As we weather the novel coronavirus and navigate the unknowns, life can feel overwhelming and uncertain. Try and remember that we're all in this together. The social distancing steps currently advocated do in fact work. By slowing spread, we can help the most vulnerable patients get the care they need.
Novel coronavirus spreads through ACE2 receptors, a receptor involved in blood pressure regulation found in the heart, lungs, and digestive system. Currently, we know that people with hypertension are at higher risk. With hypertension, the compound angiotensin is in higher circulation, causing constriction of blood vessels and inflammation in the cardiovascular system. With chronic angiotensin elevation, the body produces more angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) receptors. This sheds light on why hypertensive are having a greater risk of complications. There is emerging research suggesting ibuprofen may be detrimental as well, by increasing ACE receptors.
Recent data reveals that novel coronavirus increases a type of immune cell called monocyte-derived FCN1+ macrophages in the lungs. These cells increase inflammation by ramping up immune compounds called cytokines, and are linked to acute respiratory distress. Because the inflammation with novel coronavirus is immune driven, it's best to avoid immune stimulants like echinacea and elderberry if you have respiratory symptoms.
A naturopathic approach focuses on lifestyle medicine, like diet, sleep, hydration, and balancing stress. For food, focus on plants, whole grains and protein, and skip added sugars, artificial ingredients, juices, soda, and deep fried foods. Support a vital microbiome by adding in probiotic foods like unsweetened yogurt and sauerkraut along with prebiotic foods like tubers (yams, sweet potatoes), oatmeal, wild rice, and mushrooms. Mushrooms like shitake have complex polysaccharides called beta-glucans that support white blood cell activity. Foods high in the flavonoid quercetin (red onions, grapes, berries, and green tea) are also immune-regulatory, helping calm excess inflammation and histamine. The amino acid N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) pushes on glutathione, our body's main antioxidant, and is abundant in protein foods. Vitamin D3 is critical for immunity, and is found in salmon, fortified milk, and as a supplement. For inspirational recipes, check out the website www.oldwayspt.org — a database for Mediterranean diet meal ideas.
Keep hydrated to help out the lymphatic system — the network of vessels and nodes that carries immune cells and clears bacteria and viruses. Caffeine-free herbal teas like hibiscus, ginger, and lemon balm are hydrating, as is water with fresh squeezed lemon & lime. Skip sodas, juices, and more than 1 cup of coffee or alcohol daily.
Go for extra sleep & balance stress
Sound sleep is immune supportive as well, and experts recommend adults get 8 hours nightly. Even one night of quality sleep improves white blood cell counts. Ensure your bedroom is dark, peaceful and quiet, and you might try a calming herbal tea with passionflower or chamomile before bed.
Managing stress is equally important, and, needless to say, a bit of a challenge currently! High levels of stress hormones depress white cell activity, limiting our ability to mount an immune response. With all the alarming information coming our way, take some time to unplug, breathe, and connect with nature. Try a guided breathing exercise (https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/mindful-meditations), or just pause and take a few deep breaths every so often.
Along with lifestyle medicine, keeping up with vitamin C, vitamin D3, and zinc supports immunity. Quercetin and NAC improve inflammation, particularly in the respiratory system, and the immune-modulators Astragalus, Aswhaghanda, and Reishi help calm overactive immune compounds while promoting a healthy immune response. Looking ahead, we need research on holistic options that may be effective in fighting off coronavirus. In New York, hospitals are currently using IV vitamin C and having improved outcomes, as detailed in the following article: