[COVID-19 Update] The Research Behind Immunity Nutrients Specific to Coronavirus
Here’s another update on COVID-19 that is constantly changing. The WHO has now declared COVID-19 a pandemic. There is new research and new studies being founded and as time passes we come to understand this virus more.
The SCMP article recently reported that there may be a link between quarantines with coronavirus mutations that may make it more ‘insidious’. Meanwhile, scientists have already discovered two different strains of this COVID-19 that is spreading across the globe making it harder for scientists to come up with a successful vaccine.
This mutation could also be the reason why “some common systemic symptoms of Covid-19 such as fever, fatigue, phlegm and muscle pain were more prominent in patients admitted before January 23, but more insidious in later patients.” [SCMP]
Patients who tested positive after January 23 had a :
- 50% decrease in fever symptoms
- 70% decline in fatigue
- 80% drop in muscle pain
- an some were asymptomatic (!)
Due to these constant changes and the potential mutations of the virus, we need to go back to our trusted immune system to help us get through this Coronavirus season.
In The Importance of Sleep to Survive a Viral Infection, I referenced a JAMA study where the cases of COVID-19 are actually quite mild and that recovery can be high if there are no comorbidity conditions. And so my suggestion is to focus on the immune system and good hygiene as there are currently no vaccines, pills or potions to treat or cure SARS-coV-2 virus.
To Recap :
How To Practice Good Hygiene?
1. Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, long enough to sing Happy Birthday twice, whenever your hands are soiled, before and after eating, upon entering your home or/and office. This is by far the most important and best thing you can do to protect yourself. If you’re suffering from eczema, you may opt for alcohol disinfectant gel followed by an anti-inflammatory nourishing cream like an Evening Primrose cream.
READ : Keeping Good Hand Hygiene with Eczema
2. Avoid touching your face, rub your eyes and nose. These are the most major routes of transmission when our hands are dirty.
3. Keep a social distance. Because there have been some asymptomatic cases, it is best to keep a social distance and avoid shaking hands, hugging etc and sharing meals where you may share saliva (like hot pot!)
4. Wear a mask in public places. Masks are not the ultimate protection and can give a false sense of security if you’re not using them correctly. The point of the mask is to protect others from you if you’re coughing or if you’re sick. But since there are asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 I would suggest wearing a mask because you just don’t know who is a carrier. And in Asia, we live in much denser places than the US where they are telling people not to wear masks. Just a note though to take precaution in how you handle your mask as I’ve seen many people keep touching their mask to adjust it which really is like touching your face with dirty hands.
How To Boost Your Immune System?
The immune system is a complex system and one single nutrient is not going to be the perfect potion to boost immunity. We know popular herbs like echinacea and elderberry and common vitamins like Vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc are important for immunity, however something as sleep and quality of sleep can tip your immune system off balance.
READ: The Importance of Sleep to Survive a Viral Infection
Vitamin D does not kill the virus, instead what it does, is that it turns on our immune system to suppress the virus. Vitamin D cannot be generated by our body. We need to convert the inactive form D2 into the active D3 form for our bodies to utilise.
There is a ton of research on Vitamin D and the immune system[¹]and even on H1N1, the first pandemic of the 21st century [²]. But what interests me is this study published in the BMJ (Business Medical Journal) that suggests daily or weekly supplementation of Vitamin D cut the risk of respiratory infection in half, where as big one off doses did not. A modest daily dose of around 800-2000IU was shown to have the best benefits.
However many of us have very low levels of Vitamin D3 and taking 5000 IU once a day seems to be a common dosage among doctors in Hong Kong. I must add though that it is wise to get your Vitamin D3 levels checked every so often since this is a fat soluble vitamin and can be stored in our bodies.
To clear the air, there are a lot of consumer articles about how Vitamin C doesn’t work on COVID-19, and this is true, because there has been no validated research to confirm Vitamin C’s affect on COVID-19 specifically. This virus is too new for us to have much data and studies done on it. But what we do have research, is the next best thing which is Vitamin C’s positive affects on common colds, respiratory infections and pneumonia. In fact, there are already clinical studies on the use of intravenous Vitamin C on the COVID-19.
Zinc is widely talked about for immunity together with Vitamin C. But what is particularly interesting with zinc is in this study that shows zinc is able to inhibit the replication of RNA viruses including the SARS-Coronavirus.
