Nutritional Support for Viruses
Updated: Jun 1
With all this hype surrounding the Corona-virus (SARS-CoV2), I wanted to share my knowledge on how to keep our immune systems functioning healthy and strong. Much of the fear spread to us from the medical community is the continual message that there is no cure, there is no medication to help stop it. What we also need to recognize as we comb the news headlines, is that doctors have little training and knowledge in how to keep our immune systems strong with diet, lifestyle, vitamins and herbal interventions. This isn't taught in medical school - if it can't be cured by a pharmaceutical intervention then it isn't valid - that's simply not the case. We DO have tools in our pockets to boost our immune function and prevent underlying diseases in our bodies that leave us susceptible to a viral infection. We DO have tools in our pockets to slow viral replication, support proper immune response and reduce the inflammatory process when we find ourselves having contracted a virus.
We are not sitting ducks without any tools! Many of us are staying at home in an attempt to support the concept of “flattening the curve”, which now opens the doors to take the time to prepare nutritious, healthy, immune nourishing meals, focus on moving our bodies, and learn more about alternative ways to support health. We all have to eat, and many of us will be buying supplements that we think will work. How do we choose the foods and supplements to best protect us?
It is important to note this guide is not a replacement for medical advice or public health guidelines, nor does it promise to prevent or cure any disease in any way. This guide provides my well-researched nutritional and herbal interventions in the prevention of the SARS-CoV2, and is for educational purposes only. No rigorous studies exist currently to test these recommendations, however there is plenty of existing science on how SARS-Cov2 infects and spreads inside our bodies and how it may be similar or different to other well researched viruses like Influenza. People are grasping at various vitamins and herbal remedies that they have read about to help support their immune systems, but it’s important to take the science from what we do know, and formulate a strategy for what is likely to protect us, and what may carry a higher risk of hurting us if we do contract the virus. It’s worth noting that this time there is no randomized control trials that are directly related to SARS-CoV2, so we are forced to look at things that may work and that have worked for other viruses that are similar in nature.
QUESTIONS about anything you read here? I'm offering FREE 15 minute consultations about immune supporting supplements tailored just for you. Even better - consult with me and get 20% off retail (instead of 10%) at my online dispensary. Email me at stacey @ microfuelnutrition. com
My prevention guide includes, in order of importance:
1: You must lay the foundation with a healthy diet.
2. You must support gut health, as 80% of our immune system resides in our guts.
3. You must ensure adequate levels of key vitamins that play a role in immune function.
4. Utilize anti-viral essential oils.
STEP 1: We must lay a foundation with diet.
All disease manifests from our cells not being able to perform their functions as originally designed. A perfectly nourished cell, devoid of any toxins and fully topped up with nutrients it needs, is able to protect itself, do the job it was designed for, die when it is programmed to do so, and won't be susceptible to outside threats like viruses. But that is not the case in today’s modern world filled with toxins in the air we breathe, in the food we eat, the medications we take, and what we put on our bodies in terms of self-care (make up, cleaning products, creams, lotions, etc.). It takes a tremendous amount of nutrients for our bodies to detox what we present it with on a daily basis. Combine that with inflammatory diets devoid of nutrients, medications that cause nutrient depletions, and existing medical conditions, and it’s a recipe for disaster when we are confronted with a strong virus. Eating an abundance of fruits, vegetables, healthy oils and responsibly raised meats outlined in my Anti-Inflammatory Diet provides a solid foundation to nourish our cells and to feed the probiotics in our gut.
READ MORE about which anti-viral foods you should be eating daily.
READ MORE about which foods to avoid during a viral infection.
STEP 2: 80% of Your Immune System Resides in Your Gut
Your gut is your body’s first line of defense to many pathogens, including viruses. 80% of your immune system resides in the lining of your gut, and is designed to detect harmful bacterial and viruses. Additionally, your intestinal tract is host to billions of probiotic strains which make up our microbiome (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces are extensively studied). Our microbiome has been found to regulate our immune system by activating the adaptive immune responses. It improves the body’s ability to produce T-cells, a type of white blood cell that attacks and destroys viruses (1). They also help repair a damaged gut lining, produce antibacterial substances, and down regulate inflammation (2)
If you’re regularly consuming foods that trigger inflammatory responses – like sugar, wheat, pesticides, GMO foods, known food allergies or sensitivities, dairy, fried foods, trans fats – this causes your immune system to go into overdrive to fight off food thinking it’s an invader. This in turn leaves you more susceptible to a virus. SARS-CoV2 enters our bodies through cells primarily found in the lungs and gut!! Additionally, antibiotics are abundantly over-prescribed and and have detrimental and underestimated negative effects on immune health. Antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria, but they kill off all good strains of probiotics that protect us. Once this happens, our guts become unbalanced – the good strains are no longer there to keep the bad strains in check and dysbiosis occurs (3). Since a healthy immune system depends on a healthy gut microbiome, antibiotics may leave the body unprepared to fight of subsequent viral infections. In studies where mice were treated with antibiotics, it was found they had low numbers of important immune cells known as T cells. Normally during an infection, T-cells will recognize an invading virus and multiply in high numbers to control the infection. Mice treated with antibiotics generated fewer T-cells, and showed to be at high risk for more than a week after the antibiotic treatment ended (4). It should be considered that in general antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary, may be unwise because of the potential effects on immune responses. Additionally supplementation with a multi-strained probiotic of over 20+ billion is recommended for general immune support, and gut healing protocols should be implemented for anyone who has taken oral antibiotics in the last 6 months.
