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Wellness

Coronavirus, Precautions, and Strengthening the Immune System

January 29 2020

By Dr. Michael Murray

In this article:


Prior to this recent outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it is likely that most people had never heard of this strain of virus even though other forms have caused significant outbreaks in the past. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in humans and other mammals, birds, bats, and reptiles. When humans are infected most forms of the virus cause mild respiratory infections but, as we have seen with the COVID-19 coronavirus, in rare cases a coronavirus infection can be lethal. 

With increased attention, many people are asking what they can do to help protect themselves from a coronavirus. While washing your hands, wearing a mask, and avoiding travel are key precautions, it is also important to focus on building a stronger immune system. In a previous article, I discussed natural approaches to addressing low immune function. With a strong immune system, you are safer from attack by all but the most virulent microorganisms. It is also likely that you would experience fewer colds or viral infections and have better overall resistance to infections. 

Simple Steps to Boosting Your Immune System

The principles involved in boosting your immune system are quite simple. The first goal is to make sure that you provide the immune system with vital nutrients by consuming a health-promoting diet and utilizing proper nutritional supplementation. A deficiency of virtually any single nutrient can significantly impair immunity. The next step is following a healthy lifestyle that includes getting enough sleep and engaging in a regular exercise program. Supplying optimal nutrition and learning to effectively deal with stress go a long way in supporting central control mechanisms to keep the immune system functioning in a peak state. Boosting your immune system not only increases your resistance to colds and flu and other infections but also can help protect yourself against chronic diseases.

Key Steps to Boosting Your Immune System

  • A healthy lifestyle is essential for immunity. Be sure to eat a healthy diet, exercise, avoid toxins, maintain appropriate body weight, and get enough sleep.
  • Stress lowers immunity. Take steps to manage stress. Practice techniques to activate the relaxation response, such as breathing exercises, visualization, or meditation.
  • Avoid refined sugars and saturated fats, but make sure you get plenty of quality protein and essential fatty acids.
  • Take a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement. Vitamins C and E, B vitamins, zinc, and selenium are especially important.
  • Take extra vitamin C, 500 to 1,000 mg up to three times per day or consider taking liposomal vitamin C at a dosage of 1,000 mg once or twice daily.
  • Boost your vitamin D levels. Take 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily.
  • Take a clinically proven immune-enhancing product.

Vitamin D is Critical to Immune Health

Everyone knows how important vitamin D is good for healthy bones, but its role in human health goes well beyond that. Modern research now shows that vitamin D targets over 2,000 genes (about 10% of the human genome) in the human body. It is now known that low levels of vitamin D can contribute to the development of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, and many more common health conditions. As it relates to preventing the flu, here is what is known:

  • Individuals who have vitamin D blood levels lower than 38 ng/ml had twice as many upper respiratory tract infections as those with higher levels.
  • Children that took 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily reduced their risk of developing the flu by 58 percent. 
  • Women taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D (to protect bones) had an average of 30% fewer cold and flu episodes compared to women taking 200 IU of vitamin D.

Since it is estimated that one out of every two Americans is likely to have blood levels below 20 ng/ml, widespread vitamin D supplementation may prove to be more effective and less costly than conventional flu shots. To ensure optimal vitamin D status, recently most health experts, myself included, are advocating daily dosages of 2,000 to 5,000 IU, even in apparently healthy adults. The research definitely supports this higher dosage level, especially during the winter months. 

Optimize Intake with Liposomal Vitamin C

Liposomal vitamin C is an advanced form of vitamin c designed for better absorption and utilization within the body. Liposomes are small spherical cells that are composed of an outer layer made of fatty acids known as phospholipids derived from either sunflower or soy. Liposomes also have an inner compartment composed of water and water-soluble active ingredients. The water-soluble ingredient like vitamin C is protected within the inner compartment by the liposomal structure. 

