There are many great supplements and foods to help support your immune system. We are certainly in interesting times now and with varying symptoms associated with this pandemic virus, it would be important to consider a variety of care. Why can this virus have so many symptoms you might be wondering? It’s all due to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2 receptor. This protein provides an entry point for the virus to infect cells, like a key to a lock. ACE2 receptors are found in many tissues including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract and due to this, the body can suffer in many ways.
What is ACE2?
ACE2 helps modulate many activities of a protein called angiotensin 2 (ANG 2) that increases blood pressure and inflammation which can damage blood vessel linings and cause various tissue injuries. When the virus binds to the receptor sites, it prevents the conversion of ANG2 to other molecules that are protective. ACE2 on our cells can vary in quantity from person to person with some evidence suggesting that they might be higher in people with diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease. With less ACE2 available due to viral occupation, it could potentially contribute to more ANG 2 mediated injury.
What can you do to help yourself?
To help strengthen the immune system, it could be beneficial to combine a broad range of supplementation/foods including anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, anti-microbial and antioxidants. 70% – 80% of your immunity is derived from the gut so consider improving your immune system by providing your body with the powerful tool of good nutrition to give it a good fight to stay and feel well. It has been reported that the more the body is inflamed (co-morbidities), the sicker it can get with this virus, and it seems that sugar seems to be one of our greatest issues in our society. A recent publication in a technology paper states that data mining has searched through 400,000 scholarly articles on the pandemic finding the increase in risk of respiratory infections in those with high glucose levels. In this population study, both high and low pre-infection levels were associated with increased risk of COVID infection. To “starve a fever” is something we’ve heard of before. We could benefit here in reducing sugars (carbohydrates) including alcohol ( often full of sugar) by intermittent fasting or considering a higher protein diet, the caveat however is not to eat an excessive amount of red meat and dairy.
Balancing the omega pathways are important as some are inflammatory, and some are anti-inflammatory. One area of significant importance is an excess involving Omega 6. This pathway of Arachidonic Acid, found in high quantities in red meat, dairy, shellfish, and squid mediates an enzyme called COX2 that causes an increase in Prostaglandins 2 (inflammatory) leading to an increase in thromboxane. Thromboxane causes blood clotting and constriction of blood vessels. Red meat and a lot of dairy can therefore drive thromboxane and sugar drives another enzyme called delta-5-desturase that increases prostaglandin 2 as well and again thromboxane.
Here is a list of immune boosting ingredients you can incorporate into your diet to help maintain or improve health.
Taking vitamin C for a cold is probably not a new concept to you. It’s a personal bodyguard, protecting cells and assisting healing. As it is required for your adrenal glands, the more stressed you are, the more your body chews it up which is potentially why someone with significant stress will tend to become unwell a little easier. It works hard in the liver, protecting DNA. It also helps your body make collagen, to keep you looking younger. It exerts effects in both the innate and adaptive immune system. A potent antioxidant, its action as a cofactor in numerous enzyme functions plays a key role in immune modulating effects including microbial killing, neutrophil migration and oxidant generation.
A good squeeze of lemon juice in lukewarm water first thing in the morning, not only gives you a dose of Vitamin C, but also helps alkalinize the body.
Ginger is an effective antibacterial and antiviral. It is also a helpful antiparasitic and antifungal. In other words, it is great at helping get rid of quite a few nasties that can create havoc in the body. There even has been some evidence for helping heal stomach ulcers. The good news with ginger is that it inhibits the prostaglandins 2 conversion to thromboxane. Turmeric, fish oils and aspirin as you probably know well are beneficial here too.
The incredibly safe turmeric has over 10,000 peer reviewed articles of its benefits, it is therefore no wonder that it is the most frequently mentioned medicinal herb in science. One of the types of chemical compounds found in turmeric are curcuminoids. It is considered one of the most effective anti-inflammatories in the world. As inflammation is the cause of most diseases, reducing inflammation in the body is of paramount importance. Studies have also found turmeric useful for depression, blood clot prevention, cancer treatment, pain, Type2 diabetes and multiple skin conditions. For skin conditions, it could help speed up wound healing, calm the pores and decrease acne and acne scarring. Turmeric also binds to cadmium and lead and can be therefore useful in body detoxification.
Zinc and Quercetin
Zinc is highly important for immunity, so high in fact that a Melbourne hospital is doing a study on a COVID ward, using intravenous zinc. It appears that zinc has been found to be very low in the very ill. Zinc is anti-microbial, and it helps absorb Vitamin D. Zinc is also important in activating an enzyme that removes toxins. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid and zinc ionophore, which means it helps carry zinc into the cell thereby enhancing the bodies availability to use zinc (bioavailability).
80% of how you absorb Vitamin D is due to genetics and deficiency is particularly common. Vitamin D inhibits inflammation, fights infection and is an immunomodulator hormone and according to this study, Vitamin D can prevent COVID-19infection-induced multiple organ damage due to its ability to increase ACE2 and decrease ANG 2.
From fighting cancer to managing stress, medicinal mushrooms are making headlines. Due to “Fantastic Fungi” on Netflix, many companies stocking these heavily dosed healing compounds have sold out. Supporting immunity, brain health, stress and the cardiovascular system as well as athletic performance and stamina, what is not to love. For a great summary on all the benefit, search here.
Capsulated or powder forms can be found. A dash of powder in the morning coffee can work well. Examples of medicinal mushrooms are Turkey Tail, Shitake, Cordyceps, Reishi and Lions Mane.
Glutathione is the main antioxidant for the brain, it cleans up toxins, helps produce, protect and repair DNA and high amounts are found in the liver. It recycles vitamins A and C and amplifies other supportive nutrients. This study supports that low glutathione levels were found in the sick. It is the principal nutrient that helps the liver deal with chemicals, including drugs. Foods containing glutathione are anything sulphur containing such as garlic, avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, beetroot, parsley, grapefruit and spinach. This research paper concluded that a decrease in glutathione is a risk factor for chronic diseases.
Vitamin A is essential in protecting epithelium and mucous membrane integrity in the body, highly important in the respiratory system. It has a critical role in enhancing immune function. Cellular differentiation, maturity and immunity all require Vitamin A. It’s great for the skin and eye health, reproduction and fertility, healthy bones and wound healing. Deficiency can be present with long term fat malabsorption, gut problems, gall bladder and pancreatic issues and autoimmune conditions.
It would remiss not to include Vitamin E here. Vitamin E relies on glutathione, selenium and active B3 to be recycled. It is a strong antioxidant and is important for tissue repair, helping stabilise cell membranes. It also supports the role of Vitamin D in the body, improves blood flow and reduces cholesterol.
COQ10 is highly heart protective, the active form being called Ubiquinol, used best in conjunction with selenium. It also regenerates other antioxidants, stimulates cell growth and inhibits cell death.
A few herbs deserve a mention including pomegranate, clove and barberry ( available form Persian supermarkets). Antimicrobial and anti-parasitic benefits
A good balanced diet is therefore the key to support immunity including eating more vegetables of course. No new news there. Limit alcohol intake and of course exercise, as exercise has a significant impact on the cardiovascular system. Reducing stress wherever you can is so important and difficult in these times, so please seek help if required. Long term stress suppresses innate and adaptive immune responses. Contact your health care provider for more information or seek help if you have symptoms as the faster you receive care, the better the outcomes. The more you can reduce inflammation in your body, the stronger it will be.