Dr Jenny Goodman is a woman on a mission, with a clear purpose in mind.
I had the opportunity to meet Dr Jenny Goodman last week, when we discussed a whole range of subjects at length; her full and interesting career, the current pandemic and possibilities for a post-COVID world. Most importantly we discussed her book – Staying Alive in Toxic Times, published in January 2020, just prior to the pandemic resetting all of our lives.
Serendipity played it’s a card in early June; after leading a series of masterclasses on how to flourish in lockdown, I came upon Dr Goodman’s book in my local bookstore; I was informed by the bookseller that Dr Goodman lived locally. Before I knew it I found myself sitting in the sun in a local park having my first socially distanced interview.
I was particularly interested to learn how her ideas could benefit the leaders that I work with in the business and education fields.
Dr Goodman is a qualified medical doctor and a practitioner of Ecological Medicine with 20 years’ experience. Staying Alive in Toxic Times sets out exactly what to eat in order to live our healthiest lives, and how to adapt our lifestyles according to the season and situation. Her thoughts about government responses around the world when COVID hit were pertinent:
“The government’s entire response about protecting ourselves was all about how we can stop transmission – social distancing, PPE and all of that, which is correct, but all it does is reduce transmission. It doesn’t make your immune system stronger to fight that virus, or any other virus or illness. You need your immune system on top form to fight cancer as well as infections. There are quite a lot of really simple things that help the immune system.”
As I explained to Dr Goodman, so many of the leaders that I work with fall into the self-sacrificing syndrome of serving others and never bringing their own physical, emotional, mental or spiritual needs to the forefront of their minds. This can lead to severe stress and burnout. This can be avoided. There are so many simple steps that we can all take to keep ourselves well. Some leaders have experienced a hiatus in their stress levels over the past few months as they have been forced to adopt different working practices and have had an opportunity to increase downtime. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.
I asked Dr Goodman what advice she would give to leaders as we come out of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her response was very clear:
“Hold onto our loving connections with other people and as soon as they can be physicalized, give handshakes and hugs. The immune system needs a bit of that, we can’t be healthy long-term without physical contact from our loved ones.
Concert halls and theatres have got to open again, as soon as it is safe. Live music and story-telling are among humanity’s fundamental needs. If we get storytelling just in the form of the TV and cinema it adds to the unreality of the situation and I do not want us to carry on living in a virtual world. In fact, I would love everyone to read a short story by EM Forster called The Machine Stops. Written in 1909, it predicts how we have lived in lockdown, with everything happening virtually.”
Staying Alive in Toxic Times is set out in a seasonal format – Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn – and has another section linked to the seasons of our life.
The chapter on winter provides essential information on how to combat infections. Dr Goodman would previously have advised people to let go of some of those practices in late spring; with the onset of COVID-19 she now advises that people keep up some of those winter practices to keep themselves healthy.
Vitamin D and the BAME community
As we sat in the park absorbing the sunshine after a particularly rainy week the conversation moved onto Vitamin D. As an Asian woman, I have for many years taken an extra high dose of Vitamin D, as I knew I was not accessing enough from the sun’s rays due to the level of melatonin in my skin. I have been keen to understand why BAME people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The recent PHE report highlighted some reasons but sadly due to omission, not actions.
Dr Goodman was equally passionate about sharing information about Vitamin D with the BAME communities, so much so that she is planning her own information leaflet. She urged everyone to take action for ourselves, doing the reading and increasing our intake of foods which are high in Vitamin D such as oily fish. We should all get outside as much as possible, and not rely too much on Vitamin D supplements in the summer. But in the British winter we need to supplement with Vitamin D3, especially if we are vegan and/or darker skinned.
“There are so many references about the need for Vitamin D and what it does for the immune system. It doesn’t just strengthen the immune system, it also calms it down. It helps to prevent the cytokine storm – that’s when your immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body. That’s what’s killed so many people with Covid”.
The premise of this book is to provide information on how we can keep our immune systems healthy. It’s a no-brainer for me that right now we ALL need to pay attention to our immune systems. Without our health, we cannot do the things we aspire to do.
Where Vitamin D supplements are used Dr Goodman gives a useful piece of advice on how to boost their efficacy.
“If your Vitamin D level is low take it in the evening. If you take vitamin D in the mornings, it raises your blood level of vitamin D, so your body thinks you’ve got plenty and your skin won’t bother making it from the sunshine which is the better source. Vitamin D is also better absorbed in the evening.”
Easy and simple advice for any of us to take.
I asked Dr Goodman what top tips she would give people today.
1 “Get fresh air and sunshine every day even if it is a bit cooler. Get some sunshine on your skin. Come late September you won’t get another chance (in terms of the quality of sunlight) for another 6 months. And take a Vitamin D supplement in the evening.”
2 “Build up your tolerance to pure Vitamin C. Distribute it throughout the day. For example, put 1g in a bottle of water and drink it throughout the day and then build it up.” Dr Goodman recommends Biocare’s magnesium ascorbate powder. See p 305 of her book for how to build up to your personal highest dose.
3 Increase your intake of Zinc – see chapter 6 for recommended sources.
4 “Take Iodine. Iodine gets rid of all germs and can be taken as a supplement. Kelp or seaweed should be part of our diet. People most at risk of iodine deficiency are vegetarians and vegans, unless they eat seaweed.”
5 “Selenium is vital for white blood cells and is part of your immune-boosting package to ward off flu and other infections. Selenium can be found in Brazil nuts, other nuts and seeds, and fish.”
6 “And lastly Magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the muscles and the mind. We are all deficient as psychological stress lowers our magnesium levels.” (And haven’t we all had our fair share of psychological stress in recent months!) “Take magnesium supplements in the evening. The best food source is dark green leafy vegetables.”
In Our Grasp
We have within our grasp many ways in which we can support our own immune systems. All the recommendations she makes in the book are achievable. A final quote from the book which resonated with me:
“I’ve written this book to enable you to become healthy, energetic and clear-headed. Partly so you can enjoy life more, but also so you can be well enough to play your part, however small, in helping to save our one and only precious planet. Our health and that of the planet are inextricably linked.”
I think I could have sat in the sun talking to Dr Goodman all day, soaking up the Vitamin D. I hope that our paths will cross again in the future.