Preventing Flu/Colds/Covid This Season - Blog # 78
Hello Everyone! Welcome back to another Friday blog. Today I wanted to talk about strategies we can implement to keep us healthy during the cold/flu season and prevent infections from the common cold, Flu and Covid-19 variants. Did you know these are all RNA (vs DNA) viruses? Viruses must gain entry and use our cell’s machinery to replicate and cause infection. Therefore, it makes sense that if we can enhance immune system performance - blocking viral entry into a healthy cell - we can prevent replication and infection. Let’s delve in to the latest research.
To understand what our strategy needs to look like, we must look closely at what the immune system does and what it requires to protect us. We must also understand that chronic low-level inflammation plays a huge role in our outcome. Our immune system is our first line of defense against any invading pathogen. It will attack what it perceives as a foreign invader - this may be viral, bacterial, fungal or undigested protein fragments that leak across our gut - and even our own glycated tissue!! Glycation happens when glucose/fructose/galactose molecules bind to blood vessels, proteins and other tissues due to high levels of blood sugar. This is the equivalent of creme brûlée - causing a hardening and stiffening of tissue - think cataracts, atherosclerosis and neuropathy. Obviously, it is crucial to avoid sugar, wheat and grains that drive glycation. This happens even more in individuals with insulin resistance -which happens to be most of us. AND…is very inflammatory!
In addition, most of us have had multiple antibiotics, steroids and other medications that damage our gut and immune system. Remember - around 70% of our immune system is in our gut! We rely on our microbiome as part of our defense. If we’ve wiped it out with antibiotics, we are more at risk for all kinds of issues - allergies, skin rash, infections, digestive problems…Further, as we age, our immune response is not as robust. Our immune cells age becoming senescent or zombie cells, diminished T-cells, B-cells, NK (natural killer) cells and antibodies - and we lose memory of previous infections.
It has been well-established that “the complex, integrated immune system needs multiple specific micronutrients, including vitamins A, D, C, E, B6, and B12, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium, which play vital, often synergistic roles at every stage of the immune response. Adequate amounts are essential to ensure the proper function of physical barriers and immune cells; however, daily micronutrient intakes necessary to support immune function may be higher than current recommended dietary allowances.” It is becoming more clear that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) represents the minimum required to prevent disease - like scurvy or beriberi - not the level required to create and support health!!! Our trace minerals - that are nearly absent from our soil - are also vital to our function. They are like keys to an ignition - many proteins and enzymes are not able to function properly - if at all - due to absence or low-levels of these cofactors.
So, how can we boost our immune system to be responsive to pathogens and keep us well during the cold/flu/covid season? Let’s talk strategy.
- Feed Microbiome - Our microbes outnumber our cells by an estimated 10:1. We rely on them to make products - vitamins, SCFA (short-chain fatty acids), NO (nitric oxide) and other metabolites called postbiotics to keep us healthy. They eat fiber, ketones and polyphenols - they also NEED vitamins (like B vitamins) - they will steal vitamins from you to stay alive, if there’s not enough to go around. Eat plenty of raw vegetables, salads, EVOO, fermented foods (gives you probiotics and postbiotics). Kefirs and homemade long-fermented yogurts are amazing. Take prebiotic fiber like GOS (galactooligosaccharide) or Konjac root. GOS increases your killer T cells, prevents allergy and protects airways. Non-digestible oligosaccharides are the 3rd major component in human breast milk. “One of the mechanisms by which GOS exerts its antibacterial effect is that it can adhere to the binding sites of bacteria on the surface of enterocytes, thereby preventing the adhesion of harmful microorganisms.” Take a good probiotic - particularly if you’ve had antibiotics in the last 2 years.
