Healthy Hormones
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Natural Therapies to Help Treat and Prevent COVID-19 Infections

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​This is certainly a scary time for all of us.  The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world in a way that I have not seen at any other time in my life.

We are hearing about the lack of protective gear, shortages in ventilators, deaths throughout the US and the rest of the world, and other terrifying things.

No one has really answered this simple question:  What can you do to best prepare your body to resist this virus?  Equally important, what natural therapies can help you if you do get it?

I will try to answer these questions based on the best information available.

Let's get started...

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​Before I go any further, I need to make something clear:  ​As of yet, there are no evidence-based integrative prevention or treatment studies for COVID-19 infections.  

Most of the information that I give in this article is gained from studying cold viruses, influenza virus, and other coronaviruses.

Much of this information would be relevant for almost any condition I would be discussing. Some of the information is unique to viral infections such as COVID-19.

​Think about this for a moment:  If you were planning on competing in a triathlon or running a marathon, you would no doubt prepare by getting your body in a good of shape as possible.

The same is true for battling any infection.  The healthier the body, the better you will be able to resist the infection or reduce the severity of the infection if you do get it.

​So what about COVID-19?  What natural things can you do?

​General Health Measures

​1. Avoidance Measures -

​These are all over the news and you have no doubt heard about them multiple times, but they bear repeating.

- Frequent Hand Washing​​​​​ Using soap and water regularly can reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections by 21%. (1)  This is especially important when you are in public or in contact with surfaces that could have been touched by someone with the infection.

- Avoid Touching Your Face - This is brutally hard especially during allergy season, but it can be the difference between getting a viral infection and not getting it.  A study in 2015 showed that we touch our face and average of 20 times every hour.  If we touch a surface contaminated with a virus such as COVID-19, we make it much easier for it to gain entrance into our body if we continuously touch our face. (2)

- Social Distancing - Since 80% of people with COVID-19 may have only mild or even no symptoms, it is important that you limit your exposure to others.  Even people that may ​develop severe symptoms from a COVID-19 infections could shed the virus and infect others up to 14 days before their symptoms develop. (3)

- Wear a Mask in Public - This is a relatively new recommendation.  The mask may not actually prevent the virus from entering your system, but people touch their face much less often when they are wearing a mask.  It is certainly not going to harm you and may even be helpful.

​2. Diet -

- Avoid Sugar and Processed Carbs - They increase inflammation which can impair your immune system. (4)

- Eat 5-7 ​Servings of Vegetables and 2-3 Servings of Fruit Daily - Fruits and veggies contain flavonoids which reduce inflammation and can augment the antiviral properties of zinc. (5)

​- Drink Plenty of Water - Dehydration impairs immunity.  Urinating regularly and having daily bowel movements help to clear the body of toxins.

​3. Get Regular, Moderate Exercise - 

​Exercise is important for both physical and mental health.  Brisk walks, riding a bike, hiking, and light weights are examples of good moderate exercise.  Prolonged, intense exercise can actually suppress the immune system, while moderate exercise has been shown to improve the immune system. (6)

​4. Get Adequate Sleep -

​Getting less than 5 hours of sleep nightly increases your risk of getting a rhinovirus infection by 350%! (7) 

Sleep deprivation increases inflammatory levels in the body.

Adequate sleep also ensures the secretion of melatonin which may play a role in reducing the virulence of coronaviruses.

​5. Manage Your Stress -

​Stress disrupts immune regulation and increases pro-inflammatory cytokines. (8)

You can combat this by doing things such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, regular exercise, starting a new hobby you enjoy, and going outside just to name a few.

Keep in mind that the majority of the daily stresses that dominate our lives will mean nothing a year from now.

​6. Stop Smoking! -

​COVID-19 enters the cells of the body through the ACE2 receptor.  Think of it as the doorway into the cells for the virus.  Smoking up-regulates this receptor, meaning the body makes more of the receptors. (9)  It's like adding more doors so there is an even greater chance of the virus getting into the cells.

​7.  Get Your Chronic Diseases Under Good Control -

​Heart disease, diabetes, autoimmunity, and other chronic conditions increase the risk of developing a severe COVID-19 infection.  As I stated earlier:  the healthier you are the more likely you will be effective at battling the virus.

