What You Can Do to Help Protect Yourself from Coronavirus…

Our immune system is pretty robust–on the job 24/7–protecting us from all sorts of bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses. But given the rapid rate of increase in Coronavirus infection, is your immune system as healthy as it could be?

Handwashing and maintaining physical distancing are great, but are there things we can do that not only help strengthen our immune system but improve our overall health? How about…….

  1. Supporting our immune system’s ability to react to a viral load more effectively?
  2. Tweaking our lifestyle choices to help strengthen our immune system?
  3. Reducing risk factors that might be depleting our immune function?

Background on Coronavirus

So what makes COVID-19 so virulent?

First of all, Coronavirus is not the flu. “The genetic structure of this virus and a flu virus are as different as we are from dinosaurs”, according to virologist Guido Vanham.

  • Coronavirus is a type of SARS-COV-2 type 2 virus that causes a disease called COVID-19.
  • It had been found to damage lung tissue which may lead to pneumonia and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
  • It is a novel virus which means we have no innate immunity to it. The genes inside the virus isn’t human so our immune system doesn’t recognize it.
  • Their genomes are made of a single strand of RNA making it easy for the virus to replicate.
  • Its receptors seem to change easily to allow it to affect many types of species and tissues.
  • It mutates quickly. The enzyme for copying RNA is not precise which makes it more adaptable.

According to Kurt Williamson, an associate professor in the William & Mary Department of Biology, “Our cells will make nearly perfect copies of our chromosomes every time the cell divides. But due to this sloppy enzyme for RNA copying, RNA viruses make at least one “mistake” per copy. Multiply this by the number of virus genomes in an infected cell, and the number of cells in an infected organism, and then the number of infected organisms in a population…and these mistakes start to add up. This variation provides new opportunities for selection and evolution — new mutants may be able to more easily infect human hosts, for example.”

In addition, “The coronavirus genome copying mechanism is weird and generates even more variation. When two different versions of the virus are present in the same cell, this template-switching allows for new variants with hybrid properties to be generated even more quickly than the mutation mechanism. So the virus can mix properties of, say, a bat strain with those of a human strain, making a new version that our immune systems might not have seen before.”

Background on viruses

A really quick look at viruses…

I know you have probably been reading a lot about Coronavirus, but it is important to understand what viruses are in order to help minimize their effect. 

In a nutshell, a virus is a non-cellular, infectious entity made up of genetic material and protein that can invade and reproduce only within the living cells of bacteria, plants and animals.”

Since a virus cannot replicate itself, it hijacks a susceptible host cell replication capability for its own use–at the expense of the cell–before moving in rapid succession to the next cell.

There are many classifications of viruses based on its morphology and the manner of which it reproduces. Viruses share the following properties:

  1. “They are non-cellular organisms, which is enclosed in a protective envelope.
  2. The presence of spikes helps in attaching the viruses to the host cell.
  3. These viruses do not grow, neither respire nor metabolize, but they reproduce.
  4. They are surrounded with a protein coat – capsid and have a nucleic acid core comprising of DNA or RNA.
  5. They are considered both as living and non-living things. These viruses are inactive when they are present outside of host cells but become active within host cells. These viruses cause several infections and reproduce within the host cell by using the enzymes and raw materials.”


I point this out since these same properties might also expose potential weaknesses. Take its lipid envelope for example. To protect itself from detection until it safely invades our cells, Coronavirus steals lipids from its host to create an envelope to protect itself. But lipids are more easily neutralized by various chemical and physical factors, such as heat, desiccants (drying agents), soap, disinfectant, etc. and for some, direct eradication interventions.

Unfortunately, this lipid membrane can be a double edge sword. It could also make the virus more efficient at using the “entry door” into the lung cells and elsewhere in the body. But understanding this also allows us to support susceptible areas as well.

A concern for me is that some enveloped viruses like Herpes may cause persistent infections. But according to Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, this is “not typical of coronaviruses that we know of….testing done with animal models for SARS, a similar coronavirus, indicates that patients who recover from the disease will have immunity from it.”

Effect of viral load on immune function

How do viruses effect our health?

