Well, here we are at least 8 months since widespread lockdown measures began to be implemented across the US to slow the spread of COVID-19. By every measure imaginable, this has been a trying time for the people of the world and has highlighted the fact that, despite our social institutions and government’s best efforts, at the most fundamental level, biology always gets to bat last.
I’ve always said that the definition of “stress” is to put energy into situations that are out of one’s control. For that reason, my emphasis throughout this crisis has never been on global or national policy decisions or even what my neighbor does or believes. Instead, I focus my intentions on my own family’s health and on the health of my community of patients and clients.
I’ve spent the last 8 months encouraging and advocating for this community to lose weight, lower their intake of junk food, lower their levels of inflammation and get their nutrient levels up so that they are prepared for whatever comes. Hopefully, many of you have been working hard on those aspects of your health.
Now we are headed full speed ahead into the winter season, and while we don’t know the exact impact of having routine viral illnesses mingled in with SARS-CoV-2, it doesn’t take much to anticipate that this season will be like no other in recent history.
Supporting Natural Immune Competence
While the mainstream media is busy updating us about the race to create vaccines and drugs to treat this disease, the natural healing community is also pressing forward with research to find natural approaches that can be game-changers in building immune resilience.
Science has known for years that the immune system is dependent on the health of our digestive tract, our hormones and neurotransmitters, and the strength of our detoxification pathways. We’ve also known for years that simple daily habits like sleep, movement, hydration, and stress management all dramatically impact the immune system. Unfortunately, not a word about these discoveries ever makes it to the nightly news.
Here are just a few studies that have been published within the last few months, directly looking at nutritional and lifestyle factors that have a significant impact on COVID-19 clinical outcomes.
Importance of Overall Nutritional Status
This paper highlights how our typical western diet is woefully deficient in many vital nutrients and how that creates a state of chronic inflammation that disrupts healthy immune regulation and leads to worse outcomes from COVID-19. The authors state,
“Thus, now more than ever, wider access to healthy foods should be a top priority and individuals should be mindful of healthy eating habits to reduce susceptibility to and long-term complications from COVID-19.”
Of course, we should strive to have a nutrient-dense diet as the basis for our entire lifestyle, but we know that even with healthy choices, the nutrients in our foods have diminished dramatically over the years. There simply aren’t as many nutrients available in our soils, and so our veggies and fruits are mere shadows of what they used to be. That sets the stage for the critical role of a high-quality multivitamin and mineral.
My favorite multivitamin/multimineral right now is Primal Multi from Designs for Health. (This company only sells to providers so I’ll provide a link for you to get access to my virtual dispensary at the bottom of this post)
Recommendation: Primal Multi from Designs for Health.
Multiple Studies Related to Vitamin D Status
In this study, researchers looked at the blood levels of vitamin D in over 200 patients who had COVID-19. Turns out, the lower the vitamin D status, the greater risk of having a severe outcome. The difference wasn’t subtle. We’re talking about at 20 x greater risk of hospitalization and death in those with the lowest levels of circulating vitamin D. To quote the authors, “Vitamin D status is significantly associated with clinical outcomes (p<0.001). For each standard deviation increase in serum 25(OH)D, the odds of having a mild clinical outcome rather than a severe outcome were increased approximately 7.94 times; the odds of having a mild clinical outcome rather than a critical outcome were increased approximately 19.61 times,” Their data showed that of the 49 patients with mild clinical outcomes, 47 had ‘normal’ (30 ng/ml) levels of vitamin D while conversely only 2 of the 48 critical patients had ‘normal’ levels.
Addendum: Another small study just published in the British Medical Journal in October just found that administration of Vitamin D upon entering the hospital with COVID-19 lowered the risk of ICU admissions by a staggering 93%!
If you want understand the multiple mechanisms of how vitamin d has such a dramatic impact on respiratory viral illness in general, here’s a nice paper for you to read.
I recall reading a study that was published in 2013 that noted that 85% of Utahns were deficient in vitamin D.
Getting adequate levels of sun exposure during the summer months was the easiest way to boost vitamin D levels but now we’re headed into the cold winter. That means that we need to find supplemental sources of this important nutrient. We should strive to have our blood levels well above the lowest “normal” levels, and that typically requires about 5,000 iu of vitamin d per day for the average adult, 2,000 iu/day for younger kids, and 35 iu/lb of body weight for little children.
My favorite approach is to use a liquid vitamin. The ability to dose per drop of liquid allows one family to use the same bottle. This formula from Orthomolecular Products is great because it also contains vitamin K. Each drop is 1,000 iu of vitamin D so this bottle can last a good long while.
