COVID-19 Outbreak: Are You Prepared?
Mastering Healthy and Balanced Terrain with Food as Medicine and Your Nutrient and Herbal Medicine Cabinet
In my initial COVID-19 article published last Tuesday, March 17th, I discussed Cultivating Healthy and Balanced Terrain, what it means, and how we are able to do so through diet and lifestyle modifications. The purpose of balancing our inner terrain or ecosystem is to fortify our bodies and our immune systems. When the cells have the nutrients and substances necessary for proper function, they do their jobs and they do it well, all in the name of keeping us alive and vibrant.
We will always be confronted with communicable viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi that challenge our immune systems. These microorganisms by and large do not wish to kill their host, but rather, their goal is to find a comfortable symbiotic, “two-way street”-type, environment in which to coexist. Some microbes are much better at this than others. In most cases, COVID-19 is no different than any other microbe looking for a host. The majority of people, if infected, will experience cold or flu-like symptoms for a few days during which their immune systems are effectively muting and containing the virus and preventing it from causing damage. Very few, however, will have more complicated presentations. We know a lot about those who are susceptible to greater damage and even death from this infection and from many other infections. The majority of severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by COVID are in the elderly population (Italy’s average age of mortality from COVID is 79.5), 75% of which had cardiovascular disease-particularly hypertension- and an average of two other comorbidities, the most common being diabetes. As humans age, their immune function begins to diminish and to become a bit dysregulated. In someone of any age with an underlying inflammatory disease like CVD or diabetes, this process of dysregulation is accelerated and worsened. Cardiovascular Disease is by far our greatest purveyor of chronic illness and death in the US, so that leaves us with a lot of citizens who are at risk of complications from infection. It is not a coincidence that in our unhealthy society, ninety percent of Americans are insufficient or deficient in one or more of the major vitamins and minerals, leading to greater risks of both chronic and acute disease. Nutrient deficiencies also happen to be more prevalent in those over 60 years old and anyone with a chronic disease is almost always deficient in several nutrients. Without these nutrients, the body’s mechanisms are unable to keep working properly and efficiently.
You may be asking: So, how do we support ourselves? Are there specific nutrients to focus on?
When my family or I are sick, the doctor is not the first place that we go. The very first place that I take myself to is my kitchen or to the grocery store (or send someone if sick!). It is here where I find foods that are nutrient-dense and supportive of the immune system and the body’s processes to heal. I grab things like ginger, turmeric, shiitake mushrooms, chicken bone broth, garlic, onions, horseradish, raw apple cider vinegar, lots of leafy greens, clean protein sources, lots and lots of teas and fresh and dried herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, lavender, lemongrass, lemon balm, and cayenne pepper. I forgo any alcohol and drop even the minimal amounts of added sugars in my diet, as sugar hampers the immune response. Nutritionally, when sick, protein needs increase. Needs jump from 0.8g/kg-1.1g/kg of body weight to 1.2-2.0g/kg, so don’t forgo the quality proteins, you need the amino acids to heal.
The very next place I take myself to is my Nutrient and Herbal Medicine Cabinet. With viral pathogens, we know there are certain nutrients that are extremely beneficial at prevention of infection and support of the body’s functions. I mentioned vitamin D3, vitamin C, and zinc in my initial article. Today I will let you know what I am personally grabbing from my Nutrient and Herbal Medicine Cabinet to fortify my own body and support my amazing inner-mechanisms, particularly my immune function and response.
- Vitamin C– 500mg, 2-3x/day. I use Liposomal Vitamin C for better absorption. Vitamin C inhibits NLRP inflammasome activity, which is increased by COVID-19.1 Clinical trials have found that vitamin C reduced frequency, duration, and severity of upper respiratory viruses and the incidence of pneumonia.2 Dosing will depend on bowel tolerance. Some are able to dose as high as 3000mg daily as a preventative. The body will need even more vitamin C when it is fighting an infection, as levels drop significantly during acute illness, and more can be tolerated. I plan on utilizing 4000-8000mg/day (500-1000mg every few hours) at the sign of any symptoms.
- Vitamin D3+K2– 5000IU/day. Vitamin D3 has been found to prevent upper respiratory infections. It has many mechanisms in the body and plays a huge factor in immunity. It has been found to decrease NLRP3 inflammasome activity and can reduce IL-1b (a cytokine). Vitamin D helps modulate cytokine activity, creating a balance between necessary inflammation to fight the infection and a cooling of inflammation to not cause damage, such as the lung damage that can occur with COVID-19. Vitamin K2 is another fat-soluble vitamin. It works with D3 to help increase absorption and regulate calcium balance and displacement in the body.
