COVID-19/ Prison Holistic Self Care & Protection

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Hello! We are a group of Artists, Activists, Healers, Body workers, Weirdos, Formerly Incarcerated Folks and an Attorney.  We have put together this guide to support incarcerated people in taking care of and protecting themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there has been a lot of guidance from the Center for Disease Control, what is outlined here is rooted in Holistic Resistance.

We are not licensed medical professionals and do not diagnose or prescribe. The information we are sharing here is not meant to cure or treat COVID-19, but to empower prisoners to feel confident in doing what they can to support and protect themselves in this time. The info we compiled is based on what we know people in California prisons may have access to, but we hope it will be helpful in other states as well. We make no claim regarding COVID-19, as this viral strain is new and unknown to us. Every body is different, everybody has different needs and different ways that their bodies respond to stress, illness and to different treatments. We urge you to listen to your own body and trust your own experience.

This is also our way of conveying to you that we care about your wellness and survival. Self care is a source of power that we can all find access to in some way. Nobody can take your care for yourself away from you. Big Love & Solidarity!

Simple steps to protect yourself and help stop viruses from spreading

Wash your hands whenever possible- Handwashing is one of the most important things you can do to keep from getting and spreading colds and the flu.

Avoid touching your face- Try not to rub your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Cover your cough- Cold and flu viruses are spread through the air. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve to trap the virus. If you cough into your hands, wash them as soon as you can.

Keep your space as clean as possible- Keep surfaces clean and avoid touching surfaces that may not be cleaned often. Viruses can live outside the body for a long period of time.

Don’t touch other people’s food and don’t let them touch yours- It’s a bummer, but sharing unpackaged food with each other right now is not advised- it could also spread the virus.

Helpful Canteen & Package Company items and remedies with help from the prisoners herbal written by Nicole Rose. Some of these items are available in the canteen/commissary, but we have also noted which package companies provide the items as well.                           

Apple Cider Vinegar: There are a number of ways apple cider vinegar helps boost your immune system. Because it is fermented, it contains beneficial bacteria and prebiotics that can have a positive impact on immune health. Secondly, it has antibacterial properties that can fight off the pathogens wreaking havoc in your body. (Available from Walkenhorst)

Bananas: The prebiotic fiber found in bananas, also known as resistant starch, selectively feeds the protective bacteria in your gut. In addition to guarding the intestinal tract against harmful pathogens, these “good” bacteria are thought to help stimulate immune-cell production. Bananas are also a good source of several vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Canned Sardines, Mackerel & Oysters: These canned goodies are packed full of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been linked to a significant reduction in depression & anxiety.  Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because it can be produced in your skin in response to sunlight- it also plays an important role in mood regulation and warding off depression. Add some extra sunshine into your diet with these little gems!!

Cayenne Powder: Cayenne activates the circulatory system as a cold and flu treatment. In one tablespoon (5 grams) of cayenne pepper, there is 44% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. In addition to its potent immune-boosting nutritional composition, the spice is also an excellent source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and manganese. However you use it, cayenne pepper can boost your health and immunity. (Available from Access Securepak & Walkenhorst)

Cinnamon Powder: Cinnamon increases warmth and circulation in the body. It is an age-old remedy to use if you’re coming down with a cough, sore throat or cold. It will help move congestion in your chest. It can also be used as an aid to digestion, helping with nausea, flatulence and recovery from diarrhea. Add cinnamon to your food, tea and honey. (Available thru Access Securepak)

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is jam-packed with lauric acid, which is a natural antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral. Coconut oil also boosts an already weakened immune system by improving white blood cell counts, which helps the body directly fight viruses. (Available from Walkenhorst)

Garlic Powder: For thousands of years, people all over the world have hailed garlic as an elixir of health and for a good reason- it contains some very powerful antimicrobial compounds meaning it can help fight off bacteria, parasites and viruses. It is one of the best preventions and treatments for respiratory infections. Eat garlic! (Garlic Powder & Garlic softgel supplements are available thru Access Securepak)

Ginger: Ginger root is amazing. Ginger helps with colds, flu and coughs. It relieves nausea and sore throats. Ginger increases circulation, gets rid of mucus congestion, settles an upset stomach, dispels gas, relieves aches and pains and reduces inflammation. You can sprinkle the powder on food or add a teaspoon to some hot water and drink. (Available from Walkenhorst)

Honey: Honey's antioxidant and antibacterial properties help improve the digestive system and boost immunity. It also contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, iron, and zinc which are very effective for the removal of free radicals from the body. Honey is also anti-inflammatory and demulcent and is a soothing remedy for coughs. You can add honey to your tea or eat it by the spoonful.

