Written by Dr. Ari Calhoun
What is the COVID-19 and what are the symptoms?
COVID-19 is a novel form of coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The initial symptoms of COVID-19 often mimic the common cold or flu and may include cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, malaise, headache, and/or muscle aches. In susceptible individuals, COVID-19 can progress into pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis, and even death.
Symptom Comparison Chart:
*Sometimes for children
Source: Business Insider- attained from CDC, WHO, American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
What preventative lifestyle measures can we take?
Avoidance of Sugar and Processed Foods
Sugar impairs the function of the immune and inflames the body. It has been shown that just 1 tablespoon of sugar can suppress the immune system for up to 5 hours!
Avoidance of Dairy
This is especially important in the event that you develop excessive mucus or phlegm, as dairy contributes to the production of mucus.
Inclusion of Immune Superfoods
- Garlic: It’s thought that much of garlic’s therapeutic effect comes from its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin, which are also what give it its characteristic smell. In order to release the allicin, a fresh clove can be chopped, squeezed, or juiced.
- Bone Broth: Researchers believe the amino acids in broths and stocks—like arginine, cysteine, and glutamine—help reduce inflammation and boost our immunity. Bone broth has the additional benefit of healing the gastrointestinal tract, which is a key factor in protecting immune function, as 80% of the immune system is wrapped around our intestines!
- Mushrooms: Beta-glucans and proteoglycans are the primary biologically active compounds in the mushroom that support your immune system.
The truth is, COVID-19 is an extremely novel virus, which we know very little about. I cannot claim that any of the following supplements will prevent or lessen the severity of the illness. However, I can say that clinical experience and literature support the following supplements in their effectiveness on supporting the immune system, respiratory system, and/or acting as natural anti-virals.
Without a vaccine or medication currently approved for COVID-19, I do believe proper hygiene practices, social distancing, and natural immune support provide the best route of disease contamination.
The following list is what I personally have at home and use frequently in my clinical practice. It is by no means comprehensive or meant to be construed as medical advice. Again, we have NO data regarding the efficacy of the following supplements for treatment or prevention of COVID-19.
Underlying Vitamin D deficiency increases the chances of contracting many infectious diseases, including, the annual flu, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections. Suboptimal vitamin D levels can impair the immune response and increases the chances of a maladaptive immune response, such as an over-reactive immune response to a pathogen (as seen in a cytokine storm).
Recent research has suggested a close correlation between vitamin A deficiency and infectious diseases spread through the respiratory and digestive systems in children. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in the establishment and maintenance of the human immune system. More importantly, Vitamin A has demonstrated a therapeutic effect, in diseases transmitted through the respiratory system, such as pneumonia and measles in children, or in contagious digestive diseases in children.
** Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient and can cause toxicity, It is crucial that you consult your doctor for proper dosing.
Zinc is an essential mineral that helps modulate the immune response. Acute zinc deficiency can lead to a greater chance of infection, while long term zinc deficiency can lead to chronic systemic inflammation.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps boost both innate and adaptive immune response. High dose vitamin C has been used to ward off sepsis and is believed to help prevent cytokine damage to the lungs.
The use of elderberry during these times has become an extremely contentious topic. If you have not already heard, elderberry has been rumored to potentially worsen the severity of COVID-19 and risk of developing ARDS by contributing to excess cytokine production, specifically IL-6. When looking at this research, we must not misinterpret these findings. Yes, elderberry has been shown to increase cytokine production; however, cytokine production is an essential response for fighting off infections. The rise in cytokine produced by elderberry is by no means synonymous with a cytokine storm. A cytokine storm is a very rare occurrence (which can be deadly) that occurs with infectious pathogens (including the flu and COVID-19). A cytokine storm is complicated but is typically triggered when certain aspects of the immune system are underactive. In essence, this is the body’s way of overcompensating for some sort of immunocompromise.
Do I think that elderberry can contribute to producing a cytokine storm? It’s unlikely. Centuries of research support the immune-modulating rather than immune-stimulating effects of elderberry. Plants like elderberry are unlike medications and typically act as adaptogens rather than “pathway pushers.” Elderberry produces both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, as well as, serves as a great source of antioxidants which lowers overall oxidative damage.
In addition to being a wonderful cytokine modulator, elderberry is an incredible immune-supporting herb and anti-viral and has been used for years in the prevention of cold and flu.
There are many preparations of elderberry on the market, and my favorite by far is from Wise Woman Herbals due to its potent concentration and use of vegetable glycerin rather than cane sugar, honey, or other sweeteners.
Glycyrrhiza (aka Licorice)
Glycyrrhiza is isolated from the plant licorice, and research has shown that it has anti- SARS-COV effects by inhibiting viral absorption and penetration. Glycyrrhiza does this by docking on the ACE2 receptor and acting as an allosteric inhibitor, thereby, preventing the virus from docking and entering the cell. Glycyrrhiza can increase blood pressure, and it is not recommended to take this herb without instruction from your provider.
- Wash hands frequently! By now, you’re likely sick of hearing this, but we cannot emphasize the importance enough! We recommend washing for at least 30 seconds with warm water and soap.
- Avoid touching your face! This is believed to be one of the most common ways individuals are infected with COVID-19.
- Stay at home when you’re sick. We know that COVID-19 is incredibly contagious, thus it is recommended to self-quarantine if you are experiencing the symptoms and only leave if you require medical care.
- Keep your distance! Try to stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who is obviously sick with a fever or respiratory symptoms.
Face masks aren’t currently recommended for the general public. They are only recommended if you have a cough that you could transmit OR if you are taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19. That being said, it has been clear that masks do decrease transmission and it is likely not being recommended for the general public because there is a relative shortage of particulate respirator masks. If they do become more prevalent to the general public, when choosing a mask, you want to look for one that is marked P95, R95, or N95, and is well fitted- forming a tight seal around your nose and mouth.
It is important that you are focusing on getting ample amounts of sleep. This is when the body repairs itself and resets, which helps the body increase its natural defenses against external infectious agents. Sleep and circadian rhythm have a regulatory effect on the immune system, and optimal sleep has been shown to positively influences a variety of immune parameters.
Dr. Ari Calhoun is a Naturopathic Doctor and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner who is passionate about helping her clients achieve an optimal state of health. With a background in clinical research, she blends the wisdom of ancient medicine with the cutting-edge knowledge gained from modern science. She feels strongly that each of her patients is a unique complex being who requires an individualized comprehensive approach in order to facilitate healing. Dr. Calhoun sees her role as a guide, rather than a dictator, and enjoys working closely with the patient throughout their healing journey, providing education along the way. Learn more about Dr. Calhoun here: www.kithandkinwellness.com