Dentist Hina Patel is a Nutrition and Stress Management Coach. Here, she shares some ways to help you keep your wellbeing in check during these trouble times.

The current situation with regards to COVID 19 is changing daily. At this time, it is really important to look at supporting our health and wellbeing and strengthening our immune system.

With this in mind, I have put together things that we can do to look after ourselves and our loved ones at this time.

Stress has a huge impact on our immune system and at this time in particular many of us are anxious and stressed.

The stress response is a survival response is concerned with immediate life or death situations. This results in the body diverting resources away from what it considers non vital functions such as immunity, digestion, reproduction etc. Therefore, when we are stressed we tend to have poor immunity and are more likely to come down with infections.

Ways to manage stress

Meditation – this is a well-researched method of reducing stress and has been shown to have many health benefits. Thereare many techniques but it can be as simple as just spending 5 to 10 minutes just focussing on your breath to begin with ifyou have never done it before. There are many techniques and guided meditations available on You Tube.

Exercise – this is another well researched strategy to reduce stress and promote well-being. 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise each day helps to improve mood, aids restful sleep and helps balance blood sugars.

If you are having to self-isolate and feel well enough, then just walking around your room, apartment or house will have abenefit, light stretches, yoga are all good. If you have a garden then walk around outside. Of course if you are not well enoughto do this then don’t force yourself. Listen to your body. If you are able to do more that is great!

Sleep and rest – the body does many of its 'housekeeping' functions when we sleep. If we do not sleep well then this canhave a great impact on our health and reduce our immunity. Here are some sleep hygiene practices you could try:

Make sure the room is dark (blackout curtains) and the temperature is pleasant and not too warm

Avoid bright lights and gadgets at least an hour before bed. Many studies have shown that blue light in the evening can disrupt your natural sleep- wakecycle as the brain perceives it as daylight.

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Exercise – as little as 10 minutes a day can help improve night time sleep.

Support the immune system through diet

There are many foods that are well known to be effective at strengthening the body’s natural defence system and boosting immunity.

Fruits and vegetables – it is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. They are rich in many vitamins and mineralsas well as antioxidants and fibre. Try to include citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, pomegranate, apples, berries, grapes aswell as vegetables such as bell peppers, cabbage, spinach, carrots, onions, garlic, beans and pulses. The above are a fewexamples but there are many more. The key message is to have a variety of fruits and vegetables, try and “eat therainbow” and eat a variety of different coloured fruit and veg.

Immunity-boosting herbs and spices – herbs and spices are a great way to boost the immune system. They are availabledried so great to keep at home if you are unable to get to the shops for a while.

Some herbs and spices to incorporate in your cooking are:

Oregano, sage, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, thyme, rosemary, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cinnamon.

Herbal teas are an excellent way to incorporate herbs and spices into your diet and have many health benefits as well asincreasing hydration. In addition they have a long shelf life so are easy to store. Remember to stay hydrated.

Other foods to consider for immunity

Sources of 'good fats', such as oily fish, nuts e.g. walnuts, almonds, olive oil, avocados.

Fermented foods such as live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi which are good pre and probiotic foods for our gut. Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is really important for a healthy immune system. Our body makes vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight.From March to September we should be able to make enough Vitamin D for our needs. This will be difficult for people whoare self-isolating and particularly if you are elderly and may be isolated for months.

Ways to boost vitamin D

Short periods in the sun daily with forearms, hands or legs uncovered and no sunscreen help boost vitamin D. TAKE CARE NOT TO BURN.

Sitting by a closed window in sunlight will NOT boost vitamin D as ultraviolet B rays which are needed to make vitamin D are filtered by the glass. So if weather and health permit, sit by an open window in direct sunlight.

If you are lucky enough and have an isolated balcony or garden, then sit in the sunshine when you can.

Light skinned people need about 15 minutes a day and darker skinned people need more aim for about 30 minutes (this does not need to be in one go andalways listen to your body). Just do what you can even five minutes is ok.

Supplements – sometimes supplementation is necessary. Always follow the recommendations on doses unless instructed by your healthcarepractitioner.

Food sources of Vitamin – Salmon, tuna, mackerel, eggs, mushrooms, many cereals and other foods are fortified with vitamin D such as some dairy products, plant based milks etc. (check the labels).

Other important lifestyle interventions:

Daily Routines Try to maintain a routine, getting up, showered and dressed is important especially if isolating for longperiods.

Social communication Keep up communicating with family and friends via FaceTime, WhatsApp, phone calls etc. This is vital for wellbeing. Research has shown that positive interactions and nurturing relationships affect our physiology in a positiveway and help with mood and immunity.

Laugh and stay positive Watch comedies and other light hearted shows. Stay positive! Again research shows that this hasa beneficial impact on health and wellbeing.

Our body is an amazing creation, if we give it all the resources it needs we can increase our chances of fighting thisinfection. We are all in this together, if you are feeling lonely or isolated reach out to friends, family or neighbours. has some useful information on loneliness.

If you have any questions, please email me:

Please note if you have chronic health conditions, restricted diet or allergies please consult your health practitioner before making changes.

Dentist Hina Patel and dental nurse Saundra Fagan will be considering how to press the stress in dentistry – and be looking at the causes and the coping strategies in our April issue. To subscribe, please click here