This particular moment potentially rich in disinformation, even we Scientists and Doctors have difficulties to find truthful and objective sources to understand properly this “new” virus called COVID-19, and its effects on the entire population.
Hereafter the most important topics updated to March, 10th 2020:
1. Covid-19 has a stronger transmission capacity than the Virus of Flu. Corona viruses are part of a group of viruses able to cause several diseases in human being and other mammals, but also in birds, bats and reptiles. In humans most of these Viruses induces slight respiratory diseases, but are lethal only in a little percentage of cases, like demonstrated by what has been happening in Wuhan City, where the Covid-19 outbreak set off. Currently the amount of new cases of infections around the world is still evolving, and a pandemia has been officially declared. This amount includes both the new cases of infections and the sick, and we are expecting the relation between those to increase and change quickly. Despite of this, a new study printed on JAMA, reports a fatality rate of 2,3%, significantly lower than that 9,5% recorded at the time of SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome).
2. Ways of contagion are the same of Flu Virus: mainly by air (spittle) and consequently by contact (with a hand that has just covered the mouth of someone who sneezed or coughed).
3. Targets of corona virus are mainly the mucous layers of the respiratory tract: from upper ways (with cold-like symptoms) down to the alveolus tracts of lungs. This late aspect makes the Covid 19 a virus (called for this reason also SARS-CoV-2) more dangerous than the Flu Virus, because of its ability to cause easily interstitial pneumonia. Beside this, according to recent updates, SARS-Cov-2 infects host cells through specific molecules called ACE2 receptors located in both lungs, gut and heart thus leading potentially to pneumonia and also to acute myocardial injury or chronic damage to the cardiovascular system.
4. To contain the virus spread and consequently the contagion, several measures have been taken that should be put in effect (as always when there is a virus outbreack), including:
- cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing and sneezing and dispose of used tissues properly immediately after use
- wash hands well and regularly with adequate detergent (above all after touching any common surface like handles, seats on train or other public transport)
- keep a distance of at least 1 meter from other people and avoid, if you have flu or cold-like symptoms, hugging, kissing and shaking hands when greeting
- wear hygienic mask and avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands if you have any symptoms, or if come in contact, for working or caregiving reasons, persons with some symptoms
5. Every time our organism meets a new virus (or other kind of microbe), our immunological system sets off a specific reaction (specific in modes and times), either strong enough to limit the spread through our body, reducing it down to a simple infection (that later will lead to the production of specific antibodies) or, too weak to avoid the onset of an illness (this happens for example after a contact with the virus Ebstein Barr of the mononucleosis disease: even if about 90% of the population contract the infection, only a little percentage develops illness with specific symptoms like flu, lymphatic hypertrophy, sometimes hepatitis etc.). Once our immunological system produces specific antibodies (at the moment is too early) scientists will be able to create appropriate vaccines (after virus identification and isolation). The transition from “simple infection” to disease depends, for each of us, on several factors like, general health and specific immunological status of the organism at the moment of contagion!
6. Viruses belonging to the corona family (like for example SARS and MERS –middle east respiratory syndrome-Virus) have always been among us, but the genetic sequence of this new virus strain (that is defined CoviD-19) is different and able to find us without an adequate defense because we are still devoid of specific antibodies, and consequently the virus can spread rapidly throughout the world.
What are the most relevant ways to face these challenging event effectively and to ensure a healthy status?
While waiting for the unavoidable late antibodies reaction, we should help another path of our immunological system that can turn out to be timely and effective, providing to:
- An overall immunological reinforcement that counteracts the virus spread throughout the population (a sort of “vaccin effect”)
- A reduction of the virulence (spread power and health danger)
- An acceleration in the building of the antibodies
In practical terms, what are these relevant ways to reinforce our immunological system?
- daily diet
- healthy status of our immunological-gut system
- nutraceutical and integrated approach
- stress management
- Avoid as much as possible food capable to lead to inflammation, because of its intrinsic power or because it is correlated with the inflammation of the gut. Among the first we can find: white and refined cereals like industrial bakery products, wheat pasta, packaged or pre-cooked products or beverages rich in sugars. Among the second we consider cheeses rich in casein: a big protein responsible of mucous respiratory inflammation present in all kind of cheeses except ricotta.
- As alternatives to the first case, choose whole grains or cereals low in gluten like spelled, kamut, oats, rye, or cereals completely lacking in gluten like corn, buckwheat, rice (all kind of rice), quinoa, millet: from these raw material you can find pasta, “polenta”, “piadina”, crepes, or flour that you can use to prepare several tasty recipes; As alternatives to cheeses rich in casein choose cow, sheep or goat ricotta
- Prefer nutraceutical food (or integrators), capable to provide you with some kind of supports for your immunological system. For example:
- Mixed extracts rich in vegetable like green leafy vegetables, carrots, celery and low in fruit (fruits like lemon, orange, mango are fine);
- Red-violet vegetables and fruits like beets, blueberries, berries together with lemon juice will do also as well: rich in specific kind of vitamins called flavonoids and activated vit C
- Vegetables or food rich in Vitamin D like avocado, eggs, blue fish, almonds.
