Coronavirus: Symptoms & Immune Support Strategies
The coronavirus is all over the news and social media. It seems like it’s one of the top things people are talking and feeling concerned about. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronaviruses that first started in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It causes fever, coughs, shortness of breath, and upper-respiratory symptoms. Over the last 3 months, this viral infection has spread throughout the world and now the majority of cases are in Europe and North America.
But what is the coronavirus anyways? Is it really that dangerous to call for panic? What if the coronavirus starts spreading in the United States? What can you do to protect yourself from the coronavirus? So many good questions – I aim to address everything today.
In this article, you will learn what the coronavirus is, how it spreads, what are its symptoms, and who is at risk of the infection. You will learn about some major lifestyle factors that can cripple your immune system and put you at greater risk of any virus or respiratory infection. I will also share some helpful strategies to support your immune system.
What Is the Coronavirus
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large group of viruses. Different strains may cause different illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV, or SARS) or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV, or MERS). Coronaviruses tend to be zoonotic viruses, which means that they can be transmitted between people and animals. For example, SARS was transmitted from civet cats to humans, whereas the MERS originally spread from camels to humans. There are various strains of coronaviruses that are circulating between animals but have not infected humans so far.
If you open the news and read about the coronavirus, they are referring to the novel coronavirus (nCoV) or Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), a new strain of coronaviruses that haven’t been previously seen in humans and has been spreading since late 2019. In this article, I will specifically be covering the COVID-19 and will simply to this strain as ‘coronavirus’ or ‘coronavirus infection’.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak first started in Wuhan, China in December 2019. While we know that the infection spread from animals, it is not yet clear which animal it has come from. It is a strain of coronavirus that we have not encountered before and it’s different from other strains, including the previously seen SARS or MERS.
Symptoms are similar to the flu and the common cold, however, may become severe and lead to complications in those with chronic health issues or in older people. The mortality rate is at 3 percent in Hubei providence in China where the outbreak started and less elsewhere. This is much better than SARS, which had an over 10 percent mortality rate or MERS which killed about 35 percent of those infected.
Coronavirus in the United States
While the virus is believed to have started in China, the virus is spreading throughout the world. Italy and the US have more confirmed case reports at this point than China. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern and a global pandemic, which is a term referring to an epidemic of disease that has spread worldwide.
The United States has seen 1,295,058 confirmed cases in all 50 states and President Trump has declared a national state of emergency over the coronavirus to allow hospitals, healthcare professionals, schools, and businesses to prepare. The aim is to help prevention, treatment, and for scientists to find effective vaccines or antiviral medications. However, personal responsibility is also critical, this is why I will go over some natural strategies to boost your immune health later in this article (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
Symptoms of Coronavirus Infection
The CDC currently believes that the incubation period of the virus can be up to 2 weeks, and symptoms may appear within as few as 2 and as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. This is very similar to what we’ve seen in the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) back in 2012.
Symptoms of the coronavirus infection are very similar to symptoms of the flu (influenza) virus. Based on what we know, symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Not feeling well
Who Is At Risk of Coronavirus Infection
According to our current understanding, the coronavirus spreads very similarly to other coronaviruses and other upper-respiratory infections. The virus mainly spreads person to person between people who are in close contact, or within 6 feet, of each other.
It spread via respiratory droplets coming from an infected individual’s coughs or sneezes. When a healthy person nearby inhales these droplets into their lungs, they may get infected. While this is not the main way to get sick, the virus may also spread by touching one’s own mouth, nose, or eyes after touching an object or surface with the virus on it.
Based on what we know, the coronavirus is the most contagious when someone is the most symptomatic, however, it may also spread before someone shows any symptoms. However, at this point, we don’t know enough how contagious the coronavirus is.
Some viruses, such as measles, are highly contagious and spread easily, while others are much less contagious. While it seems like that the current coronavirus has spread easily and sustainably in Hubei providence where it has first occurred and other parts of China, it is still not clear how easily and how exactly the virus spreads.
How Do You Get a Coronavirus Infection
What we know for certain is that in order to get infected by the coronavirus, you have to be in contact with someone who is sick or perhaps with an object a sick person has touched recently. As of today (May 8th, 2020), there are 1,295,058 confirmed cases in the United States with 77,058 deaths. Most of those deaths occurred in the immune compromised elderly in nursing homes and others had preexisting health conditions that compromised their immune system.
