Two Shields

There's more than one good defence against the dreaded coronavirus, says Dr Cynthia Li.

To combat the Covid-19 outbreak, the media has focused almost exclusively on the outer shield. That is, minimizing spread. This includes physical distancing. Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Wearing disposable masks and gloves. Sanitizing table tops and door knobs. Don’t forget to wipe down the groceries. This first line of defense is vital. 


Cynthia Li, MD, is a doctor and author whose personal healing journey through a disabling autoimmune condition took her from public health in under served populations, to integrative and functional medicine. She says that there’s a second, equally important and often overlooked line of defense: the inner shield. That is, your immune system.


The immune system is the microscopic army that stands guard just under the surface of your mouth, nose, lungs, skin, and gut. In addition, there’s an intricate network of stations throughout the body where more troops are keeping the peace, and awaiting orders to mobilize against an invasion. 


A strong inner shield translates to resilience - the capacity to bounce back, to restore balance and wellbeing whether you’re faced with an acute infection or not. You can always strengthen this shield, no matter your current health status. And when you do, you can treat an infection more effectively - if you already have one - and potentially prevent or reduce the chances of future ones. This is primarily done by giving your immune system what it needs to function optimally, as well as regulating the stress response. 


She has published a booklet offering some strategies for strengthening your inner shield. They may seem simple. But simple doesn’t always mean it’s easy. You will need to pause, take notice of your environment, and perhaps most challenging, care for yourself.


Also included are a list of supplements. Taken together, these strategies can help restore a sense of agency. You can co-participate in your life, thereby reducing one of the greatest insults to any infection: fear. 


Cynthia Li is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine, the Institute for Functional Medicine, and Integrative Medicine for the Underserved.