Immune Support Options in the Time of COVID – Take Action When You Start to Feel Sick!

Immune Support Options in the Time of COVID – Take Action When You Start to Feel Sick!

Part 2 of 2

Teresa Esterle, MD

In the last blog, we talked about ways to keep your body primed to prevent illness.  But if you wait until you start to feel sick, all is not lost—there are things that you can do to help your body put up a good fight.

Lifestyle Habits: Now is the time to focus on healing

  • Quarantine:  Let your employer know that you are ill, and plan to stay away from any vulnerable family members until you are well for at least 3 days.   Check in with your doctor via telemedicine to see if you need testing or treatment.
  • Rest: This is key, and most likely you won’t feel like doing anything else.  But if you are an exercise die-hard, follow this rule: If your symptoms are only above the neck, such as a sniffly nose, sore throat or watery eyes, and you have some energy, a brief walk or yoga session (by yourself) might be safe.  Anytime the symptoms go below your neck and/or involve your whole body (fever, fatigue, muscle aches, cough, shortness of breath, abdominal distress), it is time to put away your running shoes and take your place beneath the covers.
  • Diet:  It is fine to minimize your food intake if you have little appetite, but make sure you stay hydrated!
    • Water is important for the health of immune cells.  Loading up on clear fluids keeps secretions thin and easy to clear from the body.  Fruit and vegetable juices (no added sugar) and clear soups and bone broth supply essential vitamins and flavonoids that support immune function.   Decaffeinated tea and electrolyte drinks are also good options.
    • Light, easily-digested meals are important if your stomach is upset.  This is a good time to avoid dairy, eggs, and raw vegetables until your system is healthier.
    • Honey is a natural antimicrobial that soothes sore throats and has been shown in studies to be as effective as over the counter remedies at decreasing cough.   Pair it with lemon juice to add a dose of vitamin C to stimulate immune cells.

Specific Agents that help fight the infection:

  • Andrographis:  An herb long used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, this plant has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions.  When used at the beginning of an illness it can shorten the duration of symptoms.
  • Turmeric:  The anti-inflammatory compounds in this culinary spice (including curcumin) have been shown to decrease the “cytokine storm” caused by viruses such as COVID.  This “storm” is an overexuberant immune process can lead to extensive tissue damage.   Turmeric can help limit some of the damage.  
  • ProResolving Mediators:   This is a term given to factors found in a highly refined fish oil fraction.  They have been shown to be powerful at putting the brakes on inflammation.
  • NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine):  This amino acid is one of the building blocks of glutathione, which is critical to cell and tissue repair processes in the body. 
  • PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide): A fatty acid naturally found in the body that is getting attention for its ability to decrease pain and inflammation. 

Supplements that might be helpful:

  • Early in the illness
    • Viracid—This is a powerful combination of herbs and vitamins such as Vitamins A and C, Zinc, Andrographis and Astragalus that can minimize the duration and severity of illness.  As soon as you start to feel sick, start taking 2 of these every few hours while you are awake.  After 2-3 days, decrease to 2 capsules daily until you are well.  It is a great supplement to have on hand at all times, and especially when traveling.
    • Essential Defense—A blend of Chinese herbs that is dosed in the same fashion as Viracid (2 every 2 hours while awake for 24 hours, then 2/day), this can also help minimize symptom severity and help you feel better faster.
    • Andrographis Plus—Another blend of Chinese herbs similar to the ones above.  Start by taking 2 every 2 hours for a few days, then decrease to 2 capsules three times a day until you are well.
    • Sinatrol-  This contains NAC, turmeric, and Andrographis, and a few other herbs. This supplement is especially helpful for illnesses that involve sinus congestion
  • Later/Complicated Infections
    • SPM Active-– This contains the Pro-resolving Mediators that can help minimize the cytokine storm of inflammation.  This is especially useful if an illness is severe or lingers.  Ask you doctor to recommend the best dose for you based on your symptoms.
    • Turiva—While many “turmeric” supplements only contain curcumin, Turiva contains the complete turmeric root, which has other anti-inflammatory compounds that are especially helpful for healthy GI tract microbiome function.
    • PEA – Take 2 capsules twice daily to help minimize inflammation, fever and pain in complicated illnesses.

We know getting sick is inconvenient and often uncomfortable. However, staying home and giving your body the tools it needs to recover can help to speed up the recovery process and get you back to your normal daily activities. If you are feeling unwell, a telemedicine visit can help you to determine a personalized plan to get you feeling better.

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