" Increased intracellular Zn2+ concentrations are known to efficiently impair replication of a number of RNA viruses" See diagram below.
".....show that corona- and arterivirus replication can be inhibited by increased Zn2+ levels....."
How Does Zinc Do This?
The Replicase (RdRP, RNA dependent RNA polymerase) enzyme is responsible for replicating the virus in our cells. With any virus, the lower the viral load (how much virus per volume of fluid in our body) the better and easier to recover. The severity of a virus in the host cell also depends on how quickly it can be contained. So a key component in containing the virus when it enters our body is to shut down this Replicase enzyme which this study suggests that intracellular zinc can do. You can see in the diagram that with the increase of Zinc [Zn2+] the lower the RNA virus replication.
But the problem is how to get zinc inside our cells in order for it to be effective against this virus replication. Zinc is an ION, and it can't get into the cells unless there's a transporter to transport it in and it is highly regulated.
How To Move Zinc From The Extracellular To Intracellular?
To start off, we need to make sure we have enough zinc in our extracellular, our blood. With soil depletion and our grain heavy diets, we are seeing a lot of zinc deficiencies.
Zinc Deficiency Is Due To
- Soil mineral depletion
- Vegetarian and vegan diets as meat like seafood is a good source of zinc
- High cereal based (like rice) or legume based diets. These foods are high in phytate which can bind with zinc and impair absorption.
- Cooking with water can result in leaching of up to 50% of zinc levels of the food.
Read the Research :
Zinc absorption is increased with protein and decreased with high phytate foods like rice and corn. A study also suggests that zinc in liquid form increases absorption from 18–20 μmol to 80–100 μmol. So if you’re looking for a zinc supplement, the liquid supplement would be the superior choice.
Once you have enough zinc extracellularly we need to move it into our cells through a transporter or a zinc ionophore.
Doctors treating the COVID-19 may seem to know about this as some institutions in China are using Chloroquine, a medication used to prevent and treat malaria but also acts as a zinc ionophore which transports the zinc into our cells to shut down this Replicase enzyme. But Chloroquine comes with side effects and also needs a prescription.
What About Natural Alternatives?
I believe God has given us everything we need to live an abundant life, and so I also believe that through nature, we are given these nutrients. Where man goes wrong is the lack of care or the abuse of resources we are given.
In my search for a natural alternative that can inhibit viral RNA replication, I found this study that was done on Quercetin, a flavanoid from plants, that was successful in inhibiting the replication of RNA in Ebola and Zika viruses likely due to the fact that Quercetin can increase the zinc intracellularly.[³]
It was also to my delight when I came across an article from Canada (my home country, yay Canada!) where they are already testing Quercetin as an antiviral treatment for COVID-19.
In How to Minimize your Chance of Being Affected Part 2, I talked about the furin protein receptor that increases our likelihood of infection 100-1000 times compared to SARS. I also explained that there are inhibitors of this furin protein from specific flavanoids and amino acids. Just maybe, Quercetin, being a flavonoid could also play a part in this slowing down of infection and replication of the virus in our body. We don’t know anything for sure, but together with the research, it could be an educated guess.
In short, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc are basic nutrients for immunity. And because we simply do not have any confirmed cures for this COVID-19 we must rely on keeping our immunity strong and smart. The likelihood of getting infected is high, scientists believe it is around 60-70% of our population. But it doesn’t mean we will just sit back and let this virus take over. There are statistics, but what I always told myself during my battle with stage 4 cancer, is that I’m beyond these statistics because I’m doing more than the average person.
Check out the articles I’ve written thus far that offer practical steps on how to protect yourself from this SARS-coV-2 virus. It’s important we all do our own fact checking and listen to our bodies to see what areas we need to focus on to keep us healthy, strong and safe.
Written by: Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist
- 10 Defense Strategies For The Coronavirus
- Keeping Good Hand Hygiene with Eczema
- [Coronavirus] How Fear Suppresses Your Immune System
- [Coronavirus Update] Chlorine & Our Microbiome
- [Coronavirus] How To Minimize Chances Of Being Infected Part 1
- [Coronavirus] How To Minimize Chances Of Being Infected Part 2
- [Coronavirus] The Importance of Sleep to Survive a Viral Infection