Immunity and mental resilience are more important now than ever

January 13, 2021

“Challenging times can be powerful catalysts for personal growth. The ability to embrace difficulties as opportunities for positive change requires strength, balance and inner resources” - Karina Stewart

The Coronavirus has affected everyone the world over. Including Karina Stewart, Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and co-founder alongside her husband, John Stewart, of Kamalaya Koh Samui wellness destination retreat in Thailand. Kamalaya is our absolute number one destination for mental, physical and spiritual wellness and the winner of multiple awards. Now perhaps more than ever, we are in need of the wisdom, spirituality, love and dedication a place like Kamalaya offers. We chat to Karina about how to take care of ourselves in a world that is so different to the one we know.

What can we do to stay mentally and physically fit in the midst of Corona?  
“Through Corona, we have been confronted with unexpected change and long-term uncertainty. All that was stable, predictable and reliable before, no longer is. This means that – as individuals and as a community – we need to find an inspiring and hopeful path ahead. It is important to take personal action, make better choices, step into your power and take constructive action. This is a real opportunity to check in with yourself; to look with curiosity at your individual beliefs, core values and habits. And to subsequently re-evaluate these. This is how you will bring about positive change in your life, your health and your wellbeing. What’s more, you will be nurturing your relationship with yourself, others and the world around you.  

So you’re saying there are opportunities, too?  
Yes. This is an excellent time to do more self-reflection. To take stock of the things in your life that require more care and attention and what is no longer serving you. Rediscover and check your internal and external support mechanisms, behaviours and habits. Based on what you find, give attention to what serves you and let go of behaviours and actions that are no longer helpful.  

And what is most useful right now? What are we in need of?   

There are two things that are demanding the most attention right now, as they have a huge impact on our personal health: Immunity and mental resilience support the body, mind and soul. Our immune system, one of the cornerstones to our global health and vitality, has come under sharper focus under our current situation. This system is essential for our defence against all kinds of colds, serious flues and life-threatening infections such as lung infections.

How do you keep your immune system optimised?  
Through a nutritious diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management.  

What does that look like in concrete terms?  
Sleep forms the foundation to good immunity. Make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night – preferably 8 – every night. And practise good sleep hygiene, so that you are actually resting when you are asleep.  

And what should we be eating for immunity?  
Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and healthy proteins are an excellent base for better immunity. Avoid all forms of sugar and processed carbohydrates and drinks high in sugar, such as fizzy drinks and fruit juices. This will balance the microbiome in your body: an important requisite for good immunity.   

Do you also recommend any supplements? If so, which ones ?  
For anyone looking to boost immunity, we recommend the following vitamins that have extensively been proven to strengthen the immune system. 
Vitamin D regulates the immune system and reduces the chance of seasonal viruses and acute airway infections.  
Vitamin C is required to fight infection. It makes you less susceptible to infection and makes them less severe if you do get one.  
Zink strengthens the immune system and shortens the lifespan of infections.  
Selenium boosts the immune system and offers protection from pathogens. Low selenium levels make you susceptible to the flu and viral infections, and are associated with higher mortality rates for flu. 
Probiotics and prebiotics: multiple studies have shown that various probiotic organisms improve immunity and fight viral infections and flu. Some probiotics are especially good at this, hence their name ‘immunobiotics’. Lactobacillus rhamnosus and other lactobacillis special, along with Bifidobacterium types protect against colds and flu. 
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a polyphenol found in green tea that offers many immune benefits.  
Other natural substances that can help ward off flu or lessen the symptoms include mushroom preparations containing Reishi mushrooms. 

What does exercising for better immunity and resilience look like in daily life?  
A 20-minute walk is a habit that anyone (who is capable) should incorporate into their daily routine. Preferably outdoors in the fresh air, and even better, in nature. The effects of this are exponential, as the physical benefits and mental & emotional benefits work in synchrony to boost immunity and make you more mentally resilient. Recent research indicates that exercising for 15 minutes a day and being in nature hugely affects your mental state.

These are stressful times we are living in. How can we keep our cool?  
The central nervous system can be down-regulated by practising 10 minutes of breathing exercises a day (pranayama) or by practising mindfulness or meditation. It shifts our nervous system from the ‘fight or flight response’ into a ‘healing response’ and boosts mental and emotional resilience. Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the blood fall, sleep improves and the body becomes more resistant to stress. 

What else can people do to stay healthy and support immunity and toughness?  
One of the most important health resources we have – and one that until recently, we weren’t aware of – is our connections with friends, family, colleagues and other groups of people with whom we share hobbies and interest. At Kamalaya, we inspire our guests to reconnect with themselves and their innate self-healing ability, inspiration and wisdom. But also to connect with others and the world around them with compassion and joy. There is overwhelming research showing that we are social beings. Connecting with ourselves and our loved ones in meaningful ways is healthy for our body and mind, heart and soul.  

We miss Thailand like crazy. What makes Thailand such a good wellness destination?  
Thailand has a huge wealth of resources to help us on our journey toward self-healing and wellbeing. There is centuries-old Thai medicine and traditional Thai massage, as well as the Buddhist philosophy with serene art of meditation and mindfulness, wisdom and compassion. The Buddhist teachings are just as rich and relevant to modern society as they were way back when. And of course, there’s the rich and healthy Thai cuisine to tickle those taste buds. All of these reasons – and more – make Thailand the world’s number 1 wellness destination. And Kamalaya welcomes you with open arms. 

How is Kamalaya responding to the current circumstances?  
At Kamalaya we launched our Immunity & Resilience Program: a powerful, holistic immunity booster and mindful reset programme. Not only will it enable you to build up a robust and healthy immune system, it will also help you build a resilient heart and mind. The programme encompasses Traditional Chinese Medicine, naturopathy, nutritional advice, including biochemical and functional blood tests, mindfulness training and personal coaching combined to strengthen immunity and facilitate deep internal balance. You will be given the tools to tackle the challenges of life with confidence and adaptability.”