The primary advantage of liposomal vitamin C is improved absorption. The ability of our intestinal cells to uptake higher doses of vitamin C has a threshold. That is why higher doses of vitamin C can cause excessive gas and/or diarrhea. The bioavailability of liposomal vitamin C is significantly greater than regular vitamin C, it is taken up into the body at almost double the level that of regular vitamin C. Liposomal vitamin C is often promoted as an oral alternative to getting an intravenous (IV) dosage of vitamin C. Take 1,000 mg once or twice daily for added protection during the cold and flu season.

Natural Approaches to Boosting Immune Health

There are no natural products with proven clinical efficacy against the coronavirus, but there are several that make a lot of sense to provide general support. Here are some of the best considerations:

Epicor and Wellmune

Epicor and Wellmune are special preparations produced from Baker’s yeast via proprietary processes. Both are a rich source of beta-glucan and other immune-enhancing compounds. Both Epicor and Wellmune also have been shown to be effective in boosting immune function in humans in a total of over 20 clinical trials. For example, EpiCor has been shown to increase the levels of secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) as well as enhance natural killer (NK) cell function. Secretory IgA protects the lining of our mucus membranes from infection while NK cells are a type of white blood cell that circulates in our blood to destroy foreign cells. There have been eight double-blind, placebo-controlled trials with Epicor in humans. The most relevant to viral infections were studies conducted in both adults who had received a flu shot and those who had not. In both cases, EpiCor supplementation at a dosage of 500 mg daily had a beneficial effect on reducing the incidence of cold and flu symptoms. Wellmune has also been shown to be effective in preventing upper respiratory viral infections (colds and the flu) in double-blind studies. In one of these study results, the subjects taking Wellmune (500 mg daily) reported:

  • No missed work or school due to colds, compared with 1.38 days of work/school missed for the placebo group.
  • No incidence of fever, compared with 3.50 incidence in the placebo group.
  • An increase in quality of life, including physical energy and emotional well-being, as measured by a clinically validated health survey questionnaire.

Monolaurin 

Monolaurin is a fat found in coconut oil that is also available as a dietary supplement. It exerts some interesting antiviral effects with confirmed activity to viruses similar to coronavirus. Many viruses, as well as bacteria and protozoa (parasites) are enveloped by a protective membrane composed of fatty substances (lipids). Current research indicates that monolaurin dissolves lipids in the fatty envelope, basically disintegrating the organisms’ protective shield and causing them to be easily destroyed by the immune system. Though monolaurin has not been studied on coronavirus, it may have some benefit. The typical dosage of monolaurin in 1,000-1,500 mg twice daily. 

Serratia Peptidase 

Serratia peptidase or serrapeptase is a digestive enzyme that also helps keeps mucus secretions in an optimal state – not too thick and not too watery. Originally isolated from a bacteria that resides in the intestines of the silkworm, it is also called “silkworm” enzyme as it is what breaks down the cocoon to free the silk moth. In addition to its nonspecific effect on host defenses against infection, serrapeptase was recently shown to exert antiviral effects by digesting proteins that coat the virus. Other proteolytic enzymes, e.g., bromelain, may also be effective. The dosage for serrapeptase is based upon enzyme activity: 80,000-100,000 SPUs twice daily between meals on an empty stomach.

Astragalus Root

Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus) is a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat viruses. Clinical studies in China have validated it is effective when used as a preventive measure against the common cold. It has also been shown to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms in acute treatment of the common cold, as well as raise white blood cell counts in chronic leukopenia (a condition characterized by low white blood cell levels). Research in animals indicates that astragalus apparently works by stimulating several factors of the immune system. In particular, it appears to stimulate white blood cells to engulf and destroy invading organisms and cellular debris as well as enhance the production of interferon (a key natural compound produced by the body to fight viruses). Follow label instructions.

If You are Concerned About the Coronavirus...