Viruses can cause disease by creating excessive inflammation.

  • Direct infection can lead to cell and tissue destruction.
  • Viral infections can weaken the immune system allowing other “secondary” infections to flourish, leading to additional sources of inflammation for the immune system to deal with.
  • Tissue destruction can lead to a massive inflammatory response and oxidative stress that could overwhelm our defenses—causing our immune system to “lose focus” on killing pathogens. Inflammation can also lead to bone marrow suppression, reducing the numbers of immune cells.
  • Inflammation can negatively affect function at cellular, tissue, and system level leading to further health issues such as autoimmune.

Therefore, we not only need to provide both targeted and general immune support but why we need to look for any underlying inflammation.

Immune Support Recommendations

Okay, enough science. I want to know ways to help protect myself from a viral infection….

Although there are many different interventions in the medical literature that show success at supporting viral load, we are going to focus on simple, effective, economical, and far-reaching strategies.

A couple more things. Since we are each so biochemically unique, I will not suggest blanketed dosages. The Linus Pauling Nutrition Institute at Oregon State,  provides nutrient details and general guidelines. Note: for support of an acute infection higher amounts might be warranted, so please work with your medical provider.

I also want to point out that the following suggestions are not intended as prevention, cure or treatment for COVID-19 or any other disease but instead to help support overall immune function. Again, please speak to your licensed medical provider regarding any of these recommendations.

Part 1: Help stop a virus by supporting our immune system’s ability to react to a viral load

We don’t want to become virus producing factories, so let’s check out 5 ways we can help minimize a viruses’ effect on our health.

1. Help target the virus directly

As we already know, the most important way we can keep from becoming infected is by thorough handwashing, disinfecting surfaces, practicing physical distancing, avoid touching our face, and wearing a mask.

But if you were to become infected, some viruses could possibly be eradicated with the use of antiviral botanicals or nutrients that target its metabolic and replication machinery. A few antiviral interventions (virus killing and/or inactivating) might include:

Zinc

It is very interesting in that one of the signs of a COVID-19 might be the loss of taste and smell—which also happens to be signs of zinc deficiency. Might the body be utilizing its zinc stores to ward off the virus or was a person’s levels possibly too low making them more susceptible? Another common sign of zinc deficiency might be white spots on the fingernails.

Zinc ions have been shown to block viral multiplication, possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, be involved in immune modulation. and the formation of immune cells. Studies have indicated the benefit of zinc in the prevention and treatment of respiratory tract infections, which may be very significant right now.

Viruses utilize zinc in low amounts, but high doses of zinc have been indicated to induce viral cell death. This is a good thing but note that supplementation with large amounts are not recommended in that it may affect the balance of other minerals in the body.

Dietary sources include meat, shellfish, beans, seeds, etc. Please keep in mind, if you are having gut or assimilation issues, you may not be able to effectively absorb your nutrients.

Monolaurin

A combination of lauric acid and glycerin, it is a byproduct of coconut fat. It has been found to be antifungal, antibiotic for some bacteria, and potentially able to lyse the envelopes of lipid enclosed viruses— making it effective in reducing viral load .

Coconut oil itself may not be concentrated enough, although Dr. Arora stated that “coconut oil was very effective against various viruses with lipid capsules,” so it is probably best to make sure to include it as part of your diet. Be cautious with supplementation as some of these products can be strong and detoxifying.

2. Help reduce viral mutations

Viruses mutate so that they can survive and thrive. By altering their behavior and molecular structure, they are better able to confuse and/or dodge the immune system.

Selenium

Selenium deficiency has been shown to potentially play a role in “the emergence of novel viral diseases.”

Deficiencies in “…either Se or vitamin E result in increased viral pathogenicity and altered immune responses. Furthermore, deficiencies in either Se or vitamin E results in specific viral mutations, changing relatively benign viruses into virulent ones.”

With respect to respiratory illness, lung complications due to viral load are more common in those who are selenium deficient—which is a double whammy for COVID-19.

Good dietary sources include brazil nuts, fish, animal products—again, if you can effectively digest them.