Over 3,950,467 people in 180+ countries have been infected and there are 271,799 deaths cases and over 1,359,456 have fully recovered. 82,886 cases are in China although we aren’t sure if they are reporting accurate numbers. Europe has been hit hard with Italy seeing 215,858 people infected, Spain with 260,117, France with 174,791 and Germany with 169,430. China has only a handful of new cases each day at the time of this writing so it appears that the virus spread in the country of origin has come to a screeching halt.
Since the virus is spreading, and we are facing a global pandemic situation, it is important to be up to date and educated. For up-to-date information, including travel warnings, you can check the live Coronavirus statistical updates here (10, 11, 12, 13).
It is important to note that in most cases symptoms are mild to moderate and people can expect a full recovery. Symptoms can be more severe and complications are more likely to arise in older people and those with a chronic illness or a seriously compromised immune system, hence it is even more important for them to take preventative measures and boost their immune system. It is also important to mention that we are in the midst of cold- and flu-season, which means that boosting your immune system and protecting yourself from illness is critical regardless of the coronavirus.
5 Lifestyle Activities That Cripple the Immune System
Your immune system’s job is to protect you from infections and illnesses. Your immune system is the one that helps you recover if you get sick. Having a strong immune system is critical to protect your body against viral infections.
The problem is that there are several lifestyle activities that many people engage in that can cripple your immune system and make you more vulnerable to illness. Let’s take a look at the top 5 lifestyle factors that may prevent your immune system from functioning optimally.
Sugar and Your Immune System
It’s not the first time you’ve heard about the negative effects of sugar on your health. Sugar not only causes blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain, but it can also cripple your immune system. Sugar can deplete your body from critical immune-supporting nutrients, such as zinc, vitamin C, and glutathione. It also feeds parasites in your body and may lead to abnormal tissue and cancerous growth (14, 15).
When we are talking about sugar and your immune system, we must discuss the link between sugar, vitamin C, and immune function. In the 1970s, Dr. John Ely discovered the Glucose-Ascorbate-Antagonism (GAA) theory, which found that glucose (sugar) and ascorbate (vitamin C) have a very similar chemical make-up. The problem is that both of them depend on the pancreatic hormone, insulin’s signaling to get into your cells. Sugar and vitamin C basically end up competing for the same spot in your immune system.
If there is too much sugar, vitamin C will likely lose this race as too much sugar can restrict vitamin C from entering your cells. When this happens, your body needs to pump more insulin to get enough oxygen to your cells. Vitamin C is critical to handle oxidative stress and fight pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms in your body. If sugar prohibits vitamin C to support your body, your system weakens and becomes more vulnerable to illness and disease, including the coronavirus infection (16, 17).
Your body needs regular sleep to rest, repair, and rejuvenate. Regular sleep deprivation will surely lead to fatigue, exhaustion, and low concentration. However, sleep deprivation also leads to heightened stress response, reduced immune coordination, and increased inflammatory processes.
This can lead to compromised immune function and higher vulnerability to infections and illness, including the coronavirus. If you want to learn more about the importance of sleep and how to get better sleep, I recommend this article (18, 19).
Drinking plenty of water and proper hydration is critical for your immune system, circulation, nervous system, and all organ function. Chronic dehydration can result in too much histamine in your body.
All that histamine will aim to ensure that your organs get enough fluids even when you are dehydrated, however, elevated histamine may also increase inflammation, allergies, headaches, chronic pain, digestive issues, and immune system problems. The consequence of chronic dehydration may also increase your risk of infections, illness, and disease (20).
Drinking Tap Water
You already know how critical hydration and water is to your immune system. However, it is crucial that instead of simply tracking your water intake, you also pay attention to the kind of water you are drinking.
Municipal water can be very toxic loaded with environmental chemicals, such as chlorine, DBP’s, arsenic, fluoride, and heavy metals. These toxins can destroy your immune system. Drinking clean water using a high-quality reverse osmosis system or high-quality mineral or spring water is much better for your immune health (21, 22, 23).
Historically, our ancestors spent most of their lives outdoors. We do the exact opposite by spending 90 percent of our time inside. Our jobs and schools are indoors. We go to indoor grocery stores and shopping malls or shop online from our couch. We attend indoor events or simply hang out inside of our homes. Of course, staying indoors protects us from certain weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or even heat. However, unfortunately, too much indoor time also increases your exposure to indoor pollutants.
By spending so much time indoors, you are also missing out on the protective factors you may receive in nature, including vitamin D from the sun, fresh air, and electrons from the ground when walking or standing barefoot from on the ground. To protect your immune system, it is critical to find balance and create some time to be outdoors regularly (24).
If you want to learn more about how these lifestyle strategies may cripple your immune system, read this article.
