- which many people lack
It is not the actual COVID-19 virus that can become lethal. It is the immune system’s overreaction with hyperinflammation and a storm of cytokines that destroys healthy tissue in the lungs, the cardiovascular system, and other places in the body, according to a new article that is published in The Lancet. The capacity of the immune system determines if an infection like COVID-19 is either harmless or life-threatening. For that reason, hygienic measures, masks, isolation, and delayed vaccines are not sufficient. We also need to bolster our immune system against COVID-19 and other pandemics that may occur in the future. Let’s look closer at vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium and zinc, all of which are essential for preventing a well-functioning immune system from going off its rails. What is also worth mentioning is that many people lack these nutrients, especially older people and other exposed groups.
In the case of an infection, the immune system’s white blood cells use free radicals, among other things, as aggressive missiles. The release of pro-inflammatory cytokines also generates cascades of free radicals. It is, nonetheless, vital to keep the number of free radicals under control in order to avoid oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and protective antioxidants. Most people who contract a COVID-19 infection experience mild, flu-like symptoms, but if certain antioxidants are lacking, there is an increased risk of oxidative stress and a derailed immune defense. According to an article that was published recently in the The Lancet (Puja Metha et al.), it is a virtual storm of pro-inflammatory cytokines that causes acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in the respiratory tract plus secondary damage to the circulatory system and other tissues. In other words, it is not COVID-19 as such that is the culprit but oxidative stress and an overactive immune defense that cause life-threatening symptoms and may be lethal for weak patients. That is why it is so important to have an immune system that behaves normally without running amok and damaging healthy tissues.
The immune defense needs various nutrients in order to function optimally. According to the health authorities, most of us get enough of the different nutrients by eating a healthy diet, but reality tells a different story. You can read more about this by clicking on the following links
The powerful sun during the summer period is our main source of vitamin D. That helps explain why virus infections often circulate during the winter period and in the spring where people to lack this nutrient. Ageing, overweight, diabetes, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and too much time spent indoors all contribute to the global lack of vitamin D and also makes it easier for the different types of virus to spread. We humans do not necessarily notice a vitamin D deficiency, but our immune system certainly does. We have in our airways numerous white blood cells called macrophages that are highly dependent on vitamin D to enable them to attack germs. Vitamin D also boosts certain antibiotic peptides in the lungs. According to Carsten Geisler, professor of molecular immunology, and other researchers from Copenhagen University, the T cells of the immune system cannot be activated without vitamin D. Several studies also show that vitamin D regulates the immune system and prevents the sudden occurrence of cytokine storms, oxidative stress, and violent inflammation. But it requires adequate amount of the nutrient.
The Danish Health Authority recommends daily supplementation with 10 micrograms of vitamin D to pregnant women, infants, dark-skinned individuals, and people who never expose themselves to direct sunlight. Daily supplementation with 20 micrograms of vitamin D is recommended for nursing home residents and people older than 70 years. Still, there are no awareness campaigns or control measures to check whether these vulnerable groups actually take their vitamin D supplements.
Blood levels of vitamin D should be at least 50 nmol/L, and levels of 75-120 nmol/L are even better. In order to reach these levels of vitamin, you need to take a daily supplement from October to May. If you don’t get enough sunlight during the summer period, all-year supplementation is necessary.
You can buy strong vitamin D supplements (20-80 micrograms) on the market. The need for extra vitamin D in individual and depends on factors such as age, skin type, BMI, chronic illnesses like diabetes, and use of cholesterol-lowering statins.
It is also vital to eat a diet with coarse greens to get enough magnesium, which supports enzyme processes that activate the form of vitamin D that we synthesize from sun exposure and get from supplements.
Fruit and vegetables are often vitamin C-depleted, and diet surveys show that most people fail to reach the recommend fruit and vegetable intake. Vitamin C is important for the non-specific immune defense that fights most types of infectious germs. Vitamin C is also a highly important antioxidant that counteracts oxidative stress and cytokine storm, according to an article in Cellular & Molecular Immunology (Léonce Kouakanou et al.) from June 2019. Vitamin C is used intravenously against blood poisoning. When blood poisoning becomes life-threatening it is oxidative stress and cytokine storm that damage tissues and cause dehydration and circulatory shock.
In China, doctors have experimented with the administration of large doses of intravenous vitamin C to patients with COVID-19 and cytokine-induced, life-threatening ARDS. Dr. Richard Cheng from Shanghai, who has worked with intravenous vitamin C therapy for many years, uses 12,000 – 24,000 mg of vitamin C daily against coronavirus. The Chinese researchers have also communicated with other hospitals to start up a number of clinical studies.
Dr. Cheng points out that intravenous vitamin C should be used to treat dying coronavirus patients when no other therapies are available. It is also an inexpensive treatment. Considering the fact that there is still no effective vaccine, vitamin C is a useful option, and we can expect future challenges with new virus types. It is a constant race where pathogens are constantly a few steps ahead of us. Vitamin C has a unique ability to strengthen the immune defense at the same time as counteracting complications caused by oxidative stress.
Deficiencies and increased need for vitamin C are caused by physical and mental stress, smoking, overconsumption of sugar, alcohol, and narcotic substance, too little gastric juice, birth control pills, sleep medication, and infections.
When choosing vitamin C supplements, it is a good idea to stick with non-acidic sources like calcium ascorbate that are gentle towards the stomach lining. A supplement with 500-750 mg of vitamin C provides the same amount of vitamin C as 6-8 oranges or 55-80 apples (depending on their size)
According to Swiss scientists from Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, around one billion people worldwide are believed to lack selenium, mostly due to nutrient-depleted farmland. The agricultural soil in China and Europe is also low in selenium, which is reflected by its selenium-deficient crops.
