Hi Again! I wanted to share some more information about supplements and COVID-19. Let’s first break down the virus to see what is happening at the cellular level.
Viruses turn-on or “activate” specific receptors on cells. In the case of COVID-19, it specifically activates the NLRP3 inflammasome receptor. This refers back to the Vitamin D blog and the science behind our immune system. When the NLRP3 inflammasome activates, it can lead to the illness and tissue damage that is seen with COVID-19 cases. Therefore, if we eat or supplement with something that turns-off or “inhibits” the virus’ ability to turn on the response, that should lessen symptoms (such as tissue damage).
Natural compounds that inhibit NRLP3 are found in the foods that we eat. They are part of a healthy diet. Sometimes, however, there is benefit with additional supplementation to get those compounds to a higher level—this is especially true if your diet is restricted for any reason. I wanted to share some sources for each natural compound as well as daily dosages for supplementation.
Remember: these natural compounds help your immune system function optimally. Continuing the analogy from my Vitamin D blog, it provides just the right amount of heat to the pot of boiling water. Therefore, eating and in some cases, supplementation is beneficial to general health.
Let’s start with my favorite for many health reasons, Curcumin (specifically Curcuminoids). These are found in the spice Turmeric. I personally use it and suggest it to many patients because of its anti-inflammatory benefits, especially with arthritis. Curcuminoids change the NLRP3 inflammasome and reduce viral replication (copying and spreading) by targeting COVID-19 and block the virus from spreading in the body.
You can add the spice Turmeric to foods or grind up the root for tea, however, we don’t absorb very much when we take it with our foods. To get an adequate amount it is easiest to use an absorption-enhanced supplement that has 500-1000 mg twice a day orally. Curcuminoids are not easily absorbed so you have to be picky about the type of supplement you are using; brands matter in quality of supplement. They can also enhance the effect of blood thinning medications, so higher dose supplementation is not advised if you are taking blood thinners.
This natural substance is found in onions, apples (remember the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”), grapes, berries, broccoli, citrus fruits, cherries, and tea. It inhibits the NRLP3 inflammasome and helps modulate whole body inflammation.
It is well known for its benefit in reducing symptoms of seasonal allergies as it stabilizes the immune system’s mast cells; when they activate, they release histamine causing runny nose, redness, itchy eyes, etc. Quercitin may also impair COVID-19 replication. It has been shown to have anti-viral effects against both RNA and DNA viruses. COVID-19 is a RNA virus. It is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Recommended supplementation is 1 gram twice a day.
What a tongue twister! Epigallocatechin gallate, thank goodness commonly shortened to EGCG, is found in green, white, oolong and black teas, as well as cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, kiwis, cherries, pears, peaches, apples, avocados, pecans, pistachios and hazelnuts. It also modulates the NLRP3 inflammasome response. Four glasses of green tea a day or 225 mg of EGCG per day gives you what you need. I drink 4 cups of green tea every day, and I usually throw my vitamin C (powdered supplement) directly in my tea! It’s a citrus burst and complements my tea beautifully.
It is a naturally occurring polyphenol compound that modulates the NLRP3 inflammasome. It is found in peanuts, pistachios, grapes, blueberries, cranberries, cocoa, dark chocolate, and, red & white wine. I’m guessing that during this Shelter-in-Place many have increased their daily intake of resveratrol, either by wine or chocolate. If you don’t enjoy any of these foods, then you can supplement with 100-150 mg per day.
The positive effects of melatonin on COVID-19 has been noticed by researchers and health professionals. It has an inhibitory effect on the NLRP3 inflammasome. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep-awake cycle. The importance of a sleep routine (same time to go to bed and wake up), good sleep hygiene (dark, cool room, no electronics, decreased caffeine, addressing things that keep you up or wake you up, getting enough exercise) are important to increase your melatonin naturally.
Many people use lower dose melatonin 3-5 mg nightly to help them sleep. Recommended doses for COVID-19 are higher from 5-20 mg per day. My personal suggestion is work on your sleep hygiene, sleep routine, don’t have too much resveratrol through wine or too much other alcohol as this can disrupt your sleep. Supplement a lower dose of melatonin 5-10 mg, as melatonin in many people can give them very vivid dreams.
Vitamin C contributes to the body’s defense by supporting our immune system. It has been shown to prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. It has been also been used with COVID-19 patients’ treatments.
In foods, we think of oranges and other citrus, but other foods that are relatively high include red and green peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage, leafy green vegetables, sweet and white potatoes, tomatoes, squash, strawberries, kiwis, and cantaloupe. Recommended supplementation is 1-3 grams/day. Even though I eat a lot of these foods, I also supplement during the winter at least an additional 1 gram/day and this winter I have been doing 2 grams/day.
Zinc is a mineral that works similarly to Vitamin C. It has been shown to reduce the virus’s ability to attach to cells and to replicate. There is supported evidence that it prevents viral infections and reduces their severity and duration. It is not uncommon for people to be low in zinc, especially common in those COVID-19 high risk populations.
Common foods that have zinc include red meat, poultry, oysters, chickpeas, cashews, almonds, whole grains, and dairy products. Supplementation recommendation is 30-60 mg/day in throughout the day. I take around 30 mg which is in my daily vitamin/mineral mix (plus the natural zinc I eat in my meals) each day. Oral supplementation types include zinc acetate, zinc citrate, zinc picolinate, zinc glycinate, or zinc gluconate.
Vitamin A is an anti-inflammatory vitamin. It enhances immune function and also protects epithelial cells (the cells that line blood vessels, skin, mucous membranes and lungs). It also protects mucus production. Both epithelial cells and mucus provide a primary defense against virus, bacteria and other “stranger dangers”.
Sources of Vitamin A include cod liver oil, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified skim milk, orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, broccoli, spinach, dark green leafy vegetables. The recommended dosage is between 10,000 -25,000 iu/day depending upon diet.
There is a lot of overlap in foods that give you these vitamins, minerals, and botanicals, so they are relatively easy to add into your diet if they aren’t there already.
However, I do add in additional supplements for myself for specific reasons:
I use Curcumin for an extra boost to help with my arthritis when it flares up. I add Vitamin D capsules as well, because even with getting sun while training, my levels are low. I use Vitamin C supplementation during the winter– 2 gm/day plus what I get through diet. If I am around somebody who has been ill, I up my Vitamin C to 3 gm/day and also use zinc lozenges. If I start to feel sick, I would add quercetin.
Everybody is different, and there is no combination that is considered ‘the perfect mix’. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. I hope this has been informative and helpful trying to navigate COVID-19. As thing change in the future as we know more, I will plan on updating information to you!