Covid-19: Suggestions for a healthy immune system

We are rapidly learning, around the world, what is helpful, and not for Covid-19. There is no reason to believe that the usual protocols that are helpful for viruses will not help now. Lifestyle changes and protocols that we know help with viruses are also working for Covid-19. Please join us for our online course Build Community with Immunity where we explore how to best protect ourselves and prepare for Covid 19.

It is helpful to think about Covid 19 in 3 ways:

  • Common sense, public health measures
  • Personal immunity, prevention opportunities
  • Self-care once you are dealing with viral symptoms

1. Almost everyone should expect to be exposed at some time.

If you are young and healthy you may not get sick, may have only minor respiratory symptoms, or possibly have a very uncomfortable illness with fever, sore throat, body pain, cough, some shortness of breath, and recover quite well. Corona viruses are generally common cold viruses and although SARS-COV2 is a novel, unique virus, upwards of 80-90% of people will have manageable symptoms. But that means 10-20% of people may have a more severe illness. That’s a lot! Unfortunately, too many of the younger people in this country have chronic diseases, co-morbidities and poor health habits that make them more vulnerable to disease. We also know that Covid-19 is disproportionately impacting minorities and impoverished communities that don't have access to quality healthcare, have often experienced a higher environmental toxin burden, and for whom healthy lifestyle choices are a privilege rarely afforded.

We are living the truth that there are compelling, essential and ethical reasons to delay the speed of transmission of this virus through our communities. Primarily, we need to continue to support medical facility capacity to deal with those who are very ill, to make sure we have hospital care available for people that urgently need it. Our medical system does not have a lot of built in reserve. ICUs in certain parts of the country continue to remain at or near capacity, and we know that death rates for this virus are higher when hospital care is not readily available. Additionally, buying time buy slowing the spread will allow us to be better able to treat this virus, by gaining experience with what works and doesn’t work over time.

We’ve all heard that we should be washing our hands and not touching our faces. Washing hands, with basic soap and water, removes a majority of the viruses we’ve picked up. So yes, wash your hands thoroughly, especially when you get home, and when you’re meeting others. Do clean common surfaces that may have been exposed to droplet contamination (surfaces that many people touch). Consider putting things like packages and even food that may have been exposed to droplet contamination in the garage or a separate area for 2 or 3 days, and do wipe down metal and plastic.

"Social distancing” is our main way to gain time. If you are older, have a chronic illness, asthma/lung problems or immune issues definitely avoid exposing yourself. Stay home. If you know you’ve been exposed, or have symptoms, stay home for 14 days. We all need to care about each other, avoid being exposed or exposing others. I love the concept of "Social intimacy with physical distance." With today's crises we can be even better and more creative at receiving and giving in our communities.

If you do need to go out, I absolutely believe in wearing a mask. You may even have to create your own. Add a drop or dab of tea tree oil to the inside of your mask. P95 masks are currently reserved for healthcare workers, but find a mask that is as snugly fitting as possible. You easily still purchase P2.5 filters and even double them up inside your cloth or paper mask. You may have heard that viruses are so small as to pass through cloth masks, but this ignores the fact that Covid-19 spread through droplets, and even homemade masks are remarkable effective at keeping these droplets contained. Masks are most effective when everyone

2. The simple key to avoid being sick is to build personal immunity and work on your general health. Our bodies are made to fight off or minimize the effects of viruses. Now is your time to make a special effort to do the things that build immunity and fight inflammation. Get enough sleep, clean your teeth (yes, dental issues are important!), get some sun and exercise everyday, make a special effort to avoid stress and manage it, and EAT WELL. Eat real, whole foods, and always avoid processed foods, sugar and inflammatory fats. Eat more fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, always choosing organic if you can afford it. Stay well hydrated with clean water. Use nasal saline or humidifier at home to keep your mucus membranes moist and healthy.

The greatest risk factors for severe illness and complications from Covid-19 are chronic diseases such as: cardiometabolic disorders (cardiovascular disease, diabletes, high blood pressure etc.), chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, people who are immunocompromised (HIV, cancer, prolonged use of corticosteroids etc.), people with severe obesity (BMI of 40 or higher), and people with chronic liver and kidney disease. So the most important thing you can do to avoid severe illness from Covid-19 is to address your chronic health conditions NOW.

Some of the common supplements that have been shown to build immunity in various ways, support our resistance to illness and fight viruses are Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin A, Garlic, Bone Broth, Fish Oil, Probiotics.

Less well known are Licorice Root, Red Marine Algae (Griffithsin), Lomatium Dissectum, but each have research evidence to support their use. Mushrooms (such as Stamets 7 by Host Defense) can boost cellular defense.

Dr Andrew Saul, a renowned expert on vitamins, especially Vitamin C, recommends:

Vitamin C: 3,000 milligrams (or more) daily, in divided doses.
Vitamin D3: 2,000 International Units daily. (Start with 5,000 IU/day for two weeks, then reduce to 2,000)
Magnesium: 400 mg daily (in citrate, malate, chelate, or chloride form)
Zinc: 20 mg daily
Selenium: 100 mcg (micrograms) daily (Note: 1-2 Brazil Nuts a day give us this)

We are using Melatonin in our family, to get good sleep of course, and though the evidence is not clear, it may slow excessive inflammation.

The WHO has previously recommended that people avoid NSAID medications, such as Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, Naprosyn, etc., and then reversed it's recommendation. There was enough initial evidence to make the recommendation in the first place, so I'm still hesitant to recommend their use.

Certainly talk to your wellness doctor about what she recommends, and use what you know you need for your own circumstances. If you have adverse reactions to a supplement, stop using it.

3. If you are developing respiratory symptoms up your self care regimen!

Definitely stay home with any hint of respiratory illness! Rest, rest, rest. Drink lots of fluids, especially water, and warm liquids like hot ginger tea, or green tea with lemon and honey.

One of the first symptoms is often dry or sore throat. Start gargling regularly with saline (salt water) or dilute Hydrogen Peroxide (one part hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts water) and don't swallow. Some people like to use a Colloidal Silver throat spray. Zinc or Thieves lozenges may help. Rinse your nose regularly with saline.

The major complications of this virus seem to be due to overwhelming inflammation, a “cytokine storm”. Vitamin C is our best and most available anti-inflammatory tool. If sick, up your doses to 2 to 3 grams every few hours. You’ll know you’re getting enough when your stools are loose. Use a variety of Vitamin C preparations: Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Liposomal Vitamin C. There is research coming out of China and elsewhere indicating IV Vitamin C is indeed helpful in the hospital setting.

When sick you can increase Vitamin A and D. Do not take higher doses of Vitamin A for prolonged periods to avoid toxicity. For therapeutic doses of these and other preventative supplements, speak to your doctor.

Diffuse essential oils like Tea Tree, Thieves, Eucalyptus, Lemon Balm, Frankincense. (Be careful with Thieves around small animals and small humans. A little goes a long way.)

Take fairly high doses of Turmeric/Curcumin, Boswellia/Frankincense, Flavonoids (fruits and vegetables, and quercetin). Use Elderberry for symptoms.

If you are having shortness of breath or air hunger or increased asthma symptoms, go to the hospital.

If you have any questions, ask your doctor. We are here for you!

Be safe, be well...

Karla L. Birkholz, MD