Amidst the COVID19 outbreak, the internet is flooded with a lot of controversial information especially when it comes to “What to take and what not” or “What’s real and What’s not”. During this time when there is no ‘magic bullet’ that can either prevent or cure COVID19, what is it that the people can do to protect themselves other than maintaining hygiene? Our body’s natural defense mechanism against any disease is its immune response. The immune cells in our body fight against the invading microbes and kill them. Therefore, one of the ways as to how we can protect ourselves against viruses is by boosting our immunity.
We have all come across current controversies in natural therapeutics of immune support. Let’s throw some light upon the facts with evidence-based research around boosting immunity. We will look at research from other coronavirus strains and the latest COVID-19 research to determine the natural immune-boosting strategies that work during these unprecedented times.
Critically ill COVID-19 patients often develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury (ALI), which are the results of uncontrolled progressive inflammation in the lungs. Ironically, it’s the consequence of our immune system being hyperactive as it leads to overproduction of immunogenic compounds in our body which are called called “cytokines”. This overactive immune response can cause the body to start attacking itself as well and causes a Cytokine Storm. This is a complication that kills many COVID-19 patients. This was also what killed people during the Spanish Flu and is why those 18-25 and pregnant women were very susceptible to the Spanish Flu. There are obvious differences between the Spanish Flu and coronavirus but it hasn’t stopped people from making the comparisons because of the cytokine storm.
Now, you must be wondering, well then definitely, one should not go for immune-boosting agents as it might lead to “Cytokine Storm (CS)” which unfortunately helps to develop COVID-19 disease complications. You may have heard that herbs or vitamins contribute to a cytokine storm but there is no evidence to support this claim.
Very often, the cytokine storm is not even triggered by the virus but rather as another end-stage consequence like septic shock. In fact, various studies show several compounds derived from plants, herbs, and micronutrients can balance your immune system and are not associated with a cytokine storm.
Plants/Herbs based immune support:
The internet is claiming that the herb Elderberry which can boost your immune system could cause cytokine storm. Firstly, this fact is totally unsupported and the course of action of Elderberry does not involve cytokines response at all. It rather involves an inhibiting mechanism where it inhibits the function of a protein-expressing on the viral surface which otherwise facilitates viral movement within the respiratory tract. Moreover, Elderberry can correct the imbalance of metabolic processes including on cytokines, meaning it upregulates when necessary, and downregulates them when necessary.
Another plant-derived compound called is Quercetin. It is commonly found in fruits, vegetables, and roots—such as berries, Brassica (cruciferous vegetables; cabbage, Chinese napa, mustard plants, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radish, kale, collards, etc.), capers, grapes, onions, shallots, tea, tomatoes and many nuts, seeds, leaves and in red wine. Highest levels of Quercetin and its metabolites are found in lung and liver as most viruses settle in these organs. Quercetin is anti-inflammatory, and it quenches cytokines caused by viruses. Quercetin has a wide range broad-spectrum action as it appears to inhibit many strains of Influenza and Coronaviruses, and stops different infectious viral proteins. Quercetin is better absorbed when taken with Vitamin C. It can be taken with Vitamin E supplement for an added benefit.
Resveratrol is another plant-derived antioxidant which exists widely in different plants, including grape (Vitis vinifera), Huzhang (Polygonum cuspidatum) and cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). It has been shown to significantly inhibit MERS-CoV infection and prolonged survival of the cells after the virus infection.
The root of Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), an herb, possesses a compound which is a potent anti-viral compound. Previous data suggests the compound from this herb inhibited SARS-CoV infection by targeting early stages of the virus multiplication, its penetration into the cells and neutralized infectivity of the virus.
Several studies have shown that a major compound in green tea extracts called EGCg (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is known to have a broad anti-viral activity like influenza virus and poses a protective effect against such viral infections.
Age, immune system and viral infection:
The mortality rate upon being infected by SARS-CoV2 is the highest for people who are 70+ years of age, declines for young aged people. This explicitly tells us that the severity of the infection by SARS-CoV2 has a relationship with age. There could be several mechanisms behind such phenomenon. One of them could potentially be Melatonin levels. Compared to healthy adult seniors, younger children have at least 10 times higher levels of melatonin. In a study, melatonin has been shown to dampen inflammatory response which spikes up in later stages of viral infections. Melatonin has also been shown to protect against lung injury from mechanical ventilation interventions.
The levels of antioxidants which are anti-inflammatory also decline with age as older people produce lesser antioxidants than the younger people. One such antioxidant Sulforphane (SFN) is a neutral plant compound and is found in many cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. It has been shown that SFN is protective against respiratory viruses as it dampens inflammation and alleviates oxidative stress.
Micronutrients and immune support:
Micronutrients play a dominant role when it comes to immune support. Our immune system requires specific micronutrients including vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, and B12, zinc, iron, copper, folate, and selenium which play synergistic roles at every stage of the immune response. Marginal deficiency of these micronutrients can impair immunity. Current evidence indicate that supplementation with micronutrients with immune-supporting roles can reduce the risk of infection and modulate immune function. Vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc have the strongest evidenced towards their role in boosting immune response. In fact, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) has been shown to decrease inflammatory response by the body which proves fatal for oneself in the later stages of viral infection. Vitamin D deficiency on the other hand has been shown to be associated with increased risk of respiratory infection. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation demonstrated protective effects towards prevention of acute respiratory infection by modulating the levels of cytokines in an immune response. Micronutrients requirements and immune function change over a course of life. A bidirectional relationship exists between infection, immunity, and nutrition. Poor nutrition compromises immune function and leads to increase risk of infection. Adequate amounts of these micronutrients ensure proper functioning of the immune system and diet alone may be insufficient to fulfill the requirement. Hence tailored micronutrient supplementation based on age is necessary for a robust immune response against an infection.
Hence, do not fall for the myth that consuming immune-strengthening agents do not do any good for you! Rather prepare your body to fight infection efficiently. However, one thing to keep in mind is the consumption of Ibuprofen or similar compounds in case of viral infection. Avoid taking these as their mode of mechanism is to suppress the natural immune response of the body.
We have carefully cultivated this package based on current research and even those with autoimmune disorders can use these recommendations.Immune Boosting Package