As covid spiked this holiday season, the primary patient question in the clinic returned to one common during the pandemic three years ago: since the worst symptoms and major cause of covid related deaths are due to overactive immune response, why do naturopaths stress supporting the immune system in combating covid?
The answer is because the immune system has two divisions. The innate system, which is generalized and non-specific, and the adaptive, cell mediated, system, which is targeted to specific viruses and bacteria, or pathogens. The complexity of this system is immense, so please excuse the following simplification.
Basically, first-line defense is one of the main functions of the innate system and includes barrier protection such as mucus production and inflammation. While barrier protection can be activated in many ways, including injury, allergens or irritants, in covid, we’re looking specifically at pathogens. Mucus provides a barrier to prevent further invasion into the body through the lungs of air-borne agents, trapping them in its sticky surface. Inflammation walls off the area to prevent further spread of the disease and limits cellular damage. The innate system also activates neutrophils and macrophages, the Pacman-like cells that consume cellular debris and signal the production of antibodies.
The adaptive system consists of individual cells that target and destroy specific pathogens. This system produces lymphocytes called antibodies, T-cells, and Natural Killer Cells. Once a pathogen has been introduced into the body and is successfully overcome, memory antibodies are formed so that the next time we encounter the infectious agent, it will be recognized and the body can produce a faster, more effective response.
In the initial covid infections, barrier mechanisms were over activated, causing excessive inflammation and mucus production which compromised breathing. Because the virus was new, the body did not recognize it which caused a lag time in the production of targeted antibodies. Theoretically, this furthered the activation of barrier mechanisms as the lone means of defense.
For Naturopaths, the objective is to calm inflammation and mucus production while strengthening the ability to recognize the virus and create antibodies. Vitamin D3, Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, and NAC (N-acetylcysteine) are particularly effective. All three calm the inflammatory response and signal for antibody production. Vit C with bioflavonoids is also an antioxidant, while NAC is mucolytic, which means it breaks up mucus and makes it easier to cough out. There are many additional supplements that are important for supporting a healthy immune response, however, these three are among the most researched and effective for use with covid.
This article is not meant to provide medical advice or replace medical care. Seek the help of a qualified health care provider for dosage information.
Research articles: Because there are thousands of research studies, I have only cited one example for
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[HTML] Role of vitamin C in preventing of COVID-19 infection, progression and severity AIMS
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[HTML] N-acetylcysteine for prevention and treatment of COVID-19: Current state of evidence and
future directions Journal of Infection and Public Health, Volume 15, Issue 12, December 2022, Pages