6 May 2020 Millhouse Update 8
(May 2020 Newsletter)
Dear Valued Millhouse Patient
Day 42 of the Covid-19 lockdown period as we maintain LEVEL 3.
It was encouraging to see 500,000 return to work and begin the process of kick-starting the economy, but I am very aware that in the weeks and months ahead there will more heartaches and challenges. Please talk to a friend or family member or even the Millhouse Medical Team if you are struggling with problems that are becoming increasingly difficult to bear.
The Wellness Support Programme, initiated by Counties DHB, allows our doctors and nurses to provide support, at no cost, when you are experiencing mental health challenges and struggling with sleepless nights, anxiety and depression during this current crisis.
Please remember too that if you have multiple medical conditions, any of which are potentially life-threatening, you should continue to be vigilant, living within your bubble, as you are still at great risk as long as there are Covid-19 cases in New Zealand.
Repeat Prescriptions. If you have haven't used ManageMyHealth patient portal for your repeats, please give it a go. Ring Reception and ask for a unique access code, which will be emailed to you allowing access to the MMH site. Include your chemist's full name and address, and whether they are a Unichem, Life or Warehouse pharmacy when asking for repeat prescriptions.
E-Invoices. After each service (repeat script & virtual consultation) an emailed invoice is sent to you. It would be appreciated if payment could be made ASAP which will also avoid charging of the monthly Account Fee. Please use chart number & your name as reference when making an online payment.
Covid-19 – helpful supplements to consider
In recent weeks (see archives) I have highlighted nutrients that strengthen the immune system and help resist COVID-19 infection. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, zinc and selenium are even more important to take if you are deficient, as some are. I discussed how the flavonoid quercetin, which provides numerous benefits to the immune system, also assists in transporting zinc into the cell, which at higher concentration appears to be effective at inactivating Covid-19 viral replication.
I also explained how sleep renews the body and heightens immune function but that with age the night melatonin hormone falls, making us more susceptible to illness. Since then many have asked for a melatonin prescription, which I am happy to provide, but please note, there is a pharmacy charge.
Innate Immune System
The first line of defence against Covid-19, and other bugs, is the physical external surface of our body. The skin (hence the importance of washing hands), the lining of our eyes, nose, sinuses, mouth, lungs (the usefulness of protective masks) and the gastrointestinal tract all release protective secretions such as tears, mucus, bile and gastric acid. Once the outer barrier is broken, an array of white blood cells mounts a non-specific response, within hours, against the invader; this is our innate immunity. White cells in the blood (phagocytes) and in the tissues (macrophages) gobble up the foreigners. Macrophages also send signals (cytokines) that recruit other white cells to the scene, accelerating the inflammatory response. One white cell, the natural killer cell, selectively targets the infected host cells to prevent the infection spreading. Natural killer cells are also able to destroy cancer cells.
However Covid-19 is able to neutralise the body's innate immune system. If we are able to maximise the body's self-defence, especially in the elderly, the virus will have a less devastating hold.
Fruit, vegetables, blueberries, cardamom & black pepper.
Our immune function declines with age, but is this just an inevitable consequence of growing old? Perhaps inadequate nutrition is a factor contributing to poor immune health. To test this hypothesis, researchers divided 83 volunteers, aged between 65 and 85 years, into two groups. The control group were given fewer than three servings of fruit and vegetables daily and the active group ate more than five servings. All were given a vaccine against pneumonia to prime the immune system to produce antibodies. After 16 weeks, the high fruit- and vegetable-consuming group had an 82% greater protective antibody level.
We have about 2 billion circulating natural killer cells (NKC) in our blood at any one time, but this number is depleted with severe exercise and stress. However, when athletes were given 250gm of blueberries daily they doubled the number of NKC which fight infection. Cardamom and black pepper have also been demonstrated in the laboratory to increase NKC activity.
Remember to eat fresh fruit daily, especially blueberries, and generous servings of vegetables (chips not counted!) to improve the health of your immune system. Blueberries are more expensive at this time of year, so use frozen berries if you cannot afford fresh, and liberally add spices to your food each day for added protection.
In the next update we will discuss other strategies that can strengthen the immune system.
Remember that Millhouse is your 'health care home' and if you are lonely or anxious, or have any distressing symptoms, please ring our nursing team or make a phone appointment with your doctor.
Yours in good health,
Dr Richard J Coleman