Allay your fears of catching "the bug" by boosting your immune system. As the COVID-19 Virus (Corona Virus) continues to spread, so does the concern on what we can do to protect ourselves. Aside from the common recommendations of reducing exposure, sanitizing your environment, improving personal hygiene habits, you can improve your health by taking vitamins, supplements and other herbal remedies.
The human body is able to fight diseases on its own by calling on its defense mechanism, the Immune System. It protects us from invaders such as bad bacteria, viruses, parasite, and environmental toxicants that are attacking our bodies. The body’s own defense system is comprised of physical (epithelial) and chemical barriers as well as innate and adaptive immune system. The latter is broken down into cellular (T cells) and humoral immunity (B cells). The integrity of these barriers and the maintenance of a robust immune system is supported by a healthy diet, vitamins, minerals and nutrients:
1. Vitamin A is anti-inflammatory. It maintains the integrity of the skin, the mucosal system of the gut, the respiratory tract, the eye, and even the urinary tract. These organ systems are the gateways to our immune system. Maintaining an intact epithelium and mucosa is crucial in fighting disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/
2. Vitamin C has been shown to support immune system by increasing NK Cell activity. Vitamin C also supports maturation of T cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29099763
3. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria which improve the physical barrier by altering mucus secretion and improving gut motility. They stifle pathogenic or bad bacteria, increase activity of macrophages, natural killer cells, and cytotoxic T cells. Natural killer cells contain viruses and cytotoxic T cells clear the infection. Probiotics also modulate secretion of immunoglobulins (B cells) or cytokines. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that scout the blood stream and mucosa to look for invaders and bind to them. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/
4. Zinc supports our body to fight off bacteria and invasions by improving gastrointestinal epithelial barrier function. Zinc is found in cells throughout our body and is used up to fight an infection. It is the main reason why we lose our sense of taste in the tongue when we get sick. It is therefore very important to replace zinc when sick. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/
5. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant, the precursor of glutathione. It supports phase 2 of metabolic detoxification. Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid. NAC is the supplement form of cysteine. It is also a powerful mucolytic, decreases viscosity of phlegm and cleans the windpipe. In hospitals it is used recover liver function in the case of acetaminophen overdose. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2707813/
Hence, I recommend the following vitamins and supplements (for adults) to improve immune system and prevent infections:
1. Vitamin A 10,000-25,000 units/cap 1 capsule with breakfast. (For liver disease or pregnant women or those who are trying to conceive, use only 2500 units a day.)
2. Buffered Vitamin C 1,000mg/cap 1 capsule with breakfast, when sick increase to 6 capsules a day.
3. Probiotics (lactobacillus rhamnosus is most widely studied) – 2 capsules before breakfast.
4. Zinc 50-100 mg a day
5. N-Acetyl Cysteine 500-600 mg, 1-4 times a day as needed for nasal or chest congestion.
For high risk patients (elderly, or younger but with diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, immunosuppressants), you can call the office at 860-242-2200 to inquire about IV Nutrient Therapy (IV Vit C, SuperImmuno Therapy, IV glutathione).
Should you develop some symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, you can start taking some herbal remedies which are basically immune boosters:
1. Echinacea 2 capsules twice a day (for adults). There are multiple sources of herbal concoctions. You should be wary of contaminations and toxicants in them as the raw materials may come from questionable sources. A good brand is Echinacea Synergy (by Metagenics). Anecdotally, it is known to fight and abort an infection. If you have uncontrolled hypertension, you should have your blood pressure checked while on Echinacea. Use Echinacea only when sick, or trying not to get sick (as in over-fatigued, stressed, or not sleeping well, or as soon as your throat is getting scratchy).
2. Airborne is a mixture of herbal extracts, vitamins, antioxidants and others. It helps fight the common cold.
3. Zicam has zinc and it claims to shorten the duration and severity of colds and cough. Do not use the nasal spray form as it has been reported to cause loss of smell.
Other over-the- counter suggestions are:
1. Simply Saline Nasal Rinse (Arm and Hammer Brand). It is over-the- counter in any pharmacy or grocery. Squirt it straight-up the nostril, blow your nose and wipe. Do the same on the other nostril, repeat several times until sinuses are clear. This rinses your nostril and normalizes the lining.
2. Steroid nasal sprays (prescription like Fluticasone or Nasonex and over the counter brands like Flonase) are indicated for Allergic Rhinitis. It can be used, off- label, to decongest the nostrils, stop the mucous production, relieve sore throat, and equilibrate pressure between the ears. Apply 2 squirts on each nostril, sideways and outward (towards ear) once a day. It works in about 15 minutes.
Don’t forget to keep the body fluids flowing by drinking adequate water! Drink 80-100 oz of water a day to ensure proper detoxification, liquefy phlegm and mucous, reduce symptoms of fever, pain, headache and fatigue.
Eat more fruits and veggies, and make healthier food choices. Make sure to get some sleep, and add movement to your daily routine, even if it’s a quick walk around the office, or your neighborhood. There are many things you can do to help your body fight this Corona Virus! So, stop worrying and be proactive.
Eileen C. Comia, M.D.
Disclaimer: Dr. Comia is the medical director of Advance Biomedical Treatment Center. She specializes in Internal Medicine and Functional Medicine. Many of the supplements mentioned above are available for purchase at the office. While she encourages patients to use supplements to restore health, they are not obligated to procure them and are given the option to purchase elsewhere. The above suggestions should not be substituted for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.