How To Support Your Immune System During The Coronavirus

The coronavirus continues to monopolize all forms of media with daily infection and death toll updates to experts voicing their opinions about origins, nature of the virus and prevention, it’s nearly impossible to escape.

Thousands of people across the globe are affected by this virus and most cases concentrated in China.  The coronavirus appears to be more virulent than the Flu. But why?

Coronaviruses are known to cause the common cold and have existed for thousands of years. The coronavirus of concern is a novel strain of beta-coronavirus commonly found in bats and birds. It is thought the current strain originating in China was transmitted by bats. The virus is unique in its immune provocation where an aggressive response occurs signaling interferon alpha of the immune system that triggers significant, overwhelming inflammation in the host.

Bats by nature have mechanisms to temper this acute response but a human host lacks the ability to balance this inflammation. Additionally, the virus targets the upper and lower respiratory tracts. The host, if immunocompromised or with other illnesses may succumb to the inflammatory respiratory effects of the disease potentially leading to respiratory failure in those most vulnerable.

 During my travels recently I was appalled by the human habits observed in the airport, a global snapshot of human behaviors if you will and wondered why those numbers weren’t higher.

Many travelers inadequately washed their hands including food establishments or more disturbing, not washing at all.  Flight attendants? Forget about it! I observed attendants handle the bathroom door, collect garbage, touch overhead bins, help passengers with items only to happily return to their food and beverage cart to dish out refreshments with a generous helping of bacteria. 

Healthy appearing folks were wearing surgical face masks only to take them off for a smoke/vaping break.  Many travelers were consuming voluminous amounts of soda, sugary and carbohydrate laden foods. The human body is miraculous in its ability to rejuvenate from such conditions. I’m surprised we still exist as a species!

Airport habits aside, how does one protect themselves? The easiest, least expensive way to decrease your risk of coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands! Handwashing means soap and water with vigorous friction for 20 seconds. Sing Happy Birthday twice to yourself or out loud, whatever works for you. Avoiding large crowds if possible, can decrease your risk given most viruses and bacteria are spread via droplets, coughing and sneezing. Getting ample rest can help the body reset and recharge by release of growth hormone during deep sleep cycles thus giving an immune boost. A healthy diet is key. I cannot place enough emphasis upon this! Ensure a diet rich in lean protein sources, high fiber fruits and vegetables, and hydrate. Diets high in sugar have been linked to immune suppression making you more vulnerable to illnesses.

Additionally, supplements may help boost the immune system while supporting detoxification and keeping inflammation at bay. A daily probiotic containing bifidobacterium is known to have antioxidant properties as well as free radical scavenger abilities while Lactobacillus Rhamnosus is shown to increase interferon-gamma further supporting the immune system.  Transfer factor is another heavy hitter providing key materials that support immunity. Transfer factor is a very small protein (peptide) containing RNA made by activated T-helper cells. Transfer factor can bind to specific antigens on an infected cell signaling T cells to eradicate it. Overall Transfer factor helps to balance the immune system and support the front-line immunity so when exposed the body can effectively mount an attack against a virus or bacteria.

Additionally, ample amounts of vitamins A, C, and D, and the minerals zinc and selenium can support healthy immune function.  (It is important to note that since vitamins A and D are fat soluble, if they are taken for prolonged periods of time, checking blood levels should be considered.)  There are also several specialized supplements that provide additional immune support, which may especially be useful in times of intense immune system challenges, such as what we are experiencing now.  These include immune enhancing polysaccharides, such as ADVANCED mushroom extracts, and IAG larch arabinogalactans, which can complement the immune modulating activities of the peptide transfer factors.  Herbal products such as astragalus, curcumin, and resveratrol, as well as beta-glucans, and olive leaf extract, may also add additional support for the immune system and some may have anti-inflammatory effects as well.

The takeaway here is to support the “vessel” by using common sense practices like good handwashing, rest and proper nutrition. Additionally, immune enhancements during the height of the viral season can also provide support during these challenging times.

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