Our series of articles looks at the different stages of Covid-19 prevention and treatment, which help us understand the type of interventions that would be helpful. Most interventions of course require the help of your doctor and/or naturopathic doctor. Integrative medicine physicians are more likely to have studied nutrition, micronutrients, homeopathy (in some countries) and plant-bases therapeutics, which may be useful in reducing inflammation and supporting the immune system.
The authors: we are a group of doctors and an ethnobotanist within the international association "Le Vivant". We have been sharing and reflecting for many years on current diseases, be they chronic, epidemic, or unrecognized, in spite of a so-called high-performance Western medicine and hyper-developed medical research. These diseases develop in a world subject to pollution, multiple stresses, and the weakening of the body and the psyche. We also share our clinical experience, research, knowledge of plants, micronutrition and homeopathy to provide elements of treatment for these diseases.
Dr Penny Caldicott, Dr Catherine de Bartha, PHD Claire Laurant, Dr Sophie Scheffer
1.How does Covid-19 attack our immune system?
The SARs-CoV-2 or Covid-19 virus has been studied extensively over a short period of time and there seem to be emerging reasons why it can have devastating results in individuals who have a reduction in the capacity of their innate immune system (first line immunity) and high baseline levels of inflammation.
You have probably heard the range of responses to this virus is broad, from asymptomatic to a severe dysfunctional immune response resulting in multi-system organ failure and death.
To understand this better let us talk a little about the immune system. The innate immune response is the frontline, initial response to viruses. In the case of the SARs-CoV-2 this occurs in the mucosa (lining) of the upper respiratory tract. The virus attaches to the mucosal cells at ACE2 receptors, from here it moves into the cells where viral replication takes place. Local immune cells are activated and call in other immune cells to respond in a generic way to the virus, trying to clear and reduce the replication of the virus. Messages are then sent to stimulate the adaptive immune response. Specific antibodies are created that bind to the virus so it can be killed and cytotoxic T cell lymphocytes that attach to and destroy cells that have been infected by the virus.
There are many factors that can compromise this innate immune response and which in turn reduce the activation of the adaptive immune response, this can lead to an overactive immune response like the cytokine storm that occurs in serious covid-19 cases.
- Environmental factors may include air pollution, EMFs, heavy metal toxicity and personal susceptibilities such as poor nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies (vitamins and minerals), poor sleep, chronic stress, some medications and various chronic illnesses (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney and liver disease and pulmonary inflammation). Most of these factors contribute to the creation of inflammasomes, a key intracellular mechanism that drives inflammation. ‘Inflammaging’ is a term being used to describe the negative effects that the aging process can have on the immune system, this is part of the explanation for older people having a tendency for severe Covid-19 disease. It is important to note that inflammation both reduces the innate immune response and contributes to the dys-regulated cytokine storm.
- Micronutrient deficiencies are emerging as another contributing factor to both inflammation and a less efficient immune response. These deficiencies are common in many countries and include vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc. There is some evidence that careful individualised, supervised supplementation can support the innate immune response to have the best early response to the virus, potentially reducing the chances of a poorly adapted negative immune response later.
Apart from the underlying vulnerabilities that some people have, this virus is also very clever at undermining the innate immune response. It seems that Covid-19 can infect and destroy cells that are not only part of the early response but signal the body to make the necessary antibodies and cytotoxic T cells – part of the adaptive (secondary) immune response. In this way the virus can replicate, increasing viral load, with less initial response from the immune system. If the innate immune system is already compromised this element of the virus is even more effective.
Next paper will be about prevention:
- identify and reduce baseline inflammation and support innate immunity,
- key nutriments for immunity.