Can you really boost your immune system and enhance your body’s ability to fight contagious illnesses?
The answer is a resounding yes!
So, let’s dive into some science-backed ways you can give your immune system a boost and optimize your body’s ability to ward off harmful germs like coronavirus.
How Does Coronavirus Affect the Body?
Coronavirus is officially known as SARS-COV-2. The “SARS” in its official name stands for sudden acute respiratory syndrome because it can potentially cause a rapid onset of respiratory failure.1 In mild cases, the virus will run its course and symptoms will resolve on their own.
But in cases that progress to a critical level, this is how coronavirus affects the body:2
Step 1: Once the virus enters your body, it attaches to the epithelial cells (the cells that make up the lining on the inside of your lungs) and begins replicating.
Step 2: Your immune system is alerted to these foreign invaders and launches an attack – deploying immune cells and a cocktail of chemical messengers preparing the body to fight.
Step 3: In an exaggerated response to the virus, your body releases too many chemical messengers called cytokines (IL-1 beta, IL-6, IL-8) too quickly – resulting in what’s known as a “cytokine storm”.
Step 4: As these cytokines and immune cells flood into the tissues of the lungs, it causes uncontrolled inflammation which leads to oxidative injury and damage to the alveolar-capillary barrier (the membrane where gas is exchanged in your lungs).
Step 5: This combination inhibits your body’s ability to move mucus out of the lungs and essentially halts its ability to properly transport oxygen to the rest of your tissues.
This image from Nature published March 23, 2020 shows the progression of inflammation in COVID-19
This downward spiral is what leads to acute respiratory failure. If left unchecked, your vital organs are quickly deprived of oxygen and cannot function properly – rapidly becoming a life-threatening situation.
Can You Support Your Immune System?
Your immune system is a complicated network of specialized cells, chemical messengers, tissues, organs, and glands that work together to protect your body from harmful foreign invaders. In order for your immune system to perform to the best of its ability, it needs to be balanced – meaning, it’s not overactive or underactive.
The value of “boosting” or strengthening your immune system is to give your body the nourishment it needs to maintain a balanced immune response, making it run like a well-oiled machine. There’s not one single way to strengthen your immune system – it requires a balanced approach to give your immune system all the support it needs.
Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful ways to keep your immune system running at full capacity.
Support Your Immune System With Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial for an array of processes within the body. Current research is finding that vitamin D is particularly important when it comes to immune function. Vitamin D impacts immunity by:
- Playing a critical role in activating and regulating immune response 3,4
- Enhancing the function of specialized immune cells like T-cells and macrophages that attack foreign invaders5
- Providing anti-inflammatory properties6
In fact, adequate vitamin D is so crucial to immune function, that a deficiency has been found to increase the risk of developing autoimmune disorders. Even more fascinating, low levels of vitamin D have been directly linked to an increased risk of respiratory infections and the development of acute respiratory failure.7,8 Conversely, higher levels of vitamin D have been linked to improved outcomes.
Ensuring you have adequate vitamin D levels is one of the most potent immune-boosting actions you can take – so I highly recommend a daily vitamin D supplement.
Support Your Immune System With Glutathione
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant found in most cells in your body. Some have dubbed it “the mother of all antioxidants” because of the key role it plays in the body – especially when it comes to immune function. Glutathione plays a few major roles in immune function by:
- Acting as a signaling molecule – restoring balanced inflammation levels by regulating immune system response9
- Neutralizing harmful free radicals and reducing oxidative injury10
- Regulating cellular proliferation and apoptosis11
There are several ways you can boost your glutathione levels:11
- Decrease your overall utilization of glutathione by decreasing your overall toxic burden
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Eat an antioxidant-rich diet
Take a glutathione supplement
A daily oral glutathione supplement is an obvious choice to boost glutathione levels. But when it comes to fighting off respiratory infections, studies are finding that the most effective way to take glutathione may be through inhalation. This is because when your lungs are in acute distress (such as when infected with coronavirus), your cells are using up all of their glutathione to repair the damage being done.
