By DR. JOHN LA PUMA
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-PRESS
The following is courtesy of Dr. John La Puma, a local, independent physician and New York Times bestselling author can be found on his website at drjohnlapuma.com.
How to build your immunity against the coronavirus — naturally, because coronavirus is novel, much more contagious than common colds and can survive on surfaces for days, depending on the surface, we have to be much work to do in fending off this nasty virus. For many people, it is a matter of when they get it, not whether.
Assuming you are vulnerable to it, like you are to influenza (which sidelined GSW star Stephen Curry after just one game back), how can you build your immunity so when you encounter the coronavirus you are able to counteract it, and go on living your life well?
Here are three ways: food, supplements and lifestyle habits.
A word of optimism: nearly all of us who do get coronavirus will not sicken and need intensive care. Nearly all of us will use our innate immunity, recover from exposure and fight through it. I hope these ideas can help: though the list is long, I would choose three foods and three supplements to start, depending on what is convenient and tasty for you — and what fits into your routine and budget.
What to eat to build immunity
- Drink chicken soup daily, if you have it, 6 ounces.: Laugh if you like, but it’s been shown, when made in a hearty fashion with vegetables (not from a box), to have cilial effects, helping you to cough up mucus if it is present.
- Drink Green Tea daily, 4 small (4 oz) cups. All tea comes from the same leaf, and green tea is the unfermented version: black is fully fermented, and oolong is partially fermented. White tea is not the leaf at all.
- Green tea contains the highest levels of catechins—the flavonoids thought to be responsible for tea’s antiviral properties — which has been directly tested against the influenza virus, and found to be active.
- Eat blueberries or red grapes daily. Though no one knows the proper dose, I would start with a half-cup of each, fresh or frozen. They are rich in pterostilbene and resveratrol respectively. They work with Vitamin D to increase CAMP gene expression, which plays a key role in the “innate” immune system, or the body’s first line of defense and ability to combat bacterial infection, which may often succeed viral infection, especially in vulnerable people.
- Eat cooked mushrooms with medicinal and immune properties weekly (Maitake, Enoki, Oyster, Cordyceps, Shiitake). Raw mushrooms contain small amounts of toxins, including some compounds that are considered carcinogens, and are best avoided. Cooking with shiitakes, enokis, oysters is easy, and they are meaty and medicinal:. All of these, but especially shiitakes, also have antiviral and anticancer effects. Dried shiitakes, available at Asian grocery stores, are also effective.
- Eat fermented foods daily — dairy is ok. Yogurt and kefir contain probiotics, or healthful gut bacteria, and the sugar lactose in the milk has been largely metabolized. Probiotics lessen fever, cough, and runny nose in kids ages 3 to 5, respectively. Choose food with as many different strains of cultures as possible (differently than when choosing a supplement) or choose an actively fermenting kim chi, sauerkraut or kombucha. Eat one half cup daily
- Eat foods rich in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory compound found to reduce upper respiratory tract infections in cyclists. These foods famously include apples, onions, oranges, green leafy vegetables. The biggest quercetin bank for your buck: capers! They’re flower buds, and packed with the good stuff. Other excellent sources: dark berries, like aronia, and black raspberries. Aim for 1 or 2 whole fruits daily, or half- to full- cup of berries.
- Eat cruciferous vegetables, especially the leaves which protect the vegetable. Specific dietary compounds found at high levels in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are essential for sustaining intestinal immune function. Aim for half-cup cooked and a little raw added to the cooked daily, to activate detoxification enzymes in the liver.
- Eat more garlic: Most studies have been done with garlic powder or aged garlic extract, and are commercially available as supplements, but food is medicine, and I think you likely get more with the whole clove or head than the extract. A well done meta-analysis showed that these compounds stimulate anti-viral immunity as well as lower blood pressure, and rarely cause drug interactions, except with antiretroviral therapy. Garlic is a prebiotic. As a supplement, look for organic capsules like this from Wild Harvest twice daily; as a food, eat two or three cloves daily, lightly cooked or raw.
- Eat local unrefined, unheated honey, 1 teaspoon daily. Purchase in a Farmers Market or from a beekeeper directly to be sure of what you are getting. This is not proven, but bacterial resistance against honey has never been reported, and there is an extensive body of laboratory evidence to show honey’s own antibacterial nature.
Dietary supplements to build immunity
- Black elderberry extract reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days and convalescent phase tests showed a higher antibody level to influenza virus in the blackberry elderberry extract group, than in the control group
- Bovine colostrum is the initial milk produced by cows, usually obtained within the first 48 hours postpartum. It contains a rich source of nutrition, and immune, growth, and antimicrobial factors. It has been shown to lower the relative risk of influenza infection in otherwise healthy people.Supplementation with bovine colostrum daily up to 12 weeks, can improve intestinal barrier integrity, immune function, and reduce the chances of suffering upper respiratory tract infections or symptoms.
- Echinacea. The juice of a stems or root, echinacea appears to shorten the duration of symptoms by one-third compared with placebo.
