggest that garlic consumption may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.”
Garlic is also a powerful antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal agent.
3. Green Tea
Like garlic and ginger, green tea also has anti-oxidant and potential anti-cancer benefits.
4. Manuka Honey
Honey derived from bees who feast on the nectar and pollen of manuka flowers has been found to have prolific antibacterial benefits—even working against antimicrobial-resistant infections like MRSA. This magical elixir is also able to heal wounds and potentially even fight heart disease.
Gaining popularity in the West due in part to its medicinal benefits, turmeric is most often seen in Asian, middle-eastern cuisines and folk medicine. It’s strongly tied to cancer prevention.
So that's it, for AMR awareness week. We really hope that it's done what we intended it to do, which is promote awareness of this problem which is both inevitable (because antimicrobials can't help promote resistance because that is the natural law of microbe evolution) but also (if not avoidable) certainly reducable.