Antioxidants and cellular support

According Dr Melinda Beck an important aspect of viral mutation is the generation of free radicals and oxidative stress which might allow the virus optimal conditions in which to mutate. 

For example, Vitamin C enhances white blood cell function and production while reducing the damage caused by free radicals. It is useful in the prevention of secondary pneumonia, while its deficiency has been associated with lung complications from viral infection.

We talk about oxidative stress support in detail in item 5.

3. Help reduce viral replication

When viruses use our cells to replicate, it creates a vicious cycle. Inflammation created by the virus ultimately creates an environment which may facilitate viral replication.

Methylation Support

Methylation? It is essential for turning off genes to block viral expression and replication. If we can’t methylate the “bad genes”, it leaves them in an “on” state. Methylation support is usually included in a multivitamin. Nutrients such as folates, B12, B6, choline, etc. can supply and transfer the methyl groups necessary to help turn “off” viral replication. Also, taking too much can lead to negative effects so if you feel worse taking a multivitamin, talk with your doctor.

Dietary sources of folate include beans, eggs, leafy greens, nuts/seeds, grains, etc.

NFkB Support

The flip side of methylation is something called NFkB which gets hijacked by the virus for use in its replication. How? Viruses can only replicate after their genetic material is integrated into our cell. DNA/RNA ultimately make proteins that form the molecules, enzymes, etc. that the virus needs. This whole process in turned on by a “transcription-factor” like NFkB. NFkB is also associated with inflammation, another key thing we need to minimize. So basically, we need methylation to turn “off” NFkB.

There are many supplements that can help inhibit NFkB, such as Vitamin D, Curcumin, essential fatty acids, butyrate, herbs like licorice, and various minerals.

In addition, phytonutrients are also immune modulating and can help suppress NFkB. Herbs such as ginger, garlic, rosemary, etc. and polyphenols from fruits and veggies are extremely helpful—think flavor and the dark rich colors of the rainbow. You can read more about polyphenols here.

Vitamin D3

This nutrient does so much. In this context, it helps in modulate the methylation and NFkB activity we talked about above to limit inflammation and help stop viral replication.

Stimulation of the vitamin D receptor protects against respiratory viral infections by decreasing inflammation in lung tissue. Vitamin D helps improve an antiviral response, while its deficiency may cause an increase in both the risk and occurrence in respiratory tract infections. Additionally, Vitamin D helps support bacterial “secondary” infections created through inflammation and viral induced nutrient deficiencies.

Data has shown that viral infections seem to wane in the summer. Is it virus response to environmental factor such as temperature or humidity? There is a hypothesis that our immune system is lowered in colder months because we don’t see the sun as much. And sunlight helps generate Vitamin D. Higher D stores, potentially greater immunity.

Many folks have low status even if they spend a lot of time in the sun, Other folks may have genetic defects or other conditions that may increase their need for this hormone. Acute infections might also temporarily warrant higher amounts, but Vitamin D is fat soluble and can build up in the body which may negatively affect calcium levels. Please refer to Linus Pauling Nutrition Institute for symptoms of toxicity.

You can read more about here.

Essential Fatty Acids

EFAs help modulate inflammatory responses to prevent excess tissue damage and inflammation. EFAs have been shown to possess antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic properties.

Source of EFAs include fatty fish such as wild caught salmon, Alaskan black cod, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sardines. Although EPA is available in some vegetarian foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds, beans, and dark green leafy vegetables, they must first be converted from alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which some folks may have issues with. Other folks might have issues breaking down fats and may need support or different forms.

You can read more about EFAs and it usability here..

4. Help stimulate immune function

It is important to address our overall immune and general health as “All too often, viral infections are viewed and treated as separate from the immune system; even more commonly viral infections are viewed and treated as separate from the body being infected”, per Dr. Vasquez. We are going to focus on supplemental support here, but let’s not discount the effect that diet, exercise, sleep, stress, community, etc. has on immune function. We will discuss lifestyle factors in Part 2.

