Virus and COVID-19 Functional Medicine Survival Guide

This guide contains advice to support your immune system from a Functional Medicine standpoint. Supporting your immune system may help to defend your body from viruses such as COVID-19.

What can I do?

I find the idea of the “circles of control” useful when thinking about COVID-19.

This centres around the old idea of focussing our efforts on what we can control and letting go of that which we can’t control. This is also a great concept for maintaining a healthy state of mind!

The bad news is that unfortunately, we can not control 100% whether we get a virus or not. There is always a chance we may contract what is going around, despite our best efforts.

However, we can still work in our circle of control and we can influence the probability we will get sick.

circles of control

We can largely control what we eat, and how we choose to live our lives. Therefore we can influence the chances that we will contract a virus, and we can influence how our body will respond if we do catch it.

So what do you have the most control over?

It’s not primarily supplements although they can help. Supplements will have little effect if you are still eating a terrible diet.

Diet, sleep, hydration, and stress management are non-negotiable fundamentals.

COVID-19 Prevention

To prevent infection from any source (viruses, bacteria, fungal etc.), we want the systems of the body to functioning optimally. This is a key tenant of Functional Medicine – we need to zoom out and take a holistic view of the body as a landscape that needs to be supported in a variety of ways:


Sleep is my number one anti-viral and immune supporting recommendation.

Let’s make sleep hygiene is the new ‘binge watching’! This could be the best time you ever have to catch up on sleep.

Sleep supports a healthy immune system that can launch an appropriate response to threats, such as viruses. Melatonin, the sleep hormone and a powerful anti-oxidant, is released before sleep also may help with COVID-19.

There is currently nothing definitive in the science showing that melatonin can protect against the most serious effects of COVID-19. But there are indications that melatonin may reduce the severity of the disease, and the overblown immune response and subsequent severe damage to the lungs that is present in the virus’ most critically ill patients.

You can find my tips to get a good night’s sleep here.


People with a high psychological stress index, and animals that are put under stress, have been found to be more susceptible to infection from common cold viruses. Increased amounts of stress may also reduce micro nutrient concentrations in the body, often leading to vitamin and mineral depletion and deficiencies.

Chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that may ultimately manifest in illness.

But with all the changes we are seeing in our lives at the moment, with changes in our roles in society and even identities, isn’t stress inevitable?

Yes, I would say it is to some degree.

At this time in our history, there is an argument that it may be more beneficial to focus on adding enriching and grounding practices to our lives rather than trying to reduce stress which we have no control over.

However, it has been argues that it may not be stress itself that is the problem, but it may be our relationship to it. If we can make stress our friend, the effects on the immune system may be reduced.

It’s vitally important to spend time on our social and relationship networks. Call a friend on the phone or skype, send that email, play board games online with family. What can you do to foster your relationships and rekindle old ones?

In times of stress, we often reach for a simple high sugar snack for a quick boost of serotonin and dopamine. This however, is followed by a crash and feelings of anxiety or depression. This may also have an effect on our immune system.

So, what other non-food treats, can we turn too?

Here are a few suggestions:

👉DIY Face Massage
👉Start a home workout routine and get physically strong!
👉Read a good book
👉Listen to a good audiobook / podcast
👉Buy a voucher or something to support a local business or charity
👉DIY Mani/Pedi
👉DIY Face massage
👉Buy online a small tech or kitchen gadget
👉Start a Yoga practice (plenty of teachers on youtube)
👉Movie on Amazon / Netflix
👉Grow flowers or vegetables from seed
👉Bubble bath with epsom salts
👉A fun class online (cooking/art/community)
👉Make a vision board
👉Find purpose – plan for a career change or a new job
👉Start a gratitude journal
👉A home spa day (go on, a full day!)
👉Dry body brushing
👉Zoom/skype/phone a friend
👉Print out some mindful colouring sheets from the internet
👉Restart a hobby (a musical instrument, sewing ?)
👉Plan and cook yourself and those around you a multi course meal
👉Have a ‘Dance off’ with the kids

Lymphatic System

Lymph (from Latin, lympha meaning “water”) is the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system that can transport immune cells around our body. Lymph is where our immune system meets pathogens, and does battle with viruses.

You can think of it like this:

If you are single, and would like to meet a partner, it’s probably unlikely that you will meet them at a random place such as the library or the laundrette (though obviously this does happen!). Instead if you were keen to meet someone, it would be better to go to a singles bar where you are more likely to meet like minded people.

That’s essentially what goes on in our lymph. It’s where our immune system and pathogens, such as viruses, come together. There, the immune system can fight the virus in a contained space.

