The goal of this blog is to summarize several key strategies to keep you and your family as healthy as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Background on viral transmission
Respiratory viruses like coronavirus are mainly spread person-to-person through the mucus droplets produced when infected people cough or sneeze – either directly onto another person or in close proximity to people. As of writing this blog, new research has emerged indicating that coronavirus may be transmitted via the bioaoresols generated directly by persons’ exhalation. In other words, one can spread SARS-CoV-2 in the fine particles emitted when one breathes, which may be suspended in the air in addition to the larger mucus droplets which fall to surfaces.
Viruses can also survive outside the body for various lengths of time, and so infectious mucus droplets that land on surfaces pose another threat of contamination. Remember, transfer of the disease occurs if you physically contact virally infected fluids and then introduce that contamination into your system mainly through the mouth, nose or eyes.
Coronavirus and the immune response
The immune system uses barriers and agents to fight against pathogens, which can be viruses, bacteria, or other infectious agents.
In the case of coronavirus, the virus attaches to receptors on the cells in your lungs, spleen, and lymphatic system. Once alerted to this viral invasion, your body launches an immune response – deploying immune cells and activating your inflammasomes. Inflammasomes signal your body to begin releasing a cascade of pro-inflammatory chemical messengers.
The main immune cells are your white blood cells (WBCs) — three particularly essential are killer cells (NK cells), T cells (kill viruses) and B cells (antibody making cells).
The main chemical messengers are cytokines, a class of small proteins that play a crucial role in immune system activation and communication. In a normal immune response, an appropriate level of cytokines is secreted to neutralize invaders and then the body’s balance is restored.
But in an exaggerated response, like in coronavirus infection, a large amount of cytokines are secreted too quickly. This causes what is known as a “cytokine storm.” It is this overproduction and flooding of cytokines and immune cells in the lung tissue in response to coronavirus that causes the massive inflammation that is so damaging.
Optimizing your immune system
The immune system requires nutrients to aid its ability to kill off pathogens. Your immune system functions optimally when it is supported with a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and targeted nutritional supplementation.
Vitamin C - is a powerful antioxidant, helps NK cell activity and protects the cell membrane from oxidative stress, which leads to the production of free radicals that can exacerbate inflammation. Caution: Take to bowel tolerance.
Vitamin A - crucial in formation and stability of epithelial cells and has an impact on macrophages, T cells and antibody dependent immune responses.
Vitamin D3 - plays a crucial role in modulating immune system function. A deficiency can interfere with your ability to fight off infection.
Zinc - is needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in inflammatory response and cellular metabolism. Supplementation with zinc will especially benefit those deficient in zinc – for example, the elderly. Excessive intake of zinc can cause copper deficiency and interfere with absorption, which could increase your infection risk.
EGCG - active ingredient in Green Tea - helps carry zinc inside cells so that it can block and hinder viral replication.
Quercetin, a bioflavonoid - appears to work by preventing viruses from entering cells, thereby reducing "viral load.” Quercetin is also effective against seasonal allergies and systemic inflammations.
Glutathione - powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative damage. It is important for the effective function of T cells and NK cells and is crucial in the detoxification process.
NAC - N-Acetyl Cysteine is needed to make antioxidants (namely glutathione) and has been shown to yield a significant role in immune function.
Melatonin - activates the production of T-cells and increases levels of certain cytokines (immune-regulating molecules) in those infected with viruses. Melatonin inhibits the action of the inflammasome NLRP3 – a primary inflammasome involved in overactive immune response. Melatonin levels fall with age, and age is a risk factor for COVID-19 (as it is for many people with underlying health conditions).
Medicinal Mushrooms – offer immune-enhancing and antimicrobial effects.
Anti-Oxidants - protect lung epithelium, decrease inflammatory response and may prevent breaking down of lung barrier.
Probiotics - maintaining the right balance of beneficial gut flora is critical considering many of the immune cells reside in the gut.
Diet and Life Style
Although these supplements may offer a benefit for your immune health, they should not and cannot be used as a replacement for a healthy lifestyle.
Your immune system resides predominantly in the gut, more specifically in the gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) that lines your intestines. The GALT plays an important role in storing the two immune cell fighters—T and B cells—that are essential in the fight against pathogens. During times of immune stress it is important to limit your intake of dietary irritants and inflammatory foods, which could reduce GALT function or create damage.
Eat (or drink)
A High fiber diet
A variety of fruits and vegetables to enhance a diverse microbiome
At least 8-10 glasses of water per day — hydration is essential
Stay away from
Gluten, corn, dairy, alcohol and any foods that you may be allergic to
Sugar — affects immune function — NK cell activity shuts down for several hours after intake
Clean, whole, nutritionally rich foods that are free of refined or processed ingredients
Exercise and/or walk daily to improve circulation and Nitric Oxide production
Get consistent and restful sleep (7-8 hrs a night)
The suggestions in this blog are meant as an approach you can take before getting the virus and help prevent it from becoming a severe case.
Be proactive by educating yourself and taking measures to keep your immune system in top shape.
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