By ramping up immune function, we are ahead of the curve on suppressing viruses, bacteria, yeast, parasites, etc. Let’s start by looking at basic immune function. We are born with an innate immunity that uses Natural Killer and TH1 cells. They spend their time patrolling the body for infected cells. When they encounter a pathogen, a TH2 cell antibody response is initiated so that the next time it will be more quickly recognized. The regulatory system controls “helper cells” deployment of “soldiers” when they are needed and then “recalls” them when their job is done.

Nutrient strategies that provide innate, soldier and regulatory support may include abundant phytonutrients and polyphenols such as curcumin, vitamin D3, EFAs, glutathione, multivitamin, broad spectrum minerals, probiotics, vitamin A, magnesium, and butyrate.

Vitamin A

It is absolutely essential for immune function and shows a positive impact on immune cells for viruses. It is important for healthy mucous membranes. Vitamin A deficiency may lead to greater susceptibility and severity of viral respiratory infections.

Foods sources include butter, cream, eggs, fatty meats, and liver oil.

Some folks have a genetic variant called BCMO1 that inhibits their ability to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A.  Also, keep in mind that “… not all of the benefits of vitamin A for immune function are available on an acute basis; the maintenance of proper respiratory epithelial structure/function requires vitamin A, but in a vitamin A-deficient patient, acute administration of vitamin A does not immediately restore the respiratory epithelium to promote clearance of the infection, even though other aspects of immune function will recover more quickly.“ Therefore, it is important to have adequate stores, especially now, before we might really need them.

Vitamin A is fat soluble and can build up in the body. Please refer to Linus Pauling Nutrition Institute for symptoms of toxicity and contraindications such as pregnancy and smoking.

Multivitamin/Mineral

Our immune system requires both macro and micronutrients to function. We could be lacking in nutrients due to inadequate intake, inability to breakdown food or absorb nutrients, or greater metabolic need.

“Micronutrients contribute to the body’s natural defenses on three levels by supporting physical barriers (skin/mucosa), cellular immunity and antibody production. Vitamins A, C, E and the trace element zinc assist in enhancing the skin barrier function. The vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and folic acid and the trace elements iron, zinc, copper and selenium work in synergy to support the protective activities of the immune cells. …Overall, inadequate intake and status of these vitamins and trace elements may lead to suppressed immunity, which predisposes to infections and aggravates malnutrition. Therefore, supplementation with these selected micronutrients can support the body’s natural defense system by enhancing all three levels of immunity.” …”Selected vitamins and trace elements support immune function by strengthening epithelial barriers and cellular and humoral immune responses (Br J Nutr 2007 Oct[226])”

Keep on mind, the quality of supplements matters. While a “multivitamin” may contain a broad array of nutrients–including minerals, many are often found in poor, inactive or less absorbable forms— such as folic acid, cyanocobalamin, D2, magnesium oxide, pyridoxine, etc. Many products contain excipients or fillers that may have their own health consequences). Or for those who might be sensitive, nutrients might have been sourced using potentially allergenic ingredients such as corn, etc. 

Another consideration is that the therapeutic dose of nutrients might be too low in the product. An as with food, if you have gut issues, you may not be absorbing the supplements effectively.

Butyrate

In immune health, it is all about the integrity of our barriers—where our body meets the outside world. You need to control what gets in and what gets out.

That where butyrate comes in. Butyrate is one of three short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that get naturally produced by bacteria fermenting fiber in our intestine. They are the preferred energy source for our gut cells and keeps them healthy. SCFAs also have been shown to help reduce inflammation and support our regulatory immune system.

In addition to our gut barrier, SCFAs also positively impact barriers such as our brain and lungs. ”The bi-directional cross-talk between gut and lung (termed as Gut-Lung axis) is best exemplified by intestinal disturbances observed in lung diseases. Some of the existing probiotics show beneficial effects on lung health.“

Butyrate can be found in foods including fibrous foods, resistant starch, and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) foods (such as onions, and asparagus), and butter. It can also be supplemented.

We may also want to consume fermented or probiotic containing foods or take a probiotic.  Finally, if you have gut issues, you may want to address that prior to starting probiotics to reduce a potential source of systemic inflammation. We will talk about microbiome and gut health in Part 3.

