One of the best things you can do to fight coronavirus is build up your immune defenses. With some basic vitamins and nutritional support, you can improve the odds that you can resist COVID-19 infection, shorten the duration of the illness, and prevent relapse.
Well, COVID-19 is here to stay for a while, unfortunately. We are held hostage in our homes in an effort to preserve medical resources for the people who need it most.
I still maintain there is some very good news about coronavirus.
- 85% have a mild or moderate case
- Children under 10 years old are safe (1% can get it, but none have died)
- 95% will recover
- <5% death rate, but probably much lower
- We are learning how to deal with a pandemic at the local, national, and global level so that if another- even more dangerous- one comes along, we can respond swiftly and adeptly.
Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
Observing social distance is a major strategy to slow down the spread of the virus and to avoid further overwhelming our medical system. Breaking news on April 8th, 2020 says that up to 90% of Americans are adhering to the strict recommendations. That means we are successfully flattening the curve and saving lives! And we have to keep doing it for true success.
But at the end of the day, everyone who has been hiding out at home is still vulnerable to getting COVID-19.
Many of us will eventually get coronavirus and as long as we can survive it, there are some great benefits:
- We won’t ever get it again (or at least not a bad case of it)
- We won’t be able to spread it or infect others after it runs its course.
- We will be protected from other similar coronaviruses for years to decades, and maybe even for the rest of our lives.
- We won’t have to rely on a new vaccine that was rushed to market or has only partial efficacy.
Boost Your Immune System
Our mission now is to boost our immune systems so that the virus doesn’t ravage our bodies. Improve your health, improve your immune defenses, and build your nutritional reserves. In this way, you might avoid the virus, but more importantly if you do get it, you can weather the storm in the best possible way. And if you get it, you want to fight it off effectively, so you don’t have any risk of reactivation.
Coronavirus, officially called SARS-CoV-2, causes the infamous COVID-19 disease. It’s a respiratory tract infection that causes dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath.
Humans battle respiratory infections all the time: flu, bacterial pneumonia, rhinoviruses, coronaviruses (there are many others besides this one), etc. Our lungs are constantly trying to keep healthy despite a myriad of pathogens, irritants, and allergens.
So, why do infections take hold in one person’s lungs and not in another’s?
These are your god-given defense mechanisms against the nasty infections in the outside world.1 We are mostly speaking of your immune system, your microbiome, and perhaps even the “behavioral immune system,” or the behaviors you adopt to avoid illness.
Your immune system and your microbiome help protect you from invading pathogens like coronavirus or influenza. Excellent nutrition helps your tissues perform at their best, so they act as a physical barrier against infections. It’s just like the protective fortress around a castle that protects it from invasion.
BOOST YOUR IMMUNE DEFENSES WITH THESE NATURAL TREATMENTS
Vitamin A is a natural immune system booster. It is great for mucus membranes (think mouth, gut, lungs). It has antiviral activity and has been used to treat people during measles outbreaks.
Vitamin C is a well-known immune booster. We are some of the only animals on earth that do not make our own vitamin C and we therefore have to get it from diet and supplements. When we are super stressed or sick, our body burns through vitamin C. Intravenous vitamin C was used in China against coronavirus.
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. It helps make strong bones, turns on the immune system, and supports heart health and normal blood pressure. Vitamin D helps prevent respiratory illness and flus in the winter. Yet another reason to get plenty of sunshine during the coronavirus shutdown.
Cover your nutritional bases. Pick a high-quality multi to make sure your immune system has all of the vitamins and minerals it needs for peak performance.
Probiotics tune-up your immune system and calm inflammation. They can reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses, like coronavirus.
Fish oil cools off inflammation in the body. Since coronavirus causes out-of-control inflammation, blocking inflammation stacks the decks in your favor. Our bodies make specialized pro-resolving mediators from fish oil, which help bring about the end of disease.
Zinc blocks coronavirus from replicating in the nose and throat. Zinc is an essential mineral when it comes to fighting viruses. If you start to feel symptoms, let zinc lozenges dissolve in the back of your throat.
N-acetyl cysteine helps your body get rid of bad stuff and fight off infection. NAC is a precursor to the superstar antioxidant, glutathione. NAC also helps break down mucus in the lungs.
Saline nose spray
Saline spray keeps the lining of your nose moist and resistant to infections. Same goes for the rest of your body, so drink plenty of water to keep your gut lining and lung lining impenetrable to viruses.