Italian Seasoning & Herbs: Basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. All of these herbs could have long profiles about them and their amazing properties. Aside from giving meals more flavor, these herbs all contain potent antiviral and antimicrobial properties. These are also great aromatic lung supportive herbs!  You can add a few teaspoons to hot water and drink these as a tea or add them to your food. Rosemary & oregano are especially helpful antivirals!  (Italian mix, Rosemary & Oregano available from Access Securepak)

Lemon Juice: All citrus are well known for having lots of vitamin C and therefore being good to eat for our immune systems. At a high enough concentration in the blood, vitamin C appears to combat certain viruses. During a viral infection, the body's supplies of vitamin C are rapidly depleted as the immune system's white blood cells absorb and quickly use up all the vitamin C available.

(Lemon Juice and Tajin which contains red peppers & lime juice are available thru Access Securepak)  

Oats: Oats are truly restorative to the nervous system. They are rich in fiber and high-quality protein, as well as many vitamins and minerals. In such a high-stress environment like a prison, oats are definitely something you want to be eating. Oats are also demulcent, which is another way to say they are moistening, so they will be really helpful for a dry cough. (Available thru Access Securepak)

Pepper (Black): The good thing about black pepper is that it is generally available on the wing. Black pepper helps digestion by stimulating the digestive juices which makes it easier to eat. You can add it to warm water to help heat you up to fight colds and infections. It is especially good for clearing damp ‘mucousy’ coughs. 

Salt: A salt solution can be a mouthwash and gargle. For a gargle or wash, use two teaspoons of salt. Gargle with salt water twice a day. It makes the mucosa at the back of your mouth less hospitable to viral visitors. (Available thru Access Securepak)

Tea: In general tea is such a great warming, calming and nutritive way to take in plant medicine and even just warm water is a nice way to calm your body (you can think of it as an internal bath). Two good herbs for tea are Peppermint & Chamomile. The menthol in Peppermint works as a decongestant, shrinking swollen membranes in the nose and making it easier to breathe, and also helps loosen mucus that has collected in the lungs. Peppermint can also assist in relieving digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating and indigestion, can help relieve tension headaches and migraines, improve energy, help fight bacterial infections, improve your sleep and help prevent illness. Chamomile not only reduces stress and anxiety, but it also is a great sleep aid that helps treat insomnia. Chamomile tea is also loaded with antioxidants. Both peppermint & chamomile relax the muscles and reducing irritability.  (Access Securepak has Chamomile/Mint tea)

Thyme: Thyme is such an amazing medicinal herb. Use in hot water as a tea for an effective remedy for sore throats due to its powerful antibacterial nature. Its antispasmodic action can help with hacking coughs and acute bronchitis, as well as digestive complaints like cramps or bloating. Research has also shown a positive effect on mood. One of the compounds, carvacrol, increases levels of dopamine and serotonin. Adding dried herbs to prison food will definitely help with digestion and if you come down with any kind of sore throat or cough, make sure to drink thyme tea. (Available from Walkenhorst)

Nutrients that are known to strengthen immunity

Vit A, C, B, zinc, garlic softgels and selenium are available as supplements thru Access Securepak

Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses.

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps lower oxidative stress in your body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity.

Vitamin A is known as an anti-inflammation vitamin because of its critical role in enhancing immune function. It is involved in the development of the immune system and plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses and humoral immune processes.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for healthy immune system response. See above under Lemon Juice.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and has an ability to modulate host immune functions and is an important nutrient for maintaining the immune system, especially in the aged. Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts, seeds and spinach.

B vitamins Vitamin B-5 is essential for the health of the brain and nervous system. Vitamin B-6 helps the body make new red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body and also helps keep the immune system strong. Foods high in B vitamins include meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, seeds and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal and nutritional yeast.

