Saturday, April 11, 2020

Natural Approaches to COVID-19
From Dr. Andrew Weil
And Center For Integrative Medicine

Supplements are part of a regimen to boost your immune system.

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Last Tuesday I listened to a live lecture with Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Randy Horwitz, Dr. Lise Alschuler and Dr. Esther Sternberg on Integrative Approaches to Covid-19. Let me try to summarize some of the knowledge they shared. The key theme was how to build your own immune system and strengthen your body's nature forces to fight off this deadly virus.

Dr. Andrew Weil 
Dr. Weil introduced the speakers and offered several suggestions of his own:

* Good nutrition, plenty of rest and sleep, and a positive mental state all contribute to building a strong immune system.

* Too much stress lowers your immunity and makes you more vulnerable to disease. One way to lower your stress is to do breathing exercises. He recommends the 4-7-8 breath.
Here's a link on how to perform his famous breathing technique. 

* Dr. Weil also highly recommends laughter. I know, it's hard to laugh during times like this but there are plenty of jokes flying around the internet these days so enjoy them!

Dr. Randy Horwitz
Dr. Horwitz explained a bit about the virus and the mechanisms of infection: 

* Although you can fit 700-1000 Covid-19 viruses across a human hair, it is considered rather large for a virus.  It is moderately highly infectious and virulent. The virus has one goal and that is REPRODUCTION and to take over the world. 

* The Achilles heal of the virus is its envelope. Made up of fats and proteins, it can be dissolved by soap. This is why we are being told to wash our hands with soap and water as it is very effective in destroying the virus.

Pre-Infection Stage
* The best thing to do to reduce the chances of being infected is to limit exposure. So sheltering in place and social distancing is very effective. 

* Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also key - get plenty of sleep as sleep deprived people are more susceptible to the virus. Good nutrition, lowering stress, and taking selected supplements are also very important (we will talk more about supplements later.)

Viral Infection Stage
Here's what happens during the infection stage:

* The Covid-19 virus sneaks inside your cell and shoots in the virus's blueprint. Each of your cells has its own blueprint of what it is supposed to be replicating but the virus hijacks your cell's factory to copy its blueprint and now has changed the instructions. 

* The virus infects the cells of the upper respiratory system. The hijacked cells of your upper respiratory system releases new virus and destroys the ciliary cells. This is what causes the cough associated with Covid-19. 

* There are several things that can happen from here: One, your strong immune system could stop it or a weakened immune system may not be able to stop it and the virus could enter the lungs, replicate, and lead to pneumonia.

* Once this happens, the immune cells in the lungs become activated and go into overdrive. Fluid fills the alveoli (the little sacs that that line the lungs that allow the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules to and from the bloodstream) and this prevents adequate gas exchange. 

* Now all hell is breaking lose. The macrophages in the lungs grab the virus and send out help signals to the body to send cytokines to help. 

* When the cytokines that increase immune activity become too abundant, the immune system goes into overdrive and starts to attack heathy cells. This is called a cytokine storm. The blood vessel walls get leaky and the lungs fill with fluid. Blood clots can also form throughout the body, further reducing blood flow. This leads to decreased oxygen and respiratory failure. 

* There is a fine balance to prevent a cytokine storm without inhibiting viral immunity.

Dr. Lise Alschuler
Dr. Alschuler discussed supplements. Although none of these recommendations are proven with respect to Covid-19, she recommended those with the highest likelihood of benefit and the lowest possible risk.

She discussed the 3 components to prevention. 1. Block viral docking, 2. Inhibit viral replications, and 3. Increase innate immunity.

Prevent Viral Entry and Docking
* The Covid-19 virus gets into human cells by targeting a specific receptor called ACE2 found on certain cells. Certain vitamins and supplements may be able to block ACE2 receptor binding:
    - Astragulus may be helpful in decreasing ACE2 receptor activity.
    - Quercetin binds to ACE2 receptors, taking the space that the virus is targeting.
    - Vitamin D3 reduces ACE2 activation
    - Elderberry inhibits viral attachment in a different corona virus and may do the same thing with Covid-19.

Reducing Viral Replication
    - Zinc reduces viral replication.
    - Quercetin acts as a zinc chelator and helps facilitate bringing zinc into the cells.
    - EGCG, found in green tea, also acts as a zinc chelator.
    - Elderberry inhibits replication of a different corona virus and may do the same thing with Covid-19.

Improving Innate Immunity
    - Vitamin D activates innate immune cells but too much can cause an overactive inflammatory response (or a cytokine storm) and cause a damaging response in the lungs. (Test for 25-hydroxy vitamin D. Deficiency is less than 30 nmol/L. Potential deficiency is between 30 and 50 nmol/L and normal levels are between 50 and 100 nmol/L.)
    - Vitamin C regulates pro-inflammatory cytokines.
    - Curcumin can also help surpress a cytokine storm.
    - Melatonin may reduce lung damage during the viral infection.
    - 7 to 10 servings of vegetables a day provides immunity boosting flavonoids.
    - Other supplements that help boost immunity include garlic, ECGC from green tea, quercetin, and mycelium extract.
Dr. Esther Sternberg 
Dr. Sternberg discussed the impact of stress and making your home a healing place.

A certain amount of brain stress is necessary and beneficial for peak performance but excess stress can lead to disease. The stress response strongly effects the immune system and chronic stress increases the frequency of viral infections and accelerates aging.

Reducing Stress
Dr. Sternberg's suggestions on reducing stress:
* Take control as best you can even though we are in a situation where many people feel out of control.   

* Focus on your own expertise and take that stress energy and turn it into something to help others. For example, today, instead of freaking myself out watching the news, I'm spending time sharing this good information with you!

*  Have virtual social gatherings. The other night we had a virtual cocktail hour with some friends that we hadn't seen in a while and it was really fun catching up. And we didn't have to drive across town, clean up the house or dress up. This might become a thing!

* Get a good night's sleep. EVERY speaker discussed this so it's super important. Increased activity helps improve your sleep. Circadian lighting where you expose yourself to bright sun light sometime between 8am and noon and reduce exposure to light in the evening, helps the body produce melatonin and enhances good sleep. 

* Exercise is a great stress reducer. So if it's allowed, get out of the house for a walk or run while remaining socially distanced. I myself dance to zumba tapes.

* Do Mind Body activities such as meditation, yoga, and breath exercises like the 4-7-8 breath Dr. Weil suggested above.

* Maintain a healthy diet. I have over 600 posts of healthy recipes in this blog so you can start here.

* Spiritual activities can greatly help stress. These are not always tied to religion - mine involve plants and gardening and appreciating the beauties of the universe and each other.

I hope this summary helps you understand more about Covid-19 and ways to strengthen your body to help prevent and fight this deadly virus.

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