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Promote Health and Strengthen Your Immunity

elderberry

Boost Your Immune System

There are many ways to promote increased health and strengthen your immune system in efforts to prevent or heal faster from the COVID-19 virus, from lifestyle to nutrition choices.

Here are several things that can help you stay healthier this season:

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How to Fight a Virus

Viruses cause cold and flu, in fact ‘Flu’ is short for influenza virus. Over 200 different viruses can initiate a cold, including rhinoviruses, RSV, adenoviruses, and even several inocuous coronaviruses. Many biologists don’t consider viruses to be alive, since they require a living cell’s ‘machinery’ to make copies of themselves. (1) They can persist in fluids, like respiratory droplets for varying amounts of time. That said, viruses are fragile and die with simple soap and water when on your hands or exposed surfaces.

Antibacterial soaps are overkill. Antibiotics are useless against them, since viruses slip into, and are hidden inside our own cells. If used against a virus, antibiotics can weaken the immune system by damaging digestive flora balance and leaving a person at greater risk for infection. One of the most effective ways our body has to kill virus is to create a fever of 102°Fahrenheit to ‘cook them out.’ Other efforts like nutrient-rich foods, regular movement, rest, herbs and supplements, and time outside will be helpful. Continue reading for more detailed information and suggestions.

Sleep 7-9 Hours Nightly

 

Getting adequate sleep helps create a terrain that is optimized to fight infection and is anti-inflammatory at the same time. Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation blunts the immune response to vaccination, whereas sleep enhances the antibody response to Hepatitis A. (3,4)

 

Inadequate or excessive sleep is correlated with an increased infectious disease risk, with evidence that both are associated with an increased risk of pneumonia. (5)

 

Shorter sleep duration has been associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold as well as a greater number of symptoms reported by adults inoculated with the rhinovirus. (6)

Sleep

A partial night’s sleep was found in one study to decrease both natural killer (NK) cell numbers and NK cell responses. (7)  This finding is of particular interest because NK cells are part of the innate immune system and some of the first responders in a viral infection.

 

Sleep also activates integrin, which helps to enhance T-cell responses:

 

Gαs-coupled receptor ligands potently inhibit TCR-mediated integrin activation on antigen-specific CD8+ T cells, whereas sleep up-regulates integrin activation by suppressing Gαs-coupled receptor signaling. Given the importance of integrin activation for the formation of immunological synapses, our data suggest a critical role of conditions like sleep that are characterized by low levels of Gαs-coupled receptor ligands, in boosting T cell responses. (Dimitrov et al, 2019) (8)

Sleep

Sleep 7-9 Hours Nightly

Getting adequate sleep helps create a terrain that is optimized to fight infection and is anti-inflammatory at the same time.

 

Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation blunts the immune response to vaccination, whereas sleep enhances the antibody response to Hepatitis A. (3,4)

 

Inadequate or excessive sleep is correlated with an increased infectious disease risk, with evidence that both are associated with an increased risk of pneumonia. (5) Shorter sleep duration has been associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold as well as a greater number of symptoms reported by adults inoculated with the rhinovirus. (6)

A partial night’s sleep was found in one study to decrease both natural killer (NK) cell numbers and NK cell responses. (7)  This finding is of particular interest because NK cells are part of the innate immune system and some of the first responders in a viral infection.

 

Sleep also activates integrin, which helps to enhance T-cell responses:

 

Gαs-coupled receptor ligands potently inhibit TCR-mediated integrin activation on antigen-specific CD8+ T cells, whereas sleep up-regulates integrin activation by suppressing Gαs-coupled receptor signaling. Given the importance of integrin activation for the formation of immunological synapses, our data suggest a critical role of conditions like sleep that are characterized by low levels of Gαs-coupled receptor ligands, in boosting T cell responses. (Dimitrov et al, 2019) (8)

Voting Table

Get Fresh Air, Sunshine & Vitamin D3

Getting adequate sunshine is another powerful modality for supporting the immune system in the face of a viral infection. Time in the sun increases our vitamin D3 levels, and we know that vitamin D3 is essential for immune function.

For example, vitamin D3 increases cytokine responses, antimicrobial peptides, and surface defensins, which are part of our first-line of defense against viral particles landing in the respiratory tract. (9) Not only does sunshine increase vitamin D3, it also supports the immune system independent of vitamin D.

Research from last year revealed that sunlight increases the speed of T-cells, thereby facilitating a faster immune response to infection. (10) It is interesting to note that open-air treatment where patients were exposed to direct sunlight and plenty of fresh, ventilated air during the 1918 influenza pandemic – to treat influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis – had much lower rates of infection and less severity of infection and symptoms. (11)

 

While those hospitals offering open-air treatment had better ventilation, sunshine, and hygiene, they also put patients in more contact with the abundance of electrons that the earth’s surface provides. “Earthing,” or grounding, ie, the practice of putting the body in direct contact with the surface of the earth, has been shown to increase the immune response to vaccination, as measured by the gamma globulin concentration, and has been theorized to have anti-inflammatory actions and to promote a robust immune system. (12,13)

Move More and Exercise Regularly

See if you can start each morning with a 20 minute walk and try to walk after every meal. This is basic daily movement that can greatly benefit your immune system.