Some things you can do support your lymph system:

  • Gently daily movement, particularly yoga which involves lots of twisting and high intensity intervals if you are able. This helps the lymph move around the body as unlike our blood, it has no pump. You may also be interested in the lymphatic mojo program (no affiliation).
  • Hydration – lymph is 95% water and so it’s important to stay hydrated
  • Dry brushing supports healthy lymphatic flow in the skin-associated lymphatic tissue. The coarse bristles of a dry brush encourage movement of the lymph and blood in the underlying tissues, which helps move out built-up toxins.
  • Cleavers ( a herb)
  • Red clover tea


A diet nutrient rich in anti-inflammatory whole foods is essential to good health and an appropriate immune system response to viruses and other pathogens. The Mediterranean diet is a good example of a balanced diet, low in processed sugars, and packed with vegetables and good fats. There is no point taking the supplements if your diet is poor. Make sure you are including adequate amounts of protein in your diet as protein is needed to generate all the white blood cells in an optimal immune response.

Include lots of onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger in your diet.

Avoid excess alcohol, refined sugars, and processed foods.

Use fire cider to make salad dressings or as a shot every day

Fuel the body – Supplements

The key here is to give the body the resources it needs to generate an appropriate immune response. This means ensuring your have adequate levels of vitamins and minerals in the body such as iron, Vitamin D and A, particularly if you deficient in any of these. Remember, protein is also important.

Remember, our knowledge about infection from COVID-19 is still developing, and doses higher than those given below are not recommended!

Zinc and Vitamin C would be my key recommended supplemental nutrients, with zinc emerging as the superstar mineral for COVID-19 at this stage.


Dose: Up to 30 mg per day total (check ALL supplements for total)

Zinc supplement may have effect not only on COVID-19-related symptom like diarrhea and lower respiratory tract infection, but also on COVID-19 itself.

Vitamin C

Dose: 2g twice a day, up to 5g Twice per day if you have bowel tolerance (it doesn’t make you go to the toilet).

You can dissolve it in water and drink it throughout the day. Ascorbic acid is OK.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, supports immune function, and three human controlled trials have reported that there was significantly lower incidence of pneumonia in vitamin C‐supplemented groups.


Dose: Up to 200mcg per day

Dietary selenium deficiency that causes oxidative stress in the host can alter a viral genome so that a normally benign or mildly pathogenic virus can become highly virulent in the deficient host under oxidative stress

Vitamin A

Dose: Up to 3000 IUs max, food sources such as liver are also good

Supports all aspects of the immune system, ranging from the production of mucus (which is helpful to protect the gut lining) to the production of antibodies.

Vitamin D

Dose: 1-2,000iu per day max

Only supplement if you know you are deficient. Otherwise 30 minutes of direct sun on the body is recommended daily. Vitamin D in a multi vitamin is fine for everyone.

Vitamin D stimulates the maturation of many cells including immune cells and is widely accepted as having a significant impact on the immune system.


Only ever supplement iron if you have had your levels tested and you know your levels are below the recommended range.

Too much iron can be toxic to the body. Iron deficiency can impair host immunity, while iron overload can cause oxidative stress to propagate harmful viral mutations.

If you are supplement iron, but your levels are still low, you may want to read this article.


Dose: 100 – 150mg per day unless you already have high blood pressure

RECOMMENDED: Multi-Vitamin

Rather than popping many separate vitamins and minerals, a good multi vitamin such as Seeking Health Optimal Multi will cover a lot of your bases with reasonable dosages that are unlikely to cause any harm.

The quality of your multivitamin is key here, as cheaper/inferior brands contain less than optimal amounts and also forms of vitamins which can’t readily be used by the body.

Some other ideas that are yet to be proben effective/ineffective:

  • Stimulate the immune system: herbs such as Astralagus, Ginseng or medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi or Shitake
  • Borrow immunity – from probiotics, Colostrum, propolois or lactoferrin
  • Kill the virus: garlic, turmeric, or monolaurin from coconut oil

If you have any questions, I’m always happy to help so please get in touch. To know more about how you can work with me, you can find out more here.

Stephen Ward Headshot Image


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of chronic health issues through Functional Medicine.

He uses nutrition, lifestyle changes, and nutraceuticals (targeted supplements) to help you achieve your goals and improve your health.


Fed up with digestive discomfort? Four steps to gut health

You don’t just have to put up with digestive discomfort, acid reflux or GERD, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or food sensitivities. Using a Functional Medicine approach, which looks at the root causes of any health issue, it is possible to find the root causes of a gut complaint. Once you know the root causes driver your condition, you can follow a step by step approach to heal your gut. In this article, I’ll explore what that process might look like.

Basically, there are four logical steps to regaining gut health: Remove, Repair, Reseed, and Rebalance. It is possible to do this on your own, and Dr. Ruscio offers a good protocol in his book. However, I would suggest working with a Functional Medicine practitioner such as myself, to provide personalised guidance and support which can be invaluable during this process.

1) Remove

In the Remove phase, we identify and then remove triggers of intestinal inflammation and digestive discomfort.

