By: Dr. Chase Davidson, DC
Part 1: My Corona!
With the explosion of Coronavirus cases in China, Australia, and now the United States scaring the world into talks of an epidemic, it is important to keep in mind what are viruses, how they affect our body, and what we can do to keep them from disrupting our health.
An Unknown Enemy
While the strain of Coronavirus that is of concern is a new strain that has not been researched, the coronavirus creates a form of viral pneumonia that can lead to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). During the 2002–2003 outbreak of SARS in China approximately 8098 cases occurred with 774 deaths, resulting in a mortality rate of 9%. This rate was much higher in elderly individuals, with mortality rates approaching 50% in individuals over 60 years of age .
Why a jump from 9% to 50%? As people age their immune system loses its robustness and then cannot fight off infections as efficiently. This is the same case for infants and those who are immunocompromised. So the first place to start is to boost up the immune system and take us from 50% back to 9%.
The Immune Makeover
Though antiviral medications stop viruses from replicating, there is no primary way to get rid of a virus and prevent viral infection besides having a strong and healthy immune system. Your immune system can find the infected cells and dispose of them before the virus is allowed to replicate and escape. We can use natural compounds to increase our immune systems viral detection and elimination pathways with things like green tea, echinacea, lemon balm, ginger, Maitake Mushrooms, and Garlic [8-13].
DISCLAIMER: I feel like this is obvious but you shouldn't just follow any advice given on the internet... especially when it comes to your healthcare! Although I have extensive training in the field of functional medicine and have helped patients dealing with viruses, I do not know your specific story. You should ALWAYS consult your medical provider before trying to implement any new health strategy.
This blog is meant to aid you and your medical provider make informed decisions on how to support your immune health. Every time you see a “[ ]” with a number in it, that corresponds to a reference you can find in the bibliography. If you have experience reading medical literature, Great. If not, take it to your medical provider to read. If they don't have experience reading medical literature, I recommend you find a new doctor.
With that out of the way, in this 4 part blog post we'll dive in and get an understanding of how the immune system and viruses work and how we can boost our immune system up to fight the coronavirus.
Part 2: Viral Pathophysiology (how they do what they do…)
Viruses are technically non-living creatures and have existed for around 1.5 billion years. In that time they have evolved a rather ingenious and crafty way of surviving and reproducing. Let's go over a brief overview of viral physiology .
First, viruses can only infiltrate our bodies through contact with a part of your body but they most efficiently infiltrate our mucosal surfaces (GI tract, Respiratory Tract, Genitourinary tract). Viruses prefer to contact living tissue because then they can immediately implant and begin the replication process. Your skin has many layers of dead cells and thus is a less than ideal place for viruses to invade.
If the virus has penetrated our outer defense then it will begin the process of replication. The virus invades the cell and then hijack the intracellular machinery used to create proteins to start creating new viruses and transporting molecules. Using this machinery one virus is able to produce hundreds of new viral proteins that will be assembled into active viruses.
After the virus has used up the cell's energy and resources it will initiate cell death when the cell dies all of its contents will spill out into the extracellular space. The new contents of the cell are hundreds of new viruses that can now go on to infect new cells. It's kinda like the alien that bursts out of that guy's chest in the movie Alien… how crazy is that!
Once the viral infection has begun to spread; one of two things happens. The infection wins (highly unlikely but bummer…) or you win (way more likely.. Yay!). The odds of dying from a lower respiratory infection were 40 in 100,000 in 2016 . That means out of 100,000 people you are 0.03984% likely to get a lower respiratory infection and then dying because of it.
Beating the infection can also go one of two ways; one, you completely succeed in suppressing the virus, the virus goes into hibernation, and you are good as new. Two, your immune system is able to subdue and keep the virus at bay but never fully and thus you are left in a state of chronic infection with episodes of reemergence and shedding.
The Never-Ending Story
Viruses can never be eliminated from the body, they hide in our DNA once we have become infected. They specifically like to hide in neurons because neurons do not replicate themselves and thus will stay around for longer. The only way to stop viruses from taking control of our health is to make the environment inhospitable for them. We will get to that in part 4 of this series but first, we need to talk about the brave soldiers that will be doing the fighting.
Part 3: How does the immune system fight viruses
The immune system is one of the most complex systems in the body next to the nervous system. It can be divided up in many ways depending on who you talk to but here we will split it into two functional divisions; Innate immunity and Adaptive Immunity. Both accomplish the same goal but they both go about it in different ways and have pros and cons associated with each of them .