- Fix stomach pH - increase the acidity of the stomach. Normal pH is 1-3 in the stomach. Our body makes hydrochloric acid. This is where many of the bacteria and viruses are destroyed. It is also where we are breaking down our food. If the pH is high, you will not be able to fully breakdown proteins. These can leak out of the gut and start an autoimmune problem. Drink lemon-water, ACV (apple cider vinegar), take a pinch of sea salt (Hawaiian Red Clay or Himalayan - high trace minerals, low sodium and no plastics). Avoid the high pH water and avoid drinking water with meals - it dilutes your stomach acid and delays digestion.
- Remove fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash - this kills the oral microbiome (they even say kills 99.9% bacteria!) and fluoride is also a neurotoxin. This shuts down the production of NO (nitric oxide) - that naturally kills pathogens (SARS-CoV-2, flu, cold, many others) and relaxes blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. Don’t forget to scrape your tongue! This removes many pathogens and yeast that like to reside there.
- Heal the glycocalyx - protective layer on your endothelium (lining blood vessels). Increase HP-EVOO, omega 3s and quercetin (capers, onion, apple)! This prevents viral attachment of SARS-CoV-2 to the ACE2 receptors (viral attachment site)- virtually protecting you from infection - enhance the production of NO (nitric oxide) that kills pathogens and lowers blood pressure. Lower the dietary sugar, fructose and grains to allow healing and increased NO production.
- Sunshine - Get bright sunlight first thing in the am - this helps with circadian rhythm and melatonin levels that are so crucial. Not only do you need UV sunlight to synthesize vitamin D in the skin, but infrared light for sub-cellular melatonin production. The darker your skin is - as well as the older you are - reduces the ability to obtain vitamin D from the sun. Further, if your total cholesterol is <200, you can’t make vitamin D, testosterone or estrogen - they require cholesterol as a precursor.
- Sleep - It is vital for our immune function. This is when your body’s clean-up crew goes to work recycling old or misfolded proteins and cells, cleaning the brain and body - creating new better functioning parts. Make sleep a priority. Try to get to bed by 10 - avoid blue light at night - sleep in a cool, dark room - use white noise if necessary to block noises that may wake you. Avoid drinking lots of fluids before bedtime - so you can sleep through the night without waking up to use the bathroom.
- Vitamin D3 - lipid-soluble - not really a vitamin, but a hormone that has wide-spread functions throughout the body. It is highly involved in immune function and is a powerful anti-inflammatory on its own. “Vitamin D exerts anti-inflammatory effects on immune cells that express the vitamin D receptor (VDR) such as monocytes, macrophages, and T lymphocytes, which in turn shapes the immune response during the onset of inflammation and infection and following vaccination.” When sufficient levels are reached, vitamin D enhances phagocytic (engulfing) activity of macrophages, while regulating T cell proliferation. Vitamin D deficiency is a huge risk factor for viral and bacterial infections. Ask your MD for a blood test.You want your vitamin D3 levels to be >50ng/mL. (ideal = 70-90). Above 50ng/mL is the level at which one can achieve a near-zero risk of death from Covid-19, according to a Meta-Analysis in 2021. You can also evaluate yourself for low vit D:
- Selenium - “Selenium (Se) is an essential trace element for the human body with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune effects, and Se deficiency increases RNA-virus replication and virulent mutations, which lead to more severe tissue damage and symptoms. Low Se status in the host may be an important cause of health complications induced by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).” Selenoproteins have multiple functions in the body and are highly involved in thyroid and immune function. Methyl-mercury (MeHg) “is a highly specific, irreversible inhibitor of Se-dependent enzymes (selenoenzymes). Selenoenzymes are required to prevent and reverse oxidative damage throughout the body, particularly in the brain and neuroendocrine tissues. Inhibition of selenoenzyme activities in these vulnerable tissues appears to be the proximal cause of the pathological effects known to accompany MeHg toxicity. Because Hg's binding affinities for Se are up to a million times higher than for sulfur, its second-best binding partner, MeHg inexorably sequesters Se, directly impairing selenoenzyme activities and their synthesis.”