In fact, inhaled glutathione (aerosolized or nebulized) has been used in the treatment of a variety of respiratory-related conditions and has been gaining traction as a possible treatment option for COVID-19.12 In addition, IV glutathione can be a powerful way to boost the immune system.
Nebulized glutathione treatments can be administered by a functional medicine practitioner. If you’ve never seen a functional medicine practitioner, head over and read my article on How to Choose a Good Integrative and Functional Medicine Doctor.
Support Your Immune System With IV Vitamin C
A primary characteristic of any infection at the cellular level is increased oxidative stress.
Four key determinants of increased intracellular oxidative stress include:
- Increased intracellular calcium
- Decreased intracellular magnesium
- Decreased intracellular Vitamin C
- Decreased Glutathione (see above)
Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C interact in the body as follows:
- When intracellular calcium levels are high, magnesium levels are low.
- As more magnesium goes into the cell, more calcium comes out.
Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker and evokes enormously positive health impacts throughout the body. So, when intracellular magnesium levels are normal there is no increased oxidative stress and the cell is physiologically normal.
It’s important to note that extracellular calcium increases all-cause mortality risk. And increasing magnesium decreases all-cause mortality risk. So these are important factors in health overall.
- When intracellular calcium levels are high, both magnesium and vitamin C levels are low.
- Delivery of more intracellular vitamin C also decreases intracellular calcium.
So there is always ongoing interplay between calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin C.
Emerging studies on the coronavirus are suggesting high dose vitamin C as part of a treatment protocol.13,14 However, the key goal in supporting immune function and decreasing inflammation is achieving and maintaining normal intracellular vitamin C levels. This means, simply taking more vitamin C may not be the answer since we must also address hormone imbalances, treat chronic infections, support detoxification, gut function, and optimize total body levels of magnesium.
Support Your Immune System by Managing Stress
Your body only has so much energy to go around. This means that your immune system is constantly competing with other body functions for its share of energy. And one of the most energy-demanding processes that significantly impacts your immune system is neural activity – or your brain function.15
And if you’ve ever experienced a stressful time in life, you know firsthand how much energy you expend focusing on your stressful situation. On top of consuming energy, stress releases a cocktail of hormones that can suppress or even temporarily shut down your body’s immune response.16,17
Experiencing some stress in life is inevitable. But when that stress becomes chronic, it can put a serious damper on your immune system. Finding ways to minimize stress and appropriately cope with unavoidable stress can go a long way in supporting your immune system.
Practicing meditation or yoga, finding a creative outlet, or even talking to a friend, can be healthy ways to process stress. However, some situations require a little more support. When that’s the case, I recommend finding a mental health practitioner who’s well versed in neurofeedback. Neurofeedback can help you retrain your brain and downregulate your amygdala – the part of your brain that acts as your “emotional hub” and often hyperactive during stress.18
Support Your Immune System by Healing Your Gut
The inside of your intestinal tract is lined with a layer of cells that are linked together by proteins called tight junctions. These tight junctions essentially act as a filter – allowing nutrients to move from the intestines into the bloodstream and preventing anything else from leaking out.19
But when these tight junctions are compromised and start developing “gaps”, other particles never meant to enter your bloodstream start squeezing their way in. These particles travel around your body and cause widespread inflammation. This inflammation taxes your immune system, leaving it with fewer resources to address any new threats.
This is just one of the ways your gut health affects your immune system. New research is continually showing how these two systems are intricately linked. So keeping your gut happy is crucial for proper immune function. To start healing your gut, here’s what I recommend:
- Take a daily probiotic: Flooding your gut with beneficial bacteria with a daily probiotic will keep your microbiome balanced and help crowd out any “bad” bacteria. My personal favorite is Megaspore probiotic.
- Introduce immunoglobulins: Specific immunoglobulins like those found in my Gut Immune powder bind to microbes and toxins in the gut and eliminate them before they can activate your immune system.
- Focus on collagen: Collagen is an amino acid that can help seal up the gaps in your intestinal lining by creating new tissue and healing any damage. Taking a daily dose of collagen in your coffee or favorite drink is an easy way to ensure you’re getting enough.
