The pandemic of COVID-19 has certainly caused me to take a closer look at my health and the things that I can do to help improve my immune system. I wanted to use this week’s blog post to share what I’m personally doing to support my immune system. With that being said, I’m NOT a doctor and before trying any of these suggestions you should consult your own physician just as I have consulted with mine. We know that having a healthy immune system includes living a healthy lifestyle with diet, sleep, and exercise; but when you have an autoimmune condition sometimes that’s not enough. With the help of some wonderful practitioners, I have found that I must go beyond maintaining a “healthy lifestyle” to better support my body. The following have been helpful to me:
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth is something that I have been consuming for years. It is nutrient dense and contains immune boosting benefits such as minerals and amino acids. One of those amino acids, glycine, which acts as a neurotransmitter, has been found to impact the immune system. Chris Kresser, M.S, explains this best in his article, The Bountiful Benefits of Bone Broth: A Comprehensive Guide,(2019) he states,
While ancient folk wisdom suggests that a hot cup of bone broth can help soothe the sick and cure the common cold, modern studies have confirmed that the components of bone broth can boost the immune system. For example, glycine receptors have been identified on the outer surface of several different types of immune cells. (73, 74) The effect is a dampening of the immune response, resulting in reduced inflammatory signaling molecules and oxidative stress that may reduce damage to lungs and other tissues. (75) The GAG heparan sulfate has been shown to influence B cell function, T cell function, and macrophage activity.(76)"
It is very fascinating that the nutrients in bone broth can affect the intricate workings of the immune system. Bone Broth can be found in major grocery stores, but I prefer to make my own. It’s easy to make and it freezes well. I have created a step by step bone broth tutorial here on how to make your own. My favorite way to consume bone broth is to heat 8 ounces over the stove. I do not microwave my broth because the microwave diminishes the nutrients. Once the broth is heated, I add 1-2 scoops of collagen peptides and 1 tablespoon of grass fed ghee or coconut oil. I then take an immersion blender and blend it all together. Do not skip blending, because the coconut oil/ghee will not mix with the broth. Next, I pour the broth mixture into a mug and drink it like a cup of hot tea. This mixture is a filling snack because of the added collagen peptides (protein) and coconut oil/ghee (fat). Currently, I am doing this everyday with coconut oil.
2. Coconut Oil
I have been using coconut oil for gut healing and digestion over the past couple of months. Not only do I add it to my bone broth, I like to add it to smoothies as well. I also use coconut oil in cooking and to roast vegetables. When using coconut oil, you should look for a high quality oil that is organic, virgin, and cold-pressed like Vita Coco. Cold pressed oils have not been extracted using heat or chemicals, so they maintain their nutrients and antioxidants. Cold pressed oils are worth the extra money.
Currently, COVID-19 and Virgin Coconut Oil is being studied by Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit and other researchers at Ateneo de Manila University and Duke-National University of Singapore. Dr. Dayrit and Dr. Mary T. Newport, MD (2020) ‘The Potential of Coconut Oil and its Derivatives as Effective and Safe Antiviral Agents Against the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV-2019)’, have proposed to study the following mechanisms of action:
Three mechanisms have been proposed to explain the antiviral activity of lauric acid and monolaurin: first, they cause disintegration of the virus envelope; second, they can inhibit late maturation stage in the virus replicative cycle; and third, they can prevent the binding of viral proteins to the host cell membrane."
Lauric acid and monolaurin are both derivatives of coconut oil that are known to exhibit antiviral activity in humans and animals. It will be interesting to see what their conclusion is after the study is complete.
3. Sugar Intake
Sugar affects the immune system in many ways. It depletes the micronutrients that our body needs to fight off intruders and inflammation. The presence or absence of glucose in our diet may control the inflammation that a virus causes and influence our ability to recover from a virus. In a study performed by, Ruslan Medzhitov, the Professor of Immunobiology at Yale (2016), ‘Opposing Effects of Fasting Metabolism on Tissue Tolerance in Bacterial and Viral Inflammation’, Cell, vol. 166, no 6, pp. 1512-1525, it was found that mice who were infected with the influenza virus needed glucose to survive. When glucose was withheld or blocked by administering 2-deoxy-D-glucose, the mice died. However, the findings for a bacterial infection was completely opposite. Would the same findings be true in humans? Medzhitov plans to find out. The hope is that one day a physician could diagnose a patient and provide a specific diet that would accelerate recovery from a virus or bacterium and prevent sepsis from occurring. This would be using food as medicine to it’s fullest to modulate the immune system’s response to a virus or bacterium. For now, we can consume a balanced diet that consist of healthy carbohydrates in moderation such as: fruits, vegetables, and natural sweeteners. However, the takeaway from this study should not be that “I can eat all the sugar and carbs that I want.” That totally defeats the purpose of having and maintaining a healthy immune system. An easy step to take to improve health would be to cut out white, processed sugar. Processed sugar is ALWAYS bad for your health. It can be replaced for natural sweeteners that actually have nutritional value. I linked my free quick start guide on replacing processed sugar for natural sweeteners here.