- Magnesium (Mg) - “Magnesium deficiency is associated with a variety of diseases, such as infections and cancer. Previous studies have shown that cancerous growths spread faster in the bodies of mice when the animals received a low-magnesium diet -- and that their defense against flu viruses was also impaired.” Mg is the second most abundant cation (after potassium) in the body with >600 enzymatic reactions. Further, glyphosate chelates (binds and makes unavailable) Mg, Mn (manganese), Fe (iron) and many other trace minerals from the soil and from our bodies. “Magnesium deficient animals and humans have depressed immune responses, which, when supplemented with magnesium, a partial or near full reversal of the immunodeficiency occurs. Moreover, intracellular free magnesium levels in natural killer cells and CD8 killer T cells regulates their cytotoxicity. Considering that magnesium and vitamin D are important for immune function and cellular resilience, a deficiency in either may contribute to cytokine storm in the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) infection.” It is also of note that Mg is required for the activation of ATP - our body’s energy currency.
- Zinc - Highly involved in immune signaling and function. “At 2–3 g in total, zinc is the second most abundant metal in humans.” Just this information is enough to make us realize its importance in human health. It is a co-factor for >300 enzymatic reactions. Deficiency is widespread at an estimated 2 billion people - particularly vegans and vegetarians - due to consuming foods high in phytates (irreversibly bind zinc), and of course glyphosate. “In general, cellular function, such as the intracellular killing of harmful pathogens, cytokine production as well as ROS production, are dependent on zinc and are impaired due to zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency also adversely affects the maturation and function of T and B cells, which occurs through dysregulation of basic biological functions at the cellular level.” Zinc supplementation is effective in treating: “(1) viral infections, e.g., the common cold, diarrhea, chronic hepatitis C, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); (2) bacterial infections such as shigellosis or Helicobacter pylori; (3) parasitic infestations such as acute cutaneous leishmaniosis or malaria; (4) autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) and Rheumatoid Arthritis; and (5) transplant rejections.”
- B vitamins - water-soluble “B group vitamins represent essential micronutrients for myriad metabolic and regulatory processes required for human health, serving as cofactors used by hundreds of enzymes that carry out essential functions such as energy metabolism, DNA and protein synthesis and other critical functions. B vitamins and their corresponding vitamers are universally essential for all cellular life forms, from bacteria to humans. Humans are unable to synthesize most B vitamins and are therefore dependent on their diet for these essential micronutrients. More recently, another source of B vitamins has been identified which is derived from portions of the 1013bacterial cells inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract.” Vegans and vegetarians are unable to get the full spectrum of B vitamins required - particularly B12 and must supplement. Most of us are deficient due to gut dysbiosis and absent microbiome colonies that make B vitamins. They also require B vitamins and will steal yours if there isn’t enough to go around! B vitamins are crucial for mitochondrial synthesis of ATP (energy). Lack of B vitamins leads to mitochondrial dysfunction, which can lead to cancer.
- Vitamin A - lipid-soluble The active form is retinol found in animal products. What we get in plants is in the form of beta carotene - our body has to convert it to the active form. Some of us don’t do that very well. “Vitamin A deficiency impairs innate immunity by impeding normal regeneration of mucosal barriers damaged by infection, and by diminishing the function of neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells. Vitamin A is also required for adaptive immunity and plays a role in the development of T both-helper (Th) cells and B-cells.” One of the best sources is liver - if you are like me and don’t like to eat it, you can take a grass-fed liver supplement - it is the best multivitamin out there. I take one from New Zealand - they don’t allow glyphosate.
