In a time of crisis, fear divides us. In the words of Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove in a panel discussion at the WHO headquarters this past week, “We need to be educated, and help each other.” Knowledge is power at times like this. So first let’s get educated.
First, some background:
Coronaviruses have been around for hundreds of years. About 20% of common colds are cause by a coronavirus. Most of us have already been infected by a coronavirus in the past. Viruses change (mutate) on a yearly basis, and yes, COVID-19 is not to be minimized, but the same common-sense precautions apply when dealing with this virus as with any other:
1) wash your hands frequently and do not touch your face unless with cleaned hands
2) cover a cough or sneeze by coughing into the crook of your elbow
3) if you’re run down, immuno-compromised, or have other health conditions which make you more vulnerable to air-borne infections, avoid crowds and public gatherings
4) get plenty of sleep
5) if you’re sick, stay home and take good care of yourself til you are well
If you’re feeling sick, how do you know if you have this new coronavirus flu?
It is nearly always accompanied by a fever, body and aches and chills, headaches and a dry cough, a sore throat, and fatigue. Common colds, which are also upper respiratory infections often caused by coronaviruses, are not as severe and rarely present with a fever or body aches. They MAY also present with a sore throat and some fatigue, and usually with a runny nose and a productive cough.
Since there are no effective targeted anti-viral medications, prevention and symptomatic support is still the main treatment for viral infection and SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Infection). Prevention is greatly aided by the above behaviors, but there are some natural supportive agents that can also be tremendously helpful. In particular:
1) Vitamin C.
In breaking news released Friday, 3/13/20, China has announced that at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University (near ground zero for the coronavirus), they are conducting clinical trials on COVID-19 patients with high-dose intravenous Vitamin C (using 24,000mg/day). Who would have thought that a substance as common as vitamin C could be used to treat pneumonia? However, Vitamin C therapy for respiratory infections is not a new practice. Dr. Andrew Saul, of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service says, “To fight a dangerous virus for which there is no existing medical treatment, you must rely on your own immune system.
It is well established, in every nutrition textbook ever written, that you need vitamin C to make your immune system work well, or to even work at all. Inadequate vitamin C intake is a worldwide problem that can be immediately and economically fixed. With even modest amounts of supplemental vitamin C, deaths will decrease.” In one study, a mere 200 mg of vitamin C/day resulted in an 80% decrease in deaths among severely ill, hospitalized respiratory disease patients.” Another recent study used this same low 200 mg dose for infants and children under five years of age with severe pneumonia. The authors concluded that “Vitamin C is effective in reducing duration of severe pneumonia in children less than five years of age. Oxygen saturation was improved in less than one day.”
A few other studies have shown that Vitamin C deficiency is related to the increased risk and severity of influenza infections. And a lack of vitamin C has been long known, literally for decades, to increase susceptibility to viruses.
How does Vitamin C have such powerful effects?
Vitamin C is well-known as an antioxidant, which means it acts to protect cell membranes. When sepsis (a serious condition where harmful microorganisms are present in the blood and body tissues) occurs, the cytokine surge (an inflammatory response) causes immune cells to accumulate in the lungs which destroys capillaries in the lung alveoli (tiny air sacs). These capillaries are minute blood vessels that are one cell layer thick and very vulnerable to the effects of inflammation. Early studies show that Vitamin C can prevent this capillary damage. AND it can help to eliminate fluid in the lung alveoli. So it reduces alveolar fluid (lung fluid) and prevents vascular injury.
If you feel you may be getting sick, several sources suggest a dosage of 5,000 – 10,000mg/day for four days. However, benefit has been seen with as little as 200mg/day in aiding prevention and lessening the severity of flu. Andrew Saul, PhD, says, “It is important to remember that preventing and treating respiratory infections with large amounts of Vitamin C is well established.”
Vitamin C is the first and probably most important natural nutrient to take to prevent or help shorten the duration of a viral infection, but certainly not the only one proven to be helpful as an anti-viral agent. More nutrients and natural approaches will be discussed in my next article.
Dr. Paula Rhodes, with Blue Ridge Wellness & Grant Chiropractic
Hunt C et al. The clinical effects of Vitamin C supplementation in elderly hospitalised patients with acute respiratory infections. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1994;64:212-19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7814237
[Khan IM et al. J Rawalpindi Med Coll (JRMC): 2014;18(1): 55-57.