The Immune System
We have already posted a web article about managing the threats COVID-19 may pose to our physical and mental health. This blog post is a distilled version of that article.
… your body fights the (COVID-19) illness.
What is the Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. We already have experience with coronaviruses. Four common human coronaviruses cause 15-30% of common colds. The Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is an Influenza-like respiratory disease.
Statements by Health Authorities in the US, Canada and UK
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 or any natural health products that are authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19. Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own.
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus. Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses. Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.
There are currently no specific treatments for COVID-19. By now we are all too familiar with the recommendations from these health authorities. What else can we, as individuals and families, do to be best prepared for current and perhaps similar future threats?
We recommend strengthening your immune system ahead of time so it is in top form if/when the virus shows up in your life.
The Canadian and UK statements above include the idea that we can overcome the disease using our body’s own defenses, and that most of us overcome it naturally without complications. In other words, our immune system is our best defense against the virus.
The eastern view of medicine says the body is the best at protecting and healing itself and so, with respect to the virus threat, supporting the body’s own defense and healing processes should be our top priority. This view rhymes well with the statements by the Canadian and UK health authorities.
Most people … will recover on their own.
… your body fights the (COVID-19) illness.
In addition to strengthening our immune system we should be mindful of our mood and the stress we are taking on because stress has been shown to weaken the immune system.
Supporting the Immune System
The immune system helps us avoid catching the flu (influenza) even while others around are coughing and spraying the virus into the air we breathe. A diminished immune function increases the susceptibility to infection from viruses, as well as pneumonia, which for some people is a major complication with COVID-19.
Several factors influence the immune system and its competence. These factors include nutrition, sleep and stress. 
Immune function may be improved with key nutrients. A stronger immune system will improve resistance to infection and also support faster recovery for the infected.  Nutrients such as Iodine, Selenium, Vitamins A, C, E, D and Zinc are well-established as immune boosters.
Iodine provides direct immune support and protects against invasion by foreign organisms. It helps to maintain healthy cells and keep the body free of toxins which reduces the burden on the immune system. An environment rich in iodine is hostile harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can make us sick. These microorganisms cannot adapt to iodine. Having tissues throughout the body with sufficient iodine can help shield us from pathogens.
Your immune system depends on the body’s thyroid-driven metabolism for the energy to combat illness and dispose of dead cells. Ensuring you have enough iodine to produce thyroid hormones will provide the proper fuel needed to provide a stable and reliable defense against illness. In addition to providing energy for the immune system, iodine enhances the immune function by helping remove chemical and biological toxins. This reduces the burden of the immune system while it is actively fighting off the virus.
Influenza, or the flu, can be considered a close study for the coronavirus and the immune response is critical to the recovery from influenza infection.
Dr David Derry, MD, PhD wrote about iodine being an effective tool against the influenza viruses.  He wrote the article Iodine: the Forgotten Weapon Against Influenza Viruses he makes the point that iodine, especially when used in various forms, can kill influenza viruses effectively. This includes using iodine used in aerosols, cleaning agents, oral rinses, supplements as well as being incorporated into masks.
The iodine circulating in the blood is captured by numerous tissue sites and ends up in mucus secretions. These tissues, including the salivary glands, nasal secretions, lungs and stomach can then defend against invasion by bacteria and viruses. [4,5] Respiratory and oral transmission are key pathways for viral infections. With enough supplementation, iodine can be ever-present and ready to defend in both the upper- and lower-respiratory systems as well as in the stomach.
Moreover, the lungs secrete mucus with iodine in it and some researchers think volatile iodine mixes with air in the tiny air sacs to enter the bronchioles.  If this is true, it would serve as another barrier to the invading air borne viruses in the same way aerosol iodine does. Nebulizing with iodine may also be a good idea, especially if you are at risk of being exposed or already showing symptoms.
Iodine fits perfectly into our strategy because it enhances both prevention and resistance to the virus upon infection.
Supplementation above the recommended levels has been shown to enhance immune competence and resistance to viral infections and in animal models and human studies.  Regular supplementation with selenium may also improve supportive care and strengthen the immune system of patients suffering from newly emerging viral diseases. 
The virus itself needs selenium as a protection against free radicals. When a virus enters a human lacking selenium it can undergo mutations and become far more dangerous.
In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, there has been on-going studies on Vitamin C for viral pneumonia. Studies have shown that Vitamin C deficiency is related to the increased risk and severity of influenza infections.
Maintaining sufficient levels of Vitamin C in the plasma by the continuous uptake through the diet or supplement could effectively prevent pathogenesis of influenza virus at the initial stage of infection. Infections effectively use up Vitamin C in the body due to enhanced inflammation and metabolic requirements.
Supplementing with Vitamin C also helps prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.
Vitamin A is involved in the development of the immune system and plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses and humoral immune processes.  Several immune system functions depend on Vitamin A. Genes involved in immune responses are regulated by Vitamin A. It is essential for preventing serious conditions like cancer and autoimmune diseases, but also common illnesses like the flu or common colds. Vitamin A ensures better immunity by keeping mucus membranes moist. Which also enhances the activity of white blood cells.
Clinical trials suggest that Vitamin A supplementation reduces morbidity and mortality in different infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus infection. Some studies suggest having Vitamin A along with Vitamin D can be more effective for fighting viruses.
1) Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course. Nutrients, 10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531
2) Beck, Melinda A. (1996). The Role of Nutrition in Viral Disease. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 7(12), 683-690. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0955-2863(96)00132-5
3) Derry, D. (2009). Iodine: the Forgotten Weapon Against Influenza Viruses. Thyroid Science, 4(9):R1-5.
4) Brown-Grant, K. (1961). Extrathyroidal iodide concentrating mechanisms. Physiol. Rev., 41(189). https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.1918.104.22.168
5) Derry, D. (2001). Breast Cancer and Iodine: How to Prevent and How to Survive Breast Cancer. Victoria, Canada, Trafford Publishing, 2001.
6) Salter. W.T. (1940). The Endocrine Function of Iodine. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1940.
7) Gill, H. & Walker, G. (2008). Selenium, immune function and resistance to viral infections. Nutrition & Dietetics, 65, S41-S47. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-0080.2008.00260.x
8) Steinbrenner, H., Al-Quraishy, S., Dkhil, M.A., Wunderlich, F., Sies, H. (2015). Dietary Selenium in Adjuvant Therapy of Viral and Bacterial Infections. Advances in Nutrition, 6(1), 73–82. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.114.007575
9) Kim, Y., Kim, H., Bae, S., Choi, J., Lim, S. Y., Lee, N., … Lee, W. J. (2013). Vitamin C Is an Essential Factor on the Anti-viral Immune Responses through the Production of Interferon-α/β at the Initial Stage of Influenza A Virus (H3N2) Infection. Immune network, 13(2), 70–74. https://doi.org/10.4110/in.2013.13.2.70
10) Huang, Z., Liu, Y., Qi, G., Brand, D., Zheng, S.G. (2018). Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. J. Clin. Med, 7(258).
11) Mora, J. R., Iwata, M., & von Andrian, U. H. (2008). Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol, 8(9), 685–698. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri2378
12) Semba, R. (1999). Vitamin A and immunity to viral, bacterial and protozoan infections. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58(3), 719-727. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665199000944
13) Mora, J. R., Iwata, M., & von Andrian, U. H. (2008). Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol, 8(9), 685–698. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri2378