Candida, a bacterial or protozoa overgrowth, SIBO, Helicopter Pylori, and viruses can all drive gut conditions. These are often associated with an overly reactive intestinal immune system which can, in turn, drive inflammation throughout the body through a permeable intestinal barrier (leaky gut).

A stool test that can be done from the comfort of your home can test for these pathogens. I recommend the GI Map test or the GI 360 test in Australia. These tests analyse the DNA of the microbes in your stool and are therefore very precise. They also include markers for leaky gut, digestive enzymes, secretory IGA, gut inflammation, and short-chain fatty acids, making them very complete tests. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) testing may also be appropriate depending on your symptoms (bloating with 90 mins of eating is a tale-tale sign).

When working with a practitioner, lab testing isn’t always necessary or within budget. In which case, the approach is based can be based on clinical symptoms, history, and treatment response.

If parasites are found or are likely, then there are a number of options including herbal anti-microbials, specific probiotics, and antibiotics. I work with the first two options but you always have the option of talking to your GP about the antibiotic option.

Particular foods can also be a stressor for some people. This can include trigger foods such as gluten, dairy, added sugar, oxalates, or histamine containing foods. When I work with someone, I always start by looking at their diet, identifying potential trigger foods and looking at the impact of high FODMAP foods. Ensuring enough digestive enzymes and stomach acid production is also vital to digesting our food properly. Food sensitivity testing is an option.

I find the Low FODMAP diet helps many people with IBS. The first phase of the diet removes all high FODMAP foods which may be causing your gut symptoms. After three to six weeks, we systematically re-introduce these foods. This allows us to identify your personal trigger foods that can then be avoided whilst maintain as diverse a diet as possible.

2) Repair

When there’s inflammation in the gut, you can also expect there to be increased intestinal permeability, commonly known as Leaky Gut. A leaky gut allows toxins, larger food molecules, unwanted bacteria, and viruses to enter the bloodstream. Lining the gut, we have the mucosal system which protects us from these threats. 

When foreign substances pass through the gut barrier, the immune system launches an inflammatory response to defend us from these invaders. The associated intestinal inflammation has been linked to a diverse range of symptoms such as food sensitivities, fatigue, brain fog, nutrient malabsorption, and has been linked to diseases in remote organs in the body e.g. kidney, lungs, liver. 

Calming the intestinal immune system, and repair the gut lining is therefore an essential step in regaining gut health.

To heal a leaky gut, you also need to consider your lifestyle such as stress levels, making time for yourself, and getting enough sleep. Getting the nutrients you need to support the immune system lining our gut, as well as repairing the gut wall are important. Foods, which contain these nutrients include bone broth, stewed apples, as well as polyphenol-rich foods such as blueberries, blackberries, purple sweet potatoes, purple carrots. The choice of supplements varies from person to person but could include such as Colostrum, L_Glutamine, and Zinc, probiotics such as Sacchromyces Boulardi or Lactobacillus GG. 

3) Reseed

This phase is all about encouraging a diverse range of ‘good’ gut bacteria. This is vital as, without it, your gut issues are likely to return. Time needs to be spent fixing your gut microbiome. It’s a necessity for ongoing gut health!

We can reseed our guts through probiotics, fermented foods, and also soluble fibres known as prebiotics. Our gut bugs love fiber-rich veggies and whole grains such as flaxseed, chia seed, buckwheat, and other non-gluten containing grains.

By this stage, you should be able to handle more prebiotics than you could in stage 1. Healthy high FODMAP foods and resistant starches can be introduced to feed your ‘good’ gut bacteria. Remember high FODMAP foods are often healthy foods and we are working towards being able to tolerate them.

For probiotics, there a number of options including a Lactobacillus / Bifidobacterium blend, Saccharomyces Boulardii, and soil-based probiotics. Different people can find different types of probiotics effective, and I urge you to experiment with a different type if you are not responding to a particular one. For instance, if you are not responding to a Lactobacillus / Bifidobacterium blend after a 4-6 week trial, then try a soil-based probiotic. When trialing a probiotic like this, you are looking for a reduction in your personal symptoms and noticing how it makes you feel. People often find a combination of these probiotic types can be effective.

Saccharomyces Boulardii and Lactobacillus GG have also been found to combat Candida, Blastocystis Hominis and pathogenic bacterial overgrowth.

4) Rebalance

This final stage is focussed on preserving the gains from the previous stages into the future so that your gut stays resilient and tolerates a wide range of foods. Here, we pay particular attention to lifestyle choices such as sleep, exercise, and stress.

Of particular interest is that when we eat, as well as what we eat. Nowadays, we tend to eat all day (16 hours) and fast for just 8 hours overnight. It’s during this fasting period that the gut lining repairs itself and the body clears out unprocessed foods and bacteria from the small intestine. This helps prevent small bacteria overgrowth or SIBO through a process known as the ‘migrating motor complex’.

