WNF REVIEWS RESEARCH ON NATUROPATHIC RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VIRAL RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS
Presently there is no definitive way to prevent and treat Covid-19 specifically, but there are ways to enhance viral immunity.
Avoiding contact with germs through physical distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene is essential, but sometimes it's unavoidable. That’s why keeping our immune systems functioning optimally is our most powerful weapon against all of the viruses we encounter.
The WORLD NATUROPATHIC FEDERATION participated in a WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION meeting on March 30 2020, and was asked to evaluate the quality of research on common naturopathic recommendations for preventing, treating and aiding in the recovery of viral respiratory infections inclusive of, but not limited to, COVID-19.
FINDINGS OF THE WNF RAPID REVIEWS
"Current evidence suggests vitamin D replacement may reduce risk for acute respiratory infections (ARI) in people with deficiency or insufficiency". (1)
Vitamin D is important to immune function. It regulates over 3,000 genes, many of which regulate the immune system. Sunlight striking our skin is our major source of vitamin D, and some physicians consider winter cold and flu season to be a vitamin D deficiency disease.
Getting our blood tested to see where our vitamin D levels are at may be especially important now. Here is a link to a study that revealed that people whose blood test showed they were vitamin D deficient were nearly twice as likely to acquire COVID--19 than people who were vitamin D sufficient.
An even more recent study published on September 25, 2020, showed that specific Vitamin D blood levels reduced risk for adverse clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19.
While it's not covered by OHIP, Vitamin D is a $35 test that your medical or naturopathic doctor can order for you to determine your baseline level, and how to appropriately dose to achieve optimal vitamin D status if needed.
Why It's Important to Supplement with Vitamin K2 when Taking Vitamin D3
Because of their intricate relationships to each other and to cardiovascular & bone health, increasing vitamin D levels amplifies the body's need for K2. Supplementing vitamin D without vitamin K2 can cause calcium to deposit in the tissues and arteries, where it forms atherosclerotic plaque over time, instead of enhancing the bone matrix. (2)
What I'm recommending to my patients: Consider testing blood levels to determine appropriate dose, and combining with corresponding amounts of vitamin K2. Since they're fat soluble, I ask them to take these vitamins with their largest meal.
The WNF looked at reviews of the evidence, and concluded that "when taken at the onset of ARI, oral vitamin C may reduce the duration of symptoms, reduce the incidence of hospital admissions and duration of hospital stays, and improve lung function in severe cases. No major adverse events nor interactions were reported." (1)
When people are under stress or fighting an infection, their vitamin C levels can get depleted. Our body has to produce more white blood cells to fight that infection, and those immune cells require vitamin C. Since our C requirements change based on how much our immune cells need, dosage depends on individual bowel tolerance, which will flux.
What I'm recommending to my patients: Take to their individual bowel tolerance.
Quercetin + an interesting personal quirk
Quercitin is a flavonoid found in onions and citrus, that balances the immune system and has anti-viral action. The WNF concluded that there are currently not enough quality studies done on quercitin in the treatment and recovery of VRTIs. (1)
As an interesting aside, I had quercetin in my cupboard when I needed to support my immune system this past winter. But when I took it, I felt very agitated. I tried it again the next day, with the same strange adverse effect. Then I recalled one of the presenters at the 2020 Environmental Health Symposium cautioned against the use of quercetin with certain COMT gene SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms; common genetic variations). I've plugged the raw data of my 23andMe test into an interpretation platform, which revealed that I have a COMT SNP that results in slower clearance of stress hormones. Quercetin is an inhibitor of COMT, and mine is already slow, so I was not getting rid of those stress hormones when I took it!
Genetic interpretation allows for truly individualized medicine. Stay tuned for more info on my blog, or book an appointment to discuss testing (that you can order yourself, without a requisition!) and results interpretation.
What I'm recommending to my patients: unless we know their COMT status, we're avoiding quercetin.
Echinacea: can it increase the risk of/contribute to Cytokine Storm in COVID-19 Patients?
"Current evidence suggests that Echinacea supplementation may decrease the duration and severity of ARI. Because Echinacea can increase immune function, there is a concern that it could worsen over-activation of the immune system in cytokine storm; however clinical trials show that the herb decreases levels of the immune molecules involved in cytokine storm." (1) So, it stimulates the Immune system without contributing to inflammatory molecules involved in cytokine storm and helps with resolution post infection.
What I'm recommending to my patients: Echinacea is a brilliant herb to take at the first sign of infection.
No studies had been published yet to assess the effects of zinc on the incidence, duration and severity of COVID-19. Indirect evidence from other types of ARI suggest that short term supplementation may reduce the risk, duration, and severity for people who are zinc deficient. (1)
Loss of smell, common in COVID-19 infections, is related to zinc deficiency.
What I'm recommending to my patients: assess zinc status to determine if supplementing would be of benefit.
The researchers concluded that "there is currently insufficient quality evidence to recommend multivitamins as a therapy for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19."
What I'm recommending to my patients: Unless there's another health concern that warrants taking them, this cold & flu season does not.
Ivy "may be a therapeutic option for treating early symptoms of RTIs. The best effectiveness has been proven for reducing the frequency and intensity of coughing, but not for other symptoms."
What I'm recommending to my patients: Use herbs with better evidence
Oral doses of certain EOs (eucalyptus, orange, myrtle, lemon and lavender) "may reduce symptoms of ARI", but mild to moderate side-effects affecting the gastrointestinal tract were experienced by study participants. (1)
What I'm recommending to my patients: use safer strategies
NAC is one of my favourite nutriceuticals. It's a precursor to the liver's major antioxidant - glutathione - that helps us remove toxins from our bodies. It decreases mucus production in upper respiratory tract infections and allergies.
"Current evidence suggests that NAC may help improve outcomes in people with acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury - conditions that closely resemble the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection."
What I'm recommending to my patients: If they have other indications for taking NAC, go for it!
There is a body of evidence from preclinical studies demonstrating the antiviral effects of Elderberry. The results from clinical studies involving influenza viral infections included in the rapid review show that Elderberry (in extract or lozenge formulation) may reduce influenza-type symptoms, including fever, headache, nasal congestion and nasal mucous discharge in adults, when taken within the first 48 hours of symptom onset. (1)
What I'm recommending to my patients: Elderberry is another antiviral herb to have on hand for this cold & flu season.
* The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review linked references for scientific support of any claims made.
(1) World Naturopathic Federation Rapid Reviews http://worldnaturopathicfederation.org/covid-19-resources/
(2)Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life, by Dr Kate Rheaume-Bleue ND