​What About Herd Immunity? -

​Just a quick word on this concept that I am beginning to see a lot about on the internet.  Herd immunity means that enough people in the community have either been vaccinated or have developed antibodies to the disease (natural immunity) that it stops the disease from spreading.

Some people are even recommending that we stop the practice of social distancing so most of us will get infected and just "get it over with."  Once the majority of the population has been exposed, the overall immunity of the population will stop the pandemic.

That sounds great, right?  In theory, yes, but there are issues or consequences to consider:

​- A percentage of the population (about 5% of positive cases with COVID-19) would get very sick.  About one fifth of that 5% would die.  That could mean ​millions of Americans could die from the virus.  Even if the mortality rate was as low as 0.6% like South Korea, that would still mean that millions of Americans could die.

- If everyone became sick around the same time, it would overwhelm our healthcare system.  There are an estimated 100,000 ICU beds in the US.  Needless to say, that would not be enough to care for potentially millions of sick Americans.

- There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.  Some experts are hopeful that a vaccine will be ready within the year, but that obviously does not help with this current pandemic.

When a vaccine is developed, it will most likely be given preferentially to the people that are at highest risk in the population - the elderly, patients with chronic diseases, and healthcare workers.

***A Quick Comment About Vaccines - ​There are many in the population that are against all vaccines.  I would agree that when possible it is better to have a natural immunity to many of the diseases rather than relying on a vaccine that may not fully protect or may lose immunity over time.  However, in a situation where the disease can lead to death in about 1% of the population, a safe and effective vaccine would certainly be helpful.

In the case of COVID-19, I don't think we can depend on herd immunity to stem the tide of the pandemic. Too many people would get sick too quickly, which would overwhelm our healthcare system, leading to more deaths than would occur if we can "flatten the curve" and spread out the infections over a longer period of time.

​Supplements That Decrease Inflammation and Improve Immunity

​This is by no means a complete list.  There are numerous other supplements that can help, but these are the main ones I recommend.  I would also recommend talking to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements to ensure that they are safe for you and your particular situation.

​1. Zinc -

Zinc may prevent the coronavirus from entering the cells and reduces coronavirus virulence. (10)

Typical doses are 15-30mg daily.

​2. Vitamin C -

Vitamin C inhibits inflammasome activation.  It shortens the frequency, duration, and severity of the common cold and the indicidence of secondary pneumonia. (11)

Typical doses range from 500mg up to 3000mg daily.

There are several studies showing the efficacy of using high dose IV vitamin C in cases of sepsis. (12)

​3. Melatonin -

Melatonin inhibits inflammasome activation.  It also reduces oxidative lung injury and inflammatory cell recruitment during viral infections. (13)

Typical doses are 1-5mg taken about 1 hour before bedtime.

​4. Vitamin D -

Vitamin D decreases inflammasone activation and cytokine secretion. (14)

It may be helpful to prevent infection, but some studies show that it may increase inflammatory cytokines. (15)  Therefore, some experts suggest that it may be best to stop it after an infection develops.

​5. Elderberry -

Elderberry appears to be most effective in preventing a coronavirus infection.  However, studies show it may also increase inflammatory cytokines. (16)  It is therefore recommended by some experts to stop it once an infection develops.

​Typical dosages are 1 tablespoon 3-4 times daily of elderberry syrup or 175mg lozenges twice daily.

​6. Fish Oil -

Fish oil boosters our immunity by providing good fats to our system. (17)

1000 to 2000mg daily of a good quality brand works well for most people.

​Final ​Thoughts

​Let me end with a personal message.  

There is a fine line between being prepared and living in fear.

Make the preparation you need to make and then RELAX!  

Hoarding doesn't help, fretting doesn't help.

This is a good time to remind us all what the Scriptures say about times like this:

Matthew 6:27 - Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Isaiah 41:10 - So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Proverbs 12:25 - Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Take this time of no sports, decreased work or school, and less responsibility to refocus your priorities and your life.

A wise doctor told me when I was in medical training: "I have yet to meet anyone who on their deathbed stated they wished they would have worked more."

Spend time with your immediate family.  Call some friends you haven't spoken to in a long time. Start a hobby.  Enjoy nature.  Read a book.  Start an exercise program.  Quit bad habits.  See this as an opportunity , not a trial.