- Food rich in “good fats” like dry fruits (almonds, nuts, peanuts, brasilian or macadamia nuts, cashews), extravergin olive oil (also cold pressed), flaxseed oil and hemp, some seeds like flax seeds, sunflower, sesam, pumpkin (that you can use in salad, yogurth, fruit salad, bread, soups). This kind of food is included in the list of “nutraceutical foods” because it can build with appropriate flexibility the wall of white blood cells and of other cells of our immunological system!
2. Health status of gut-microbiota: 70% of the “health” of our immunological system depends on this tract, as far as quality and effectiveness are concerned!
- Favour daily intake (or at least three times a week) of probiotic (like a kind of yogurth named “KEFIR”) and prebiotics (like green leafy vegetables, apple, buckwheat and so on) to help your immunological weapons, building an effective gut microbiota together with an intact mucosal barrier against viruses and other kind of microbes
- Recently, the discovery of the presence even on the gut surface of the Ace2 receptors (the molecules through which Covid-19 spreads), strengthens the idea that the microbiota gut acts as the first defense against the virus.
3. Integration and nutraceuticals: with adequate phyto-therapeutic or anti inflammatory cytockines integration customized to the individual predisposition. Simply expressed, try to assume daily 1 g of acerola vit C (or 350 g three times a day), or potassium ascorbate (fresh lemon juice with the addition of potassium bicarbonate). Resveratrol, a molecule with a very specific immunomodulating action, has also been seen to contrast not only the intake of virus by cell, but also its transcription (and therefore proliferation), thereby activating the innate and adaptive immune system.
4. Fever, and this applies to any viral or bacterial disease, is the first weapon of our body to destroy the unwanted guest: it should not be lowered before 38,5 degrees celsius (being careful in young children, however, for the risk of convulsions); it should instead be modulated with the use of cold baths and wrapping at the feet and hands. In addition, adequate hydratation even with warm drinks, represents a physiological contribution to the reinforcement of our defenses. Important changes in temperature must also be avoided: the transition from heat to cold without covering the mouth leads to mechanical damage to the mucous membranes which favors local inflammation and therefore the depression of the favorable immune system
5. Stress management:
The enourmous, continuous and often contrasting flow of information to which we are exposed can severely affect our immune system!
While on the one hand, journalists, commentators and politicians compete with each other to say the most sensationalistic thing about the pandemia, on the other side, even scientists and doctors too often provide contradictory information.
This behavior promotes the diffusion of a feeling of fear and helpnessnes among the population, causing in some people an increase of a specific hormone (cortisolo), or, in others an abnormal activation of the thyroid axis. This hormonal overwhelming reaction contributes to depress our immune and mood status: there is a specific phenomenon, known as phenomenon of Werther in experimental psychology, which corresponds to the loss of the individual ability to “weight up” the priorities of life, leading therefore to suicide as dramatic mass behaviour. In psycho endocrine immunology (a new discipline that tries to have an integrated approach to the functioning of body/mind and the connecting among the psycho, the neuro, the hormonal and the immune system) this event, induced by fear, leads to a reduction of our immune response.
With the purpose to counteract this fragility, there are several kind of so-called “adaptogenic” phytochemicals with a specific action on:
- increasing resistance to stress: whitania, eleutherococcus, rodiola and others can bring us to a state of equilibrium;
- reducing psychomotor agitation or the perception of the anxious state: melissa, tilia tormentosa;
- promoting a good night rest: valerian, hops, escolzia; or melatonin and vitamin B6 as antidote to hypercortisolism;
- modulating the immune reaction and inflammation: echinacea, astragalus, mirra, boswelia, turmeric;
- rebalancing the intestinal microbiota: some phytotherapeutic remedies and extracts like walnut, fig, or specific prebiotics and probiotics supplementation like derivates of apples or buckwheat or “kefir”.
Furthermore, other effective ways to counteract the immune depression consists in:
- staying in the open air and in the sun: this helps the activation of Vit D, a very important factor for the immune system
- engaging in any aerobic physical activity like nordic walking, bicycle, running, yoga with meditation, horse riding, or whatever you like: this kind of physical execercise triggers the release from muscles of some hormones acting on the mood, on the immune system and on the metabolism (like endorphins, anandamide, myokine. For further information you can see my post: “an anti-inflammatory strategy: the physical exercise”).
Contact your integrated and Functional medical Practitioner or Nutraceutical Specialist as soon as possible for helping.
Remember not to lose your route, your project. Let’s NOT be frightened by the events and keep trusting your immune system. Distract yourself with something you like: once you have adopted the safety rules for you and the others, take advantage of the new time available for beautiful thoughts, for a project that you had set aside because too busy, thus driving away the fear. Sow something that will grow and make you satisfied.