 

Moderate exercise, 20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week at least is also very beneficial. Aerobic, cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercises are best. Exercise helps symptoms “above the neck.”

Movement
Movement

Move More and Exercise Regularly

See if you can start each morning with a 20 minute walk and try to walk after every meal. This is basic daily movement that can greatly benefit your immune system.

 

Moderate exercise, 20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week at least is also beneficial. Aerobic, cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercises are best. Exercise helps symptoms “above the neck.”

Avoid Sugar

Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods, Avoid Processed Sugar

Naturopathic medicine places immense importance on the role diet can play in immune system health, particularly when considering viral infections.

 

Avoiding simple sugars, alcohol, gluten-rich fluffy foods, coffee and soda due to their immunosuppressant effects, is extremely beneficial. Increases in inflammatory cells and a dysbiosis of the gut have also been observed after simple-sugar intake. (15,16)

 

Following are some other liquids, foods, herbs, and supplements that may be helpful.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Water, brothy soups, and herbal teas are the best for your body and immune system. It is very important to hydrate cells which helps enzyme and energy reactions, and flush the body of toxins.

Eat These Foods

Consider adding these immune-boosting nutrient-rich foods to your diet each week.

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    Garlic

    The best broad-spectrum antibiotic, antiviral and anti-parasitic around: contains allicin.

     

    Colorful Vegetables

    High mineral and vitamin content, and low sugar. Flavonoids from colorful vegetables and fruit have been shown to decrease the production of inflammatory cytokines, a key factor in the virulence of COVID.

    Compounds in brightly colored fruits and vegetables can reduce proinflammatory mediators while enhancing immune cell profiles; this is particularly important when looking at COVID-19 and the complications of a cytokine storm that can follow the associated pneumonia. (20)

    Flavonoids have been shown to inhibit the viral enzyme, 3CL protease, and to inhibit previous SAR-CoV activity in cells, thus making a diet rich in brightly colored fruits and vegetables a strong consideration for patients with COVID-19. (21) Several species of mushrooms, which can be obtained from the diet and through supplementation, have also been found to have multiple powerful antiviral actions against several viruses that cause influenza and other infections. (22)

    Whole Grains

    More complex carbohydrates, less simple carbs.

    Protein

    Especially chicken and turkey (fowl), organic tofu and soy-based protein, fish and seeds.  Minimize red meat.

     

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    Ginger

    Warms, promotes increased circulation and sweating.

    Onion

    Same “Allium” genus as garlic, similar sulphur-containing antimicrobial compounds.

    Mushrooms

    Full of enzymes  and compounds that boost immunity, especially Shitake, Maitake, and Reishi.

    Good Bacteria

    Gut dysbiosis and decreased levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were seen in some hospitalized patients in China with COVID-19, making gut health important in the discussion of COVID-19. (17) Probiotics and diets rich in fiber have been shown to improve gut dysbiosis and stimulate the immune system to fight viruses while also increasing the T-regulatory cells that help fight inflammation at the same time. (18,19) Acidophilus & Bifidus species are shown to reduce cold & flu incidence + duration.  Non-dairy probiotic foods include miso, sauerkraut and its Asian cousin kim-chi.  A probiotic supplement should have 10 billion CFU or more per serving.

    Ask your holistic practitioner if these vitamins are right for you

    In general, COVID-19 can cause a cytokine storm that creates lung damage, and induces oxidative stress to improve viral replication. Antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, E, selenium, N.A.C., glutathione, curcumin and the melatonin of sleep, all decrease oxidative damage. Note that no specific studies on these nutrients against COVID-19 exist.

    Vitamin C

    Shown to be antiviral & mucolytic at doses of  2,000mg every 2 hours, or a few times a day.

    Zinc

    15mg once/twice per day has been shown to reduce duration and intensity of colds and flu. Studies with other coronavirus strains demonstrate that viral virulence and entry into cells are both inhibited by zinc.

    Vitamin D3

    Shown to balance the immune system (prevents colds & autoimmune processes) at 4-8,000 IU per day. Studies show we are three times less likely to contract cold or flu by keeping the immune system healthy with vitamin D.

    Ask Your Holistic Provider About These Herbs*

    Usnea Lichen: Antiviral

    Western Red Cedar: Antiviral

    Ashwaganda: Anti-stress (Somnifera = allows you to sleep) adrenal-endocrine balancer. Immune supportive herb.

    Cayenne: Warms, and increases circulation

    Osha Root: Antibacterial and antiviral, specific to the throat. Best taken as a liquid for sore throats.

