Can Nutritional Supplements Provide Immune Protection Against Coronavirus?

By Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

At this time in the current COVID-19 health crisis, schools, retail stores, gyms, businesses, restaurants, and community gathering places are still very much closed, but online supplement stores and health marketplaces are definitely open for business and marketing like gangbusters to scared consumers. Many supplements known for their immune-boosting effects, like liposomal Vitamin C, Zinc, and Quercetin are even almost impossible to find right now as a result. And, while all medical professionals across-the-board agree, myself included, that there are scientifically-backed nutritional approaches to support a balanced immune system, protect against COVID-19, and mediate symptoms, recommendations as to which nutritional supplements may or may not work vary greatly. Part of the discrepancy in recommendations can be attributed to the fact that this virus is so new to humans. Thus, we are writing our best practices as we actively treat and study patients. But, the other side of the coin comes from the complicated nature of the cytokine storm ignited by COVID-19 and the very understandable fear of this unfamiliar and invisible threat. That is why I thought it might be helpful to discuss in greater depth some of the supplements and treatment approaches that I have recommended in previous articles and explain why they help, as well as explain a few additional practices that will benefit your overall health during this time of greater stress, isolation, and viral exposure.

Safeguarding Your Nasal Passages

Before we get into the nitty gritty of navigating supplements, I would like to mention one technique that I have not written about yet that is not only helpful for the mold/pollen sufferers but may also show promise in prevention of viruses such as corona, and that is daily nasal rinsing. Nasal rinsing involves the gentle introduction of salt water or a saline-based solution into the nasal passages and frontal sinuses. When done correctly and routinely, nasal rinsing removes, and quickly, the presence of pollens, mold spores, and the beginnings of infection from viruses and bacteria.  I would never suggest that this would be a cure for any viral disease, but it may help lower the load of a virus and hence, decrease the chance or severity of illness. For Coronavirus in particular, we know that the virus lives in the nasal mucosa and throat for a few days before migrating to the bloodstream and lungs. Thus, addressing those areas with a wash that can prevent viruses and bacteria from adhering to those tissues would not be a bad idea in my opinion.

Nasal washing can be done in several ways, with over-the-counter kits that may be purchased at the pharmacy, or with something like the Nasopure kit. There are more sophisticated versions, such as pulsing irrigators, etc., but the end result is the gentle flush of fluids into each nostril.   Please note that the water used in any sinus rinse MUST be distilled or purified water, never ever tap water. Tap water contains chlorine which can kill off beneficial bacteria. The salt packets contained in the kits are added to the water to buffer it such that it does not burn the nasal mucosa. Many people do not realize this, but the inside of the nasal passages is very delicate and sensitive. You should be very gentle and never seal your nostril with the bottle. Just gently squeeze the solution into one side of the nose and allow it to run freely out of the other nostril.

I also recommend adding CitriDrops Dietary Supplement to the bottle solution, about 5 drops per treatment. This supplement is a natural botanical that has antimicrobial and antifungal properties.   Doing such a nasal wash daily and following the instructions in the kit can keep mucus build up to a minimum and thus decrease the nose’s likelihood as a breeding ground for pathogenic microbes.

Sauna Bathing to Boost Immunity

Sauna bathing, which has been discussed in previous articles, may also hold some preventive protection against viral infections by raising the body temperature temporarily. The studies on sauna bathing confirm that it boosts metabolic and immune function, detox capabilities, and reduces stress. If you choose to do sauna, please follow the protocols set forth on this website, as it is important to stay hydrated and to replace electrolytes lost by sweating.

Safeguard the Terrain With Clean Air, Clean Food, and Clean Water

Emphasis on the basics cannot be missed. As we do try to introduce as much as we can for support, protection and prevention, none of these practices or supplements can take the place of clean air, a clean diet, and clean water. A good, healthy diet, and plenty of clean, mineral-rich water with minimal sugar, alcohol, and chemicals is of utmost importance for keeping inflammation down and the body primed to fight any pathogen. Additionally, during our sheltering in place, indoor air needs to be clean and free of mold, mycotoxins and dust. All airborne invaders drag down the immune system, the very thing we are trying to build up for our protection!

