Nutrition, Your Immune System and the Covid-19 Virus: A Functional Protocol
- Jul 21, 2020
- Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Much has been said on how to prevent infection by the SarsCov2 coronavirus (COVID-19). Washing hands, using sanitizers, keeping physical distance, wearing a mask are all good primary prevention advice, but it may be said that a virus anywhere is a virus everywhere. The Sars-Cov2 that produces the COVID-19 seems to have certain particularities such as being highly infectious with a fairly fast mutation rate, both which enhance the chances of getting infected and it lasting more than usual for a viral infection. Like the flu virus, COVID-19 is transmitted from infected people to others via respiratory fluids.
Co-Morbidities and COVID-19
So, what can we do? Most of the individuals that get complications when infected by Sars-Cov2 have a compromised immune system, apparently due to two main factors:
- Co- morbidities (Preventable Lifestyle Diseases)
- Nutrient insufficiencies or deficiencies.
The immune system is one of the most complex systems in our body requiring multiple metabolic steps for its proper functioning. Moreover, its multiple metabolic steps require many enzymes which need numerous cofactors (vitamins and minerals). If these cofactors are not provided in an optimal level, the immune system will not be capable of responding properly to defend us from invading organisms and viruses.
Factors that make someone more likely to contract COVID-19:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Chronic pulmonary disease
- Chronic liver or kidney disease
- Radiation therapy
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chronic neurological disease
All the above preventable lifestyle diseases lead to chronic inflammation. Here are some stats about people living in the U.S.
- 42% are obese
- 75% are overweight
- 6/10 have 1 chronic illness
- 4/10 have more than 1 chronic illness
- Obesity increases the risk of death three times!
- 12% of the population is metabolically healthy – yes, HEALTHY – only 12% Yikes!
Obesity and COVID-19 For Younger Patients
Obesity is linked to severe coronavirus, especially for younger patients. The U.S. has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, and preliminary research shows younger patients are at particular risk.
- May already have compromised respiratory function prior to infection.
- Abdominal obesity (more prominent in men) can cause compression of diaphragm, lungs and chest capacity.
- Causes chronic low-grade inflammation and an increase in circulating, proinflammatory cytokines, which plays a role in the worse COVID-19 outcomes.
What Is the COVID-19 Virus?
The Sars-Cov2 coronavirus is an RNA virus with spikes on its capsid or protein coat. The virus spike protein utilizes angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as its cell surface receptor and affects organs such as lung, intestine and heart with high numbers of these receptors.
The most common clinical manifestations of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and dyspnea. Loss of smell and taste are strongly associated with this viral disease. Other reported symptoms include sore throat, myalgia, fatigue, headache, and diarrhea.
Findings: if you have smell and taste loss, you’re more than 10x more likely to have COVID-19, and the rate of recovery for someone with this symptom is high – 2-4 weeks. Reference: Int. Forum of Allergy and Rhinology, April 12, 2020
COVID-19 and the Cytokine Storm
Most of the critical and fatal damage that occurs with this infection is due to the cytokine storm induced by the virus. The cytokine storm refers to an excessive and uncontrolled release of pro-inflammatory cytokines that significantly upregulate reactive oxidative species that destroy the tissues. In infectious diseases, the cytokine storm usually originates from the infected area, spreading through the bloodstream. Damage has been reported to the alveoli in the lungs where the gas exchange between O2 and CO2 occurs, to the vascular systems that carries O2 through all the body, and to the red blood cells that transport the O2. This explains why respiratory distress and sepsis occurs in a number of COVID-19 patient, which increases their need for intensive care and respirators, and risk of death.
Scavengers of reactive oxygen species, such as vitamin C and other antioxidants, can play an important role in minimizing the cytokine storm and preventing tissue damage. But in doing so, the level of vitamin C can be rapidly depleted if not replenished. To prevent tissue damage and lower the risk of death, we must prepare the immune system to function quickly and more effectively! Only by having a prepared and strong immune system will you be able to protect yourself and reduce your infection risk. So here are a few recommendations to optimize your immune system to help you fight more effectively any viral infection. This protocol will not prevent you from becoming infected but will provide your body with necessary cofactors to ameliorate many of the serious complications of the disease.
COVID-19 Nutrition & Lifestyle Protocol
Follow a diet rich in “real” foods. What does that look like?
- Eat a lot of colorful foods because they are highest in antioxidants (Citrus fruits, Leafy greens, Broccoli, Red bell peppers, etc.)