- Zinc picolinate– 15mg/day (up to 30mg/day, 30mg/day at sign of symptoms). Zinc may prevent coronavirus entry into cells and it may reduce virulence of COVID.3,4 Zinc lozenges may also be helpful at protecting the upper respiratory tract.
- Astragalus extract– 1 full dropper (30 drops), equiv. 1000mg per day. (Will increase to 3-4x/day if any symptoms). Astragalus, as the main ingredient of an herbal formula, is being used in a COVID-19 prevention and treatment trial in 23 provinces in China. In a review of 3 studies, on SARS (COV-1), one large study looked at 3561 health care workers in Beijing and 1063 in Hong Kong.5 In the participants who took Yupingfeng (Jade Windscreen) herbal powder (the top ingredient is astragalus), NONE of the participants developed the SARS coronavirus, in spite of being health care workers on the front lines.5 Other herbs in the powder are 2 less commonly known Eastern herbs, Atractylodesmacrocephala Koidz and the dried roots of Saposhnikovia divaricata.
- Probiotic- 50 billion CFUs or higher- COVID-19 also infects the digestive tract and can cause diarrhea, nausea, and irritation. In those with GI symptoms, overall morbidity and mortality seems to be worse than in those who do not experience the GI effects. The gut microbiome is composed of 100 trillion bacteria, yeast, etc. and its function comprises 70% of the body’s immune system. Is it any wonder the GI tract would be a major player here? Beneficial bacterial strains create nutrients that protect our cells from infection, like lactoferrin. They also ensure the proper pH in the gut, which is imperative to ward off pathogenic microbes.
My Protocol if Symptoms Arise
Nutrients and herbs I plan to add-in to those mentioned above if any symptoms (fatigue, sore throat, fever, cough) arise:
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)- 500mg, 2x/day on an empty stomach. NAC is a precursor to the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione. Glutathione protects cells from free radical damage and is involved in the synthesis and repair of DNA. It also enhances the antioxidant effect of vitamin C and detoxification of harmful compounds. NAC is very supportive of lung tissue and is used in Cystic Fibrosis, asthma, and COPD patients to support breathing.
- Real Mushrooms 5 Defenders (Turkey Tail, Reishi, Shiitake, Chaga)- 2 caps, 2x/day. Provides >20% beta glucans, which support immune function.
- Quinine- Hydroxychloroquine is the synthetic drug version of natural quinine. Natural quinine has been used in herbal medicine for centuries. It is found in Cinchona bark from Peru. Most of us are familiar with quinine if we’ve ever had tonic water. The drug hydroxychloroquine is showing promise as a treatment and possible cure for COVID-19. I always knew gin and tonic would one day save my life!!! (Zevia tonic with no added sugars of course and remember that alcohol and sugar deplete immune function. ☺)
- Choe J-Y, et al. Quercetin and ascorbic acid suppress fructose-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activity activation by blocking intracellular shuttling of TXNIP in human macrophage cell lines. Inflammation. 2017;40(3):980.
- Hemila, H. Vitamin C supplementation and respiratory infections: A systematic review. Mil Med. 2004;169(11).
- Neurovirulent murine coronavirus JHM.SD uses cellular zinc metalloproteases for virus entry and cell-cell fusion. J Virol. 2017;91(8).
- Han Y-S, et al. Papain-like protease 2 (PLP2) from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV): Expression, purification, characterization, and inhibition. Biochemistry. 2005;44(30):10349.
- Luo H, Tang QL, Shang YX, et al. Can Chinese Medicine Be Used for Prevention of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)? A Review of Historical Classics, Research Evidence and Current Prevention Programs [published online ahead of print, 2020 Feb 17]. Chin J Integr Med. 2020;1–8. doi:10.1007/s11655-020-3192-6
Disclaimer: As always, with any nutrient or herbal supplement, it is best to contact your healthcare provider for medical advice or your nutritionist for dietary or nutrient recommendations. There are some nutrients and herbs that may interact with certain medications or disorders. I wanted to share with you what I am doing at this time to fortify my body and immune defenses. My personal protocol is in no way medical or specific nutritional advice. To date, there are no established preventatives or cures for COVID-19. These statements are for educational purposes, and as usual, none of these formulas are approved by the FDA to prevent or treat disease. ☺