As for prevention to viruses, nutrition plays a crucial role and several nutrients are known for their immune-boosting properties and ability to ward against viral infections. As reported in a February 24, 2020 press release:1 2
“In a compelling article3 in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases … Mark McCarty of the Catalytic Longevity Foundation, San Diego, CA, USA, and James DiNicolantonio, PharmD, a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO, propose that certain nutraceuticals may help provide relief to people infected with encapsulated RNA viruses such as influenza and coronavirus …
COVID-19 is around 30 to 60 times more lethal than the typical annual flu. Both influenza and coronavirus cause an inflammatory storm in the lungs and it is this inflammatory storm that leads to acute respiratory distress, organ failure, and death.
Certain nutraceuticals may help to reduce the inflammation in the lungs from RNA viruses and others may also help boost type 1 interferon response to these viruses, which is the body’s primary way to help create antiviral antibodies to fight off viral infections.”
McCarty and DiNicolantonio list several nutrients available in supplement form that may be of particular benefit against COVID-19, including the those listed below. For more details about each, see the full-text paper4 published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases:
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC) — Encourages glutathione production, thins mucus, lowers your chances of influenza infection and reduces your risk of developing severe bronchitis
- Elderberry extract — Known to shorten influenza duration by two to four days and reduce the severity of the flu. According to the authors:5
“Given that elderberry is a very rich source of anthocyanins, there is reason to suspect that its impact on viruses might be mediated, at least in part, by ferulic acid, a prominent metabolite that appears in plasma following anthocyanin ingestion.”
- Spirulina — Reduces severity of influenza infection and lowers influenza mortality in animal studies. In a human trial, spirulina significantly lowered the viral load in patients with HIV infection
- Beta-glucan — Reduces severity of influenza infection severity and lowers influenza mortality in animal studies
- Glucosamine — Upregulates mitochondrial antiviral-signaling protein (MAVS), reduces severity of influenza infection severity and lowers influenza mortality in animal studies
- Selenium — “Since selenium is an essential cofactor for certain peroxidases, and selenium deficiency has been endemic in certain regions of China and other parts of the world, insuring adequacy of selenium nutrition might also be appropriate in this context,” McCarty and DiNicolantonio note, adding:6
“Selenium deficiency also increases the rate at which viruses can mutate, promoting the evolution of strains that are more pathogenic and capable of evading immune surveillance.”
- Zinc — Supports “effective function and proliferation of various immune cells,” lowering mortality in the elderly by 27%
- Lipoic acid — Helps boost type 1 interferon response. As explained in a 2014 paper:7
“Type I interferons (IFNs) activate intracellular antimicrobial programs and influence the development of innate and adaptive immune responses … (IFNs) are polypeptides that are secreted by infected cells and have three major functions.
First, they induce cell-intrinsic antimicrobial states in infected and neighboring cells that limit the spread of infectious agents, particularly viral pathogens. Second, they modulate innate immune responses in a balanced manner that promotes antigen presentation and natural killer cell functions while restraining pro-inflammatory pathways and cytokine production.
Third, they activate the adaptive immune system, thus promoting the development of high-affinity antigen-specific T and B cell responses and immunological memory. Type I IFNs are protective in acute viral infections but can have either protective or deleterious roles in bacterial infections and autoimmune diseases.”
- Sulforaphane — Helps boost type 1 interferon response
A 2005 study8 in The Journal of Infectious Diseases also found resveratrol has the power to inhibit the replication of influenza A virus, significantly improving survival in influenza-infected mice. According to the authors, resveratrol “acts by inhibiting a cellular, rather than a viral, function,” which suggests it “could be a particularly valuable anti-influenza drug.”
Suggested Daily Dosages
The provisional daily dosage suggestions offered by McCarty and DiNicolantonio to help control RNA viruses, including influenza and coronavirus infection, are as follows:9
The Importance of Vitamin D Optimization
Solar ultraviolet-B radiation and supplemental vitamin D have also been shown to reduce pandemic fatality rates, which makes sense considering how important vitamin D is for controlling infections and lowering your risk for influenza and the common cold.
Research shows high-dose vitamin D supplementation lowers the risk of respiratory illnesses and lung infections in the elderly by 40%. As noted by an author of that study, “Vitamin D can improve the immune system’s ability to fight infections because it bolsters the first line of defense of the immune system.”
Research10 published in 2009 pointed suggests fatality rates during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic were influenced by season, with greater numbers of people dying during the winter than the summer. According to the authors:11
“Deaths during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic have been linked to both the influenza virus and secondary bacterial lung infections. Case fatality rates and percentage of influenza cases complicated by pneumonia were available from survey data for twelve United States locations in the 1918–1919 pandemic.
This study analyzes case fatality rates and cases complicated by pneumonia with respect to estimated summertime and wintertime solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) doses as indicators of population mean vitamin D status.
Substantial correlations were found for associations of July UVB dose with case fatality rates and rates of pneumonia as a complication of influenza. Similar results were found for wintertime UVB. Vitamin D upregulates production of human cathelicidin, LL-37, which has both antimicrobial and antiendotoxin activities.
Vitamin D also reduces the production of proinflammatory cytokines, which could also explain some of the benefit of vitamin D since H1N1 infection gives rise to a cytokine storm.”
As a general guideline, get your vitamin D level tested twice a year, in the winter and summer, to make sure you’re in a healthy range of 60 ng/mL to 80 ng/mL year-round. (A compelling body of research suggests 40 ng/mL is the cutoff for sufficiency.)
Take Control of Your Gut
Last but not least, should the inclusion of Prevotella bacteria in COVID-19 turn out to be accurate, prebiotics, probiotics and sporebiotics may be of significant use. A number of studies 12 have shown Bifidobacterium bifidum strain probiotics can help reduce Prevotella, while Lactobacillus strains tend to increase it.
Sporebiotics may be particularly beneficial. Spore-based probiotics consist of the cell wall of bacillus spores — the protective shell around the DNA and the working mechanism of that DNA — not the whole, live bacterium.
Bacillus spores have been shown to dramatically increase immune tolerance, which means they help repair damage in your intestinal barrier. Since they’re not “live,” they’re also unaffected by antibiotics.
The bacillus very effectively modulates cytokines — anti-inflammatory cytokines are upregulated while inflammatory cytokines are downregulated, thereby restoring balance between the two.
Research has also shown that sporebiotics massively increase reproduction of acidophilus, bifidus and other microbes in your gut via the electromagnetic messages they send out. This is entirely unique. When you take a regular probiotic, they primarily take care of themselves. Bacillus spores, on the other hand, actually enhance many of the other beneficial microbes.
Bacillus spores also create 24 different substances that have strong antimicrobial properties. However, they do not kill indiscriminately like antibiotics do. They can specifically suppress pathogens that do make a valuable contribution to the whole.
Taking measures to strengthen your immune system is a wise strategy to protect yourself against illness as a strong immune system is your No. 1 defense against all types of infections, both viral and bacterial, and the nutraceuticals discussed in this article can assist you in that effort.