Selenium supports a number of vital proteins (selenoproteins) that have numerous essential functions. In the case of an infection, the body’s selenium status suddenly plummets because the immune defense needs so much selenium for its different tasks, which include communicating with cells and proteins in the immune system to help them work swiftly. When animals and humans lack selenium, their immunity decreases, causing virus to mutate more easily and becoming virulent. This is exactly what happened with COVID-19, SARS, and MERS.
Selenium is also a vital constituent of the unique glutathione peroxidase antioxidants that protect the body against oxidative stress and all the complications that follow in its wake.
Leading scientists recommend a daily selenium intake of at least 100 micrograms, which is a lot more than the majority of Europeans get. It takes around 100-125 micrograms daily to saturate selenoprotein P, which is a selenoprotein that is used as a marker of the body’s selenium status. Although fish and shellfish are considered good selenium sources, it is not even possible to obtain full saturation of selenoprotein P by eating seafood five days a week, according to a Danish study.
It is advisable to eat a balanced diet with plenty of good selenium sources because the selenium-containing proteins also collaborate with vitamin E, another potent antioxidant. Selenium yeast with many different types is preferable because it delivers the same variety of selenium species as eating a balanced diet.
Zinc is involved in over 1,000 enzyme processes, many of which are linked directly or indirectly to the immune defense. In a study that is published in the science journal Immunology, scientists have shown how zinc regulates the T cells and the production of various proteins in the immune system, which are important for inflammatory processes. Zinc supplementation enables the immune system to fight colds faster. The colds are often caused by coronavirus. This was demonstrated in a Finnish meta-analysis, in which the majority of cold-ridden patients who took zinc supplements were cured after five days, in contrast to those patients who did not take a supplement. The study was not related to COVID-19 but the immune defense needs zinc in any case.
Zinc is a powerful antioxidant that counteracts oxidative stress and the complications that follow. An estimated 25 percent of the world’s population is zinc-deficient. Deficiencies are generally categorized as minor, moderate, or severe. Severe zinc deficiency is rare in our part of the world, whereas moderate and minor zinc deficiencies are rather common.
Ageing processes, diuretics, sugar, birth control pills, large calcium intake or iron supplementation may impair the uptake or utilization of zinc. Moreover, it can be difficult to get enough zinc from vegetarian or vegan diets.
In Denmark, the reference intake (RI) level for zinc is 10 mg daily. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has set the safe upper intake level for zinc at 25 mg (for adults).
Many zinc supplements contain inorganic zinc forms like zinc sulphate and zinc oxide, which can be difficult for the body to absorb and utilize. Study the label and look for organic zinc forms like zinc gluconate and zinc acetate, which the body can easily absorb and utilize.
Puja Metha et el. COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immune-suppression. The Lancet. March 16, 2020
Kongsbak M et al. The vitamin d receptor and T cell function. Front Immunol. 2013
Essen MR et al. Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. Nat Immunol 2010
University of Colorado Anschultz Medical Campus. Vitamin D reduces respiratory infections. ScienceDaily November 2016
Qi Dai el al. Abstract CT093: Bimodal relationship between magnesium supplementation and vitamin D status and metabolism: Results from randomized trial. Cancer Research July 2018
Léonce Kouakanou et al Vitamin C promotes the proliferation and effector functions of human ϒ δ T cells. Cellular & Molecular Immunology. 2019
Glenview, IL. Readily available drug cocktail may help prevent sepsis shock and deaths. Elsevier June 2017
Richard Z Cheng et al. Early Large Dose Intravenous Vitamin C is the Treatment of Choice for 2019-vCov pneumonia. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Feb 16, 2020
Wang D et al. Clinical Characteristics of 138 hospitalized patients With 2019 Novel Coronavirus-infected Pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Jama 2020 Feb 7
Chen N et Al. Epidemiological and clinical characteristicas of 99 cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan, China. A descriptive study. Lancet Lond Engl. 2020 Jan 30
Alpha A. Fowler et al. Effect of Vitamin C infusion on Organ Failure and Biomarkers of Inflammation and Vascular Injury in Patients With Sepsis and Severe Acute Respiratory Failure. JAMA 2019
Virginia Commonwealth University. Vitamin C therapy linked to better survival rates after sepsis. ScienceDaily 2019.
Jones GD et al. Selenium deficiency risk predicted to increase under future climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2017
Aparna P. Shreenath; Jennifer Dooley. Selenium, Deficiency. Stat Pearls. December 2019
Lutz Shomburg. Dietary Selenium and Human Health. Nutrients 2017
Olivia M. Guillan et al. Selenium, Selenoproteins and Viral Infection. Nutrients 2019
Danmarks Fødevareforskning. Selen og sundhed. 2006
Kido T et al. Inflammatory response under zinc deficiency is exacerbated by dysfunction of the T- helper type 2 lymphocyte-M2 macrophage pathway. Immunology 2019
Scott A et al. Zinc is a potent and specific inhibitor of IFN-ƛ3 signaling. Nature Communications, 2017
Ananda S Prasad. Zink in Human Health: Effect of Zink on Immune Cells. Molecular Medicine 2008
Lothar Rink. Zink and the immune system. Cambridge Core. Published on line 2000
NCP(Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia) and Vitamin C: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC0SO9KDG7U
Search for more information...