Reducing Coronavirus Risk
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
We are in unprecedented times. Watching or scrolling through the news, COVID 19 is front and center, and it has everyone around the world on edge. This global pandemic has Americans rushing to buy food and supplies as if we are facing a major world war. That’s the power of words like GLOBAL PANDEMIC and NATIONWIDE QUARANTINE. Reducing COVID-19 risk has to be one of the most searched google phrases.
There is no cure for coronavirus, and there are no FDA-approved treatments as of this blog's posting.
But that doesn't mean you are powerless in this fight. There are several natural remedies that can boost you immune system - giving you the tools to fight any infection, coronavirus or otherwise. Integrative and Function Medicine is well equipped to help you understand how to maximize your protection now, as well as anything else life can throw at you later.
What Is the Coronavirus?
COVID 19 is one of the many viruses classified as coronavirus. In this family, strains range from very mild (causing common cold symptoms) to severe with deadly potential like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
Coronavirus symptoms span a wide range - with some experiencing a small cold to others, for whom the virus is tragically fatal. Although the CDC is continually evolving their estimates, information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illnesses are mild.
Transmission typically requires contacting your mucus membrane to replicate (like the linings in your nasal passages and lungs). A study published last week revealed in can likely survive on surfaces for 2-3 days and may even survive in the air for 3 hours. Humans are most contagious during the early days of illness but can shed the virus for weeks. The average incubation period is about 4 days, and initial symptoms include sore throat, with or without fever, muscle aches and cough. Symptoms may worsen around day 8 and include cough and shortness of breath and may include a bilateral interstitial pneumonia.
Who is at Risk?
According to the CDC, early information out of China where this virus first started reveals that those at highest risk include adults over 60 and those with serious medical conditions including: heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. Although we are just learning about this particular virus, we have learned from Influenza and the flu that others may be at risk as well, such as those with neurological conditions, kidney and liver diseases.
"Hacking" the virus: Playing offense
The core of integrative and functional medicine is lifestyle. Even though there isn't an antidote, there are several steps you can take to ensure your immune system is as robust as possible. This improves the chances that, should you contract COVID-19, yours is one of the mild cases.
Wash your hands!
We have all likely heard the importance of hand washing. This is likely your best defense from becoming colonized with the virus.
Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday song twice).
Use alcohol based sanitizers (>60% alcohol) if you are unable to wash hands.
Cover your cough with a tissue or sleeve.
Stay at home if you are sick and avoid close contact with people that are sick.
Avoid touching your face.
Clean frequently touched surfaces such as computer screens, phones, TV remotes
Irrigate your nose with a neti pot or similar apparatus can help prevent the virus from taking hold and colonizing.
Fuel your Immune System
Now more than ever, ensuring a diet that is anti-inflammatory and rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants is a must.
Some things focus on:
Avoid processed and canned foods. This is very handy as many supermarkets are fully stocked with fresh food and out of canned items.
Favor a lower sugar diet, opting for complex carbohydrates.
Eat 4-6 servings of veggies and fruits daily.
Eat organic and wild caught meats, or ensure adequate plant based protein intake if you are vegetarian.
Include healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, omega 3 oils from wild caught fish).
Do not underestimate the power of basic lifestyle measures like sleep, exercise and meditation.
Research has shown that sleep disturbance can have significant influence on the risk of acquiring infectious diseases.
A randomized controlled trial showed the benefits of meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infections.
Beyond Lifestyle: Immune Boosters
Aside from lifestyle and common sense practices, Integrative Medicine has so much to offer in terms of evidence-based solutions to help boost your immune system. For those of you who appreciate diving deep into the evidence and/or prefer to know the science behind all of your medical recommendations. I have done the dirty work for you.
Vitamin D is a superstar, functioning more like a hormone than a vitamin.
Up to 90% of people are deficient, and low levels are linked to higher rates of colds, flu, and respiratory infection as viruses have a much easier time replicating.
Adequate vitamin D levels stimulate the potent antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in immune cells in the respiratory tract, destroying viruses and other microbes.
In fact ,one study demonstrated that Vitamin D supplementation reduced risk of respiratory infection by up to 50% in deficient individuals.
Taking Vitamin D: Knowing your vitamin D level is important, so start by contacting your physician to be tested. In general Integrative Physicians will recommend levels 50-70 mg/ml for 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (a higher than labs list as normal). You can overdo it, so if you are low, add vitamin D gradually. A good rule of thumb: 1000 IU of D3 should add 10 points to your level.
Where to get it: High quality Vitamin D can be purchased in oral capsule form from reputable manufacturers. My favorite Vitamin D supplements can be found at here at Fullscripts.com (look for Orthomolecular's Vitamin K2 + D3) and here at Wholescripts.com (look for Xymogen D3) Case Integrative Health also provides Vitamin D injections in our clinic.
Zinc supports immune function and has antiviral effects – it actually kills viruses on contact. A 2011 Cochrane Review (the gold standard for evaluating scientific evidence) revealed that taking zinc soon after the onset of cold symptoms significantly reduces both duration and severity.
Lozenges seem to be the most effective at fighting upper respiratory infections (over pills and sprays), with One study hypothesizing that dissolving zinc lozenges for 20-30 minutes every 2 hours would shorten the common cold by 6-7 days.
Taking Zinc: Generally, safe doses of zinc are 15-30 mg daily. More than that is not encouraged, as it can complicate other functions. As with all medications, it is important to consult your physician, know your levels and add zinc appropriately as recommended by your doctor.
Where to get it: Zinc can generally be purchased at the same places as Vitamin D. I recommend Pure Encapsulation Zinc 15 at Fullscript.com (although many apothecaries are on back-order).