Spending longer periods without food, say 12 or even 16 hours overnight, and reducing snacking, may help your gut health, improve your overall health and prevent chronic diseases.

Everyone is different

These four steps provide a framework for regaining gut health. But that doesn’t mean that the steps look exactly the same for everyone. A  practitioner can help you identify the root causes of your health issues, identify appropriate lab testing, diet, and supplements, and provides the expertise to filter the scientific research to help you improve your gut health.

If you have any questions, I’m always happy to help so please get in touch. To know more about how you can work with me, you can find out more here.

Stephen Ward Headshot Image


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of chronic health issues through Functional Medicine.

He uses nutrition, lifestyle changes, and nutraceuticals (targeted supplements) to help you achieve your goals and improve your health.



Understanding the underlying causes of digestive discomfort and IBS

Understand the common root causes of digestive discomfort and IBS and what you can do..

What is Functional Medicine anyway?

In the olden days, it was thought that disease was caused by some entity, such bad air (a miasma), that we needed to get rid of in some way. We now know that this idea of something that we need to get rid of only makes sense in specific cases. Traditional Western medicine works wonders in these areas of infectious disease, surgery, and acute trauma. But what about preventing or treating chronic health conditions such as auto-immunity, depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or Alzheimers? Or complex cases where the patient has an endless list of symptoms (and is often given an endless list of drugs)? Are we merely putting bandages on an inevitable disease process? Can anything else be done? We have a pill for everything but those pills rarely, address the root cause of the disease.

Do diseases actually exist?

You might answer ‘of course they do!’. And you are right, the symptoms obviously exist. But at the level of our biochemistry, disease is just a result of poor function at the cellular level, which results in poorly functioning organs and systems in the body. For example, Dr. Dale Brdesen argues that Alzheimer’s is not a single disease, but identifies three major metabolic imbalances that contribute to Alzheimer’s:
  1. Inflammation from things like poor diet and lifestyle choices, infection, and other issues
  2. An insufficient amount of supportive elements like hormones, nutrients, and brain-supporting compounds that result in poor functioning and repair of neurons in our brain.
  3. Toxic exposure to heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, or lead, and biotoxins like mold and other microbes
Based on this understanding, a disease becomes only a convenient label for a collection of imbalances and diseases don’t actually exist in and of themselves. Although a ‘disease’ may present in a seemingly consistent way, in this case ‘Azheimer’s’, the actual causes associated with that disease and the imbalances in the body may be different. And that’s why Dr. Rangan Chatterjee has boldly declared that he can make diseases disappear. His approach to making ‘diseases’ disappear is largely based in Nutritional Therapy and Functional Medicine, and addressing the root cause of the disease rather than the symptoms.

So, What is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine is the identification of the root causes of the imbalances that give rise to disease.
Once the root causes are identified, they can be addressed through personalised and targeted lifestyle interventions such as nutrition, sleep, rest, and movement. Pharmaceuticals may be required in some cases, but lifestyle interventions will always benefit the patient. In our Alzheimer’s example, inflammation and poor functioning of neurons can be addressed in part by nutrition and lifestyle changes. Similarly, we can reduce our exposure to toxins by changing our environment and take steps to eliminate toxins that are stored in the body (sauna anyone?).

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison

Functional Medicine sees a return to this care for the body and answers questions such as:

Why do you have this problem in the first place?

Why has function been lost?

What can we do to restore function?

Functional Medicine in Action

Functional medicine is based in systems theory.
system is a cohesive grouping of interrelated and interdependent parts
Because of this interconnectedness and interdependence, our digestive health may have an impact on our immune system and hormonal system and vice versa. And inflammation and oxidative stress may affect all systems in our body, and are in-turn affected by our diet and stress levels. Functional Medicine looks at the functioning of the systems within the body, and looks to improve their functioning to regain or maximise health. We use nutrition and lifestyle interventions (e.g. rest, sleep, movement), rather than a single pharmaceutical. This allows us to target multiple systems in the body at the same time and address root causes, rather than symptoms. We may look at environmental toxins, genetics, nutrient status, poorly functioning detoxification, cellular energy pathways. Advanced laboratory testing may be used to help get to the root cause where necessary… This process may take some time and money, but it is generally a very effective investment. Although it may appear expensive, resolving issues at their root, may reduce the amount spent on healthcare in the future. Of course, the most important outcome is that you get back your health and vitality and that you feel the difference. If you have any questions, I’m always happy to help so please get in touch. To know more about how you can work with me, you can find out more here.
Stephen Ward Headshot Image


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of chronic health issues through Functional Medicine. He uses nutrition, lifestyle changes, and nutraceuticals (targeted supplements) to help you achieve your goals and improve your health.