5. Help support cellular function to minimize a virus’ effect on our overall health

Without healthy cells, we can’t have healthy tissues, organs, or systems. Oxidative stress can affect all these things.

Imagine a car that is in dire need of a tune-up. It runs, but maybe a bit rougher than it should or it might have smoke coming out of the tail pipe. Maybe it uses more gas due the motor’s inefficiency. It’s same with us. If our body feels “threated” in any way or notices a lot of free radicals or “smoke” being produced, it scales back function to minimize further damage while it starts to conserve resources.

According to Dr. Naviaux MD, over time long periods of stressors (be it physical, emotional, etc) may create a “cell danger response”. This is a defense mode that shuts down our mitochondrial function at the cellular level in order to conserve metabolic resources. Since we are then on a rationed fuel supply, function throughout the body becomes affected. At the same time, stressors like viruses continue to create free radicals, weakening our immune system– while they, themselves continue to flourish.

Some folks can have issues with mitochondrial support. For them, it might be akin to starting up that worn out car and immediately taking it drag racing–which might just damage the engine. Therefore, the best support may be a slow process starting with stress relief, gentle exercise, and the use of targeted supplements. Please work with a healthcare provider to determine what is best for you. 

Specific exercises can also help mitochondria and potentially inhibit viral load. A paper just released found that nitric oxide, “…inhibits viral protein and RNA synthesis. Furthermore, we demonstrate that NO generated by inducible nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme that produces NO, inhibits the SARS CoV replication cycle.” These exercises are designed to help ramp up mitochondrial. 

Part 2: Help strengthen our immune system with diet and lifestyle “tweaks”

Lifestyle factors are extremely powerful interventions—possibly even more so than supplementsSupplements can be helpful, but if our overall health is compromised it is like putting a finger in a leaky dam, eventually it may fail. Luckily, diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction all show great efficacy in the medical literature for reducing inflammation, modulating immune function, and supporting overall health.

Diet

Of any intervention, diet can have the most impact on health.

Nutritional deficiency impairs our immune defense, weaken our borders, and may lead to increased oxidative stress. As you may recall, oxidative stress promotes viral mutations which can strengthen a virus—-leading to virulent infections. Additionally, nutrient imbalance may create an environment that favor the virus, allowing it to replicate at a faster rate.

The Standard American Diet or SAD, has been found in the literature to “cause oxidative stress, systemic inflammation, and activation of NFkB;…these three adverse effects leads to a biochemical milieu that supports the development and perpetuation of infections, particularly viral infections.”

Food choices matter. “High-carbohydrate diets deal a double-punch to the human host; first, consumption of a high-carbohydrate load causes immunosuppression, and then secondly the high-carbohydrate load promotes activation of NFkB“, again favoring viral replication.

That being said, an anti-inflammatory diet is recommended along with a meal composition that controls blood sugar swings. This way we can limit the immune system’s job of fighting secondary sources of inflammation and focus on the big picture. Or simply try to start a whole foods diet and just see how you feel. Remember, sugar is a friend to pathogens. We talk more about this in Part 3.

Additionally, pathogens love an acidic diet. By consuming lots of non-starchy veggies with each meal, you can naturally “alkalinize” your meals while getting lots of phytonutrients. You can learn more here.

If you are consuming foods cause an immune response, you are adding to our inflammatory load. You can learn more about food sensitivities here..

Finally, it is important that your digestion is working effectively, or you might not get the nutrients you need or the inability to break down foods leading to another source of inflammation. We talk more about this in Part 3.

Hydration

Water is responsible for key metabolic reactions in the body. Since our bodies require more water than we can produce, it is an essential part of our diet. We can live for weeks and even months without food, but we can’t live very long without water.

Numerous studies have found that dehydration leads to dysregulation of the immune system. Detoxification issues caused by dehydration provides another source of inflammation and immune system load. And like mitochondria, biochemical pathways become less efficient without water, potentially leading to another avenue for viral growth.

