By Dr. Chad Larson
The number of COVID-19 cases that have been reported to the CDC since January 21, 2020 has exceeded 10 million. And the second wave the pandemic is seemingly worse than the first. So how can we continue to protect ourselves?
While scientists continue to work toward effective treatments and to figure out why COVID-19 affects individuals so differently, what we know for sure is the added threat this virus can have on those with compromised immune systems. Scientists and public health officials still lack the understanding of the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and, subsequently, the inflammatory response to it. This further complicates the predictability of response of an immune-compromised individual.
“Until an effective vaccine against COVID-19 is available, we have to continue to do the hard, albeit tedious, work of keeping ourselves safe and healthy — by wearing facial coverings, keeping our social distance, practicing good hand hygiene, and staying home when we’re sick,” says Jaimie Meyer, MD, MS, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist.
It is now more important than ever for those at higher risk to protect their immune systems, and this starts with optimal gut health and protecting one’s barriers. If there’s a barrier breakdown, inflammation can compromise the immune system. A holistic approach to health may be your best defense. The following suggestions can help to do just that:
Eat a balanced diet: Isn’t this the answer for everything? It may be so, but especially for a healthy immune system. Approximately 70 per cent of the immune system resides in the gut. Therefore, gut health affects immune health. A balanced diet consists of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, healthy fats, seeds, legumes and lean proteins, while avoiding inflammatory foods like excess alcohol, sugar, refined carbohydrates, grains, dairy, CAFO red meat and processed foods. With the holidays approaching it will be easy to overindulge, but remember this year it’s especially important to keep your body strong and healthy.
Eliminate toxins: A toxic load – or accumulation of toxins and chemicals that we ingest from a variety of sources, including the environment, the food we eat, the water we drink and the personal care and household products we use – creates a serious imbalance. Then the barriers can become too weak for the load and they start breaking down, allowing these toxins into our bloodstream and making the immune system vulnerable to disease and infection.
Eliminating the intake or exposure to toxins seems the most obvious of actions. Substituting non-organic fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy for organic foods will eliminate toxins ingested through your GI tract. The use of organic and all-natural body-care products, cleaners and insecticides will eliminate exposure to chemicals through the lungs and skin. Drinking filtered water and avoiding being outside on high-smog days are examples of how to navigate environmental factors.
Nurture your organs: There are five major organs – the lungs, skin, liver, kidneys and colon – which are responsible for filtering and clearing toxins out of our bodies. Optimizing the health of these organs will help them to filter out the toxins effectively. For example, when we breathe in oxygen, our lungs filter out carbon dioxide that we then exhale. The cilia on the lungs also help to catch and eliminate toxic particles that we may breathe in through mucus and then cough up or swallow and pass. For a smoker, the protective cilia on the lungs can be damaged, thus inhibiting the lungs from functioning as intended. The health and care of our organs is not only vital to ensuring optimal function, but also to avoiding toxic load.
Medical testing: Cyrex Laboratories, a leader in innovative testing designed to detect and monitor autoimmune reactivities and their possible triggers, offers The Array 5 – Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen™. This test is designed to measure predictive autoantibodies, some of which can appear up to 10 years before clinical symptoms and assesses possible tissue damage to multiple organs of the body. For anybody who suspects they may be genetically predisposed to or at risk of developing autoimmune diseases, this testing is highly recommended, especially with the added risk of contracting COVID-19.
Dr. Larson is advisor and consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. He studies and treats immunocompromised patients.