CDC Recommendations For Coronavirus
The CDC recommends the habits and precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection that are helpful for preventing the cold and the flu as well:
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Cover your cough and sneeze using a tissue.
- Throw away any used tissues in the trash.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially before eating, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, and after using the restroom.
- When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a great option.
- Clean and disinfect any objects and surfaces touched with a cleaning wipe or spray.
- Facemasks should be worn by people who show symptoms to prevent the spread of the disease, however, they are not recommended to people who are well.
Top 10 Ways to Support Your Immune System
There are currently no vaccines to prevent the coronavirus and there are no anti-viral or other medications to treat the illness. Treatment includes supportive care to treat symptoms as well as to support vital organ functions in severe cases (25). There may be a vaccine in the future, but getting the vaccine alone will not prevent the illness and may very well cause a lot of other health problems.
Supporting your immune system is absolutely critical when it comes to helping your body deal with any sort of viral infection. I recommend these 10 natural strategies to boost your immune system and protect your body from illness and infections. Remember, these are not approved by the FDA to treat, prevent or cure coronavirus, the flu or any other health condition. However, many experts agree that these strategies support your body’s natural resilience and immune wellness.
8 Foods to Support Immune Health
Eating a nutrient-dense diet is one of the best and non-negotiable ways to support your immune health. It is important that you eliminate refined sugar, refined oils, artificial ingredients, processed foods, and junk food, and instead, focus on a diet that’s rich in greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, fermented foods, fruits, and healthy fats.
Certain foods are particularly beneficial for your immune health because they have higher immune-boosting properties than others. It is important that you add them to your nutrient-dense diet. I recommend that you eat at least 3 servings of each of these 8 top immune-supporting foods if you are sick and eat them on a regular basis for immune support and prevention:
- Lemons and limes: Lemons and limes are some of the best sources of vitamin C and antioxidants, and help to alkalize and cleanse your body (26).
- Bone broth: Bone broth is rich in vitamins and minerals and is soothing for respiratory conditions (27, 28, 29).
- Garlic: Garlic may reduce inflammation, support your immune system, and effectively fight infections (30, 31).
- Onions: Similarly to garlic, onions are powerful infection fighters that boost your immune system and reduce inflammation (30, 31).
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar provides great disinfectant support against even the most resistant bacterial strains and viruses and offers antioxidant support (32, 33).
- Olive oil: Olive oil is a great source of monosaturated healthy fats which is incredible for your immune system (34, 35).
- Ginger: Ginger is one of the most potent medicinal spices that help to reduce inflammation, boost your immune health, improve sore throat, and lower pain levels (36).
- Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms are fantastic immune-boosting and inflammation-fighting superfoods (37, 38, 39).
To learn more about the benefits of these immune-boosting foods, I recommend that you read this article.
I recommend that you drink 8 to 10 glasses of clean water minimum a day. If you are exercising or doing physical labor, spending time out on the hot sun, sweating a lot in a sauna or hot tub, recovering from an illness or infection, or otherwise feeling dehydrated, make sure to drink more.
To ensure that you drink high-quality, clean water, use a high-quality reverse osmosis system that purifies your water by removing all the toxins. I recommend systems such as the iSpring or the Berkey system. The best water is the Synergy Science hydrogen water which is what I use at home as it is powered by molecular hydrogen which reduces oxidative stress in the body and improves immune function.
Make sure to use a stainless steel or glass bottle to avoid toxic chemical residue from plastic bottles. It is also important that you eat plenty of hydrating vegetables and fruits and drink green juices, bone broth, or herbal teas in addition to your water intake. Avoid sugar, sugary drinks, energy drinks, and too much coffee that may dehydrate your body.
Good Sleep, Fresh Air & Daily Movement
Keeping your body healthy is more than just food and water. Getting good sleep, fresh air, and daily movement are all crucial for a healthy immune system. I recommend that you get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep on a regular basis. If you are feeling sick, make sure to honor your body, and rest plenty. Get some fresh air on a daily basis.
Go for a walk, do some grounding by standing or walking barefoot on grass or dirt, or just simply open your windows and air out the rooms. Do some daily movement. Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes 5 days a week, and keep an active lifestyle through nature walks, stretching, yoga, dancing, walking your dog, and playing with your kids. Even if you are feeling sick, it is important to stretch or do some small movement as much as you can handle.
Keep Stress Down & Practice Gratitude
Keeping your stress levels down is key to your immune health. Practice gratitude daily. Upon waking, think about the things that you are grateful for. Stop and appreciate the small things throughout the day. Keep an evening gratitude journal. Say a daily prayer or engage in the spiritual practices that uplift you. Journal regularly.