An Additional Note on Mold and Immunity

If you are mold sensitive, a moldy environment will have your central nervous and immune systems in high-alert, DANGER mode. This ignites a constant state of immune vigilance and reaction to the mold. Any other exposure to viruses, bacteria, etc. cannot be defended against effectively, because the immune system is in full alert already. Living in a a moldy environment can then create the perfect storm for autoimmune conditions and disease to arise.

Nutritional Supplements for COVID-19

As for the nutritional supplements, there are published studies showing improved resistance to viruses using the following products:

(Note: All supplements referred to below can be found on Wellevate and NuMedica  with referral code 40568 to register.)

  • Vitamin D-3 – I recommend 5000 units daily to my patients. Vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin and is even referred to as the “immunity vitamin”. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 Americans have low levels of this vitamin, and I must wonder how much of the rapid spread of Coronavirus is related to Vitamin D deficiency. The following groups are more likely to experience deficiency: Older adults; people with darker skin (darker skin equates to reduced ability to make Vitamin D from sunlight); people with limited sun exposure; people taking certain medications such as blood pressure meds, diabetic medications, and anxiety medications; people with malabsorption syndromes or those on chronic proton pump inhibitors, such as Nexium and Prilosec; people who are obese or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. If you fall into any of the above-stated groups, I think it is a good idea to consider supplementing with Vitamin D, especially currently.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a natural antibiotic as well as an important antioxidant. Because of diet, pollution, medication, etc., levels in the body tend to be low and need to be supplemented daily. Recent studies have shown that the addition of even modest doses of Vitamin C (1200-1500 mg daily) in patients with active Coronavirus showed more rapid improvement and recovery. These first studies were in China. The minimum daily dose for prevention is 1000 mg. I particularly like the liposomal form, which means it is bound with a little fat to stay in the system longer. NuMedica Liposomal C is a great one and tastes good too. There are several forms of Vitamin C on the Wellevate site that are also quite good and range from pills to powders to chewable tablets. Any is better than none, and you can take as much as you can, reducing dosage in the event of loose bowels.
  • Zinc, Selenium, and other trace minerals – These essential minerals are active components of building healthy immune cells. Zinc has long been touted as an immune builder and is available over the counter in several preparations, such as Airborne, but don’t forget that other trace minerals are equally important in maintaining and stimulating immune cells. If you are on a good multivitamin, you may already be getting enough minerals, but it would not hurt to add a bit more right now. Thorne Basic Minerals, available on Wellevate, is a good one. Nu Medica also carries one, called Mineralplex.
  • Quercetin is an herbal antihistamine and anti-inflammatory and can switch the body’s tendency to form reactive antibodies (as in the case of allergies) to the immune-protective balance instead. The great thing with using Quercetin is that you can get some pollen relief as well as added antiviral protection.  NuMedica Seasonal Shield is excellent, or Klaire Labs Quercetin/Bromelain from Wellevate.
  • Probiotics – Fostering the “good” bacteria in the small intestine (the gut) to act on indigestible fiber to form what we call short-chain fatty acids assists in the formation of a healthy gut lining. When the gut is healthy, it can then more efficiently produce a very powerful immunoglobulin, called Immunoglobulin A—the first line of defense of your immune system.
  • NAC, also called N- Acetyl Cysteine – Most of the studies of NAC so far have involved its ability to reduce and inhibit viral reproduction and expression of inflammation by viral cells in H1N1 flu virus. As it also loosens mucus, it is not a bad idea to add it in for additional protection during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bottom Line With Immune Protection

These brief explanations are meant to help you better understand why I recommend these supplements and health practices and how they may help to support you and your body at this time. Please remember that nothing takes the place of AVOIDANCE, though–staying safe at home as much as possible, social distancing, wearing a mask or facial covering when in public places, hand washing, and doing all the physical things possible to avoid person-to-person exposure. Taking supplements or doing any other health-positive practices will just support these efforts and give you additional nutritional fortification. I also find that when I am actively engaging in rituals that I know are good for my health, my anxiety decreases, and my sense of wellbeing is heightened—two effects that are definitely welcome at this time in our world!

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