- Mushroom supplementation. I recommend Mycotaki for daily immune support, made of U.S. organic mushroom mycelia of seven different potent varieties of medicinal mushrooms.
- Probiotic supplementation. Lactobacillus casei Shirota increase phagocytic activity of neutrophils and natural killer cell activity. It has also been suggested that probiotics may enhance vaccine efficacy and significantly reduce upper respiratory tract infection risk. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21901706
- Vitamin D3, 1000IU daily, with a little bit of health fat containing food (almond butter, guacamole). In winter, too little vitamin D is made in your skin, because the angle of the sun is too low, so supplementation is necessary…unless you eat a lot of fatty fish, or vitamin D fortified beverages.
- Vitamin C, 1000 mg daily, in divided doses: Important antioxidant which is only absorbed a few hundred milligrams at a time. I like this formulation with other antioxidants from Metagenics, with mushroom mycelia as well.
- Wakame (brown seaweed) supplementation can quadruple the replication potential of T-cells, which are an important part of our immune defense against viruses like herpes simplex virus. In one study of the immunocompromised elderly, extract of wakame increased antibody production after vaccination, possibly preventing influenza epidemics. The studies have been done with fucoidan, and this product is grown in New Zealand, is certified organic and has excellent reviews
- Zinc, 8mg -15mg daily. I would not take more than this, as excess zinc can compromise immunity. Zink drink is an easy way to get it. Zinc lozenges have been shown to reduce the duration of colds caused by viruses and how many upper respiratory infections kids get.
- I also consider acetaminophen, Mucinex and inhaled albuterol and other inhalers to be appropriate and useful in people with symptoms of common colds, and likely, the coronavirus.
- Wash your hands with simple soap and water, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is unavailable. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands, discarding tissues immediately, and sanitizing common surfaces.
- Make a homemade sanitizer if you like: 1 cup of 70% isopropyl or rubbing alcohol, with one-sixth cup aloe vera and add 8-10 drops of essential oil like Lavender or Frankensence. This formula will get you to 60% alcohol, which is what you need to be effective. Don’t use vodka: it is only 40% alcohol and not as effective as rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol.
- Do not stay inside all the time — your vitamin D level goes down, and you cannot replenish it except by taking more.
- Stress management is the foundation of antiviral therapy, but it is often easier said than done in times of crisis: going on a news fast (check only once daily, and then stop); spending time outside in nature (see below for details) or with a comforting animal; and living with more of a sense of humor, and more lightly have all been shown to reduce stress. I taught the 3-2 breath to our Burnout Prevention office workers: inhale for 3 counts, exhale for 2 counts– it reverses the natural cadence of breathing, giving you control over something that is automatic otherwise. Dr. Weil has taught the 4-7-8 breath for decades, and it also is very helpful in controlling stress and re-setting your own levels.
Go outside deliberately in one of three areas
- A forest, or under a canopy of trees. Li and colleagues found an association between visiting forests and improvement in the immune responses, including expression of anticancer proteins and natural killer (NK) cells, best known for attacking cancer cells.
- NK cells increase after spending a minimum of two hours in nature
- Improvement in the communication between the parasympathetic arm of the nervous system orchestrates and inhances immune interactions
- A green oasis: an everyday park or garden. Nature appears to enhance immune function, and is tied to “lower rates of acute urinary tract infections, infectious disease of the intestinal canal, and upper respiratory tract infections…the effect of exposure to phytoncides plus exposure to mycobacteria vaccae plus increased adiponectin plus stronger social ties plus better sleep, etc, may be the reason why.”
- phytoncides are the volatile organic compounds emitted by plants to protect them against invaders and pathogens, including viruses: by inhaling them, you enhance your own immunity.
- mycobacteria vaccae are soil borne bacteria that have been shown to increase serotonin levels when inhaled and ingested, and improve immunity in animals
- Find a window view or other view designed to induce feelings of deep relaxation, awe, and vitality—it will take you away from your inward facing world.
- Don’t shake hands: handshake surface area is up to 9x greater than fist bumping, and therefore 9x as likely to transmit a virus if unwashed. Fist bumping may not be great as a greeting, either: nod instead.
- Meditation reduces chronic stress. A favorite free app is Stop, Breathe, Think on Google Play or the App Store , and Headspace Meditation reduces chronic stress by allowing you to focus on the present, without distractions of other things, simply noticing them, instead of dwelling on them.
- Exercise outdoors regularly, enough to work up a sweat, unless you are a new exerciser. New exercisers have a lot more stress when starting exercise, and therefore their immunity may actually suffer in the first few weeks. Acute bouts of moderate-intensity activity generally induce transient improvements in the immune system.
- Paper masks should not be worn unless you are sick, or someone you are caring for is sick with the virus. Wearing and changing disposable nitrile or latex gloves is a better option and discourages the hand-face touching.
- Sleep enough, do not over drink alcohol (1 or 2 per night, not 7 on Friday night).
- Lastly, people with immunity problems, such as thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac disease, should talk to their doctors before upping their intake of immunity-boosting foods, because their immune systems are already overstimulated.