I want to add that with autoimmune disease we should avoid food triggers and food sensitivities at this time for proper functioning of our immune system. We cannot have our immune systems bogged down by fighting sensitivities when we need it to fight a virus. Keeping our diet nutrient dense is very important during this pandemic. When it comes to food sensitivities and the autoimmune diet Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Mom, has some of the best resources and education on this topic. You can check her website out here.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a supplement that I have been taking for years during the cold and flu season. Over the past two years, I have started taking Liposomal Vitamin C instead of Oral Ascorbic Acid. Liposomal Vitamin C is ascorbic acid that is encapsulated in fat which increases its bioavailability. This means that there is a greater concentration of Vitamin C circulating in the body causing greater absorption. Vitamin C is likely safe when taking doses under 2,000mg. Higher doses can be recommended under specific circumstances, but you should ALWYAS consult with your physician before taking a supplement or vitamin. Vitamin C can decrease the effectiveness of some prescription medications that you may be prescribed. Also, taking large amounts of Vitamin C can cause kidney stones.
Vitamin C can be safely and effectively obtained through diet alone. There are many fruits and vegetables that are high in Vitamin C that aren’t citrus. Some of those foods are: Bell Peppers, Strawberries, Spinach, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Potatoes, and Tomatoes. Another great source of Vitamin C is sauerkraut. Sauerkraut contains twice as much Vitamin C as cabbage due to the fermentation process. A side note to choosing a good quality sauerkraut is one that has not been heated for shelf stabilization. This destroys the vitamins and nutrients. Sauerkraut that is properly fermented will be found in the refrigerated section at the grocery store. My favorite brand is Bubbies Sauerkraut, which I can find at Whole Foods and Harris Teeter.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that aids in reducing inflammation and can help prevent colds and decrease the severity of the flu. We also know that the cold and flu are both viruses, but they are not the same as the coronavirus. However, it is hypothesized that Intravenous Vitamin C could reduce the severity of COVID-19 and is currently being used to treat some cases that are infected with pnemonia. A research team in Wuhan, China has begun a study but it’s not expected to be complete until September 2020. As of now, there is no research data proving the efficacy of Vitamin C in treating COVID-19, but I’m looking forward to seeing if there is potential.
5. Fire Cider
Fire Cider is a homemade tonic that consist of: raw apple cider vinegar, raw honey, onion, garlic, ginger, lemon, horseradish, turmeric, and jalapeño pepper. Some recipes will also call for fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano. I have not tried this before but it is something new that I’m adding to my routine this year. Most of the ingredients in this tonic are anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. It’s an easy way to use food as medicine.
My understanding is that you start out with 1 tablespoon in the AM and work up to 3 tablespoons daily diluting it in water before drinking. It can also be added to rice, soups, and dressings. Christa Orecchio, from The Whole Journey, has written a great article, Fire Cider: Immune-Boosting Cold and Flu Fighter (2019), outlining the benefits of each ingredient found in Fire Cider. The article also contains the recipe for Fire Cider and how to use it. You can find that link here. If you have autoimmune disease and nightshades are a trigger for you then Erin, at Real Food and Love, has a blog post and recipe for Nightshade- Free Fire Cider (2020) here.
6. Essential Oils
I have been using essential oils for four years now but before then I was skeptical about them. My background is in conventional medicine so naturally essential oils sounded crazy to me. It was not until I participated in a study for using essential oils on my nauseous post surgical patients that I began to believe in the benefits of essential oils. I explain my journey with essential oils in this blog post here.
Over the past four years I have slowly immersed myself into the world of essential oils. Using them has affected my healing journey significantly. If you are unsure about where to start on improving your health, essential oils are a good place. Simply ditching the chemicals in your home for essential oil based cleaners will make a big impact your health. Essential oils also support the body with its daily functions and are great to use during times of stress and illness.
I personally use a wellness blend of oils that I apply to the soles of my feet nightly. The soles of the feet are a good place for oils to be applied because they have large pores. This allows the oils to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly and efficiently. My wellness blend recipe and instructions can be found here.
Some of the oils that I use in my wellness blend like Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, Clove, Lavender, Peppermint, and Thyme have all exhibited antimicrobial properties against Gram-positive bacteria according to, Winska et al. (2019), ‘Essential Oils as Antimicrobial Agents—Myth or Real Alternative?’. Also, found in another study, Acs et. al (2018), ‘Antibacterial Activity Evaluation of Selected Essential Oils in Liquid and Vapor on Respiratory Tract Pathogens’, BMC Complement Alternative Medicine, Cinnamon, Clove, and Thyme showed antibacterial potential in treating pathogens commonly found to target the respiratory tract. I always have oils diffusing in my home for this reason. I’m currently diffusing Thieves Essential Oil Blend because it contains Cinnamon, Clove, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Lemon. I can’t think a better time than now to start using essential oils to help keep you and your family healthy. If you want to get started with essential oils I would love to help you. I can be contacted through Facebook, Instagram, or here. You can also find my favorite oils here.
If you would like to read the research articles that I referenced throughout this blog post, the links are listed below. I hope you have found these suggestions to be helpful. I would love to know some ways that you are boosting your immunity and keeping yourself healthy?
The use of this information should not be used or replace professional medical advice from your physician. The information on this post should not be acted upon without seeking advice from a physician. This post contains affiliate links in which I may be compensated for.