The majority of people exposed to Covid-19 have symptoms that range from none to more ordinary flu-like illness. Why a person remains well or recovers is because your own immune system destroys the virus. For immunocompromised people who get severe or life-threatening cases of Corona virus, their immune systems have failed to defeat the infection. Other than the possibly effective and hard to obtain drug, Remdesivir, we don’t really know what substances will destroy this virus. That is why it is imperative to enhance our own immune function. Beyond hand washing, social-distancing, and avoiding touching your face, there are things that can make your immune system work better. This way, if you do encounter a very virulent pathogen, you will be more likely to destroy it.
There are immune system components everywhere in and on your body. From your skin to your mucus membranes, in your digestive tract, your brain and in your blood, immune cells and chemicals are constantly neutralizing infectious microbes and encouraging normal repair of your tissues. There are opportunities to enhance your resistance to infection all along the way.
Individualization We are all different in our vulnerabilities. Age, economics, where we live, genetic relationships to different pathogens, personal habits, stress and emotional factors all contribute to our ability to fight infections. What are your vulnerabilities? Be honest with yourself and work hard to make necessary changes. Focus on supporting yourself in the areas where you need it most.
Mucus membranes One of our first lines of defense are the linings of our nose, throat, sinuses, eustachian tubes, and lower airways. Special cells and chemicals like Immunoglobulin A fight viral invaders. Then mucus traps them and brings them up and out, or into your stomach where acid can destroy them. In such a dry climate as Colorado, maintaining normal moisture in your nasal passages is important. If your forced air heat or CPAP machine or just breathing our dry air leaves your nasal linings chronically dry, humidify your sleeping area. Use a salve in your nasal passages, consume enough liquids. Gargling increases circulation to the throat area and is associated with less illness. Gargle twice daily. Nasal saline products help clear collected mucus and debris and maintain healthier nasal passages. Remember to think about lipsticks and moisturizers, makeup, toothbrushes and toothbrush holders as sources of re-infection for all kinds of things. Clean and replace them if you have used them while ill. Gum and dental infections will lower your immunity throughout your body, this is a great time to focus on your oral health.
Caring for your white blood cells White blood cells like neutrophils and macrophages race to the scene when mucus membrane barriers have been breached. They engulf and break down non-human materials, release chemicals that call in other immune forces, then die quickly forming pus. Blood sugar spikes can impair these cell’s ability to entrap pathogens. This is one of the reasons minimizing consumption of sweets, sweet drinks and all-carb meals helps you fight infection. You want steady blood sugar to support your neutrophils as they work to protect you.
Digestion and nutrition Your digestive tract contains somewhere between 60-80% of your immune cells. I am sure you know that it is hard to be and feel well when your digestive system is compromised. Avoid foods that you know cause you problems; if dairy or alcohol or chocolate or whatever it is bothers you, skip it till this contagion winds down. Neither over nor under eat; both can be weakening. Besides hydration, the most common deficiencies I encounter for fighting infection are protein, zinc, vitamins A and D. Taking excess of these nutrients won’t help, rather making sure you have enough is what is right. I suggest some protein at all meals, lots of vegetables, including nuts and seeds and perhaps supplementation with D3 if you are deficient. If someone is anemic, they will have trouble fighting infection, so if you are oddly fatigued consider testing. Iron levels, like vitamin D levels, have a sweet spot. Too much or too little can be a problem.
Speaking of tired… Besides anemia, low thyroid, lack of sleep and underlying chronic illnesses can cause fatigue. Consider thyroid testing if you are tired, cold, constipated with dry skin and hair falling out. Needing sleep to fight infections is a real thing. I know that saying, “Get more sleep” is easier than getting it, but at the very least, be more disciplined about bedtime and sleep hygiene and get some help with sleep if needed.
An odd thing I have long been a proponent of a cold finish after hot bathing as long as you are in good cardiac health when you begin this habit. In a warm bathroom, I suggest cool to cold water to your front and then back for 30 to 60 seconds at the end of a hot shower. Then quickly dry and dress. This promotes circulation and improved immune function. Research says that this works best in people who also get regular exercise. I quote, “The combination of routine (hot-to-) cold shower and regular physical activity resulted in an expected 54% reduction of sickness absence compared to people who don’t do either.” That is compelling. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/)
The mind body relationship How do we manage stress, especially when the news of this virus creates even more stress? I remember the motto of the Y2K panic was “Be afraid!”. For those of you who are too young or don’t remember, people were worried that computers wouldn’t be able to handle the change from the year 1999 to 2000 and global chaos would ensue. People were doing trainings about storing food and water. I was skeptical but I did buy some boxes of wooden matches as a gesture (I still have those matches). This is a more realistic threat. I don’t know what kind of disruptions will happen here, but it has been hard for the communities and nations in lock down. Even with this being a realistic threat, being afraid will not help. Build in a balance of rest and activity, humor, inspiration, beauty and connection and whatever brings you joy and makes you laugh out loud. For some of you who are not going out, stay in touch with others by phone or computer.
Supplements? Clearly, I am emphasizing behavioral approaches to optimizing your immune response. If you want to take supplements, emphasize those that repair deficiency and enhance your own immunity as opposed to antimicrobials, because we have no clue whether things like grapefruit seed extract or oregano oil will work for this virus. Instead think about things like colostrum, medicinal mushrooms, larch bark, monolaurin and elderberry, all of which can support various immune functions.
Homeopathy In large part, homeopathy rose in popularity and use because of good results in epidemic diseases. This was before antibiotics and antiviral drugs. Homeopathic practitioners achieved dramatic success rates treating diseases like cholera, typhus, diphtheria, yellow fever and influenza. Over the years, my experience of a correctly chosen homeopathic remedy has always yielded the fastest results in acute illness. Homeopathy is part of what I use along with nutrition, herbs, supplements and conventional medications when needed. But despite frequent self-questioning about the improbability of homeopathy, I love it because of the results. I encourage you to use homeopathy along with the sensible self-care actions I have described above.
Summing up Yes, definitely, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, lay low if you are vulnerable. But more than that, take better care of yourself and your family right now. Make a bigger effort to eat well, sleep enough, get a little exercise. Take a big breath, and let your love flow.