My favorite probiotic supplement is Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete. It comes in capsules, chewables or powder - perfect for any age.
STEP 3: You must ensure adequate levels of key nutrients that play a role in immune function.
This is not only critical for prevention of the virus, but even more critical if you are a care taker of someone that has it. In my protocol recommendations, I thoroughly research all of the products I recommend to ensure I believe they are highly bio-available, pure from allergens and also contain the right forms of the ingredients - all very important. If you cannot find these in stock in my dispensary (at 10% off retail prices!), please reach out to me as I can contact supplement suppliers directly for you to see if they have it in stock or find you a suitable alternative.
Because we cannot generate or make Vitamin D in our own body, we need ultraviolet radiation from the sun to convert Vitamin D into its active, usable form.
Vitamin D has had some recent controversy between scientists on whether or not it is a protector or promoter of SARS-CoV2. For now, I am airing on the side of it being protective, especially if taken regularly as a preventive as it is an essential nutrient connected to countless benefits of human health. Not only does Vitamin D promote the activation of our immune system, but it also suppresses inflammation which is known to occur during an active SARS-CoV2 infection.
In a global collaborative meta-analysis study published in the British Medical Journal (5), it was confirmed that participants with lower levels of Vitamin D had greater susceptibilities to acute respiratory infections and that daily supplementation cut their risk of respiratory infection in half. Administering occasional doses of Vitamin D during infection, did not produce significant benefits (6).
I highly recommend to all my clients that they take a minimum of 1000 iu Vitamin D-3 as a daily supplement, and higher if you are deficient. I also recommend to do routine testing of Vitamin D levels which is inexpensive and easy to do - only testing can direct the amount of D that you need! It is a lipid soluble vitamin, so it is possible to overdose on it. The lab I use is currently offering Vitamin D testing for $39 throughout the month of March - this can be drawn at a lab local to you no matter where you live - contact me for details! Optimal levels should range between 50-80 ng/ml for adequate immune protection.
My favorite is Pure Encapsulations D3 Liquid as its virtually tasteless, easy to administer to all age groups, and easy to adjust dosing dependent on need.
Zinc is critical for immune system function and gut health (aka immune system function again!) and has been found to inhibit at least 3 mechanisms that the SARS-CoV (the original coronavirus - not the new one) uses to reproduce. While this hasn't been proven yet for the SARS-CoV2 virus, we can assume it is likely effective and should continue to be used as preventive. In a recent Thai study, hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory infections taking 30 mg of zinc per day shortened their infection by an average of 2 days (7).
Zinc can only effectively block viral replication once inside the cell which is why knowing your intracellular levels of zinc is very important. If you are deficient, this could become very problematic should you contract a virus. There is no part of the body that stores zinc so it's important to regularly replenish it.
Diets high in wheat, soy and legumes can also inhibit zinc (and other mineral) absorption because they are high in a chemical called phytic acid. Another reason to move away from the standard american diet full of refined grains and soy additives. Alcohol, diuretics and oral contraceptives also block zinc absorption so higher doses are required. Foods highest in zinc include oysters, beef, chicken, pork, hemp seeds, shiitake mushrooms, pumpkin seeds and cashews. The best, most tolerated forms of supplemental zinc include zinc gluconate, citrate, or picolinate, and dosage should be 30-50 mg daily of elemental zinc for immune enhancement. Amounts higher than 50 mg daily can deplete copper. Additionally, zinc should be taken with food to prevent nausea, a common side effect. Zinc acetate lozenges allow for it to coat the nose and throat, which is the entry point to most viral infection, or you can buy liquid ionic zinc and create a spray mist for the mouth and throat.
My favorite zinc lozenge is by Life Extension. It's formulated to be bio-available and spread throughout the mouth and nasal passages.
Vitamin C has been well known to help the body combat the common cold by shortening its duration and severity. A meta-analysis of 29 studies in 11,306 people showed that supplementing with doses of 1-2 grams per day significantly reduced the duration of colds (8). It is now being used in hospitals intravenously to combat SARS-CoV2 (9, 10). It helps fight viral infections by enhancing white blood cell function and antibody responses to viruses. It is required by the thymus gland, one of the major glands involved in immunity. Lastly it promotes and improves vascular integrity, which has been shown to be hugely problematic in the SARS-Cov2 infections.