- Garlic and onions
- Fruits and vegetables (aim for 25-29 grams of fiber/day)
- Grass-fed meats
- Wild fish
- Nuts and Seeds
- Snack – organic dark chocolate (<70% cacao is ideal)
- Herbals – ginger, turmeric
- Bone broth
- Organic coffee & tea, especially green tea
- Healthy oils – EVOO, avocado, macadamia nut (oleic acid from these foods stimulate SIRT1, which is the defense enzyme)
- Mushrooms – shiitake, reishi, chaga, turkey tail, maitake, oyster, lion’s mane
- Hydrate well with water! (Your weight in lb. divided in half gives you the number of ounces to drink daily.)
Reference: Nutrition Support in the time of covid-19 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7132492/
- White, refined carbohydrate-containing foods
- Limit processed meals
- Saturated Fats, especially from processed meats
Proper diet = enhanced immunity
Poor diet = impaired immunity
- Get sufficient sleep – aim for 7-8 good quality hours
- Exercise at least 3 times a week
- Relaxation: Meditate, Listen to music, Read a book
- Consider a time-restrictive eating (intermittent fasting) – fast for 12-14 hours (ie: from 7pm to 7am)
- Humidity – keep humidity up at home to maintain airway health and mucus
Take immune-optimizing supplements. There are a number of supplements you can take that will support your immune system.
- Multivitamin and mineral, one daily
- Vitamin C: 1,000 mg, three times daily, reduce if it causes laxative effect.
- Vitamin D3: 2,000 - 5,000 IU daily depending on body weight, current levels and amount of time spent in the sun. If exposure to COVID-19 is suspected, increase to 10,000 IU per day for a few weeks. It’s ideal to take D3 with vitamin K2.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in people who develop acute respiratory distress syndrome. This deficiency appears to contribute to development of the condition. It’s important to correct a vitamin D deficiency. Levels above 60 ng/mL are ideal. References: Dancer RCA, Dhruv P, Sian L, et al. Thorax, 2015;70:617-24 & Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL, et al. Nutrients, 2020 Apr 2;12(4)
- Zinc: 30 mg daily
- Magnesium: 500 mg daily (in malate, citrate, or chloride form)
- Selenium: 200 mcg daily (also contained in many multivitamin supplements)
- Probiotics: >30 billion a day
- A Zinc Ionophore such as Quercetin: 500 mg daily
- NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine): 500 mg daily or Liposomal Glutathione
- Melatonin: 1-5 mg daily, depending on individual tolerance and need
- Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA)
Other Suggested Supplements:
Echinacea, astragalus, rhodiola, mushroom blends (maitake, shitake, reishi, chaga, turkey tail, maitake, oyster, lion’s mane), ginger, garlic, elderberry, alpha-lipoic acid, CoQ10, vitamin E (mixed tocopherols with all four tocotrienols), vitamin A
Vitamin C to Support the Body's Innate Resistance to Pathogens
Vitamin C has 11 mechanisms that support the body's innate resistance to pathogens. It should be the first line of defense for nourishing the immune system. COVID-19 is a very serious contagious disease, but contagion to a virus largely depends on the susceptibility of the host. It is well established that low vitamin C levels increase susceptibility to viruses. It must be emphasized that only 200 mg of vitamin C per day resulted in an 80% decrease in deaths among severely ill, hospitalized respiratory disease patients.
When the body no longer has sufficient ascorbic acid due to stress from disease, the body acquires the condition called "induced scurvy" in which it can longer maintain its organs. In scurvy, bleeding from damaged capillaries and organ failure occurs everywhere throughout the body. Depletion of ascorbic acid also results in the failure of the immune system, and disables recuperation of metabolic function, which may lead to severe and lethal pathologies such as ARDS, sepsis and multiple organ failure. A rapid application of high dose intravenous vitamin C can reverse induced scurvy and support normal inflammatory processes.
While Medical authorities are obsessively focusing on searching for a vaccine and/or drug for COVID--19, in vitamin C we have an existing, effective, clinically demonstrated method to support the overall health of the lungs and respiratory system.
"Take care of your body, it's the only place you have to live" - Jim Rohn
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All of Dr. Klenner's papers are listed and summarized in:
Smith LH (1991) Clinical Guide to the Use of Vitamin C. Life Sciences Press, Tacoma, WA, 1991. ISBN-13: 978-0943685137. http://www.seanet.com/~alexs/ascorbate/198x/smith-lh-clinical_guide_1988.htm
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Additional Dr. Cathcart papers are posted at http://www.doctoryourself.com/biblio_cathcart.html
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