Herbal immune boosters
Get Rid of the Bad Stuff to Strengthen Your Immune Defenses
While we are supplying everything the body needs to perform on point, let’s not forget to throw out the bad stuff, the things that drag down and damage the immune system.
Sugar, smoking, refined carbohydrates like cookies, crackers, chips, sweets, and baked goods. The grocery store aisles are all picked over and guess what is left behind? Healthy food options. If your pantry is full of non-perishable junk food, and you’re stuck inside watching Netflix all day during the pandemic, your body could be more vulnerable to harm from coronavirus.
Take this opportunity of home confinement to make whole-food, nutritious, home-cooked meals.
Do you notice that wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, or other foods make you feel sickly? Stay away from the foods that make you feel unwell or disturb your bowel function. Food sensitivities can drain your immune system and leave you vulnerable to infection.
Make sure to get fresh air in your home. Remember that the lungs are already in a daily battle against allergens, pollen, pet dander, mold, chemicals, and more. Certain pollutants are very high in the indoor environment and can wear down your lung health. Fresh air also helps get pathogens like the novel coronavirus out of your home. Set up a fresh air exchange in your home frequently (see Tip #4 Fresh Air Exchange from “10 Tips to Purify Your Air and Water During Pregnancy”). If pollen is an issue, as it is now in the Atlanta area, open the doors after a rain, when levels are lower.
Exercise, Sleep, and Mental Health
Remember to exercise, rest, and take mental breaks from the craziness. This is an event for the history books. We are living it. There is fear and panic. There are people losing their lives. Our medical system is taxed. To slow the spread of the virus, the world as we know it has come to a screeching halt. We may feel crammed into our homes with our family members, without enough alone time (I know I do!). We don’t have our normal outlets for coping with stress. We don’t have the space for stretching out, relaxing, and taking care of our mental health. And we don’t know when “normal” life may begin again. Many people are out of work or worried about their financial livelihoods. That’s a lot of stress for any one person!!
We have to therefore reinvent how to stay sane in an unpredictable time. Figure out your core priorities and live by those, instead of external cues that are constantly changing now. Give yourself a break. Put your self-care first when you can. Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, or as much as you can. Your immune system depends on healthy sleep. See 100 Coronavirus Quarantine Activities: Home-Based Activities to Stay Healthy, Sane, and Connected for productive and positive ways to spend your time and be with your family.
Humans adapt. This is what we are great at and it’s what our ancestors have been doing for millennia. Remember, we are built to resist pathogens and infections.
Coronavirus? We got this!
IF YOU GET CORONAVIRUS, CONSIDER THESE NATURAL TREATMENTS
The damage from COVID-19 is from out of control inflammation that leads to cell death and organ damage. So, tempering the immune response, interrupting the all-out inflammatory war, could help weather the storm. Follow your local guidelines for how to report COVID-19 symptoms and contact your doctor via telemedicine for other supportive treatments.
- The Basics
- Continue with general nutritional support, like the ones mentioned above
- Bed rest
- Monitor vital signs
- Instead of taking fever-reducing medicine; make the fever work for you to kill the virus
- If you seek medical care, they may run blood tests, monitor oxygen saturation and administer oxygen, if needed
- Calm Inflammation
- High-dose Vitamin C
- Angiotensin receptor blockers
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Coenzyme Q10
- Gamma linoleic acid/dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid
- Prone positioning (lying face-down) can improve lung function and is currently recommended for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
I am not licensed to give medical advice and this is not a comprehensive list of treatments. For more natural and holistic treatment recommendations, please see recommendations from these integrative and functional medicine practitioners.
- Gao Z, Kang Y, Yu J, Ren L. Human pharyngeal microbiome may play a protective role in respiratory tract infections. Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics. 2014;12(3):144-150.
Cass Nelson-Dooley, MS, is a researcher, author, educator, and laboratory consultant. She studied medicinal plants in the rain forests of Panama as a Fulbright Scholar and then launched a career in science and natural medicine. Early on, she studied ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, and drug discovery at the University of Georgia and AptoTec, Inc. She joined innovators at Metametrix Clinical Laboratory as a medical education consultant helping clinicians use integrative and functional laboratory results in clinical practice. She owns Health First Consulting, LLC, a medical communications company with the mission to improve human health using the written word. Ms. Nelson-Dooley is an oral microbiome expert and author of Heal Your Oral Microbiome. She was a contributing author in Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine and Case Studies in Integrative and Functional Medicine. She has published case studies, book chapters, and journal articles about the oral microbiome, natural medicine, nutrition, laboratory testing, obesity, and osteoporosis.