    Yarrow flowers: Helps body deal with fevers, lowers blood pressure, heals wounds. (Achillea = protector of Achilles)

    Lomatium:  Strong antiviral. A rash is a warning sign of excessive use.

    Olive Leaf Extract. Increasing body of research showing effectiveness against virus.

    Licorice root.  Antiviral, and great “does everything” herb.  Caution if the person has high blood pressure.

    Different people have different favorite combinations of herbs and nutrients that they swear by.

    Make sure to consult with your holistic practitioner before taking these herbs.

    * Traditional medical doctors are not educated on holistic care, and it’s always important to consult a variety of health practitioners.

    Ask Your Holistic Practitioner About These Botanicals*

    propolisPropolis is a powerful antimicrobial and antiviral substance from bees, whose high flavonoid content also affords antioxidant protection. Studies have demonstrated that propolis possesses anti-influenza virus activity, ameliorates influenza symptoms, and increases lifespan in influenza-infected mice. (37, 38) Propolis’ unique mechanism for enhancing viral clearance is by increasing TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand. (39) It is also high in flavonoids that inhibit 3CL protease.

    astralagusAstragalus reduces inflammation, but is also antiviral and can drive a Th1 response. (40) It is a Chinese immune enhancer, strengthens your “outer defenses”.  An animal study found that astragalus inhibited an overproduction of nitric oxide and the inflammatory cytokines, TNFα, IL-1β, IL-6, and IFNγ, in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated macrophages, while also stimulating the production of these inflammatory mediators in macrophages that were not stimulated by LPS, but without causing cytotoxicity. (41) Given the immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of astragalus, this botanical should be a strong consideration for COVID-19. (42)

    oregon grape rootGoldenseal and Oregon grape root are directly toxic to viruses and bacteria. (43) They also have been shown to be successful treatments for secondary pneumonias that can accompany severe viral infections. (44) Berberine, the active constituent in both of these herbs, was demonstrated in macrophages to inhibit virus protein trafficking/maturation (which inhibits virus growth) and to inhibit the production of proinflammatory TNFα and PGE-2. (45)

    echineceaEchinacea has been shown to induce inflammatory cytokines at the beginning of infection but also to help with resolution of inflammation post-infection. (46) Immune system enhancer.  Two week limit was an old mistake in translation of a study.

    elderberryElderberry is a strong candidate for COVID-19 infections. Most effective in viral prevention, with preclinical studies showing decreased viral binding and replication. Research reveals that elderberry blocks viral uptake and that its flavonoids block viruses’ ability to infect host cells after binding to H1N1 virions. (47) Black elderberry has been shown to be effective against a previous human coronavirus strain. (48) Prior research demonstrated that elderberry is both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory and also has antioxidant properties. (34) While the botanical stimulates IL-6 production as part of an immune response to infection, it also promotes the production of IL-10, which has been shown in other viruses to decrease the damage from cytokine storms. (49) Finally, elderberry has a high flavonoid content, which makes it a strong inhibitor of 3CL protease.

    * Traditional medical doctors are not educated on holistic care, and it’s always important to consult a variety of health practitioners.

      Stay Connected

      You are not alone. It’s easy to forget that when we’ve been told to socially distance ourselves from people, even when we are feeling healthy. Laughter, connection, and positive conversation have all been shown to boost our immune system and encourage our spirits.

      Stay Connected
      Stay Connected

      Stay Connected

      You are not alone. It’s easy to forget that when we’ve been told to socially distance ourselves from people, even when we are feeling healthy. Laughter, connection, positive conversation have all been shown to boost our immune system and encourage our spirits.

      Self Care

      De-Stress and Take Care of Yourself

      Chronic stress directly reduces your immune system through pathways that include effects of cortisol and “adrenaline” (epinephrine, norepinephrine), and increases the production of inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 demonstrated). Mindfulness of breathing can reduce stress greatly.

       

      You know the things that fill your cup and recharge your spirit. Incorporate them into your daily rhythms. Walk outside, grab tea with a friend, read a book, go for a long bike ride or cross-country ski, listen to music, meditate, go to yoga, journal – protect these times for yourself.

      chicken soup

      Recipe: Immune Supporting Chicken Soup

      Sautee’ large chopped onion, 6-8 cloves of minced garlic, ½ cup fresh shitake mushrooms, and 2 cups cubed organic chicken (or 2 packages cubed firm tofu) in Olive oil.

      Chop one head of kale into “noodle-size” strips.

      Add 1½ quarts of water and the kale, and bring to a brief boil.

      In a blender, put 2 Tbsp. Fresh chopped ginger, ¼ cup miso, (or wine or vinegar), 2 Tbsp. Chicken or vegetable boullion, and puree with some of the soup water.  

      Salt and pepper (basil, oregano) to taste.  

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      References

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