- Vitamin C - Vitamin C is water-soluble and supports cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. It is a powerful antioxidant to protect healthy tissue, promoting oxidant scavenging activity of the skin. Vitamin C helps with epithelial barrier function against pathogens, enhancing microbial killing. It is required for apoptosis (cell death) and clearance of debris from infection by macrophages - preventing further tissue damage. Vitamin C is involved in gene regulation - enhancing differentiation and proliferation of B- and T-cells. “Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. In turn, infections significantly impact on vitamin C levels due to enhanced inflammation and metabolic requirements. Furthermore, supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.” One of the highest sources is sauerkraut - red cabbage makes the highest vitamin C levels - make your own, or try an organic raw sauerkraut. I like “Wildbrine” brand from Costco.
- Vitamin E - lipid-soluble - powerful antioxidant that concentrates in immune cells and modulates immune function. Deficiency impairs normal functions of the immune system - both in animals and humans - that is reversed with repletion. “Vitamin E modulates T cell function through directly impacting T cell membrane integrity, signal transduction, and cell division, and also indirectly by affecting inflammatory mediators generated from other immune cells. Modulation of immune function by vitamin E has clinical relevance as it affects host susceptibility to infectious diseases such as respiratory infections, in addition to allergic diseases such as asthma.”
- Omega 3’s - We are all too low in our omega 3’s. We need to consume lots of fatty fish - salmon, krill, sardines, etc. Consume plenty of plant source omega 3’s as well - Supplement from a good source - Icelandic wild-caught - less toxins/heavy metals. Avoid cheap supplements - these are highly oxidizable and you can make your problem worse by taking low-quality. If you are low in omega 3s, you will have cellular membrane dysfunction - since cell membranes are 50% fat/50% proteins - brain is 70% fat/30% proteins. The enzyme complexes held to the cell membranes fall apart and don’t function.
- Exercise - This is vital for immune function - helps flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways - reducing your chance of getting a cold, flu, covid or other illness. Exercise increases circulation of WBC (white blood cells) allowing them to detect problems earlier. It also elevates core body temperature helping fight infection to name a few of the benefits.
- Hot/Cold - this is hormesis (a temporary stress that improves health) -taking a hot bath temporarily elevates core body temperature, increases circulation and can help your body rid invaders. Cold also works wonders at enhancing your body’s resilience, improving mitochondrial function and clearance of invaders.
- Reduce Chronic Stress - stress makes us more susceptible to infection and diseases. It elevates blood sugar and insulin levels driving metabolic dysfunction and feeding bad players. Implement mindful meditation, deep nasal breathing/breathwork to combat.
- Antioxidants/adaptogens - include Curcumin (turmeric), Quercetin (onions/garlic), Fisetin (strawberries), Resveratrol, Ashwagandha, EVOO, Berberine, adaptogenic mushrooms…These provide antioxidant protection as well as providing epigenetic factors that turn on cancer-fighting genes and turn off cancer genes. Antioxidants protect us from free-radical damage -donating an electron to ROS (reactive oxygen species), neutralizing it - such as vitamin A, which then becomes a ROS itself - along comes vitamin E to neutralize it the same way. This gets passed like a “hot-potato” down the line until glutathione effectively neutralize it all, since it can neutralize 10 ROS at a time - protecting us. In addition, our body kills microbes by creating hydrogen peroxide that can damage our mitochondria and healthy tissue. If we don’t have antioxidants to mop up the damage, we can get wide-spread damage - creating a cytokine storm in our body.
- HP-EVOO - High polyphenol extra virgin olive oil - Polyphenols in EVOO have anti-viral, anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. For example, HT (hydroxytyrosol) “is able to inactivate influenza A viruses, including H1N1, H3N2, H5N1 and H9N2 subtypes.” It does this directly through disruption of the viral cell membrane. HT has also been shown to inhibit entry of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 (covid-19) by binding a heat-shock protein that the virus requires to replicate. Researchers stated that “the infectivity of coronaviruses depends on the lipid composition of host cell membranes… cholesterol depletion in the plasma membrane of target cells reduces the efficiency of infection…the ability of hydroxytyrosol to decrease serum lipids and cholesterol is considered to be significant in the lowering of plasma membrane cholesterol.” EVOO also has vitamins E and K.