"What can I do to protect myself against the coronavirus?"
Be calm, pay attention, and be pro-active.
Stay six feet away from anyone outside your immediate household.
Wear any kind of a mask when you're out in public.
Wash your hands twice as often as you think you need to, wear gloves or hand-sanitize when you're out in public.
At this point (Tuesday, 31 March) more than 855,000 people are KNOWN to have been infected worldwide and almost 43,000 people have died. While most of the deaths have been among the very old and the medically infirm, that is not uniformly true. The real numbers are certainly higher: most of the US doesn’t even have access to proper test kits! Compared to other viruses, you have probably heard that Coronavirus is highly contagious (one person can infect two or three others) and quite dangerous (2% mortality much more than the common flu, but much less than something like Ebola virus.)
Let’s focus for a moment on the 177,000 who have recovered: I’d like to suggest how you might increase your chances to find yourself in that group if you are exposed. You need strength in both your defensive and our offensive capacities.
Double update: First, I think Scientific American and Dr. Dan's mom are both right: if you are able, it is a socially responsible move to prepare to quarantine at home for two weeks! Preparation will enable you to choose self-quarantine if there is a good reason and it will free up delivery services for those in greater need. Second update, watch for a soon-to-appear article on herbal and homeopathic DIY treatment for flu symptoms...Now, back to the main topic!
A well-defended immune system has
- A blood level of vitamin D between 40-70 ng/mL. Vitamin D levels fall in winter months as our bodies only make D in response to nearly-overhead sun. In Southern Oregon that would be May 1 – August 31. The rest of the year people need to supplement if they want good levels of vitamin D. Again, in Southern Oregon, that usually amounts to 4000 i.u. of D3 daily, maybe that would be 6000 in Portland as the overhead sun window (and thus your stores of vitamin D) is less. Anytime you supplement with D at amounts over 1000 i.u. daily, I also recommend my patients take some vitamin K2 as MK7, 100 mcg for every 2000 i.u. of D3. (Extra D encourages extra calcium absorption; vitamin K2 directs that calcium to your bones.)
- A serum zinc level of 80-120 mcg/dL. If you don’t eat animal protein, you will need to supplement, usually 30-100 mg/day. If you’re taking that amount and your zinc level is still low, please discuss with your physician. That might just be a fine level for you, based on your genetics.
- Freedom from sugar overload. An overly sweet treat can impair the function of your immune response for up to 24 hours. Go sugar free! Go low sugar! If you MUST have a sweet, have it with a meal.
- An adequate level of melatonin. If you are under 40, you almost certainly do. If you are over 40, you almost certain don't. I recommend supplementing at bedtime with 1-2.5 mg for 40-60 year old's and with 5 mg for anyone older. I don't care if you have no problem sleeping, I'm looking for the immune system benefit, specifically in the lungs, derived from a surge of melatonin occuring in the middle of the night. (If you feel overly sedated, you might still be making your own, you can take less.) Boost whatever melatonin production you have by getting off your mobile devices and computer at least 2 hours before bed! If you live in the middle of the country or farther south, you might do even better to get an hour of mid-day sunshine.
Build your offensive team:
There is no known treatment for Coronavirus, but there is some understanding of how the body responds specifically to RNA-type viruses, one of which is our currently concerning Coronavirus. Based on the science in this article, my recommendations for reducing risk would be to take some of these routinely, maybe ALL of them if you have to fly or be in a large crowd:
- Glutathione. I prefer liposomal glutathione (250 mg enough) but also Jarrow’s Reduced Glutathione at 500 mg is thought to be effective.
- Sulforaphane: besides eating broccoli sprouts in giant amounts, you can also take it as a supplement. My choice is the Avmacol brand, 2 of the regular, or 1 of the extra strength tablets daily: crushable and can be mixed with food).
- Glucosamine 3000 mg daily. The chondroitin in glucosamine-chondroitin might also be helpful, so it's fine with or without.
- Elderberry is a toss-up. It probably won't wreak the havoc of which it's accused, and it might be helpful. If your lozenges are zinc--elderberry and that helps you take the zinc, great!
- Also may be helpful but more difficult to take, perhaps just for a known exposure: Spirulina: 1-3 grams is a usual dose, but this article recommends 15 grams (or 100 mg PCB) daily for virus defense.
And, similar to other respiratory viruses: the coronavirus loves a dry throat. Stay hydrated! Drink liquids, gargle if you like it, steam up your house if you have a humidifier.
Boost your immune system's resistance to an acute infection
What you eat matters. Avoid sugar hits, excessive alcohol, both of which at best distract (and at worst disable) your immune system response for 12-24 hours. Think about fave flavors rather than over-eating in your homestay... Every aspect of a usually healthy diet also helps your immune system work well:
- Particularly in elderly people, amino acid and protein boosts contribute directly to immune system function. (Forget the cereal, eat the eggs.)
- Fruits and vegetables of all sorts and all colors contain valuable nutrients. Mushrooms and foods from the onion family (also garlic, leeks, shallots) contain valuable viral resisting nutrients.
- Do you like green tea? Might be better for you now than even the strong green tea extract, EGCG. Plus it's warm and wet and comforting. Nettles also makes a nice tea and is helpful.
- Vitamin A, how do you eat it? Some of us (only about half) can get A from carrots. The rest of us need it from egg yolks, liver, butter: animal sources of retinol, as opposed to plant sources of beta-carotene.
- Broccoli sprouts are a great source of a powerful anti-oxidant, sulforaphane. Don't even try if you hate bitter tastes, but enjoy with abandon if you do!
Nutrition in supplement form as a back-up
- A good multi-vitamin. I like Thorne Basic Nutrients III, I take two twice daily to round out my colorful and protein-rich menu.
- Eclectic Institute makes a Quercetin/Nettles combo that takes two powerful tools specific to coronavirus type infectious agents.
- Vitamin E can be depleted if your immune system is working hard, I like E as tocotrienols for its most immune boosting form.
- Extra vitamin C, 500-1000 mg twice daily.
Avoiding the virus is even better than fighting it!
I don’t need to remind you, right? --It's also a great idea to:
- Social distancing is complex: mostly, stay home. Hang out with only those with whom you would share a bed and a bathroom: close loved ones.
- Become expert with your elbows! (elbow bumps instead of hugs or hand shakes, elevator button pushing, what else can your elbows do that your hands used to do?)
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, singing the alphabet song twice.
- Keep your hands away from nose or eyes (viruses enter through these mucus membranes)
- N95 face masks are reasonable for people in situations at high risk for exposure.
- Stay home if you get sick
- What about exercise? Walks and DIY home exercise options are many and safe! Probably swimming in a chlorinated pool, preferably open air, is the safest group-based exercise.
There is currently no vaccine for the Coronavirus. Your local health department and the CDC might encourage you to get the seasonal flu shot if you opted out earlier in the year.
I think that is not a wise move. In fact, I think it's foolhardy. Vaccine research is VERY limited but one study of 115 children in 2012 showed that following specific flu vaccination, the vaccine recipients were more susceptible to other viral infections. So getting the seasonal flu shot might actually increase your susceptibility to the Coronavirus.
(Full disclosure: I never get nor recommend the flu shot, but don’t think it’s crazy. I do recommend the pneumonia vaccine for vulnerable—i.e., older—people , but I would wait for the summer months to get the series if you have not already.)
Watch this space: we may know a lot more on a regular basis, we are watching medical history unfolding.