- Fill up on anti-inflammatory foods: Build your meals around foods that fight inflammation like fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and high-quality meat. Minimize processed foods and sugars that promote inflammation and activate your immune system.
Your gut health has a monumental impact on your immune system. So prioritizing a healthy diet and keeping your gut happy will significantly increase your body’s ability to fight off infection.
Support your health
Prioritizing your health and keeping your immune system in tip-top shape is one of the most powerful ways to protect yourself against this emerging virus. Implementing some of the immune-boosting tips outlined above along with maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, is one of your best defenses against contracting contagious illnesses like coronavirus.
I’m dedicated to providing you with the resources to keep you and your loved ones safe.
To learn more about coronavirus, I suggest you head over and read my other articles addressing this outbreak:
- Worried About Coronavirus? What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself
- Is there a Cure for Coronavirus? The scoop on Chloroquine and Other Emerging Treatments
- Do You Have Lyme Disease? What You Need to Know About COVID-19
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn some of the ways you can boost your immune system? What steps are you taking to keep your immune system strong? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease state or medical condition and has not been evaluated by the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FDA</a>. This is not intended to replace any recommendations by or relationship with your physician. The references included in each article allude to the level of scientific rigor I have applied to my writing. When changes become apparent we will update the information if appropriate.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.
Thanks for the article Dr. Jill! I believe it’s important for people to know that CoV doesn’t go immediately to the lungs. A person typically has 5-6 days after symptoms begin to conquer it before it goes to the lungs. As a nutritionist, I have found this protocol to work after symptoms begin: 10,000 mg. Vitamin A palmitate, 2000 mg. Vitamin C, increase Vitamin D3 to 5000 IU, daily probiotic (twice daily during the first 2 days), 1-2 doses of elderberry, 600 mg. monolaurin, liver/detox support, sometimes adrenal support Continue liver support for detoxification after symptoms are gone. (Do not take the large dose of Vitamin A longer than 1 week. For sensitive individuals, use Buffered Vitamin C. Green Tea Extract can calm down cytokine inflammation.)
Hi Dr Jill .. I enjoy your post and feel honored.. to be a part of social post.. I had all of the covid 19 symptoms February March over 4 weeks.. but was not tested. Because I’m always trucking.. I’m into alternative health .. and won’t post on your site.. in short …I recently added salt therapy along with organic supplements.. I do purchase oxygenated water. And flushed my sinuses utilizing baking soda flush..in this distressed economy.. in short I was sick twice in 24 days.. the first recovery was slow . Resembled flu..with temp.. nausea for 5 days.. the second time was a respiratory n sinus infection.. woke up gasping for air.. in a sweat.. but coughed a mouthful of phlegm n recovered.. click of a finger. Went back bed and slept good.. the bug whatever it was.. simply aggravating..
Hi there I found the Boost Immune system with Vit c rather confusing to be honest when it concludes that vit c alone is not the answer but maintaing normal intracellular vit c levels along with normal levels of everything else – how does one know when all that is normal in the body? And high doses of vit D can also cause other complications. How does one know what combinations of doses to take? All intetesting reading tho. Thank you.
Hi Margot, best to consult with your physician as these can all be tested. Test don’t guess, especially with fat soluble vitamins like D, E, K and A
hi Dr. Jill–Thank you for this excellent presentation. I am a physician studying to IFM Cert. I have not seen mention of Specialized Proresolving Mediators to counteract cytokine storm? Do you think SPM’s might be a sound strategy to avert or abort cytokine storm?
yes, I do think the SPM’s may be an excellent addition to decrease inflammation
Is your Gut Immune support similar to SBI Protect powder?
Thank you 🙏🏻
1) Red meat causes inflammation?
2) How many mg/day if you opt for Glutathion or NAC respectively.
Yes red meat contains more arachidonic acid which is pro-inflammatory and if grain-fed instead of grass-finished also has a more pro-inflammatory profile than something like Wild Salmon. Dosages of glutathione and NAC may vary from 500-1000mg daily