Many of you have been inquiring about what you should be doing during this COVID-19 pandemic to avoid getting sick. The most important action you can take is to optimize your immune system.
In addition to my own experience, I reached out to the best resources I know. The first is from experts in Integrative Medicine at my Fellowship program at the University of Arizona. The second is from the Institute of Functional Medicine, which I am a member. The final but most important document is from Dr. Terri DeNeui, a leading expert in Bioidentical Hormone Replacement therapy.
All of these carry the same message. If your body is as healthy as possible you will have the ability to suppress this virus and any future viruses and illnesses.
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Here are my top suggestions taken from these resources:
- Adequate sleep – Inadequate sleep increases the risk of any illness or disease. You need 6-8 straight hours of good sleep. Sleep is when our bodies heal and repair. Optimizing sleep is necessary for prevention of and healing from any illness. Adequate sleep also ensures the secretion of melatonin, a molecule which may play a role in reducing coronavirus virulence. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they are stimulants. Turn off the TV.
- Prebiotics and Probiotics – 70-80 % of our immune system is in the intestinal tract. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for enhanced immunity. Leaky gut and/or inflammation in the gut, causes inflammation throughout the rest of your body. When this happens the immune system can’t function properly and is unable to fight off viruses like coronavirus. This inflammation also stresses the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands need to be healthy as they regulate our response to stress, the immune system, metabolism and many other essential functions. Studies have shown that probiotic use can decrease the number of respiratory infections.
- Melatonin – This is a powerful antioxidant and immune regulator with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. It has been shown to have specific benefit in decreasing lung injury related to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease).Melatonin production decreases as we age which maybe why children are not getting as sick as older adults. It is suppressed by light and should be taken at night. Typical dosing is 0.3mg to 5mg. (Refer to the University of Arizona document where higher dosing is used in the oncology setting).
- Vitamin C – Another potent anti oxidant that is believed to prevent replication of the virus in the lungs. It also increases T-lymphocytes ability to fight viral illness. Vitamin C shortens the frequency, duration and severity of the common cold and the incidence of pneumonia. (Linus Pauling was right.) Dosing of vitamin C ranges from 500mg to 3000mg daily with even higher doses utilized with acute infection. If experiencing GI symptoms take in divided doses.
- Vitamin D – This vitamin has many critical roles in our health including being a powerful immune booster that protects against respiratory infections. Unfortunately most of us are deficient. This should be taken in combination with vitamins A and K. Common dosing is Vitamin D 5,000 IU each day. Take with food for best absorption as it is a fat soluble vitamin.
- Zinc – Coronavirus and other viruses appear to be susceptible to zinc. Zinc may prevent coronavirus entry into cells and appears to reduce coronavirus virulence. Typical daily dosing of zinc is 15mg – 30mg daily with lozenges potentially providing direct protective effects in the upper respiratory tract.
- Exercise – Even mild to moderate exercise increases the immune response, improves mood and decreases stress. Just 10 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise a day has been shown to have as much benefit as jogging for an hour. You can find 10 minutes a day to exercise. Look to U-tube for ideas. Most workouts don’t require equipment. Take a brisk walk.
- Vitamin N – Get outside. Spending time in nature does wonders for our attitudes and reduces stress.
- Eat clean – Avoid processed foods. Add more fresh vegetables and lean proteins to your diet. Fatty foods, sugar and caffeine intake should be limited. Eliminate or at least decrease alcohol intake as it is an immune suppressant. Intermittent fasting while sick has been shown to decrease inflammation and increase immune function. Making poor food choices impairs the gut microbiome function.
- Optimize hormones – Last, but most important, is to balance your hormones. Insomnia is a common side effect of imbalanced hormones and doesn’t allow us to get enough sleep (see above). Replace with Bioidentical Hormones. Refer to the attached pdf regarding how critical the role of replacing hormones is for giving our bodies the ultimate tools to prevent heart disease, dementia, bone loss, etc. Testosterone is important for men and women and is a very potent anti-inflammatory to support the immune system.
I hope this information is of use to you. If you have any questions regarding your health during these trying times, please reach out to my office for assistance.
Wishing you, your family and friends the best in health today and in the future,
– Denise Norton, MD, FACS, RPVI, RVT