Covid-19, Part I: Let’s Fight Fear With Facts!
First Things First
Infection ≠ DeathAddressing the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "…we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic…" This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumors. We hope this information will help.
How Can You Protect Your Family From Covid-19?
Remember, the vast majority of people with COVID-19 appear to have mild illness, especially children. Researchers are investigating what makes certain populations more vulnerable to severe illness. However, we know from other viral illnesses that there are ways to reduce our susceptibilities to serious illness.
In the early 1860s, Louis Pasteur discovered the cause of puerperal fever. It was due to a specific bacterium—and the germ theory was born.
Several years later, Robert Koch developed four basic criteria, known as Koch’s Postulates, for showing that a disease or illness is caused by a particular germ. This focused scientists and physicians on the belief that germs caused illness and disease by infecting the body.
Koch’s first postulate was that the microorganism must be found in abundance in all organisms suffering from the disease but should not be found in healthy organisms. Interestingly, he later abandoned this when he discovered that there were asymptomatic carriers of cholera.
And now we know that there are asymptomatic carriers of many diseases, including polio, herpes, HIV, hepatitis C... and COVID-19: it may or may not cause illness.
So, who needs to be extra careful now that COVID-19 is in town, because not everybody is getting sick, and most people who are testing positive are not dying?
Infection + Susceptibility = Symptoms
Bernard was a French physiologist who, by the 1850s, recognized that the body had the ability to self-correct its internal milieu. He described this as homeostasis, or the controlled stability of the cells and tissues. It was the inability to maintain homeostasis that contributed to disease.
Béchamp was a French chemist in the mid and late 1800s. He advocated a conflicting theory known as the “cellular theory” of disease. Béchamp observed that germs were opportunistic in nature. They were everywhere and even existed inside of us in a symbiotic relationship. Béchamp determined that it was only when the tissues of the host were damaged or compromised that germs began to cause symptoms. Not necessarily disease.
To prevent illness, he advocated enhancing one’s health using diet, hygiene, and healthy lifestyle practices such as fresh air and exercise. The idea is that if a person has a strong immune system and good tissue quality (or “terrain” as Béchamp called it), germs will not manifest in the person, and the person will have good health.
True: the germ plays a part; so does our terrain. But a parasite, bacteria, virus, or fungus can only make an unhealthy body sick. They don’t necessarily make healthy bodies sick.
Especially if you are older or you have diabetes, pre-diabetes, cardiovascular, or pulmonary disease, autoimmune disease, cancer (especially after chemotherapy), or mold illness, follow the recommendations to improve your overall health and rev up your immune system, and follow the recommendations to reduce your exposure to the virus.
The International College of Integrative Medicine, of which I am a member, believes objectively reporting the known scientific facts will reduce fear and panic surrounding the disease. Furthermore, conventional medicine offers no treatment currently (other than supportive care).
Importantly, integrative physicians have a large armamentarium of preventive and treatment protocols which have been successfully used for other similar viruses, including other strains of coronaviruses. We believe it is our obligation and privilege to share these with the community at large. We recommend consultation with an experienced physician, naturopath, or herbalist for anyone exploring integrative remedies.
If we can reduce our individual susceptibility to serious illness, our likelihood of developing only mild symptoms if we are infected is much higher.
There are commonsense measures to protect yourself from COVID-19 that you should be practicing regardless of whatever virus happens to be circulating:
- Wash hands frequently, especially before eating or touching your face. Washing hands with warm soap and water for at least 30 seconds is the best option. But you must wash your hands the RIGHT WAY! Be sure to read Dr. Elisa Song's article, Handwashing & Coronavirus: Are you doing it the right way?
- Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. If you don’t have access to soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best thing. But it has to be at least 60%—this is the percentage found to kill coronavirus in studies.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth! The first step is being mindful of how often we actually do touch our faces! Varying studies have shown that we touch our faces on average 23-50 times per hour.
- Stay home when you’re sick, unless you need urgent medical attention. You may be increasing your possible exposures to COVID-19 if you don’t have it or exposing others unnecessarily if you do.
- Cover your cough with your elbow or tissues. If you use a tissue, immediately throw it into the trash and wash your hands.
- Keep your distance. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who is obviously sick with fever and/or respiratory symptoms.
- Irrigate your nose. While we do not know if nasal irrigation makes a difference for prevention of COVID-19, we believe that one of the MOST preventive things you can do for any viral respiratory illness is to irrigate your nasal passages with saline or Xlear nasal spray at the end of every day and after any potential exposure (work, school, playgroups, plane travel, etc.). One study found that people who did preventive daily nasal irrigation had significantly fewer episodes of upper respiratory symptoms, shorter symptom duration, and fewer days with nasal symptoms compared to those who did not irrigate their noses daily. Xlear is a saline nasal spray with xylitol and grapefruit seed extract, both of which have antimicrobial properties. You cannot overdo it and will not get “addicted” to it. Other options for nasal irrigation are a regular saline spray, Neti pot, and other sinus rinses like Neilmed.
**Apart from regular hand washing, daily and frequent nasal irrigation is one of the MOST important things that we can do to prevent influenza and other viral respiratory infections from taking hold.**
This is because after exposure, the influenza virus tries to invade and multiply in your nasal passages for at least 1-2 days before you develop any symptoms. Nasal irrigation can wash away viral particles before they have the opportunity to take hold, and thereby prevent many infections from happening in the first place!