Try meditation and breathwork. Say daily affirmations. Practice positive thinking. Talk things out with your friends, family, or therapist. Make sure to have some ‘me-time’ regularly. Surround yourself with positive people and uplifting activities as much as possible.
Diffuse Essential Oils
Diffusing essential oils may be beneficial for supporting your body’s immune response. They may help to open up your airways, reduce mucous, improve coughs, calm sore throats, and reduce sinus issues.
Essential oils that may benefit your immune health include eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, frankincense, oregano, thyme, geranium, cinnamon, nutmeg, bergamot, cypress, and tea tree essential oil. These essential oils may offer antioxidants and immune-protective qualities.
It is important to mention that some people may be sensitive to certain essential oils. I recommend that you start out with a small amount, preferably, when you are feeling well. Pay attention to your body and reactions. Try out different oils to see what you prefer and what seems to offer the most benefits to your body. Use essential oils that you enjoy and work the best for you (40).
An old naturopathic approach to respiratory infections includes using herbal salves to diffuse anti-viral compounds deep into the tissues that are most effected. Although this is not FDA approved to treat or cure any illness, you may see a reduction in symptoms if you try this approach.
The following homemade garlic salve has helped a lot of people reduce coughs and cold like symptoms. It’s simple to make and easy to use. Here is how to make it:
Homemade Garlic Salve for Respiratory Illness
You will need:
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 10 drops lavender oil (it’s incredibly calming and soothing)
Blend these ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. The garlic cloves should be completely blended.
How to use it:
- Rub it onto the soles of feet. Apply generously. Put socks on to help hold the salve in place.
- Rub it on your chest.
- Repeat every 2 to 3 hours until your condition improves.
Take Vitamin C
There is a reason your mother gave you vitamin C supplements and orange juice when you were sick as a child. Vitamin C is one of the best vitamins when it comes to illness. Research has shown that it has incredible benefits for lung infections and it is one of the most important vitamins for your immune system.
Vitamin C rich foods include lemon, lime, oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, guava, strawberries, papaya, pineapples, kiwi, sweet green pepper, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Remember that sugar is the enemy of vitamin C, so make sure to eliminate any food with refined sugar and reduce your overall natural sugar (carb) intake as well (41, 42).
Supplementing with vitamin C is not FDA approved for treatment, prevention or a cure for coronavirus or any other health condition but it may help support your immune system. I personally take 500 mg, 2 times daily for prevention and if I feel symptomatic, I will do 3-5 grams, 2-4 times daily until I feel better.
Optimize Vitamin D & Zinc
Vitamin C is awesome, but let’s not forget about Vitamin D and zinc either. They are both important nutrients to support your immune system, yet most people are not getting enough. Sunshine is the best way to improve your vitamin D needs, however, with our indoor lifestyle or colder seasons, it is impossible to meet all your needs. This is where supplementation can be extremely helpful.
Zinc is another nutrient that people seem to not get enough through diet alone, especially when not eating a nutrient-dense, immune-boosting diet. This can lead to immune dysfunction and more infections and illness. To improve your zinc levels and keep illness way, I recommend that you eat lots of zinc-rich foods, including pumpkin seeds, asparagus, chicken, salmon, and grass-fed beef regularly.
Supplementing with zinc and vitamin D is not FDA approved for treatment, prevention or a cure for coronavirus or any other health condition but it may help support your immune system. I will often recommend to my coaching clients to take 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D3 for every 25 lbs of body weight daily to improve vitamin D levels. It is also wise to test your vitamin D (25-OH Vitamin D) levels every year and stay in the range of 50-100 ng/mL.
Taking some extra zinc can also be helpful to reduce viral replication and improve T cell immune function. I will often recommend 20mg daily as a supplement for immune support and maintenance. If I am sick, I will often take 20mg every 2 hours until I feel better (43, 44).
Final Thoughts on The Coronavirus
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronaviruses causing coughs, fever, and other respiratory issues. The outbreak started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and is spreading throughout the world as a global pandemic with over 1,295,058 cases in the United States.
While there is no need to panic, it is important to stay informed and up to date regarding new development. Since we are constantly bombarded by viruses and other pathogens, it is particularly important to support your immune system and take measures to improve your health. Follow my natural strategies to help support your immune system and improve your resilience to pathogens now!
Your best defense against today’s (and tomorrow’s) global health threats is a strong immune system. Yet, too many still remain uninformed about the best protocols to support the body’s natural resilience.
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