Help the elderly and people in need in your community - meals, grocery shopping, yard care, etc. You can do this either through your church, other local organizations, or on your own.  This is a vulnerable time for them.  It is our duty to take care of them.

We will get through this together, even if we have to live apart temporarily.

If you need more help, please contact us at the Center for Functional Medicine.

​Now it's your turn...

Do you have any concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic?

​Are there any other natural therapies you would recommend?

Do you have any experience with any of the things I have suggested?

Leave your question and comments below...

About the Author Dr. Jeff Whelchel

Dr. Whelchel is a family physician who specializes in functional medicine, especially hormone optimization. He has over 20 years experience in private practice managing patients with various medical issues. His passion is helping patients reach their full potential of wellness and quality of life. He grew up in the Texas Panhandle where he currently lives. He is married and has 3 awesome children.

Leave a Comment:

20 comments
Sharon Eicke says April 5, 2020

Thank you Dr Whelchel! Blessings to you and your family!

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 5, 2020

    Thank you Sharon. Y’all be safe!

    Reply
Glenna Walker says April 5, 2020

Thanks for your words! Continue to pray!

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 5, 2020

    Thank you Glenna. Be safe!

    Reply
Steve Cohen says April 5, 2020

Jeff
Nancy and I miss you. Loved discussions we had regarding officiating football, baseball and sports in general

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 6, 2020

    Hi Steven! I miss you guys as well. Be safe out there!

    Reply
Sherry Philyaw says April 5, 2020

Thanks Doc. Amazing how uncommon, common sense can be, right? Hope you and the family are doing well!

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 6, 2020

    Thank you Sherry. Be safe!

    Reply
Jed Davis says April 5, 2020

Thanks for the info Jeff. We take turmeric as an anti-inflammatory and also take L-lysine as a anti-virus aid. When we get a cold virus the l-lysine, elderberry, and zinc shuts it down relatively fast, usually 2 to 3 days. Don’t know if it will be effective against covid19 though.

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 6, 2020

    Hi Jed. We don’t have data on all of those supplements for COVID-19 that I am aware of, but they all make sense to me. Be safe!

    Reply
Sam says April 5, 2020

My husband is quarantined seperately-we are On Day 21 of quarantine..he has been bringing groceries and dropping them off on the porch-I let them sit for a bit then I run a sink of hot, soapy water and rinse and wash everything that comes I -I use Meyers hand soap-is this good for killing the virus? Do I need to be concerned of catching it by bringing outside things in? We are doing our oils…eucalyptus, thieves, lemon, clove, lavender, frankenscense, Vit D3, source of life Gold liquid vitamin, elderberry about 1x a week….eating healthy-trying to drink warm liquids etc. walking or riding our bikes about 3 miles a day….sleep is VERY off so working on that-I am mostly plant based but have cheese from time to time but rarely….thanks for being available-quarantining with a 12 year old boy and 14 year old girl-fun stuff!😁

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 6, 2020

    Hello. I have read data that soap is the best cleaner. I have also heard an expert recommend making a spray bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol and spraying the outside of packages from Amazon and other stores and letting them sit for an hour outside of your home. When bringing them inside, he recommended wiping the insides with an alcohol wipe then disposing of the packaging.

    Hopefully we will not have to live with this level of concern and fear for too much longer.

    Be safe!

    Reply
Bosco Mukholi says April 6, 2020

Thank you doctor for the great work for us to know about our lives and what we need to do to be well.
God bless you

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 6, 2020

    Thank you Bosco. Blessings to you and your family.

    Reply
Josphat Mamet says April 6, 2020

Thanks Jeff for the information. Very helpful!
Josphat,
Eldoret.

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 6, 2020

    My pleasure, Josphat! Be safe!

    Reply
Tam lance says April 6, 2020

Thanks for all the info. Doing some, working on the other. Still in south Tx, miss you. You set a very high bar to measure up to. Take car.

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 8, 2020

    I miss you guys! Stay safe. Tell Danny hello for me.

    Reply
Patsy Weidner says April 9, 2020

Dr. Whelchel for this. I’m elderly and have coped also with shingles for the last five weeks. I appreciate you help with what could be taken and what we need to do to get our immunity built back up. Few share! So God bless you, stay safe and again thank you 🙏🏻

Reply
    Dr. Jeff Whelchel says April 30, 2020

    Thank you Patsy. Be safe!

    Reply
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