It's hardly surprising that functional health doctors are in high demand right now. Dr. Sabine Donnai, founder of Viavi Health Strategy has been busy preparing her clients to be in the best health of their lives from the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Charging an eye watering £10,000 a year, she prescribes highly individualised lifestyle plans to maximise health and well-being and decelerate ageing.
While the average person won't have access to Viavi's premium health service, one of the most important things Dr. Donnai advocates before any medical intervention, is to improve gut health to optimize immunity, something she says is simple to do yourself at home with a few key diet tweaks.
'Improving your gut health won't stop you from contracting Covid-19 but there are studies coming out now that show a link between the gut microbiome and Covid, which means maintaining a healthy gut is crucial for every person from children to adults right now.'
Dr. Donnai is clear that the 'cytokine storm' that attacks the vital organs in the most severe cases of Covid-19, is largely due to underlying health conditions, but balancing the gut bacteria could be the marginal gain that makes the difference between riding the virus in a strong state and getting seriously ill. She explains, 'all autoimmune disease from hayfever to asthma and Alzheimer's starts in the gut. Therefore, by supporting the healthy bacteria and weeding out the bad, with a healthy varied diet, it will help to prevent the massive inflammatory response that can occur in some of the worst cases.
Weed, seed, feed: Dr. Donnai's healthy gut formula
Weed out processed food: Turns out there's a reason why your stomach feels bloated after eating a sugar-laden meal. 'Any refined carbohydrate feeds the fungus and bad bacteria in your gut. The more sugar you eat, the more those bad bacteria will get out of control and take over resulting in a gut that's out of balance, which will affect your immunity,' explains Dr. Donnai. 'It's much simpler than most people think - eat real, whole foods that are fresh and natural - your body doesn't know what to do with a piece of reconstituted ham that's been manufactured in a factory. Once you remove refined sugars and processed foods, those baddies won't have anything to feed on and things will start to get back in balance.'
Seed with live foods (pro-biotics): In addition to weeding out the baddies, you must include live foods into your diet, which will reintroduce the healthy bacteria your gut needs, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha or kefir. Like bread? Try sourdough instead. 'Pro-biotics or live foods are the equivalent of reseeding the grass in your garden, each spoon of sauerkraut, for example, has millions of good bacteria. says Dr. Donnai.
Feed with prebiotics: Now you've got a healthy amount of healthy bacteria in your gut, they need feeding to stay alive with lots of fresh (organic if possible) fruits and vegetables in a variety of colours. 'Different bacteria feed on different things, so you need to keep your plate as varied as possible. A balance of nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables should make up the largest part of your diet. These pre-biotic foods create a healthy environment, and give your good bacteria something they actually recognise to feed on, so that they don't starve and die out.'
Supplements: While Dr. Donnai prefers her clients get their nutrients from food, she suggests taking two vitamin supplements: zinc and vitamin D3 to help boost immunity in these precarious times. 'Zinc and vitamin D are hugely important for our immune system. Low vitamin D affects not only your immunity, it helps with brain function and bone health and even helps to manage diabetes. Plus, vitamin D is hugely important for darker skin tones as they don't absorb it from the sun as easily as lighter skin tones.' Dr. Donnai suggests taking foodstate vitamin D3 and Zinc. Try Wild Nutrition Food-Grown Immune Support which contains Vitamin D, C and Zinc. Or, for a premium all-round supplement that includes high-grade vitamin D3, try LYMA. Click here for our comprehensive guide to vitamin D.
Leaky gut: For the most severe gut issues, bone broth, which contains animal collagen, is the best way to heal the damage, says Dr. Donnai. While it's certainly not vegan-friendly, Dr. Donnai says its the only gold standard treatment for serious gut issues. 'there's nothing like bone marrow to heal a leaky gut. Get the bones from your butcher and make a broth - or order it online. Take it once a day for three weeks initially and then two to three days a week thereafter.' Try Borough Broths.