Alkalizing our diet: When our diet consists of foods high in acidity we are more prone to mucus build up in our digestion and other bodily systems, causing many diseases and low immune function. In Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, digestion is the seed to health and the foods we eat daily should be medicinal, enzymatic and alkalizing. During these times it will be best to avoid eating these acidic foods: high amounts of processed sodium (MSG, pickles, processed vinegars), dairy (milk, butter, cheese, ice cream), excess animal protein/deli meats, processed sugars or fried foods. Try to include as many warming spices into your diet to help aid digestion such as cumin, coriander, black pepper, cayenne, ginger, and cinnamon. These spices are naturally enzymatic and bring blood circulation to your digestion to help break down food. Especially ginger. Ginger is a powerful alkalizer, blood detoxifier and immunity booster! Ginger tea all day everyday! Replace all cold drinks with hot liquids, especially with meals. This will also help to break down and eliminate mucus from the body. Some of the foods you can add to your diet that will be helpful are: MORE veggies (spinach or other leafy greens, cabbage, mushrooms, celery), virgin coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, beans, lentils, fresh fruits, lemons, limes, broths, soups, hot cereals and herbal teas.

    Somatic Techniques for Coping with Stress:  

It is so vital that we tend to our mental health as the mind and body are one and the same. Our thoughts and emotions can have incredible effects on our physical health.

Self Massage: Place hands at heart center. Your own hands have tremendous healing potential. Try to imagine beautiful  light and energy from your hands to your heart. Start taking deep steady breaths. Keep breathing and allow yourself to sigh, or make some audible expressions throughout this process. Thank yourself for all that you do. Hold a moment of gratitude, forgiveness and compassion for yourself. I recommend saying it aloud to fully express and release. With clean hands, use lotion or oil and massage in the motion from hands to heart center, as gentle or firm as you wish. Stopping at the chest, apply firm pressure with fingertips along the sternum for a few minutes. Continue to breathe deeply and allow yourself to release any stuck emotions that have made you feel anxious, sad or angry. I like to visualize these emotions and energies as a color. Crying is sometimes a response to this practice and remember that is OK, your tears are cleansing. Now moving onto the legs, massage towards the feet, and back up the inner legs. Spend time making circles over the knees and ankles. Move to the belly, neck, and spend a fair amount of time massaging the scalp and ears. Our ears are a complex system related to our whole body and a key role in our survival.

Breathwork can strengthen our respiratory system, cardiovascular system, balances blood pressure, and is a highly effective tool for anxiety and coping with stress.

Breathwork and Meditation: Find some time to yourself and sit comfortably and tall or you can even do this while standing. You do not have to be still, and may do this while moving around. There are no rules. Visualize a warm glowing light pouring over your head and encapsulating you in protection. Breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose and out your mouth. As you breathe in, allow your belly to fill, stretching the ribs and abdomen. As you breathe out, compress the belly inward and gently squeeze the air out. Pay attention to the sensations in your body. The temperature of the air going in. How some muscles may be tight, and some may be relaxed. Move if you need to. Take a moment to internally or even audibly express gratitude and love for your body as you breathe in and out. Place your hands or tap on different places in the body, like the chest, top of the head, the throat, the liver, the kidneys. Use this time for self affirmations, mantra or prayer.

Self Affirmations: I am worthy of self love,” “I am healing,”  “I am more than my trauma,” “I have so much to offer,” “I am strong,” “I am enough”.                 

Jin Shin Jyutsu (JSJ): is an ancient healing practice from Japan that supports physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It was rediscovered by Jiro Murai when he was on his deathbed. He saved his own life, and then began practicing and training Mary Burmeister who brought it to the U.S. When practicing JSJ on yourself, it can be used as frequently as you like without any time limit. Because it heals by moving stuck energy to places that need it, the more it is used, the more beneficial it will be.

This JSJ mudra helps lungs and relieves coughing. Hold for at least 3 minutes. Count 36 exhales while holding.  

This mudra helps all organs in the body as well as all emotions including but not limited to stress, anxiety, and fear. Hold each finger for at least 2 minutes or until you feel a pulse, then switch hands. Count 36 exhales while holding. You may find one hand more relieving than the other. Experiment and notice. Best to do both hands when time allows

“When I recognize the love inside a human heart, even as the darkness struggles to gain power, I can breathe more easily, I have hope.”  -Ericka Huggins, former political prisoner and restorative justice activist.