Vitamin C cannot be manufactured in the body thus it must be obtained in the diet and through supplementation. Additionally it only lasts about 4 hours in the body, so supplementation of Vitamin C should be done in divided doses throughout the day instead of in one large dose. You can find Vitamin C highest in kiwis, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, kale, and snow peas.
Need another reason to cut sugar out of your life? Vitamin C and glucose enter our cells through the same pathway. Sugar essentially clogs up our cells so that Vitamin C cannot get in. This becomes problematic when our white blood cells need to go to work to combat a virus - they need 50 times more Vitamin C than other cells (11). Additionally when you consume sugar, it creates inflammation (oxidation). Vitamin C has to go to work as an antioxidant to combat the inflammation, using up critical stores. For enhanced immunity, 1,000-5,000 mg of Vitamin C should be taken daily in divided doses, preferably with 500-5,000 mg of bioflavinoids for enhanced absorption.
Lysine is an amino acid that has shown to exhibit indirect anti-viral activity. It does this by blocking the amino acid arginine, which is necessary for the replication of viruses (12).
Additionally, viruses activate enzymes as a precondition for spreading by cutting through surrounding connective tissue. The amino acid lysine is able to block these enzymes and inhibit the spread of the virus inside the body. When combined with Vitamin C, it's particularly useful as the two work in synergy with one another. Lysine helps block the degradation of connective tissue, while Vitamin C stimulates the production of new tissue.(13). While most of its success has been shown through studies involving the herpes virus, I always use high dose l-lysine at the onset of any viral illness (1000 mg three times daily), and lower doses (500-1,000 mg daily) as a preventive if exposure is suspected. Lysine is high in fish, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and cow's milk kefir (14).My favorite combination product for Vitamin C and L-Lysine is C/Lysine Plus by Douglas Labs.
Read more about arginine-containing foods to avoid HERE.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids play an integral role in regulating inflammation (important in prevention of infection and during active infection) and cell wall integrity. If our cell walls are strong, then viruses have a harder time entering them. They do this by manipulating lipid raft formation, the place on the cell wall where SARS-CoV2 attaches and enters (15). In today's modern diet of processed foods and grain-fed meats, we tend to consume much more Omega-6 fatty acids. An imbalance doesn't allow for omega-3's to do their job. This is another strong reason to follow my Anti-Inflammatory Diet and incorporate fish, grass fed meats and nuts and seeds into your diet. It is possible to test your omega-3 levels and inflammation levels. When combined together, the results can help motivate you to improve your diet! I also recommend a minimum of 1000 mg of a EPA/DHA Omega-3 supplement daily. My favorite omega supplement is Biomega-1000 because of its potency, affordability and strict purity standards compared to other brands.
My all time favorite herb for all things health. Curcumin, the active constituent in turmeric possesses a multitude of health benefits, most importantly anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. SARS-CoV2 is most dangerous in its ability to cause a tremendous amount of inflammation in the lungs. Secondly, it has been shown that people with higher amounts of inflammation in their body are also more susceptible. Turmeric as a cooking spice tends to be less absorbable and is difficult to reach therapeutic doses. As a preventive, 400 mg two to three times a day is recommended of Progressive Labs BCM-95 Curcumin, the most potent form available. Added benefit - it is also a great pain reducer and NSAID alternative.
Astragalus acts as a tonic, protecting the immune system by increasing metabolism, promoting healing, and providing energy to combat fatigue and stress. It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (also known as huang qi) as an effective tonic for lung weakness (16). It is a great immune defense prior to any sickness. I do not recommend this product once you are sick and NEVER during a fever.
STEP 4: Utilize essential oils for their antiviral properties.
The anti-viral constituents in essential oils come from distilling different parts of plants - and utilizing the plants natural defense systems and most powerful healing compounds for our own health. They are very potent, and just one drop can have a powerful effect. For example, one drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 100 cups of peppermint tea.
Doterra's On Guard blend has been proven to kill 17 different strains of viruses and stop the H1N1 virus from replicating (17). Pure essential oils* are lipid soluble and have the capability of entering cells where viruses reside. This oil can be applied to the bottoms of the feet or directly to the tongue and swallowed.
As an additional respiratory support, we do "inhalation treatments" of Doterra's Breathe Essential Oil (8 drops in the diffuser). This involves deeply inhaling the steam, holding it for 10 seconds and exhaling. This oil blend contains a combination of oils (Laurel leaf, peppermint, eucalyptus, melaluca, lemon, and more) that are highly anti-microbial but also help to dilate the nasal and lung passages so that the oil can penetrate the cells.
*It's important to note that essential oil purity is of utmost importance when ingesting or inhaling essential oils. Many contain fragrances or additives than can make them not only dangerous but ineffective. Please choose a reputable brand that is therapeutic grade.