This blog was updated on 24 February 2020.
The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has now reached 78,000, with more than 2,400 deaths recorded in China. There are unsubstantiated reports that the true figures could be much higher. We have had multiple requests from biohacker friends and customers asking how to optimise health and boost immunity during the outbreak. Here are the top 5 questions our team has received, along with our responses.
1. What is Covid-19?
Covid-19 is a mutation of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. It is highly contagious and can cause pneumonia.
There are still a lot of unknowns about Covid-19, but the latest reports show it may be mild for up to 80% of cases(1) and hold an incubation period of up to 24 days(2). A prolonged incubation period is a concern, as there is anecdotal evidence to suggest it can be spread by people who are yet to develop symptoms.
The fatality rate is difficult to pinpoint as there are potentially many mild cases which go unreported. However current estimates put the fatality rate as 2.5%(3)(4). This compares with a 0.1% fatality rate for seasonal flu, which is thought to cause 400,000 deaths each year globally(5).
2. Can I avoid getting Covid-19?
You can’t avoid the virus altogether, so the best you can do is limit exposure. Tactics include social distancing when possible, wearing a mask, and frequent handwashing.
The virus is mainly spread from person to person. However it has been shown to be aerosol transmissible (airborne) and can survive on surfaces, so it is possible to pick it up by touching an infected surface or object. It is recommended to avoid touching your face when you are out and about or in contact with others - especially your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
3. How can I boost immunity and reduce my risk?
There are no quick fixes to boosting immunity. A strong immune system requires a whole person holistic approach to optimize all areas of your health.
Functional medicine sees your body as one integrated system, and immune support protocols include optimizing your diet and supplementation, but also getting plenty of sleep, managing stress and exercising well.
Regular exercise provides a natural boost to antibodies and T-cells which help to fight infection(6). Once your blood is pumping a rapid interchange of immune cells occurs in your lymphatic system(7). However, overtraining can have the opposite effect, potentially overtaxing your immune system. Therefore, it is important to listen to your body and exercise at the right level for you.
4. Which nutrients and supplements can help me to boost immunity?
Among the most important nutrients for immune health are Vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc.
Vitamin C contributes to your immune defense by supporting multiple cellular functions in your immune system. It is a potent antioxidant and is widely used to prevent and treat viral and systemic infections. There is some evidence to show that high dose Vitamin C can help to reduce symptoms of viral respiratory infections such as coronavirus(8).
We usually opt for plenty of wholefood Vitamin C sources like citrus and kiwifruit, adding Vitamin C supplementation to help protect against oxidative damage and provide additional immune support. The most common Vitamin C supplementation forms are ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate, and we have both options available.
- Vitamin C and Bio-Quercetin Phytosome (Life Extension) is a high-potency vitamin C supplement in ascorbic acid form with an ultra-absorbable form of quercetin. Quercetin complements vitamin C, inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation to support respiratory and cardiovascular health.
- Vitamin C with R-Lipoic Acid (Quicksilver Scientific) is a liposomal form of Vitamin C which can help with absorption and is usually well tolerated. The Vit C is paired with R-Lipoic Acid to provide additional antioxidant support. Quicksilver Scientific’s unique liposomal delivery system helps improve the nutrient uptake, and is particularly suitable for people who may have experienced gastrointestinal distress from Vitamin C. This is in liquid form so you can start small and build up to the recommended dose if necessary.
Vitamin D modulates your innate and adaptive immune response. The best source is sunshine which triggers Vitamin D synthesis, but you need to supplement during the cooler months (or if you spend lots of time indoors). Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection, and is unfortunately quite common - affecting one billion people worldwide.
Our preferred Vitamin D supplement is Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (EVCLO) which is one of the most nutrient dense foods available. The Vit D in raw cod liver oil is predominantly in the cholecalciferol (D3) form, which is the form that your body synthesizes when you spend time in the sunshine. We always choose natural wholefoods over a synthetic version as this provides vitamins and fatty acids that are more bioavailable and easier for your body to absorb. EVCLO also provides a natural source of Vitamin A which is another essential nutrient for immune function. You can learn more about Rosita EVCLO here.
Zinc is found in meat and shellfish, with oysters being a particularly beneficial source. Your body can’t store zinc so you need to get your daily requirement from your diet or from a good quality supplement such as Oysterzinc - a natural and highly bioavailable form.
5. What is the best diet to promote a healthy immune system?
Choosing the most nutrient dense foods you can get your hands on is even more important during times of immune stress. We recommend choosing low inflammation foods such as quality meat/organ meats, wild-caught fish, seasonable vegetables and organic fruits and berries. Avoid anything that causes inflammation such as gluten, dairy (which can be inflammatory for some people), transfats and highly processed foods.
There is some research to suggest that a ketogenic diet can help to combat seasonal flu. This is because of the dependence that influenza viruses have on cellular glucose(9). Cutting out sugars and carbs will reduce the amount of glucose in your system, and boost your ketone levels at the same time. This is a bonus because ketones have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties(10), so this could work to reduce systemic inflammation. Click here to learn more about the Ketogenic diet and whether this is right for you.
We hope that some of this information may help you to prepare well and boost immunity during the coronavirus outbreak. Optimising your nutrients, through both your food and your supplementation is the key area to focus on, but also ensure you are getting good rest, exercising well, and working to reduce stress. These lifestyle factors all have known benefits to your immune function.
1 China CDC Covid-19 Report
2 Clinical characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China (not peer reviewed)
3 BBC Coronavirus: Largest study suggests elderly and sick are most at risk
4 CCDC The Epidemiological Characteristics of an Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19)
5 Global mortality associated with seasonal influenza epidemics: New burden estimates and predictors from the GLaMOR Project
6 Frontiers in Immunology: Effects of Acute and Chronic Exercise on Immunological Parameters in the Elderly Aged: Can Physical Activity Counteract the Effects of Aging?
7 Neiman: Exercise, Infection, and Immunity: Practical Applications
8 Vitamin C Infusion for the Treatment of Severe 2019-nCoV Infected Pneumonia
9 Glucose: Potential new target for combating annual seasonal flu
10 Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Ketogenic Diet