The innate immune system constitutes all of our physical barriers like our skin, the linings of all of our mucosal surfaces , and certain immune cells like Neutrophils, Monocytes, and Natural Killer (NK) Cells. These cells are designed to eat up antigen which is basically anything the body perceives as foreign.
The innate immune system is always on guard and ready to go. As soon as a pathogen tries to enter the body they run up against the innate immune cells and barriers. The downside is that this system doesn't have any tricks tucked under their sleeve. It can be stimulated and ramped up overall but it cannot do anything different than what it was doing before.
The Adaptive immune system consists of T and B cells. These cells are categorized as adaptive because they are targeted to go after a specific antigen and “adapt” to the immunological needs of the body. Once a T or B cell is activated by an antigen (foreign substance) it will first divide into effector cells and memory cells. Effector cells go do the fighting and Memory cells act as an archive and are ready to act whenever that specific antigen pops back up.
From there, they multiply to build up forces to take on the invaders. B cells use Antibodies to grab the viruses and direct them to innate immune cells to eat them up. T cells look for infected cells and terminate them before they are able to release their viral load.
These are very specific cells. Each T and B cell has basically a “lock” and “key” system to make sure that when they are activated it goes time and they know they will be able to defeat the pathogen. The issue is you can only activate this system through having the antigen in the body ie after you have become infected. You can only use these cells after they have invaded the body.
Two sides of the same coin
Think of the innate immune system as the traditional armed forces (army, airforce, navy) and infrastructure designed to aid them (bunkers, barricades, etc), and the adaptive immune system can be thought of like the special forces (navy seals, green beret, etc). The innate immune system is the standing army that will take on the enemy as soon as they step foot on our turf. It takes more time to get the special forces briefed on how to eliminate the target but once activated they are going to get the job done. Both can do the same job but they cover each other's faults.
The innate immune system allows the adaptive system enough time to prepare and grow its forces to destroy the enemy. While the adaptive immune system provides the much needed tactical knowledge and power to back up the weaker but quicker innate system. Without either one, the simplest of viruses would prove to be a challenge.
Part 4: Training and Supporting the Immune system
Now that we have some idea of what is going on in the body, let's see what we can do to support the body. First, choosing what direction to support the immune system is a complex task and should be overseen by someone with adequate training on the subject. That being said, an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure.
When it comes to natural products, most of the time the cure and prevention are one and the same just at different concentrations. The “Prevention” list consists of foods you should be incorporating into your diet on a consistent basis to reap the reward of better immune health. The “Cure” list also consists of things you could incorporate into your daily routine but are very effective at higher doses for boosting immune function.
“Prevention” (do these before infection)
Olive Oil 
Green Tea 
Lemon Balm 
Mushrooms (Maitake & Shiitake) 
“Cure” (do these during the infection)
Vitamin D 
Vitamin E 
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 
Chinese Herbs Clinically proven to fight Coronavirus
Thorow wax 
Sweet Wormwood 
A quick word on the Coronavirus Vaccine...
I had a patient ask “As soon as we get a vaccine for the coronavirus we won't need to worry about taking in these foods, right?” and it was the inspiration for making this blog post.
Vaccines train the adaptive immune system how to fight the infection more efficiently only after they have penetrated and started the infectious process . Vaccines are to infectious disease what statins and antihypertensive medication to cardiovascular disease. This is why vaccines cannot be the only answer to reducing viral infections. Vaccines and pharmaceutical medications have their place but if the only intervention you are using is effective after the development of the disease then we can't be surprised if the containment of Corona is as effective as the containment of heart disease in America.
All in all, your best bet for keeping the coronavirus away is your own immune system so let's take care of it. There are other strategies that we didn’t have time to cover in this post that you can use to improve immune functioning like stress reduction, proper sleep, and more but we have other blog posts on those so make sure to look through our blog library at https://www.washparkchiro.com/blog. If you have any questions on how to implement these foods or nutrients into your life feel free to contact us and we would love to help point you in the right direction.
Chase Davidson, DC is a Board Eligible Chiropractic Neurologist and specializes in concussion and sports rehab, as well as functional medicine and immunology. He is the founder of Action Potential - Sports and Neurological Rehab. He also is a member of the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation (IAFNR). Stay connected with Dr. Davidson on Linkedin @dr-davidson or on Instagram @washparkchiro or @thatneurologyguy.
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