Now that COVID-19 is part of our reality — when I first wrote this in early March, there were less than 10,000 total US cases. Now, we’re over 60M MILLION infected, (worldwide 300M), with over 5.4 million deaths worldwide as of January 2022. There are things you can do to protect yourself. Experts say that it’s inevitable that 60 to 70% of us will experience this virus in one variant or another. The one thing within your power is to bolster your immune system and prepare for it. NOW. Not when you get sick. My advice is to be in the best shape possible. Most people who have died are elderly AND have what healthcare calls “co-morbid” conditions: meaning they have a chronic illness AND they have come down with COVID-19. One example is research is beginning to demonstrate very low D3 levels = increased severity of illness. See article here for more.
Here are ways to boost immunity. Keep in mind this is an ever evolving list but I am updating it with the newest data from people tracking it. It is amazing to see how the entire medical community is sharing data and working non-stop to sort out what can help.
NOTE: This advice below is not meant to substitute for the public health recommendations around hygiene, masking and social distancing. These must take first place in prevention. There is no safer way to prevent spreading the infection than to wash your hands frequently, wear a mask in public and keep the virus far away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. Masks prevent droplets from being inhaled, and prevent infected persons from depositing those same droplets in the air, lowering viral load.
If you believe you may have the virus, call your doctor and follow the recommendations from your local health department.
My suggestions to boost immunity.
These are listed now in order of importance, (NOTE: even I am not on all of these), but these are suggestions by three researchers I follow in addition to the Institute for Functional Medicine’s position paper on immune boosting. AGAIN: These do NOT replace hand washing, wearing masks/gloves in public places and not touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
I’m starting with ZINC and ELDERBERRY: Since elderberry blocks the entry of the virus into the cell while zinc blocks its replication, zinc is just behind elderberry in importance as a preventative.
- Elderberry (700 mg to 1Gm/day) is an ages old remedy and has been shown to be quite effective in (see study here) blocking virus proteins that attach to the “host cell” (that’s us guys). Normally, you can find elderberry immune syrup fairly easily, but it is hard to find now. Do the best you can. Best taken twice/day. They make lozenges and gummies and even some with zinc. Grab what you can, and use whatever your kids will tolerate. During the pandemic, it is suggested to take it twice/day, but look at the dosage on your bottle and use the guideline above.
- Zinc supplements or lozenges prevent the virus from replicating in your cells. We know this from SARS, another corona virus. It is therefore reasonable to assume Zinc will be crucial for fighting the respiratory impact of the virus. If you travel anywhere, pop a zinc lozenge in and let it dissolve, don’t crunch it. They don’t taste wonderful, but they are not hideous. If you cannot find lozenges, take oral zinc– 5-15 mg of zinc spaced out 4 x day if you can. They also make ionic zinc, which you can put in a spray bottle and spray into the back of your throat in a pinch two or three sprays/day. (they usually have 900-1200 mg/ounce of zinc, but a spray would be much much less, but the taste is… not my favorite!) If you feel like you’re getting sick, increase the zinc to one lozenge or spray every two hours. If you develop a fever, let your doctor know and monitor it. (See below on treating a fever)
- Vitamin D is actually not a Vitamin, it’s a hormone. See my post here, but make sure your Vitamin D level is sufficient. I recommend getting outside without sunscreen for 20-30 minutes/day so your body can make it’s own supply. You can take 2,000 – 5,000 u/day with K2. In addition, A, D, E and K are fat soluble, so they are absorbed much better with a meal with fat in it. Take D in the morning. If you know your Vitamin D level is below 50, I would discuss boosting supplementation for a month with your physician. It is a crucial part of the puzzle. Taking 5,000 u/day if you are low is important. If you are very low (under 30), I would take 10,000 u for two weeks. In warmer states, get outside for 30 minutes without sunscreen can boost your levels and is good for you. Your body can make up to 10,000 u/half hour of sun with exposed skin! This also combats depression. We are just beginning to see studies on D3 specific to COVID, here is one.
- Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all. In fact, a lack of vitamin C can even make you more prone to getting sick. Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, kiwi, all bell peppers, green or red chili peppers, spinach, kale, guava, currants and broccoli. Daily intake of vitamin C is essential for good health because your body doesn’t produce or store it. Get your Vitamin C by diet listed above, and there are many supplements that have C that even kids will take. Drinks, gummies, etc. It is reasonable to take 1- 2GM per day, which is a higher than normal dose. New York physicians are using some of the reports coming out of China that high dose intravenous C is helping. This is being studied by the NIH. Getting your “baseline” levels of this important vitamin will help you be better able to ward off serious symptoms, ESPECIALLY if you are someone who has an autoimmune condition. C is crucial to detoxification. If you are taking C and get loose stools, you can back off a bit, but do not stop it. Fact: Vitamin C is also crucial to collagen formation, and can offset joint issues (low C = decreased collagen production). citation here
- Echinachea is an herb that is often included in supplements, lozenges, or teas meant to support the immune system. Echinacea does help boost the immune system, and it appears to help us combat viruses primarily by boosting our production of a chemical known as nitric oxide. Nitric oxide production lowers with age, and is 85% less by the time you are 60! That may be why older people have more issues. Nitric Oxide appears to help reduce the harm done to the lungs by the SARS virus, so we can hope it does the same with COVID.
- Melatonin: take a slightly higher dose during this pandemic. Melatonin is protective of lungs, reduces inflammation and promotes restful sleep, one of the most important immune boosters. I have been taking 6 mg, which is double my normal dose. Melatonin acts as a free radical “scavenger” and antioxidant. The metabolites of Melatonin have also been shown to possess protective properties Take at bedtime only. Citation here.