Recommendation: Liquid D3 w/ Vitamin K2 from OrthoMolecular Products
Zinc for Immunity
One of the biggest stories that we’ve all heard about, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, surrounded a treatment that was being used in many countries that included 2 drugs and the mineral zinc. The drugs were Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, and azithromycin, an antibiotic. (The addition of the antibiotic has no direct effect on the virus itself but is used to lower the risk of secondary bacterial infections, including pneumonia.)
While there has been a raging debate about the use of hydroxychloroquine, virtually no has discussed the role of zinc in this 3-pronged treatment cocktail. It seems that we are just conditioned to think that there is no way that zinc even matters when compared to pharmaceuticals. It turns out that the most important aspect of this therapy may indeed be the zinc.
It has long been known that when adequate amounts of zinc are inside of the cells, it can prevent the replication of viruses. It is just another of the amazing mechanisms that our immune system has at its disposal to keep us from succumbing to the myriad of viruses in our environment.
Hydroxychloroquine “works” because it is able to help our body get more zinc into the cells. It’s like a shuttle that transports it in in higher concentrations than it normally could.
When researchers tested the 2-drug cocktail (Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin) without zinc against the 3 of them together, they found something interesting.
“Zinc sulfate increased the frequency of patients being discharged home, and decreased the need for ventilation, admission to the ICU, and mortality or transfer to hospice for patients who were never admitted to the ICU.”
You can read the study here.
Another study tracked patient outcomes and compared them with zinc deficiency.
They found that those with zinc deficiency had higher rates of complications, acute respiratory distress syndrome, corticosteroid therapy, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.
Getting enough zinc isn’t hard. Experts suggest that 15-30 mg/day is adequate for most adults.
Recommendation: Zinc 30 from Pure Encapsulations
Omega-3 Fish Oils Balance Immune System and Lower Inflammation
Our immune systems use carefully controlled levels of inflammation to get the upper hand on viruses and bacteria but when inflammation gets out of control, it becomes a problem in itself. SARS-CoV-2 has a distinct ability to trigger an out of control immune response that scientists call a “cytokine storm”. It turns out that many nutrients play a role in balancing the immune system.
This paper is an excellent summary of the interrelationship between vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids like fish oils on balancing the immune system and preventing viral infections.
Once again, research has shown that most of us are woefully deficient in these essential fats. Increasing your weekly intake of wild-caught salmon or other cold-water fish would be very wise. In addition, taking a supplement of high-quality fish oils has been shown to lower systemic inflammation.
Adults should be getting 3 grams of EPA and DHA each day. Studies have continually shown that these fatty acids are more effective at controlling inflammation than most NSAIDS and COX2 inhibiting drugs.
Recommendation: OmegAvail Ultra from Designs for Health
Gut & Lung Immune System Co-ordination
Your gut bacteria play a huge role in your overall immunity. The wrong gut bacteria can create unhealthy inflammation, allergies, and harbor infections. The right gut bacteria immune balance and decrease inflammation.
I’ve written on the importance of a healthy gut microbiome on our immune function before, and now many scientists are researching the microbiome’s impact on COVID-19.
Here are two papers on this critical topic.
Recommendation: Megasporebiotic from Microbiome Labs
Herbal Formulas Can Also Play a Role in Immune Health
Another powerful but untapped approach to the prevention and treatment strategy against viral illnesses, in general, is the use of herbal medicine. Several herbs have been studied in relation to
With the onset of COVID-19, the lack of specific drug treatments or vaccines, some researchers have culled the scientific data to look for possible treatment options in the natural medicine world. For instance, this study meticulously looked at the safety and efficacy profile of close to 40 well-known herbs and found that many of them showed positive or promising results. Herbs like echinacea, astragalus, elderberry and adrographis and many others have been evaluated for safety and efficacy in the treatment of symptoms of multiple viral respiratory infections.
In addition, healthy mushrooms like Shitake, Miatake, Reishi, and Cordyceps) contain compounds called “beta glucan” that have the ability to train our innate immune system. These compounds have shown promise in regulating the immune system from going overboard in the cytokine storms mentioned above.
Altogether, these powerful plant medicines can support our immune system’s response to a multitude of infections.
Recommendation: Immunitone Plus from Designs for Health
Fear or Empowerment?
Well, I hope that I have made my point that the relative impact of becoming infected with SARS-CoV2 is in no small measure determined by our overall health and, more specifically, our nutritional status.
This message is the most empowering message that anyone could share in this time of tremendous stress and worry. I think it would be awesome if this message was being shared on the nightly news and on social media instead of the fear-inducing stories and political vitriol.
How to Get Access to These Solutions
I love helping my community get access to professional-grade products that are of high quality and have a reputation for actually working.
I’ve curated this list of products on my online dispensary, Fullscript. Click the link below to be taken to the fullscript.com log in.
If you don’t yet have an account, go ahead and sign up for one today!