We need about 96 ounces of water per day. If you pee all the time you must be well hydrated, right? Not quite. Water is kept inside of the cells, so it’s at the center of all the action. If it winds up outside the cell, it contributes to swelling and toxicity. To ensure that water stays where it belongs, we need to make sure our cell membranes are nice and healthy. One strategy is to add essential fatty acids (EFAs) to the diet while at the same time minimizing consumption of hydrogenated fats.

Some folks still have issues maintaining hydration but find that if they “structure” their water, it becomes more absorbable. 

Keep in mind, thirst is usually the last symptom of dehydration. Please watch your caffeine and alcohol intake.  Eating very high salt diet may also be a factor. If so, make sure you get include ample potassium in your diet to balance things out.

You can learn more here.

Exercise

Let’s get straight to it, “Moderate exercise reduces the risk of infection by modulating the immune system, reducing systemic inflammation, and promoting lymphatic flow, which is critical for immune function.” But be careful. Too much/hard when you are not feeling 100%, could lead to additional oxidative stress. Pay attention to how you feel the next day. If you are too tired or weak, it may have been too high intensity for you right now. Yoga, walking, dancing, biking, rowing can be a great place to start.

As we mentioned earlier when we talked about mitochondria and oxidative stress, Nitric Oxide Burst exercises are an effective way to help turn on NO production found to help stop viral replication/mutation. These would be in addition to your normal exercise routine. For more information, please  see fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2018/01/05/four-minute-nitric-oxide-dump-workout.aspx.

Sleep

Sleep enhances our innate and acquired immune cells. It is fundamental for so many things but in the context of viral support, it controls melatonin secretion which a powerful antioxidant-–hundreds of times more powerful than Vitamin C or E. Melatonin penetrates right into the mitochondria to protect it from harm from oxidative stress. So, without adequate sleep, we lose our source of metabolic fuel and cellular defense and potentially, increase viral replication.

Another important event that occurs during the nighttime is autophagy, or cellular recycling. This is the time when damaged cells and mitochondria are broken down, recycled, and replaced with brand new cells. Without good cellular maintenance, our cells do not get “upgraded”. All these things mentioned may allow a virus to mutate.

You can learn more about sleep here.

Meditation

A phenomenal way to improve immune function. I am not going to spend too much time here as there are so many great resources on the web. But just a couple of minutes on Pubmed resulted in a cascade of studies. The very first one I read found meditation and exercise both highly effective for Acute Respiratory Infection. Another showed improvements in inflammation, cell mediated immunity, and reduction in biological aging—just by the power of the mind.

Ultimately meditation really helps modulate cortisol responses that can lead to inflammation and dysfunction throughout the body. We will get into more detail in Part 3. 

Part 3: Help reduce risk factors that may be affecting the immune system

The CDC has stated those with underlying health issues may be more susceptible to COVID-19. Risk factors are basically anything that can potentially stimulate inflammation. Our immune system can be dysfunctional, depleted, or overactivated by metabolic dysfunction, pathogenic or toxin load. To keep from becoming an overwhelming topic, let’s just explore 3 areas that we have control over.

Blood Sugar Regulation

Sugar called glucose is transported through the bloodstream to supply energy to our cells. Most adults have a little over a 1 gallon of blood in their bodies and that in all of that, there is about a teaspoon of sugar. The body works hard to keep it at the appropriate level, as too much or too little can wreak metabolic havoc. Diabetes, a disease that affects regulation, is a known risk factor for this virus.

Blood sugar dysregulation affects key areas throughout the body so let’s focus on a couple of key points related to virus. Blood sugar issues are a major driver of inflammation and immune dysfunction. “Acute, short-term hyperglycemia affects all major components of innate immunity and impairs the ability of the host to combat infection.” In addition, high blood sugar can lead to a decrease in the production of nitric oxide (NO), which “affects all major components of innate immunity and impairs the ability of the host to combat infection”, increasing risk for a viral load.

When you eat a meal, it is digested, assimilated, and turned it into glucose. When glucose is detected in the bloodstream, a hormone, insulin is signaled to create openings in our cell membrane so that the sugar is brought inside. Sugar is then converted by the mitochondria into energy or ATP. Blood sugar regulation can be best be tested through fasting insulin—desired level of 3 to 5.