- Copper balance your zinc 10:1 with copper. Corona virus dies within 5 to 30 minutes on surfaces, like brass, that have high concentrations of copper. Obviously, you cannot line your mouth with brass, LOL, but you can eat foods that have copper: shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews, spirulina, leafy greens like swiss chard, cocoa powder (the darker the chocolate the better), and lobster! Many times Zinc supplements have copper, so if yours does, you are set.
- Quercitin: has been shown to have potent antiviral effects against both RNA (flu and coronavirus) and DNA viruses (e.g., herpesvirus). It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and also helps with post-viral healing. Alongside Vitamin C, “Quercetin displays a broad range of antiviral properties which can interfere at multiple steps of pathogen virulence -virus entry, virus replication, protein assembly- and that these therapeutic effects can be augmented by the co-administration of vitamin C.” Furthermore, due to their lack of severe side effects and low-costs, we strongly suggest the combined administration of these two compounds for both the prophylaxis and the early treatment of respiratory tract infections, especially including COVID-19 patients”. source here (Also a great help with allergies, I speak from experience. I take stinging nettle along with Vitamin C and Quercitin.)
- Vitamin B6 is vital to supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system. Vitamin B6-rich foods include chicken, salmon and tuna. Vitamin B6 also is found in green vegetables and in chickpeas, which is the main ingredient in hummus. A good multivitamin should help. >> You can also get B6 and B-complex vitamins in most vitamin and grocery stores.
- Curcumin: may interfere with viral replication and is an anti-inflammatory. (1 to 1,000 mg/day)
- Green Tea: modulates inflammatory response. Drink 4 cups/day.
- Vitamins: taking a good multivitamin is probably a great idea. I recommend Mitocore, but most brands will include a combo of B’s, A, C, D, etc. Most tablets do NOT have enough D3 or C, which is why I recommend it separately.
- N Acetyl Cysteine: NAC is a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is called our “master anti-oxidant”. Increasting NAC may boost your ability to handle an infection by helping your body build it’s glutathione stores.
- Stinging Nettle is an ages old plant compound used for hay fever and other maladies. A well known herb for prostate wellness, the root of the herb Urtica dioica contains a lectin with known antiviral qualities that has in fact been shown to be effective against similar strains of Coronavirus.
- Get enough sleep – sleep is when you repair and boost your immune cells – if you short your sleep you lower your immune “strength”.
- Avoid stress if possible. Stressing, even about this virus, watching maps of how many are infected actually make you MORE susceptible to infection! If you are someone who is a worrier, turn off the news!
If you think you are ill, this is my best advice:
- Based on your symptoms, and especially if you have a fever, call your doctor and discuss what to do and if they want to see you or test you.
- Increase your ZINC to every 1-2 hours by using the lozenges. Have one in your mouth and let it dissolve slowly. If you don’t have access to lozenges, get some zinc supplements.
- Use the povidone iodine (PVP) DILUTED to swab inside your nose, spray some in your mouth and swish and spit it out, don’t swallow. Be sure to use a solution that has been diluted with 19 parts distilled or filtered water and 1 part PVP.
- Continue taking elderberry, Vitamin C, melatonin, etc. as they ALL will help your body fight almost any virus. Add echinachea if you haven’t been on it. Take 3-4 doses the first several days. (total 500-900 mg).
- Rest, eat healthy.
- If you get short of breath, CALL YOUR DOCTOR. If it comes on suddenly, and you cannot breath, call 911.
Dealing with a Fever:
Patients in Europe who have been given Ibuprofen, or similar NSAID compounds, have been seemingly recovering less well. This data is still evolving, but is not terribly surprising, as these drugs’ main mechanism of action is the suppression on the innate immune response, or in other words “inflammation”. There is some new evidence that Naprosyn (Aleve) may be helpful if you get sick, but this is preliminary and isn’t the same as Motrin. It isn’t entirely clear yet, so I recommend you stick with Tylenol, but in very small amounts, here’s why:
Do you want a key element of your immune response dampened when you are trying to recover from a serious viral infection, even if it may alleviate some of your symptomatic discomfort? No. So should you use Aleve, Ibuprofen, Tylenol or Naprosyn for fever? Probably not, see below as to why:
Western medicine has fallen into a “take a pill” knee jerk reaction when it comes to fever, and this flies in the face of the understanding of physiology, common sense, and certainly naturopathic medicine principles. The minute a person spikes a fever we should not be advising them to immediately reach for a bottle of Tylenol (acetaminophen)! Yes, it is an analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-pyretic (fever reducer), and may make you feel a bit less symptomatic…
However, your body is spiking a fever for a reason! Your immune system is working hard to produce that elevated body temperature with a plan in mind, which is to make it too hot for the pathogen infecting you to want to stay around, or for it to survive in you. Why would you want to immediately sabotage your own immune response like that?
We all understand that an uncontrolled and excessive fever can be deadly, but that does not mean we should immediately attempt to suppress any level of fever. We need to “control” a fever, not eliminate it. The magic number here is ~103 degrees, at that point, treat it by the use of a tepid bath with sponging or immersion in water lower than the temperature of the body (85–90 degrees Fahrenheit). This works just fine in most situations. Resort to fever lowering medications and seek medical attention when there is difficulty in keeping the beneficial fever in a safe range. Keep close watch on a fever.
If you have concerns, or are not able to control fever, cough or have shortness of breath, call your doctor immediately.
Stay safe, stay smart and we will make it through 2020 and COVID-19.
See my recommendations on Fullscript.com: they will ask you to sign in, set a password, but you have NO obligation to get anything. This is an excellent source of supplements and are vetted and are “practitioner grade”.
Institute for Functional Medicine’s Boosting Immunity Protocol
Johns Hopkins Clearing House for COVID research
Printable PDF file from the Institute for Functional Medicine on Boosting Immunity
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