If you have had close contact with someone who is confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, 2019-nCoV infection, you should monitor your health starting from the day you first had close contact with the person and continue for 14 days after you last had close contact with the person. Watch for these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever. Take your temperature twice a day.
  • Coughing.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, and runny nose.

If you develop fever or any of these symptoms, it is important to be evaluated by your healthcare provider right away.

References:

  1. Pinheiro I, Robinson L, Verhelst A, Marzorati M, Winkens B, den Abbeele PV, Possemiers S. A yeast fermentate improves gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation by modulation of the gut microbiome: results from a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled pilot trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017 Sep 4;17(1):441. 
  2. Schauss AG, Glavits R, Endres J, Jensen GS, Clewell A. Safety evaluation of a proprietary food-grade, dried fermentate preparation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Int J Toxicol. 2012 Jan-Feb;31(1):34-45. 
  3. Jensen GS, Redman KA, Benson KF, Carter SG, Mitzner MA, Reeves S, Robinson L. Antioxidant bioavailability and rapid immune-modulating effects after consumption of a single acute dose of a high-metabolite yeast immunogen: results of a placebo-controlled double-blinded crossover pilot study. J Med Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):1002-10.
  4. Moyad MA, Robinson LE, Zawada ET, Kittelsrud J, Chen DG, Reeves SG, Weaver S. Immunogenic yeast-based fermentate for cold/flu-like symptoms in nonvaccinated individuals. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Feb;16(2):213-8.
  5. Moyad MA, Robinson LE, Kittelsrud JM, Reeves SG, Weaver SE, Guzman AI, Bubak ME. Immunogenic yeast-based fermentation product reduces allergic rhinitis-induced nasal congestion: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Adv Ther. 2009 Aug;26(8):795-804. 
  6. Moyad MA, Robinson LE, Zawada ET Jr, Kittelsrud JM, Chen DG, Reeves SG, Weaver SE. Effects of a modified yeast supplement on cold/flu symptoms. Urol Nurs. 2008 Feb;28(1):50-5. 
  7. Mah E, Kaden VN, Kelley KM, Liska DJ. Soluble and Insoluble Yeast β-Glucan Differentially Affect Upper Respiratory Tract Infection in Marathon Runners: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Med Food. 2019 Oct 1. 
  8. Mah E, Kaden VN, Kelley KM, Liska DJ. Beverage Containing Dispersible Yeast β-Glucan Decreases Cold/Flu Symptomatic Days After Intense Exercise: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Diet Suppl. 2020;17(2):200-210. 
  9. Fuller R, Moore MV, Lewith G, Stuart BL, Ormiston RV, Fisk HL, Noakes PS, Calder PC. Yeast-derived β-1,3/1,6 glucan, upper respiratory tract infection and innate immunity in older adults. Nutrition. 2017 Jul - Aug;39-40:30-35. 
  10. Burg AR, Quigley L, Jones AV, O'Connor GM, Boelte K, McVicar DW, Orr SJ. Orally administered β-glucan attenuates the Th2 response in a model of airway hypersensitivity. Springerplus. 2016 Jun 21;5(1):815. 
  11. Talbott SM, Talbott JA. Baker's yeast beta-glucan supplement reduces upper respiratory symptoms and improves mood state in stressed women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Aug;31(4):295-300. 
  12. Talbott SM, Talbott JA, Talbott TL, Dingler E. β-Glucan supplementation, allergy symptoms, and quality of life in self-described ragweed allergy sufferers. Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Jan;1(1):90-101. 
  13. Fuller R, Butt H, Noakes PS, Kenyon J, Yam TS, Calder PC. Influence of yeast-derived 1,3/1,6 glucopolysaccharide on circulating cytokines and chemokines with respect to upper respiratory tract infections. Nutrition. 2012 Jun;28(6):665-9.
  14. Talbott S, Talbott J. Effect of BETA 1, 3/1, 6 GLUCAN on Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms and Mood State in Marathon Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2009 Dec 1;8(4):509-15.

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