The best way to help control blood sugar swings is through our diet. High blood sugar may be caused by consuming too high of a carbohydrate load in a meal, infrequent eating, meals not containing the correct macronutrients to slow down the absorption of sugar, or any type of stress. In addition, fructose, or fruit sugar is especially harmful due to the way that it disrupts the lock and key fit between insulin and its receptor site, leading to high blood sugar levels.

If you are deficient in good fats or vitamin/minerals you may compromise the health of the cell membranes. Unhealthy cell membranes cannot effectively transfer nutrients like sugar into the cell leading to inflammation.

Blood sugar may be supported by eating balanced meals containing protein, carbohydrates as veggies, and fats. It is also important to consume the proper type of fats. Good fatty acids have two hydrogen molecules that attach to the outside of the cell. Bad fats (like “trans” that come from fried foods, hydrogenated oils, margarine, microwaved foods, etc.) have only one molecule on the outside. Insulin cannot attach to this causing sugar to build up outside the cell.

Many of the same supplements mentioned for immune system also help support blood sugar regulation. Essential fatty acids are building blocks for healthy cell membranes, whereas nutrients such as magnesium, etc. facilitate sugar transport. 

You can read more about blood sugar issues here.

Stress

Right now our immune function might be affected just by the toll of this Coronavirus has taken on our adrenal glands. Research indicates that NFkB activation occurs with imbalances of cortisol.

Our bodies are designed to keep us alive at all costs, so if you experience stressor that seem overwhelming, the body responds by doing all the things it needs to do to “run away” from the source. Unfortunately, it doesn’t differentiate whether it is physically, emotional, or spiritual. One of the mechanisms used is the release cortisol to provide sources sugars for the muscles to fight or flight. But if you don’t physically burn it off, blood levels stay too high. Again, stressors over time will downregulate the mitochondria, thyroid, hormones, digestion, etc., all of which can lead to inflammation and potentially, viral dominance.

Stress and its root cause are locked in a vicious cycle–as each lead to an increase in the other. Therefore, it is important to uncover any metabolic dysfunction, inflammation, and stealth infections. These may include but are not limited to food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, methylation issues, underlying infections and/or inflammation, oxidative stress, dehydration, toxic load (drugs, heavy metals, fungicides, herbicides, chemicals), EMF, autoimmunity, hypoxia (low oxygen), pain, hormone imbalance, or dysfunction to any system/organ such as thyroid, gut, brain, cardiovascular, and more. 

I know this appears overwhelming, but work with a practitioner to help uncover the top issues. Many times, the others resolve themselves.

Although the mechanism is important, it is equally if not more important, to reduce our stress load as much as we can right now. We can exercise, meditate, eat well, surround ourselves with friends and family (virtually for now), participate in the things that bring joy, or just laugh loud and often. Whatever it is that works for you.

As for supplements, salt may also help some folks (check with your doctor especially if you have blood pressure issues), and supplements such as your multivitamin and those that modulate cortisol level and its release.

You can learn more here

Gut Issues

The majority of our immune system resides in our gut, which makes sense considering it is a link to the outside world. An unhealthy gut strips us of vital nutrients and has potential to generate a great deal of inflammation. A diverse microbiome helps to maintain border integrity and stimulate the production of Secretory IGA (SigA) immunity and T killer cells.

The best way to support gut health is by following the “4Rs”:

Remove

This step removes potential food or pathogens that contribute to inflammation. When we consume foods that our bodies are sensitive to, it creates an inflammatory response. Inflammation can then lead to the formation of “leaky gut” or unintended openings in the intestines. This allows food to leave before being fully processed. The body then considers these “fragments” as foreign and mounts an immune response. Genetics, environment, or overgrowth of gut pathogens (viral, bacteria, fungal, parasite) are also contributing factors.

Sometimes the food particles are similar in structure to various tissues in the body which causes the immune system to mistake the tissues for the offensive food. This can lead to autoimmunity against that tissue or organ. For example, gluten and Hashimoto’s thyroid are highly associated in the medical literature.