- Load up on foods and spices with antiviral properties. These include coconut oil, raw garlic, oregano, ginger, kimchi and other fermented foods, walnut, pomegranate, green tea, apple cider vinegar, and medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reishi, cordyceps, turkeytail).
- Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. They are full of antioxidants which will destroy the free radicals that weaken our immune systems and are responsible for making us feel sick when we catch a bug. Each color provides different antioxidant power—so be sure to eat a rainbow every day.
- Stay well-hydrated. Stick to water, coconut water, herbal teas, and bone broth. What’s a good estimate for how much water you need at a minimum? Divide your body weight (in pounds) in half and drink that number in ounces!
- Drink your bone broth! Bone broth has amazing immune-supporting properties. See Amazing Bone Broth to get started easily making your own.
- Eat fermented foods. The probiotics contained in fermented foods have tremendous immune-boosting powers. In fact, the fermented Korean cabbage, kimchi, was found to have significant effects in preventing and fighting the H1N1 influenza virus! Other examples of delicious fermented foods to try include sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kefir, and kombucha.
- Avoid simple sugars and processed/junk food. Your blood shows lab evidence of a lowered immune system within 30 minutes of eating simple sugars (like glucose, refined sugar, and fructose), and causes a 50% reduction in your white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs! White blood cells are our “army” cells that fight off germs. This effect is most noticeable 2 hours after ingestion but is still present 5 hours later! Keeping blood sugar levels healthy has been shown to improve immune system activity.
- Get fresh air and moderate daily exercise. Moderate exercise can boost the production of macrophages, the kind of white blood cells that “eat” bacteria and viruses. However, intense exercise can actually temporarily decrease immune function—so don’t overdo it!
- Get adequate sleep. An increase in sleep actually increases the number of your white blood cells. On the other hand, loss of sleep even for a few hours at night, increases inflammation in our body which makes us more susceptible to catching the flu and having more severe symptoms.
- Spend time daily in gratitude, prayer, and meditation. Emotional stress creates physiological stress in our bodies that lowers our immune defenses and makes us more vulnerable to illness. Stress has been shown to lower our white blood cells’ abilities to kill germs, and actually creates more inflammation that may make us feel even sicker.
- Clean and disinfect. Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Pay attention to instructions. Some cleaners require 10 MINUTES of contact time for disinfection to occur.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask. CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
Keep Your Immune System As Strong As Possible
Consider keeping your immune system even more supported with the following nutritional supplements to give your body even more antiviral defense. The physicians of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service and the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine urge a nutrient-based method to prevent or minimize symptoms for future viral infection.* Minimum supplemental levels (when provided) are recommended for adults; for children reduce these in proportion to body weight:
Fish oil – Omega-3 essential fatty acids have a host of immune benefits too long to list!
Probiotics – One study showed a dramatic reduction in fever and upper respiratory symptoms in children who took a probiotic with a specific combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium daily throughout the cold and flu season. This particular combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can be found in Metagenics Ultra Flora Children’s Chewable probiotic, Ultra Flora Synergy powder, and Ultra Flora Balance capsules. The recommended dosage for children and adults is ¼ tsp 2x/day, 1 capsule 2x/day, or 1 chew 2x/day. Probiotics are why fermented foods pack such a punch, so if your child’s palate hasn’t expanded yet to include a lot of fermented foods, be sure to give him/her a probiotic supplement to keep his/her gut and immune system healthy!
Vitamin C: 3,000 milligrams (or more) daily, in divided doses – Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which kills viruses and assists our ability to ward off and deal with infection. Metagenics Ultra-Potent C is a great option because it has the added ingredients lysine and glutathione, which assist in fighting viruses.
Vitamin D3: 2,000 International Units daily. (Start with 5,000 IU/day for two weeks, then reduce to 2,000) – There is speculation that rates of illness increase over the winter because of the widespread deficiency of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency may be one of the risk factors for sepsis. Studies have shown that people who supplemented with adequate levels of Vitamin D3 during the cold and flu season had significantly lower rates of infection. Vitamin D3 increases our body’s production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial compound, to help fight viral and bacterial infections. The Vitamin D Council recommends a maintenance dosage of 1000IU of Vitamin D3 per 25 pounds of body weight (the dosage may be higher in people with Vitamin D deficiency, which is epidemic and can be measured through an easy blood test).
Zinc: 20-50 mg daily – Zinc is required for the normal functioning of white blood cells. Supplementing with just 15mg of zinc per day in adults has been found to improve our immune cells’ ability to ward off infection.
Magnesium: 400 mg daily (in citrate, malate, chelate, or chloride form) - The most important function of magnesium is assisting in the creation of energy in the trillions of cells making up our body. Magnesium is also required for the structural integrity of numerous body proteins (to date, over 3,700 magnesium receptor sites have been found on human proteins!), and magnesium is a required cofactor for the activity of hundreds (700-800) of enzyme processes.
Selenium: 100 mcg (micrograms) daily - This antioxidant helps lower oxidative stress in your body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity. Studies have demonstrated that increased blood levels of selenium are associated with enhanced immune response.
By Elizabeth R. Vaughan, MD