My Own Experience with COVID-19 Illness
Over the past year and a half, I’ve written several times about immune health and nutrition. I was able to put my protocols to the test for myself and my son early this year when we both experienced COVID-19 infection. My son’s symptoms of a low fever, headache, and tiredness lasted less than 2 days and he was back to his energetic self. My symptoms included muscle aches mostly at night, tiredness, low-grade fever (not breaking over 101F), and the “yuck” feeling of being sick. A few days in, I lost my sense of smell and taste, had a headache, and got hives for 3 nights, then back to normal.
My go-to’s of bone broth, nettle and ginger teas, herbs like astragalus, Chinese skullcap, curcumin, and nutrients like N-acetyl cysteine, vitamins A, C, D, lots of quercetin, zinc, and probiotics helped to fortify my system, keep inflammation low, and limit viral replication. A targeted approach allowed me to experience no upper respiratory or GI symptoms.
My initial nutrient protocol along with food was the base of support during my symptoms:
500mg, 2-3x/day of buffered vitamin C. 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. 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 titrated up to 3000mg/day in split doses.
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. Over 70% of COVID cases entering the hospital were low in Vitamin D3.
15mg/day (up to 90mg/day). Zinc may prevent coronavirus entry into cells and it may reduce virulence of COVID. Zinc lozenges may also be helpful at protecting the upper respiratory tract. I increased zinc to 15mg, 4x/day for a total of 60mg, some may need more if they are baseline deficient in zinc.
1 full dropper (30 drops), equiv. 1000mg per day. Increased to 3-4x/day if any symptoms occur. 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. 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. 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.
Upon Symptom Initiation, Added . . .
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC):
900mg, 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:
2 caps, 2x/day. Provides >20% beta glucans, which support immune function. (I do not have any ties to this company, just love the product!)
- 1000mg, 4x/day- a zinc ionophore- quercetin can help zinc enter the cells more efficiently to block viral replication. Quercetin also helps modulate histamine, which is an immune chemical responsible for many of the symptoms of discomfort. Quercetin is a flavonoid that is the most abundant flavonoid in vegetables and fruits. The “cytokine storm” has been described as being a probable cause of death in those that succumb to COVID disease. Cytokines are inflammatory proteins that elevate during infection. NLRP3 Inflammasome is a cytosolic multi-protein complex that assembles in response to cytosolic stressors, whose function is to generate active forms of cytokines IL-1β and IL-18. Activation or inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome is affected by regulators such as TXNIP, SIRT1 and NRF2. Quercetin suppresses the NLRP3 inflammasome by affecting these regulators. According to a study published in the Journal of Inflammation, “Quercetin, as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic and inflammatory compound, is probably a potential treatment for severe inflammation and one of the main life-threatening conditions in patients with COVID-19.”
500mg of Meriva-500, 2 caps, 4-5x/day to keep inflammation down.
500mg, 2-3x/day on an empty stomach for pain/inflammation.
The Importance of Prevention
It is important to utilize nutrients in a therapeutic manner when ill, but it is even more important to be nutritionally sound and fortified prior to any illness or infection. After all, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We see those with metabolic issues like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are the ones experiencing severe illness and death from SARS-COV-2, which is not surprising. More data has accumulated about diet quality and risk of COVID-19 disease and death. The results are also not surprising. The higher a diet is in vegetables and fruits and the lower it is in added sugars and processed foods, the more it protects people from severe COVID and death.8 A recent study showed that “Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile of the diet score, high diet quality was associated with lower risk of COVID-19 (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.88-0.94) and severe COVID-19 (HR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.47-0.74).”
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.
It is important to remember that 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 of 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 to upload information. 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. We know that diet, exercise, and lifestyle play a role in the outcomes for each individual. Many of them are overweight or obese, over the age of 60, and suffering from co-morbidities like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disorders, and other inflammatory conditions. Ninety percent of the US population is deficient in one or more essential nutrients, which leads them to be chronically unwell and susceptible to hampered immune function. Through nutrition education and support, as well as cleaning up our food supply, we can rectify our most commonly experienced chronic illnesses, which are affecting proper immune function and fortify our population, building more resilience to chronic and acute illness.
- 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
- Saeedi-Boroujeni, A., Mahmoudian-Sani, MR. Anti-inflammatory potential of Quercetin in COVID-19 treatment. J Inflamm 18, 3 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12950-021-00268-6
- Merino J, et al. Diet quality and risk and severity of COVID-19: a prospective cohort study. MedRXIv 25, 6 (2021). https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.24.21259283v1
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.