By removing these foods temporarily, we provide an opportunity for our gut to heal. Many times, we become so used to how we feel that It isn’t until they are removed and added back to the diet (in a controlled manner) that we are able to finally notice their negative effects. You can learn more here

Depending on symptoms, DNA stool testing is used to determine pathogenic load. Testing for food issues is highly questionable unless is it looks directly at antibodies. In addition, foods should be tested in both their raw and cooked states as the proteins change with processing.

Supplement can help calm down overactive gut reactivity and it improve gut immunity.

Replace

The next step is to replace anything the gut may be lacking to breakdown our food. For instance, if your gut doesn’t have sufficient stomach acid, it cannot effectively convert proteins into amino acids. This creates a three-fold problem. First, foods can putrefy leading to leaky gut. Second, we may minimize our “pool” of amino acids need to create proteins—the very ones required our immune system to function. Third, without sufficient acid, we can’t sterilize our food to kill potential pathogens.. Low digestive enzyme levels can hinder nutrient assimilation, whereas gallbladder dysfunction can affect fat metabolism.

To help normalize gut function, supplements can be used to restore enzymes, support gallbladder function, restore gut acidity, etc. Please work with your healthcare provider.

Repair

This step goes right into “sealing up” leaky gut and calming down inflammation with the use of short chain fatty acids. Healing herbs such as aloe, marshmallow root, peppermint, etc. can be very effective,

Reinoculate

Since bacteria are at the heart of our immune system, we may need to restore diversity to our microbiome through the consumption of fermented foods or a probiotic. Fermented foods been around since ancient times and are found in cultures around the world, from Roman sauerkraut to India lassi to Korean kimchi. Just as fermented yeasts are used to make wine, sugars and starches are fermented with lactic acid to produce bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Other sources include yogurt, natto, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, and pickles, to name a few.

If you choose to supplement, consider one that is full-spectrum (meaning it contains as many types of bacteria in sufficiently high doses to have a therapeutic effect). The addition of a beneficial yeast may also help improve the efficacy of the probiotic. As with the use of supplemental HCL, I recommend waiting for a few weeks to supplement until you heal the gut to minimize any systemic die-off reactions and potential inflammation.

You can learn more about the microbiome and various gut issues on our website starting here.

Summary

These potential strategies are intended to help support immune function and are not intended as prevention, cure or treatment for COVID-19 or any other disease. Please consult with your licensed health provider regarding these recommendations.

  • Practice virus avoidance activities as recommended by the CDC
  • Supplementation with a quality multi-vitamin/mineral containing highly absorbable active forms of nutrients. Possibly additional minerals such as magnesium, zinc or selenium.
  • Additional Vitamin A (not beta carotene) and Vitamin D for immune function, possible additional antioxidants
  • Essential fatty acids to help reduce viral replication, inflammation, and immune system support
  • Monolaurin to possibly provide direct immune support if necessary
  • Support barriers 
  • Support cellular health
  • Anti-inflammatory diet. Consumption of quality proteins, carbohydrates (as vegetables) and fat at each meal for blood sugar regulation. Avoid all forms of sugar as much as possible. High probiotic foods included if tolerated. Dietary absorption support if necessary.
  • Drink plenty of water. Do not wait until you are thirsty.
  • Gentle exercise
  • Meditation to control stress and support immune function
  • Getting good quality sleep
  • Socialization (skype/zoom parties)
  • It is very important to look for any underlying sources of metabolic dysfunction, inflammation, and stealth infections. That may be why it is hitting those with risk factors even harder.t

We are here to help

If you would like a personalized immune support program or suspect you are having issues that might be affecting your health or just want to improve your diet----reach out. Functional Medicine is all about uncovering your particular health challenges and making recommendations specifically tailored to your lifestyle.

References:

Getting help shouldn’t be difficult!

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Getting help shouldn’t be difficult!

Contact us for your free 15 minute consultation.

We have put together a comprehensive paper on Coronavirus, including ways to improve your immune system and stay healthy.

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